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On the "Chief End of Man" Being to Enjoy God

My quibble is that enjoying God (along with glorifying God) is not the CHIEF end of humankind. I do not deny humankind, along with the rest of Creation, is intended to enjoy God, but I question whether it is the chief end. Here I look at the Scriptures that the Westminster Catechism assembled in support of their statements, and find them lacking and uncompelling - and indeed they point in a different direction.

Instead, I believe that the chief end of humanity is to represent God to the rest of Creation. And Enjoyment comes as a result of that, and not just to human beings but to all creation.

See the shorter page on this: "To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever" - "The Chief End of Man" ?

Some state that the chief end of man to enjoy God implies that God intends humankind to enjoy him, and has provided the rest of Creation solely as a means or resource for humankind to enjoy him. Certainly not! Almost it is the other way round; humankind is the means by which the rest of Creation 'enjoys' or at least experiences something of God. That actually comes from the verses that the Catechism assembles in support of what it says!

Does "end" speak of destiny or intention? While a couple of the verses assembled by the Divines speak of eternal destiny, the rest speak of this life, so are probably about intention - though with a destiny in view.

This is an initial draft, containing notes. But hopefully it will be some value until it is expanded.

https://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/shorter-catechism/

'Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]

[a] - Verses About Glorifying God

Ps. 86:9; "All the nations you have made will come and worship before you O LORD; they will bring glory to your name."

Isa. 60:21; "Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendour."

Rom. 11:36; "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen."

1 Cor. 6:20; "... you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body."

I Cor. 10:31; "So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

It looks to me as though these verses are not intended to argue for the catechical statement but rather, when people accept it, to remind or stimulate them into thinking of the breadth of its application - to bodies, to eating, drinking and any other activity, to worship, etc. are all aspects of glorifying God.

Rev. 4:11; "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being."

[b] - Verses About Enjoying God forever.

Ps. 16:5-11; - This recounts the psalmist's experience and response to God, and it shows joy, esp. in v.9 ("glad"), 11 ("joy ... pleasures") in response to Yahweh God. But does experience imply "chief end"?

  • Is this for all humanity or just the psalmist? (We must have a reason why what God intends for chosen people is also true for all humanity; the New View does furnish us with that, because it proposes a different "chief end" of humanity, but the Westminster Divines did not have that view as far as I can see.)

    Psa 144:15; - "blessed are the people whose god is the LORD" Again, this is a statement of response. It so happens that people blessed when their god, their meaningfulness, is Yahweh, but so is all Creation. Moreover, is blessing identical with joy? There are many passages about blessing not cited here, not least the promise to Abram.

  • Is this for all humanity or just the chosen people? (We must have a reason why what God intends for chosen people is also true for all humanity; the New View does furnish us with that, because it proposes a different "chief end" of humanity, but the Westminster Divines did not have that view as far as I can see.)

    Isa. 12:2; - (I begin with verse 1) "In that day you will say, 'I will praise you O LORD. Although you were angry with me your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD is my strength and my song; he have become my salvation.'"

  • Again, experience by the prophet or people.
  • It is a promise for the future of how people will respond.
  • Not only enjoyment ("song") but also salvation, strength, comfort, trust and absence of fear. So why are these not also the "chief end"?

    Luke 2:10; The promise of the angel to shepherds that he brings "good news of great joy that will be for all people."

  • Yes, it is for "all people" and hence for all humanity.
  • Is it that this indicates "chief end" of humanity is joy, or just that the message is one that has the property of joy?

    Phil. 4:4; "Rejoice always; again I say, Rejoice!" A command (or is it exhortation) to rejoice (in all circumstances).

  • Yes, a command like this might indicate something of what God intends.
  • But what about other commands, as in Galatians 6:10, Eph 2:10. Should not doing good works equally be a "chief end"? I feel that the Divines had fixed on one small aspect or component of what God intended from Creation onwards, and raised it out of context with all the others.

    Rev. 21:3-4 "The dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them ... wipe away all tears ..."

  • Again, enjoyment is only one component among all others.
  • Indeed other components seem to more strongly indicate God's intention and "chief end", such that the wiping away of tears is an adjunct to this.
  • Moreover, this does not speak of positive enjoyment but only of lack of tears and pain.

    Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

    A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, [a] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. [b]

    [a].

  • Matt. 19:4-5
  • with
  • Gen. 2:24;
  • Luke 24:27,
  • 44;
  • 1 Cor. 2:13;
  • 14:37;
  • 2 Pet.1:20-21;
  • 3:2,
  • 15-16[b].
  • Deut. 4:2;
  • Ps. 19:7-11;
  • Isa. 8:20;
  • John 15:11;
  • 20:30-31;
  • Acts 17:11;
  • 2 Tim. 3:15-17;
  • 1 John 1:4

    Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

    A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, [a] and what duty God requires of man [b].

    [a].

  • Gen. 1:1;
  • John 5:39;
  • 20:31;
  • Rom. 10:17;
  • 2 Tim. 3:15[b].
  • Deut. 10:12-13;
  • Josh. 1:8;
  • Ps. 119:105;
  • Mic. 6:8; 2 Tim. 3:16-17

    ...

    Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

    A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory [a], shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment [b], and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God [c] to all eternity [d].

    [a].

  • I Cor. 15:42-43[b].
  • Matt. 25:33-34,
  • 46[c].
  • Rom. 8:29;
  • 1 John 3:2[d].
  • Ps. 16:11;
  • 1 Thess. 4:17

    Q. 39. What is the duty which God requireth of man?

    A. The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will [a].

    [a].

  • Deut. 29:29;
  • Mic. 6:8;
  • 1 John 5:2-3

    Conclusion

    So, we see that the "chief end", or purpose, meaningfulness, destiny of humankind and human beings is not to "enjoy God" but rather to represent God to the rest of Creation. Even it might not be to glorify God. Glory to God comes from "all things" as a result. Enjoyment of God by humans comes as a result.

    This is explained more clearly in "To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever" - "The Chief End of Man" ?


    This page, URL= 'http://abxn.org/nv/chief.end.html', is part of the on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology and practice that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome by emailing
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            at kgsvr.net

    Copyright (c) Andrew Basden to latest date below, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

    Written on the Amiga with Protext in the style of classic HTML.

    Created: 11 September 2020 Last updated: 20 February 2022 link to glorify.enjoy, and some additions to verses.