To Enjoy God Forever: Puritan Hedonism?

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Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Q1 What is the chief end of man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Very few Christians would debate the assertion that mankind was created for the glory of God. In Isaiah 43:7, God says of Israel, “I have created [you] for my glory.” Paul tells believers in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” To the Christians in Rome, he exclaims, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

But why did the Puritans add the phrase “and enjoy Him”? Why not simply “glorify God.” After all, there were earlier Catechisms that simply defined man’s chief end in terms of glorifying God. Why did the framers of the Westminster Catechism add “and to enjoy him.” If they had to add a phrase, why not “glorify God and believe in him”? Why not “glorify God and serve him”? Why did they choose “and enjoy him”? Is it even biblical to describe man’s chief end in terms of enjoying God?

I believe this is an important question for at least four reasons:

(1) Because of the vital importance of the topic

Why are we here? What are we to live for? What should be the primary motivation for all that we do? What’s God’s ultimate design for our life? What could be more important than to consider these questions? These are questions asked by people all over the world—young and old, rich and poor, philosopher and simple man.

(2) Because of our love for the Reformed tradition


The Shorter Catechism is an essential part of the doctrinal heritage of many on the Puritan Board. We love our tradition, but we love the Scriptures more. Is this part of our tradition Scriptural?

(3) Because some Reformed expositors of the Catechism appear to ignore or to minimize “the enjoyment of God” as man’s chief end.


For example, Alexander Archibald Hodge (the son of Charles Hodge) wrote a commentary on the Catechism which was published in 1888. Though Hodge refers to the glory of God as man’s chief end, he does not once mention the enjoyment of God. It’s as if the Catechism never used that phrase. More recently, G. I. Williamson published a study guide for the Catechism, and the main headings are (1) The Two Mind Sets, (2) Glorifying God, and (3) What ‘Chief End’ Means. In the first section, he contrasts a selfish mindset with a God-centered mindset. In the second section, spends most of his time explaining what it means to glorify God, though he does say at the end, “and [those who glorify God] do enjoy him forever.” And in the final section he defines the phrase “chief end.” He doesn’t completely ignore the phrase “and enjoy him,” as Hodge did. But he does appear to minimize its importance. According to Johannes Vos (1903-1983), the framers of the Catechism placed “glorify God” before “enjoy God” because
the most important element in the purpose of human life is glorifying God, while enjoying God is strictly subordinate to glorifying God. In our religious life, we should always place the chief emphasis upon glorifying God. The person who does this will truly enjoy God, both there and hereafter. But the person who thinks of enjoying God is in danger of supposing that God exists for man instead of man for God. To stress enjoying God more than glorifying God will result in a falsely mystical or emotional type of religion.
And Vos’ concern to subordinate the act of enjoying God to the act of glorifying God was shared by other Reformed writers who lived before him. Thomas Boston, for example, writes, “Man’s chief duty is to glorify God…. And this is man’s chief, and last or farthest end. Man’s chief happiness is, to enjoy God as his God…. And this is man’s chief subordinate end.” John Brown offers the following series of questions and answers to clarify the meaning of the Catechism:
Q. Is our delight in the glory or glorious excellencies of God as satisfying to us, to be our chief end or motive in our actions, religious or moral?
A. No; but our shewing forth the honour of these glorious excellencies, Isa. ii. 11. Psal. xvi. 4. Isa. xliii. 21.

Q. Why may we not make our own delight in the glory of God as satisfying to our desires, our chief end and motive?
A. Because this would be a setting up of our own happiness above the glory of God.
Ebenezer Erskine, James Fisher, and Ralph Erskine also wrote a catechetical exposition of the Catechism that was published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1753. Similar to Brown the authors ask,
Q. 46 Is not our delighting in the glory of God, to be reckoned our chief end?
A. No; we must set the glory of God above our delight therein, otherwise, our delight is not chiefly in God, but in ourselves, Isa. ii. 11.
These authors obviously don’t ignore the phrase “and enjoy him.” But they certainly seem to minimize its importance in relationship to the phrase “glorify God.” And they seem to be motivated by a concern that by giving the phrase “enjoy him” equal weight with the phrase “glorify God,” we run the risk of promoting a man-centered, mystical, or overly emotional kind of religion.

(4) Because of the popular and influential teachings of John Piper

John Piper is the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1986 Piper published a book entitled Desiring God with the subtitle, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Because of its popularity, a second expanded edition was republished in 1996. In that book, Piper begins by citing the Shorter Catechism and by suggesting that the answer to the question of man’s chief end can be better understood by simply changing one little word.

Instead of “Man’s chief end is to glorify God AND enjoy Him forever,” Piper suggests, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.” Or as he paraphrases it later in the book: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” This is the essence, Piper argues, of Christian Hedonism. And Piper has written several other books that are in many ways expositions and applications of that theme.

For better or for worse, Piper’s emphasis upon the enjoyment of God has caused a stir in the Reformed community. Some have accused him of greatly altering the teaching of the Catechism by changing the wording. Others, like Peter Masters, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, have accused Piper of reductionism. In a critique of Piper’s teaching, Masters asserts,
Dr. Piper’s formula … undoubtedly alters the understanding of sanctification long held by believers in the Reformation tradition, because it elevates one Christian duty above all others…. As soon as you substitute a single ‘big idea’ or organizing principle, and bundle all the strands into one, you alter God’s design and method.
Dr. Masters argues that Piper has departed from the Puritan view of sanctification which he calls “multi-track.” He says, “If it is possible to see one duty lifted a little higher than the others in Puritan literature it is probably obedience, not the pursuit of joy ….” Nevertheless, as the Shorter Catechism demonstrates, the Puritans did sometimes elevate one duty above the rest and in this case the duty is the enjoyment of God.

Is it right to think of man’s chief end as the enjoyment of God? How we answer that question will affect our view of the Puritans, our view of John Piper, and most importantly, our view of the Christian life. Therefore, I think it is a question worthy for our consideration. Brothers, please offer your feedback.
 
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Richard King

Puritan Board Senior
You know honestly I don't know the answer to your question
...but this gives me a chance to share something about the phrase.
I saw the question and answer to Q1 on a coffee cup once about 3 or 4 years ago.

I had never heard it before in my life. I had always been in Baptist churches or charismatic churches etc. and believe it or not I had not a clue what the Westminster Catechism was.

But I was always wondering what this ride on this crazy planet is all about
and when I saw the coffee cup with the this question and answer it seemed incredibly profound. I could not get it out of my mind. So I sought out its origins and that opened up a world of truth for me.
 

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
From Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, (Banner of Truth) pages 20-26.

II. Man’s chief end is to enjoy God for ever. Psalm 73: 25. 'Whom have I in heaven but thee?’ That is, What is there in heaven I desire to enjoy but thee? There is a twofold fruition or enjoying of God; the one is in this life, the other in the life to come.

The enjoyment of God in this life. It is a great matter to enjoy God's ordinances, but to enjoy God's presence in the ordinances is that which a gracious heart aspires after. Psalm 63: 2. 'To see thy glory so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.' This sweet enjoyment of God, is, when we feel his Spirit co-operating with the ordinance, and distilling grace upon our hearts, when in the Word the Spirit quickens and raises the affections, Luke 24: 32, 'Did not our hearts burn within us?', when the Spirit transforms the heart, leaving an impress of holiness upon it. 2 Cor 3: I8. 'We are changed into the same image, from glory to glory.' When the Spirit revives the heart with comfort, it comes not only with its anointing, but with its seal; it sheds God's love abroad in the heart. Rom 5: 5. 'Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.' I John 1: 3. In the Word we hear God's voice, in the sacrament we have his kiss. The heart being warmed and inflamed in a duty is God's answering by fire. The sweet communications of God's Spirit are the first-fruits of glory. Now Christ has pulled off his veil, and showed his smiling face; now he has led a believer into the banqueting-house, and given him of the spiced wine of his love to drink; he has put in his finger at the hole of the door; he has touched the heart, and made it leap for joy. Oh how sweet is it thus to enjoy God! The godly have, in ordinances, had such divine raptures of joy, and soul transfigurations, that they have been carried above the world, and have despised all things here below.

Use one: Is the enjoyment of God in this life so sweet? How wicked are they who prefer the enjoyment of their lusts before the enjoyment of God! 2 Pet 3: 3. 'The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life,' is the Trinity they worship. Lust is an inordinate desire or impulse, provoking the soul to that which is evil. There is the revengeful lust, and the wanton lust. Lust, like a feverish heat, puts the soul into a flame. Aristotle calls sensual lusts brutish, because, when any lust is violent, reason or conscience cannot be heard. These lusts besot and brutalise the man. Hos 4: 11. 'Whoredom and wine take away the heart;' the heart for anything that is good. How many make it their chief end, not to enjoy God, but to enjoy their lusts!; as that cardinal who said, 'Let him but keep his cardinalship of Paris, and he was content to lose his part in Paradise.' Lust first bewitches with pleasure, and then comes the fatal dart. Prov 7: 23. 'Till a dart strike through his liver.' This should be as a flaming sword to stop men in the way of their carnal delights. Who for a drop of pleasure would drink a sea of wrath?

Use two: Let it be our great care to enjoy God's sweet presence in his ordinances. Enjoying spiritual communion with God is a riddle and mystery to most people. Every one that hangs about the court does not speak with the king. We may approach God in ordinances, and hang about the court of heaven, yet not enjoy communion with God. We may have the letter without the Spirit, the visible sign without the invisible grace. It is the enjoyment of God in a duty that we should chiefly look at. Psa 13: 2. 'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.’ Alas! what are all our worldly enjoyments without the enjoyment of God! What is it to enjoy good health, a brave estate, and not to enjoy God? Job 30: 28. 'I went mourning without the sun.’ So mayest thou say in the enjoyment of all creatures without God, 'I went mourning without the sun.’ I have the starlight of outward enjoyments, but I want the Sun of Righteousness. 'I went mourning without the sun.' It should be our great design, not only to have the ordinances of God, but the God of the ordinances. The enjoyment of God's sweet presence here is the most contented life: he is a hive of sweetness, a magazine of riches, a fountain of delight. Psalm 36: 8, 9. The higher the lark flies the sweeter it sings: and the higher we fly by the wings of faith, the more we enjoy of God. How is the heart inflamed in prayer and meditation! What joy and peace is there in believing! Is it not comfortable being in heaven? He that enjoys much of God in this life carries heaven about him. Oh let this be the thing we are chiefly ambitious of, the enjoyment of God in his ordinances! The enjoyment of God's sweet presence here is an earnest of our enjoying him in heaven.

This brings us to the second thing:

[2] The enjoyment of God in the life to come. Man’s chief end is to enjoy God for ever. Before the plenary fruition of God in heaven, there must be something previous and antecedent; and that is, our being in a state of grace. We must have conformity to him in grace, before we can have communion with him in glory. Grace and glory are linked and chained together. Grace precedes glory, as the morning star ushers in the sun. God will have us qualified and fitted for a state of blessedness. Drunkards and swearers are not fit to enjoy God in glory; the Lord will not lay such vipers in his bosom. Only the 'pure in heart shall see God.' We must first be, as the king's daughter, glorious within, before we are clothed with the robes of glory. As King Ahasuerus first caused the virgins to be purified and anointed, and they had their sweet odours to perfume them, and then went to stand before the king, Esth 2: 12, so must we have the anointing of God, and be perfumed with the graces of the Spirit, those sweet odours, and then we shall stand before the king of heaven. Being thus divinely qualified by grace, we shall be taken up to the mount of vision, and enjoy God for ever; and what is enjoying God for ever but to be put in a state of happiness? As the body cannot have life but by having communion with the soul, so the soul cannot have blessedness but by having immediate communion with God. God is the summum bonum, the chief good; therefore the enjoyment of him is the highest felicity.

He is a universal good; bonum in quo omnia bona, 'a good, in which are all goods.’ The excellencies of the creature are limited. A man may have health, not beauty, learning, not parentage, riches, not wisdom; but in God are contained all excellencies. He is a good, commensurate fully to the soul; a sun, a portion, a horn of salvation; in whom dwells 'all fulness.’ Col 1: I9. God is an unmixed good. There is no condition in this life but has its mixture; for every drop of honey there is a drop of gall. Solomon, who gave himself to find out the philosopher’s stone, to search out for happiness here below, found nothing but vanity and vexation. Eccl 1: 2. God is perfect, the quintessence of good. He is sweetness in the flower. God is a satisfying good. The soul cries out, I have enough. Psalm 17: I5. 'I shall be satisfied with thy likeness.’ Let a man who is thirsty be brought to an ocean of pure water, and he has enough. If there be enough in God to satisfy the angels, then sure there is enough to satisfy us. The soul is but finite, but God is infinite. Though God be a good that satisfies, yet he does not surfeit. Fresh joys spring continually from his face; and he is as much to be desired after millions of years by glorified souls as at the first moment. There is a fulness in God that satisfies, and yet so much sweetness, that the soul still desires. God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure; there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy. In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima immo rapitur [There is a certain sweetness about God’s person which delights, nay, rather, ravishes the soul]: The love of God drops such infinite suavity into the soul as is unspeakable and full of glory. If there be so much delight in God, when we see him only by faith, I Pet 1: 8, what will the joy of vision be, when we shall see him face to face! If the saints have found so much delight in God while they were suffering, oh what joy and delight will they have when they are being crowned! If flames are beds of roses, what will it be to lean on the bosom of Jesus! What a bed of roses that will be! God is a superlative good. He is better than anything you can put in competition with him: he is better than health, riches, honour. Other things maintain life, he gives life. Who would put anything in balance with the Deity? Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God excels all other things more infinitely than the sun the light of a taper. God is an eternal good. He is the Ancient of days, yet never decays, nor waxes old. Dan 7: 9. The joy he gives is eternal, the crown fadeth not away. I Pet 5: 4. The glorified soul shall be ever solacing itself in God, feasting on his love, and sunning itself in the light of his countenance. We read of the river of pleasure at God's right hand; but will not this in time be dried up? No! There is a fountain at the bottom which feeds it. Psa 36: 9. 'With the Lord is the fountain of life.' Thus God is the chief good, and the enjoyment of God for ever is the highest felicity of which the soul is capable.

Use one: Let it be the chief end of our living to enjoy this chief good hereafter. Augustine reckons up 288 opinions among philosophers about happiness, but all were short of the mark. The highest elevation of a reasonable soul is to enjoy God for ever. It is the enjoyment of God that makes heaven. I Thess 4: I7. 'Then shall we ever be with the Lord.' The soul trembles as the needle in the compass, and is never at rest till it comes to God. To set out this excellent state of a glorified soul’s enjoyment of God: (I.) It must not be understood in a sensual manner: we must not conceive any carnal pleasures in heaven. The Turks, in their Koran, speak of a paradise of pleasure, where they have riches in abundance, and red wine served in golden chalices. The epicures of this age would like such a heaven when they die. Though the state of glory be compared to a feast, and is set out by pearls and precious stones, yet these metaphors are only helps to our faith, and to show us that there is superabundant joy and felicity in the highest heaven; but they are not carnal but spiritual delights. Our enjoyment will be in the perfection of holiness, in seeing the pure face of Christ, in feeling the love of God, in conversing with heavenly spirits; which will be proper for the soul, and infinitely exceed all carnal voluptuous delights. (2.) We shall have a lively sense of this glorious estate. A man in a lethargy, though alive, is as good as dead, because he is not sensible, nor does he take any pleasure in his life; but we shall have a quick and lively sense of the infinite pleasure which arises from the enjoyment of God: we shall know ourselves to be happy; we shall reflect with joy upon our dignity and felicity; we shall taste every crumb of that sweetness, every drop of that pleasure which flows from God. (3.) We shall be made able to bear a sight of that glory. We could not now bear that glory, it would overwhelm us, as a weak eye cannot behold the sun; but God will capacitate us for glory; our souls shall be so heavenly, and perfected with holiness, that they may be able to enjoy the blessed vision of God. Moses in a cleft of the rock saw the glory of God passing by. Exod 33: 22. From our blessed rock Christ, we shall behold the beatific sight of God. (4.) This enjoyment of God shall be more than a bare contemplation of him. Some of the learned move the question, Whether the enjoyment of God shall be by way of contemplation only. That is something, but it is one half of heaven only; there shall be a loving of God, an acquiescence in him, a tasting his sweetness; not only inspection but possession. John 17: 24. 'That they may behold my glory;' there is inspection: Verse 22. 'And the glory thou hast given me, I have given them;' there is possession. 'Glory shall be revealed in us,' Rom 8: I8; not only revealed to us, but in us. To behold God's glory, there is glory revealed to us; but, to partake of his glory, there is glory revealed in us. As the sponge sucks in the wine, so shall we suck in glory. (5.) There is no intermission in this state of glory. We shall not only have God's glorious presence at certain special seasons; but we shall be continually in his presence, continually under divine raptures of joy. There shall not be one minute in heaven, wherein a glorified soul may say, I do not enjoy happiness. The streams of glory are not like the water of a conduit, often stopped, so that we cannot have one drop of water; but those heavenly streams of joy are continually running. Oh how should we despise this valley of tears where we now are, for the mount of transfiguration! how should we long for the full enjoyment of God in Paradise! Had we a sight of that land of promise, we should need patience to be content to live here any longer.

Use two: Let this be a spur to duty. How diligent and zealous should we be in glorifying God, that we may come at last to enjoy him! If Tully, Demosthenes, and Plato, who had but the dim watch-light of reason to see by, fancied an elysium and happiness after this life, and took such Herculean pains to enjoy it, oh how should Christians, who have the light of Scripture to see by, bestir themselves that they may attain to the eternal fruition of God and glory! If anything can make us rise off our bed of sloth, and serve God with all our might, it should be this, the hope of our near enjoyment of God for ever. What made Paul so active in the sphere of religion? I Cor 15: 10. 'I laboured more abundantly than they all.' His obedience did not move slow, as the sun on the dial; but swift, as light from the sun. Why was he so zealous in glorifying God, but that he might at last centre and terminate in him? I Thess 4: I7. 'Then shall we ever be with the Lord.’

Use three: Let this comfort the godly in all the present miseries they feel. Thou complainest, Christian, thou dost not enjoy thyself, fears disquiet thee, wants perplex thee; in the day thou canst not enjoy ease, in the night thou canst not enjoy sleep; thou cost not enjoy the comforts of thy life. Let this revive thee, that shortly thou shalt enjoy God, and then shalt have more than thou canst ask or think; thou shalt have angels' joy, glory without intermission or expiration. We shall never enjoy ourselves fully till we enjoy God eternally.


Watson wrote this in 1692.
 

ChristianHedonist

Puritan Board Freshman
Another important person to consider in this discussion is Jonathan Edwards. Piper's thinking is quite heavily influenced by Edwards, especially by Edwards dissertation The End for Which God Created the World, where Edwards argues that God's glory and the creatures true joy are not separate ends, but are one end. Edwards's dissertation, plus Piper's extensive introduction to it, is available as a free PDF book here: http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_gpfg/gpfg_all.pdf
 
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ManleyBeasley

Puritan Board Junior
I believe enjoying God is elevated above all other duties because all other duties will flow from that. If God is our treasure and joy then obedience IS our passion. Obedience not caused by JOY in the one being obeyed is less honoring to the one being obeyed.

Augustine said, grace is "God gives sovereign joy in God that triumphs over the joys of sin."

I agree with Augustine on this one.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desire of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4


This is an imperative. Time and time again, explicitly God tells us to "delight" in Him. Explicitly and implicitly to seek satisfaction in Him. By extenstion, His Word (Law), His person, His mercy.

I think enjoying God is a corollary of worship, praise, and thanksgiving, which is a chief end of man and is related to glorifying Him.


Another advantage of having a Confession is the scripture proofs of every statement and proposition, a theology that is both systematic and line-by-line. Consider the Scripture proofs for the proposition man is to enjoy God:


Westminster Shorter Catechism question 1b Scripture proofs:

Psalm 16:5-11. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 144:15. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. Isaiah 12:2. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Luke 2:10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Revelation 21:3-4. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
 
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Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
I'm actually aware of some of the critiques of Piper, like that of Peter Masters. But what of the Shorter Catechism's placing the enjoyment of God coordinate with the glorifying of God as man's chief end? I've formed my own tentative opinion. But I'd be interested to hear more from others.
 

Casey

Puritan Board Junior
(2) Because of our love for the Reformed tradition[/B]

The Shorter Catechism is an essential part of the doctrinal heritage of many on the Puritan Board. We love our tradition, but we love the Scriptures more. Is this part of our tradition Scriptural?
Seems to me to be an Augustinian emphasis that the Reformed embraced.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
... But what of the Shorter Catechism's placing the enjoyment of God coordinate with the glorifying of God as man's chief end?...

Thomas Watson said it this way:

If we glorify God, he will glorify our souls forever. By raising God's glory, we increase our own: by glorifying God, we come at last to the blessed enjoyment of him.

And let's not forget that it is not some sense of christian hedonism that directs how to enjoy God, but the Scriptures themselves (cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.2).
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
In one of the threads recommended above, someone mentioned an article written by J. I. Packer critiquing Piper but when I clicked on the link I found the article is no longer available. Does anyone else know where to find it?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Dr. Gonzalez, I don't think saying that John Brown minimized the role of enjoyment is accurate. Of course he, like the Catechism, puts "glorifying" first, but not only does he have many questions relative to the topic of enjoyment of God, he also addresses this matter directly.

Q. Why is the glorifying of God placed before the enjoyment of him?
A. Because the glory of God is of more value than our happiness, Isa. xl. 17.

Q. Whether is our glorifying or enjoying of God first in order?
A. We must first enjoy God in his gracious influences, and then glorify him; and this leads on to further enjoyment of him, Psalm cxix. 32.

Q. Is our delight in the glory or glorious excellencies of God as satisfying to us, to be our chief end or motive in our actions, religious or moral?
A. No; but our shewing forth the honour of those glorious excellencies, Isa. ii. 11, Psal. xvi. 4, Isa. xliii. 21.

Q.Why may we not make our own delight in the glory of God as satisfying to our desires, our chief end and motive?
A. Because this would be a setting up of our own happiness above the glory of God.

(...)

Q. Why are the glorifying and enjoying of God joined as one chief end?
A. Because none can obtain or rightly seek the one without the other, 1 Cor. xv. 58.

Q. How do we most highly glorify God?
A. By receiving and enjoying him most fully.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Gonzalez, I don't think saying that John Brown minimized the role of enjoyment is accurate. Of course he, like the Catechism, puts "glorifying" first, but not only does he have many questions relative to the topic of enjoyment of God, he also addresses this matter directly.

Q. Why is the glorifying of God placed before the enjoyment of him?
A. Because the glory of God is of more value than our happiness, Isa. xl. 17.

Q. Whether is our glorifying or enjoying of God first in order?
A. We must first enjoy God in his gracious influences, and then glorify him; and this leads on to further enjoyment of him, Psalm cxix. 32.

Q. Is our delight in the glory or glorious excellencies of God as satisfying to us, to be our chief end or motive in our actions, religious or moral?
A. No; but our shewing forth the honour of those glorious excellencies, Isa. ii. 11, Psal. xvi. 4, Isa. xliii. 21.

Q.Why may we not make our own delight in the glory of God as satisfying to our desires, our chief end and motive?
A. Because this would be a setting up of our own happiness above the glory of God.

(...)

Q. Why are the glorifying and enjoying of God joined as one chief end?
A. Because none can obtain or rightly seek the one without the other, 1 Cor. xv. 58.

Q. How do we most highly glorify God?
A. By receiving and enjoying him most fully.

Ruben, thanks for the extra input from Brown. I was actually aware of these other statements and agree with a number of the points he makes. But I do not find the two points I cited above particularly helpful or completely accurate. He is closer to the truth when he asserts that "none can obtain or rightly seek the one without the other." If that's true, then with respect to the specified focus of the question itself (What is the chief end of man?), I do not find it helpful to speak of one being more important than the other.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Dr. Gonzalez, I don't see the inconsistency. The Shorter Catechism joins the two (as Brown acknowledges) but puts one first. It seems to me that Brown is faithful to the catechism in his exposition.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Gonzalez, I don't see the inconsistency. The Shorter Catechism joins the two (as Brown acknowledges) but puts one first. It seems to me that Brown is faithful to the catechism in his exposition.

Ruben,

First, word order does not necessarily entail level of importance. When, for example, God reveals himself to Moses as "Yahweh-Elohim, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth" (Exo. 34:6), are we to infer a kind of hierarchy of value among these attributes based on the word order? God's being "merciful" is more important than His being "gracious"? Etc.? Second, since the catechism speaks of only one end and, as Brown himself notes, the two are inseparably joined as the one end, then I don't believe it's helpful to give one priority over the other since the very language is designed to keep them joined as one semantic unity. Third, the catechism is addressing the chief end of man, not that of hills, trees, steams, clouds, stars, birds, fish, animals, etc. These may do the one and not the other. Man cannot fulfill his chief end without enjoying God. Hence, what the framers of the Catechism put together, let no man put asunder.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Dr. Gonzalez, word order does not always indicate an importance of ranking. But consider the point John Brown made, that our enjoyment of God comes before our glorifying of him in the order of time; I can't imagine that the Assembly was unaware of that. And yet they put "glorify" first. There must have been a reason.

I don't believe Brown is sundering what the Assembly joined; I think he is commenting on things that come up in our actual experience, and doing an excellent job of maintaining the truth that nothing is to matter to us more than the glory of God (the spine of Christianity), and that we must be willing to lose our lives, while recognizing that those who follow God are never the losers thereby.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Gonzalez, word order does not always indicate an importance of ranking.

True.

But consider the point John Brown made, that our enjoyment of God comes before our glorifying of him in the order of time; I can't imagine that the Assembly was unaware of that.

As I said before, I don't find this assertion of Brown to be helpful. How can one enjoy God without glorifying God in the very act of enjoying him? There is no temporal priority. Impossible! Brown lived and expounded the Catechism some time after it was written. So it is possible that the Assembly (or at least some in it) were unaware of Brown's distinction.

And yet they put "glorify" first. There must have been a reason.

Perhaps they wanted to look at the same end from two different perspectives. Or, perhaps they used a literary device. Have you ever heard of a hendiadys?

I don't believe Brown is sundering what the Assembly joined; I think he is commenting on things that come up in our actual experience, and doing an excellent job of maintaining the truth that nothing is to matter to us more than the glory of God (the spine of Christianity), and that we must be willing to lose our lives, while recognizing that those who follow God are never the losers thereby.

Brown does maintain that the two are inseparable. That was a helpful remark. I'm not so sure that "our actual experience" corresponds to the temporal priority or order that Brown maintains. To say, "nothing is to matter to us more than the glory of God" is the same as saying "man is to enjoy God forever."

For that reason, I prefer Vincent's exposition of this Question better than Brown's. Just twenty-six years after the Catechism had been published Thomas Vincent published an exposition (1674) that was endorsed by 40 Puritan pastors including John Owen, Joseph Caryl, James Janeway, Thomas Manton, Thomas Brooks and Thomas Watson. In that book, Vincent asks the question, “Why is the glorifying of God and the enjoyment of God joined together as one chief end of man?” To which he answers,
Because God hath inseparably joined them together, so that men cannot truly design and seek the one without the other. They who enjoy God most in his house on earth, do most glorify and enjoy him. ‘Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee.’—Ps. lxxxiv. 4. And when God shall be most fully enjoyed by the saints in heaven, he will be most highly glorified. ‘He shall come to be glorified in his saints.’—2 Thess. i. 10
Cordially yours,
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Dr. Gonzalez, on your view it would seem unnecessary to spell out the different elements of glorify and enjoy: they may not be separable, but they are distinguishable. Clearly the Assembly thought it worthwhile to list both aspects of that, while inseparably uniting them. It still is not clear to me why you think Brown is inconsistent or is disagreeing with Vincent.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Gonzalez, on your view it would seem unnecessary to spell out the different elements of glorify and enjoy: they may not be separable, but they are distinguishable. Clearly the Assembly thought it worthwhile to list both aspects of that, while inseparably uniting them. It still is not clear to me why you think Brown is inconsistent or is disagreeing with Vincent.

Ruben,

Before I respond, let me first affirm that it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance on the PB. A disadvantage with web-based discussions is that one often does not have the pleasure of seeing the brother's smile conveying goodwill as he's writing. :) Also, I always rejoice to meet a hispanic brother who loves the Reformed faith. For the past several years, I've been traveling to the Dominican Republic and Colombia to teach theological modules as part of our seminary's "Marrow of Theology" program. I have a deep burden to see Latin American pastors better grounded in the faith. I'm glad to see that you have a Spanish weblog to promote Reformed theology among Spanish speaking brothers.

As I said above, I agree that the two are both inseparable yet distinguishable. That's why I suggested that the framers of the confession may have intended us to look at the same end from two different perspectives or emphases. Or, they may have been employing a common literary device known as hendiadys, which derives from three Greek words: hen = "one"; dia = "through"; dys = "two." Hence, one basic meaning through the use of two nouns (nominal hendiadys) or verbs (verbal hendiadys).

Let me offer you some biblical examples of this grammatical phenomenon: Genesis 25:1 literally reads, “And Abraham added and he took a wife,” which is appropriately rendered as one basic idea: “Now Abraham took another wife” (NAS). In Exodus 34:8, we read that Moses, in response to a theophanic revelation, "made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped (NKJV). Some modern versions drop the “and” and accurately capture the single idea expressed by the first two verbs, rendering it "Moses quickly bowed" (NET, ESV) or “Moses bowed to the ground at once” (NIV) or “Moses immediately bowed down” (CSB). Another example is the oft repeated phrase in Deuteronomy that literally reads, “be careful and do,” and which is appropriately translated “carefully do” or “observe carefully” or “be careful to do” (Deut. 4:6; 5:1, 32; 6:3; 7:11, 12). I think the prayer in Psalm 27:7, “Be gracious to me and answer me,” may also be understood as a plea that God would “graciously reply” or “mercifully answer” his prayer.

The point I’m trying to make is that “and” need not always function to distinguish two mutually independent ideas. Sometimes it functions to fuse two ideas into one inseparable concept. It seems likely to me that our Puritan forefathers were trying to do that very thing.

So while I find some of what Brown says helpful, I'm not helped by other comments he makes. Consider Benjamin Wadsworth’s exposition (1714), which concurs with Vincent’s interpretation. Wadsworth draws the following inference from the wording of the Catechism:
Glorifying and Enjoying God, are Inseparably joined together; there can’t be the one without the other. [We] must be Holy, or can’t be Happy; but those who are Holy shall be Happy, Mat. 5.8. Heb. 12.14 [emphasis added]
You might wonder where I'm going with all this? Well, I'll let you see my cards. I fear that some within the Reformed community tend to depreciate or give "back seat" to the enjoyment of God while trumpeting loudly the glorifying of God. And many of these brothers seem to have "Piperphobia." So, I like to try to provoke my fellow brothers and sisters to think about the implications of the Puritan's tying together the glorifying and enjoying of God into one bundle.

Cordially yours,
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Dr. Gonzalez,

If there is one thing that consistently comes across in your posting here it is your goodwill. I was born in Colombia, though I grew up in Mexico, so if you would like some company on a trip there I'd be happy to tag along!

I haven't read enough of Piper to comment on that aspect of the question. But to me it seems that John Brown affirms that the two distinguishable aspects of man's chief end are insusceptible to separation, but goes on to make some additional remarks. I don't find those additional remarks to be contradictory to the Catechism, to what he has affirmed in the immediate context, or to what I understand to be your main point. Your posts haven't convinced me that there is any inconsistency here. But that means that I do think it's unfair to John Brown to say as your original post did that he minimizes the importance of the phrase "and enjoy him". I realize that probably isn't the substantive discussion you were hoping to start, since I'm not even talking about the merits of your case in general or the right of the matter, but only the use of John Brown as a witness to a minimizing tendency. I will confess to a streak of pedantry as wide as a 747's wingspan in my personality.
 

Grace Alone

Puritan Board Senior
Dr. Gonzales,

I am just an observer on this thread. But I just wanted to comment that I have read a couple of books and have seen videos by John Piper. From those, I see a picture of someone who truly loves the Lord and glorifies AND enjoys Him! I wish I could have the joy in the Lord that he so obviously does (I pray that I will!). I do not see how anyone can fault him on this issue because his motives seem so pure to me, and his testimony reflects what he teaches. In fact, I am not sure I would understand the meaning of that first catechism answer if I had not read or watched Piper (just as my understanding of the holiness of God was enriched by reading Sproul).

So I do agree that both things are intertwined.
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Gonzalez,

If there is one thing that consistently comes across in your posting here it is your goodwill. I was born in Colombia, though I grew up in Mexico, so if you would like some company on a trip there I'd be happy to tag along!

I haven't read enough of Piper to comment on that aspect of the question. But to me it seems that John Brown affirms that the two distinguishable aspects of man's chief end are insusceptible to separation, but goes on to make some additional remarks. I don't find those additional remarks to be contradictory to the Catechism, to what he has affirmed in the immediate context, or to what I understand to be your main point. Your posts haven't convinced me that there is any inconsistency here. But that means that I do think it's unfair to John Brown to say as your original post did that he minimizes the importance of the phrase "and enjoy him". I realize that probably isn't the substantive discussion you were hoping to start, since I'm not even talking about the merits of your case in general or the right of the matter, but only the use of John Brown as a witness to a minimizing tendency. I will confess to a streak of pedantry as wide as a 747's wingspan in my personality.

Ruben,

I understand your concern that I not misrepresent John Brown. I share that concern and believe it to be an application of the 9th commandment. I'm not so self-confident to think that I'm beyond committing this sin so I want to take your concern seriously.

In my initial post, I tried to give examples of Reformed writers who attempt to subordinate enjoying God under glorifying God as man's chief end. I cited the two following references of Brown as an example of this tendency I perceived:
Q. Is our delight in the glory or glorious excellencies of God as satisfying to us, to be our chief end or motive in our actions, religious or moral?
A. No; but our shewing forth the honour of these glorious excellencies, Isa. ii. 11. Psal. xvi. 4. Isa. xliii. 21.
First, Brown appears to be arguing that "showing forth the honour [glory?] of [God's] glorious excellencies" takes precedence over "our delight in the glory or glorious excellencies of God as satisfying to us." He appears to be saying that our chief end and motive should be to glorify God and our chief end or motive should not be to delight in God's glory as satisfying to us. He then justifies his statement in the following Q/A:
Q. Why may we not make our own delight in the glory of God as satisfying to our desires, our chief end and motive?
A. Because this would be a setting up of our own happiness above the glory of God.
Here I'm having difficulty following Brown's logic. In the question, he speaks of delighting in the glory of God as satisfying to our desires. Note carefully, the human delighting is inseparably linked to God's glory. But in the answer he seems to separate the two: "our happiness" vs. "the glory of God." Of course, any believer would agree that human happiness abstracted from the object of that joy, viz, God himself should not be our chief end. But in this case, he's failed to answer the initual question he posed and has created with this answer, perhaps unwittingly, a false dichotomy.

Of course, he does go on to say, as you've noted, that "none can obtain or rightly seek the one without the other." That's good. Indeed, his next Q/A sound very Piperish:
Q. How do we most highly glorify God?
A. By receiving and enjoying him most fully.
Writes Piper,
"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him."
So perhaps I should not include Brown as an example of someone who tries to distinguish the one from the other in terms of importance. But it seems to me, at the very least, that his comments, when taken together, are somewhat confusing and not consonant.

Thanks for your input and I don't mind a little pedantry.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Dr. Gonzalez, I appreciate your desire to be careful on this matter. Thank you for clarifying where you think the problem resides. I think the solution to the tension is not far off. If you aim at your own happiness, at your own enjoyment of God, you are not likely to get it. This is a point that C.S. Lewis has emphasized well. John Brown is speaking of our own thoughts and attitudes, at what we aim at. Hence the phrasing of the question, "Is our own delight, etc." If my goal is my own happiness I will lose that and will not actively glorify God. If my goal is to glorify God, I will find that God's glory and my enjoyment are blessedly inseparable.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Scribner Bantam dictionary

Enjoy [1]To feel, sense, or perceive with pleasure; [2] to have the use or possession of
With the secondary definition, "having God" is part of enjoying Him. Since seeking God is part of this, I have no hesitation in saying that seeking God, enjoying God is indeed a chief end of man.

Think of this another way. We are going to enjoy (sense with pleasure, or possess) something primarily in this life. If not God, it will be "things" He has created, rather than Him or it will be "us" (also created by Him).

There is nothing more fitting than that man, as God's creation, both glorify and enjoy Him forever.

One side note, I read an article by Mr Dave Hunt (probably best known for his debating "Calvinism") a critique of Mr Piper's book, "Christian Hedonism." It was curious to me that after listing a long line of Scripture that say basically to delight ourselves in God, Mr Hunt concluded by saying "I find no evidence in Scripture that we are to seek pleasure in God."
 

Dr. Bob Gonzales

Puritan Board Junior
Dr. Gonzalez, I appreciate your desire to be careful on this matter. Thank you for clarifying where you think the problem resides. I think the solution to the tension is not far off. If you aim at your own happiness, at your own enjoyment of God, you are not likely to get it. This is a point that C.S. Lewis has emphasized well. John Brown is speaking of our own thoughts and attitudes, at what we aim at. Hence the phrasing of the question, "Is our own delight, etc." If my goal is my own happiness I will lose that and will not actively glorify God. If my goal is to glorify God, I will find that God's glory and my enjoyment are blessedly inseparable.

Brother,

You are quite correct about Lewis. In his autobiography, he writes,
Joy in itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was no state of my own mind or body at all.... Inexorably Joy proclaimed, 'You want--I myself am your want of--something other, outside, not you nor any state of you (Surprised by Joy [1955], 220-21).
Likewise, John Piper carefully qualifies "Christian Hedonism" when he remarks,
It should be obvious from this, but may not be, that desire and delight have this in common: Neither is the Object desired or delighted in. God is.... Our goal is not high affections per se. Our goal is to see and savor 'the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God' (2 Cor. 4:4). (When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy [2004], 29).
If this is what Brown intended, then I have no problem with this statement. Yet, the two Q/A side-by-side seem a little unclear to me. First he says,
Q. Is our delight in the glory or glorious excellencies of God as satisfying to us, to be our chief end or motive in our actions, religious or moral?
A. No; but our shewing forth the honour of these glorious excellencies, Isa. ii. 11. Psal. xvi. 4. Isa. xliii. 21.
That sounds like he's trying to distinguishing "shewing forth" [i.e., glorifying God] from "enjoying" God's glory and argue for the superiority of the former over the latter. But I think his second explanation may indeed convey the thought of Lewis and Piper:
Q. Why may we not make our own delight in the glory of God as satisfying to our desires, our chief end and motive?
A. Because this would be a setting up of our own happiness above the glory of God.
Perhaps Brown is placing the emphasis on "our own" instead of "delight in the glory of God." If so, then I agree, and you have helped clear up what was unclear to me before. Thanks!

Since we're on the subject, I'll share two more helpful commentaries. James Harper raises the question, “Why may the glorifying and enjoying of God be counted as one end, not two ends?”
Because he who desires to glorify God desires also to enjoy Him, and he who desires to enjoy God feels the impulse to glorify Him. The two desires, although distinguishable in thought, are inseparable in fact (An Exposition in the Form of Questions and Answers of the Westminster Assembly’s Shorter Catechism [1905], 17).
B. B. Warfield remarks concerning the Catechism's wording,
It does justice to the subjective as well as to the objective side of the case. The Reformed conception is not fully or fairly stated if it be so stated that it may seem to be satisfied with conceiving man merely as the object on which God manifests His glory—possibly even the passive object in and through which the Divine glory is secured. It conceives man also as the subject in which the gloriousness of God is perceived and delighted in. No man is truly Reformed in his thought, then, unless he conceives of man not merely as destined to be the instrument of the Divine glory, but also as destined to reflect the glory of God in his own consciousness, to exult in God: nay, unless he himself delights in God as the all-glorious One [emphasis added] (“The First Question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,” The Princeton Theological Review [1908] printed in The Westminster Assembly and Its Work [1931; reprint, Baker Books, 1991], pp. 396-97).
 
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