Friday, December 28, 2007

Man's Chief End

Question and Answer One of the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that man's "chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever".

I came across what I believe to be the Roman Catholic answer to the same question (i.e., "What is the chief end of man?"). Man "alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity" (Catholic Catechism, 356).

The difference between these two is interesting. The Calvinist sees man as existing for God's glorification and man's enjoyment of Him. The Catholic sees man as existing to share in God's life. It seems straightforward that this difference follows from the respective positions Calvinists and Catholics hold on man's free will. The Calvinist admires God's monergistically sovereign decree to salvation and reprobation, and feels thankful for happening to be in the former camp (of salvation). The Catholic sees an ongoing call to cooperation with and love of God.

The Catholic Catechism notes that "sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him" (ibid., 387). I find this idea that there can be no love when there is no freedom simple and persuasive. If this idea and the Catholic view of the chief end of man are right, then of course man has free will.

If God's glorification requires receiving love from His (predestinated) elect creatures, and if there can be no love without freedom, then the Shorter Catechism's First Q&A is at loggerheads with Calvinism's double-election teaching. In other words, if His glory requires love, and love requires freedom, then our living out this Great Predestinated Drama will fail to meet our chief end.

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