I don’t have a Presbyterian background, so I was not taught the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a child. Yet, somehow I learned the first question: What is the chief end of man?
In spite of the archaic use of the words “chief” and “man”, I think it would be clear to most people that this is a question about purpose. A fair paraphrase would be, “What is the main purpose of humanity?” Some might prefer the more common question; “Why are we here?”
Since I’m not a Presbyterian, I don’t suppose it would surprise you to learn that my response to that question isn’t the one prescribed by the catechism. Please don’t click away just yet. This isn’t going to be a critique of the catechism. I’m not going to go on at length about why I think the catechism is wrong in one way or another in an attempt to undermine the Reformed theology reflected there. Instead, I’m simply going to answer each question for myself in accordance with my current (limited and fallible) understanding of Scripture as a sort of exercise. I’m sure that there’s something beneficial to be gained by doing this, even if I don’t exactly know what that might be at the moment.
In future posts, I’ll give the question, my answer and cite relevant passages of Scripture…if in fact I think there are any. Yeah, that sounds strange. If you’re familiar with the catechism (or just the Reformed way of doing things) you know that there are Scriptural references for each response. I concede that not referencing the same (or any) passages may amount to a tacit criticism of the catechism/Reformed theology…and that’s how I’ll leave any criticism-tacit, not explicit.
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end (main purpose) is to be the image of God within Creation, to increase in number, exercise authority over the Creation and to do God’s will on Earth as His will is done in Heaven.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.