Rewriting the Westminster Shorter Catechism? Not So Fast

Mark Jones wants us to rewrite the question and answer to question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Should we?

If Mark Jones does not see Christ in the q and a for question 1, that is a product of his own misunderstanding, and not a failing in the catechism. Because if Jones is correct and “God” refers only to the Father, then the rest of the catechism becomes incomprehensible and grossly inaccurate.

 

Over at Reformation 21, Mark Jones has written a post on why we should rewrite the question and answer to question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Instead of this being the q and a for the first question:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Mark Jones wants us to rewrite the question and add a second part:

Q. What is the chief end of God?
A. To glorify Christ, through the Spirit, and enjoy him forever.

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. To glorify God and Christ and enjoy them, through the Spirit, forever.

His stated purpose for making the change is that he believes the original language does not focus us on Christ’s work, since Christ is not mentioned in the answer. I have a couple of thoughts about that that I want to address here.

First, I’m uncomfortable with saying that we know what God’s chief end is. We should be extremely careful when it comes to speculating about the things of God, especially when those things are not addressed specifically in Scripture. While it is demonstrably true that God the Father glorified Christ Jesus the Son and that the Father loves the Son, it is less clear if we can therefore infer that we know God’s chief end.

Calvin warned against speculating into the essence of God beyond what is revealed to us in Scripture:

Hence it is obvious, that in seeking God, the most direct path and the fittest method is, not to attempt with presumptuous curiosity to pry into his essence, which is rather to be adored than minutely discussed, but to contemplate him in his works, by which he draws near, becomes familiar, and in a manner communicates himself to us.

Book 1, Chapter 5, section 9, Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. 1997.Institutes of the Christian religion.

I believe that we should tread lightly when discussing intra-Trinitarian workings.

Second, I have a concern about Jones’ underlying assumption. Jones says:

But, as I read the Scriptures, it could be more accurate. Sure, we are to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But any question and answer on the chief end of man must explicitly refer to Christ, as well as God.

“Christ, as well as God.” Does he believe that “God” only means the Father? Isn’t Christ God? When we worship and glorify God, do we not worship and glorify Father, Son, and Spirit? When the catechism and confession speak of the will of God does that mean only the will of the Father? Is there a hierarchy in the Godhead?

Maybe instead of critiquing and rewriting the catechism we should recover a more robust understanding of who God is. Interestingly enough, the catechism goes on to explain this in questions 3-6:

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

And there you have it. There is one God, three persons “equal in power and glory.” By simply continuing to read the catechism we see that in glorifying God, we are glorifying Father, Son, and Spirit.

If Mark Jones does not see Christ in the q and a for question 1, that is a product of his own misunderstanding, and not a failing in the catechism. Because if Jones is correct and “God” refers only to the Father, then the rest of the catechism becomes incomprehensible and grossly inaccurate.

My recommendation is that we leave the catechism alone and continue to teach all of it. Each question and answer builds on the others. Each references Bible verses to help us understand in greater depth. And if we have any doubts as to who we are to glorify forever, we can always sing the Doxology:

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

And Gloria Patri:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen, Amen.

Rachel Miller is News Editor for the Aquila Report. She is also a homeschooling mother of 3 boys and member of a PCA church in Spring, Texas. This article first appeared on her blog, A Daughter of the Reformation, and is used with permission.