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Tuesday
Jan172012

Theological Term of the Week

Westminster Shorter Catechism
The shortest of two catechisms produced by the Westminster Assembly, completed in 1647, designed to educate lay persons in matters of doctrine and belief, and often used by parents to teach their children.

  • The most well-known question and answer in the WSC: 

    1. Q. What is the chief end of man?
         A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

  • From Reformed Confessions Harmonized by Joel Beeke and Sinclair Ferguson:
  • The most notable and famous feature of the Catechism is the brilliance of its first question and answer: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” But equally important, if less often recognized, is its stress that this is to be accomplished by conformity to the Word and will of God. Hence careful attention is given to the exposition of the Decalogue (questions 41-81). Far from being an indication of actual or incipient legalism, the Westminster divines themselves regarded this as an essential lesson in Christian living. For them the knowledge of God’s will lay largely in living for Christ in the power of the Spirit in order to fulfill the will of the heavenly Father revealed in Scripture.
  • From Is the Shorter Chatechism Worthwhile? by Benjamin. B. Warfield: 
  • No doubt it requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the Shorter Catechism. It requires some effort whether to teach or to learn the grounds of any department of knowledge. Our children - some of them at least - groan over even the primary arithmetic and find sentence-analysis a burden. Even the conquest of the art of reading has proved such a task that “reading without tears” is deemed an achievement. We think, nevertheless, that the acquisition of arithmetic, grammar and reading is worth the pains it costs the teacher to teach, and the pain it costs the learner to learn them. Do we not think the acquisition of the grounds of religion worth some effort, and even, if need be, some tears?

    For, the grounds of religion must be taught and learned as truly as the grounds of anything else. Let us make no mistake here. Religion does not come of itself: it is always a matter of instruction. The emotions of the heart, in which many seem to think religion too exclusively to consist, ever follow the movements of the thought. Passion for service cannot take the place of passion for truth, or safely outrun the acquisition of truth; for it is dreadfully possible to compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, to find we have made him only a “son of hell.” This is why God establishes and extends his Church by the ordinance of preaching; it is why we have Sunday schools and Bible classes. Nay, this is why God has grounded his Church in revelation. He does not content himself with sending his Spirit into the world to turn men to him. He sends his Word into the world as well. Because, it is from knowledge of the truth, and only from the knowledge of the truth, that under the quickening influence of the Spirit true religion can be born. Is it not worth the pains of the teacher to communicate, the pain of the scholar to acquire this knowledge of the truth? How unhappy the expedient to withhold the truth - that truth under the guidance of which the religious nature must function if it is to function aright - that we may save ourselves these pains, our pupils this pain!

Learn more:

  1. Wikipedia: Westminster Shorter Catechism
  2. Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics: Westminster Shorter Catechism with Scriptural Proofs
  3. Matt Kirkland: Westminster Shorter Catechism (A Designer’s Exploration)
  4. Bible Presbyterian Church: Westminster Shorter Catechism Project
  5. Reformed Forum: Audio of the Shorter Catechism
  6. B. B. Warfield: Is the Shorter Catechism Worthwhile?
  7. Thomas Watson: A Body of Divinity
Related terms:

Filed under Creeds and Confessions.

Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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Reader Comments (1)

Indeed. The end of man is with God.

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

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