The Westminster Larger Catechism #1

The Westminster Larger Catechism is an oft-ignored document, even in Presbyterian churches that subscribe to it. But it is full of rich truth, practical aids to faith and piety, and helpful answers to the most vexing questions of the Christian life. The only commentaries that I know on it are the commentaries by Thomas Ridgeley’s (which I purchased through Still Water Revival Books) and Johannes Vos (published by P&R). Robert Godfrey, in his introductory essay to Vos’ work, remarks that that Larger Catechism “is a neglected tool the church needs today to help believers develop vital and balanced Christian faith and life.”

The first question and answer is very familiar: What is the chief and highest end of man? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God (Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; I Cor. 10:31; Psalm 86:9, 12), and fully to enjoy Him forever (Ps. 73:24-28; John 17:21-23; Ps. 16:5-11; Rev. 21:3-4).

I was struck by an article in the Wall Street Journal this week that underlined how radical a view of life this question presents. The article was in the Wednesday, July 21, Personal Journal section, entitled, “Kids Quit the Team for More Family Time.” I was drawn to it because I’ve been debating back and forth in my mind as to whether I want to let Daniel play baseball this fall for a month and a half. The article closed with this paragraph: “Youth sports pose a great opportunity to teach kids lessons about balance that will benefit them later. If a team’s demands are ‘unhealthy, you’ve got to either change it or get out,’ Mr. Brier tells his sons, 18, 16, and 8. ‘What is the highest goal in playing sports? An appreciation of fitness all your life – and maybe you find a sport you can play all your life.'”

I read that and immediately thought of the Catechism – “No, the highest goal in playing sports is the highest goal in anything and everything: to glorify God and to enjoy Him!” We play sports, we read, we garden, we woodwork, we fish, we hike, we swim, we work, we enjoy evenings on the back porch with our families, we do whatever we do for the glory of God and to enjoy Him and the world He has made for us. Sure, appreciating fitness is important; winning is nice; learning how to play as a team is great – but if you aren’t don’t what you do for the purpose of glorifying God and enjoying Him, then you have just made an idol out of that thing.

Do you even think about why you do what you do? Or do you just do stuff? One of the things for which I am most thankful for the Puritans is the way they press me to be deliberate, thoughtful, prudent, self-controlled and self-aware. We must consciously do what we do with the aim to glorify God in it and enjoy Him in it.

How do we glorify God? Thomas Ridgeley give us several answers: 1) By confessing all the sins we have committed, and taking shame to ourselves on account of them; 2) By loving and delighting in Him above all things (NB how Ridgeley foreshadows John Piper’s great declaration that God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him); 3) By believing and trusting in Him; 4) By a fervent zeal for His honor; 5) By improving our talents, and bringing forth fruit in proportion to the means we enjoy; 6) By walking humbly, thankfully, and cheerfully before God; 7) By heavenly-mindedness, or cherishing a desire to be with Him, to behold His glory; 8 ) By yielding an entire submission to His disposing [providential] will; 9) In the natural, civil, and religious actions of life, all of which are to be consecrated or devoted to Him.

As noted above, one of the main ways we glorify God is by enjoying Him, being satisfied in Him, delighting in Him, tasting and seeing and declaring that He is good (Ridgeley writes, “We are to glorify God, by recommending, proclaiming, and setting forth His excellency to others. What we have the highest value for, we desire to see regarded by others in the same way as by ourselves.”). But it is also true that you cannot enjoy God – in the sense of communing with Him, walking in fellowship with Him – without seeking to glorify Him. There is no happiness without holiness, and we will not be truly and completely happy until we are perfectly holy. In this life, because of sin, we will not and cannot fully glorify and enjoy God. It is what we were created for, it is what we have lost the ability to accomplish in the fall, it is why Jesus died for us (both in the sense of cause – He died for our failure to glorify and enjoy God – and purpose – He died to enable us to glorify and enjoy God), and it what we will be able to perfectly do on the new earth.

Until then, let us press on to make Psalm 73:25-26 and 86:12 our heart cry: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.”

SDG,
Ezra

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Preacher,
    What factors are you using to decide if Daniel plays ball? I am a baseball guy and would like to read your opinions. “Our hearts are restless…. until they rest in Thee” but I think we can still enjoy the creation.

    Reply

    • Posted by calebcangelosi on July 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      My biggest concern has been the amount of time it will take, coupled with the late evenings. The tension is that in some ways sports seem to help focus one’s schedule, while at the same time overwhelming it. The other thought is that I want to be involved in our community, to meet unbelievers. I definitely want Daniel to be conversant with all sports – but I have to ask myself, “Why?” I’m planning on signing him up – it’s just for a month and a half, two nights a week, and it will be a good experience. Baseball is probably my least favorite sport, but a good friend of mine argued that it’s the best team sport because you have to rely upon every member to win the game – whereas with football/basketball/soccer, one star can carry a whole team. I hadn’t thought of that. Caleb

      Reply

      • Conversant, wow. I am not sure if Arden or Sems is conversant in anything! In fact, I am not sure I know what it is to be conversant! Although you are correct about the time involved in sports; I know all to well. Practice is work though, and it may help teach some young men work ethics. Balance is always the key. On reaching the lost, sometimes I forget that you are T.R. and not SBC.

        Regards,

        Bird

      • Posted by calebcangelosi on July 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm

        Good thoughts on the work aspect of sports. And it certainly forces you to think about balance (that was one of the arguments in the WSJ article). By conversant, I mean, “He knows what a shortstop is.” Currently, Daniel does not know what a shortstop is. But the application has been turned in; we’re playing. Pray for wisdom. Thanks for your interaction – one reason for this blog is to cultivate good discussion, I’m glad you’re reading. CC

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