We build upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. We affirm our belief in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the primary source and ultimate standard of Christian faith and life. We acknowledge the teaching of the great creeds of the ancient Church. We further maintain our allegiance to the following evangelical doctrines of the Reformation: SOLI DEO HONOR ET GLORIA-SOLUS CHRISTUS-SOLA SCRIPTURA-SOLA GRATIA-SOLA FIDE.
What is the chief end of man?
One sure sign of the enduring significance of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is the frequency with which its first question is answered in even non-confessional circles: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." As recent surveys by Barna, Gallup, and many others have demonstrated, even most Christians today regard self-fulfillment as the main purpose in life, and that, I think, measures what Columbia University historian Eugene Rice calls "the gulf between the secular imagination of the twentieth century and the sixteenth century's intoxication with the majesty of God." "We can," writes Rice, "exercise only historical sympathy to try to understand how it was that the most sensitive intelligence of an entire epoch found a total, supreme liberty in the abandonment of human weakness to the omnipotence of God." The medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, asserted, "Man's ultimate felicity consists only in the contemplation of God," and such definitions led the Reformed theologian H. Richard Niebuhr to conclude that Roman Catholicism and Reformation Christianity disagreed not only over the question of how one is saved, but over the very purpose of life itself. Medieval religion, says Niebuhr, was focused on contemplation and lived off the premise that grace was improving nature, as the believer ascended the ladder of mystical contemplation. In contrast, the Reformation was concerned with the kingdom of God, which was not a product of individual or corporate achievement, but the intervention of God alone. "The term 'kingdom of God' puts all the emphasis on the divine initiative," wrote Niebuhr. What is the meaning of it all? Why are we here? In one sentence, wonderful in its pregnant brevity, the Westminster divines offer their two-fold reply: "to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."(From the article "The cross" of Michael Horton, in the magazine Modern Reformation , September/October 1993, p. 3).
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