Monday, September 11, 2006

What is the chief end of man?

On her blog, Writer Mom, Nan (wife of a PCA pastor), shared her recent ponderings of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

A portion of her post reads:

I have been summarily told by an atheist that Christianity provides no more meaning in life than Atheism does and therefore cannot be more worthy as a belief than an unbelief. The atheist adjudges that if the chief end of man is to glorify God and if God is glorious in and of himself then humans are unnecessary. Hence the life devoted to God, if he does exist is meaningless because we are an unnecessary part of the story. He concludes that life apart from any god is every bit as meaningful as life with a just, all knowing, all powerful, all loving God. He derives that the Christian life is every bit as meaningless as the atheist life.

Being a member of the PCA myself (and thus also holding to the tenets of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms), this statement forced me to revisit this question in my mind and see if I could defend my position. After reading the rest of Nan’s post and rereading the Scripture proofs for the question, I developed a defense which had not occurred to me before and has strengthened my belief that man is not meaningless.

The problem with this atheist’s argument is his point of view. He argues from the viewpoint of men, but for man to find his purpose, he must look through the eyes of God.

My daughter, Secondo, has two baby dolls. These dolls have a cradle next to Secondo’s bed and a special place in her heart. When she refers to these dolls, she does not refer to them as “my dolls” she calls them by name, Ashley and Jonathan. When a stranger looks at these dolls, he will see cloth sewn into the shapes of human bodies with plastic, humanoid heads. These organized pieces of cloth are clad in clothing that could be seen on a human baby. In other words, the viewer would see ordinary dolls. He would not, however, see Ashley and Jonathan. The dolls’ Ashley-ness and Jonathan-ness come from Secondo. When she looks at them, they live. When she talks to them, they respond. If the stranger came across these dolls lying on the street, he might pick them up and look for an owner, or he may toss them in the trash. If Secondo came across them in the street, she would see Ashley and Jonathan and feel remorse for not caring for them properly. She would feel pity for them and clean them and talk to them. Their value comes not in what they are, but in who they are to Secondo.

The same goes for man and God. Man has no value except that which God gives him. We have value because God gives us value by loving us and making us in His image. The scientist may look at us and see carbon-based beings, but God looks at us and sees His handiwork. If we are His children, He sees His Son. We can do nothing to give ourselves value… just as Secondo’s dolls do nothing to make her love them. They are because Secondo says they are. We glorify God because He made us to glorify Him. That is the purpose to which we were created. We cannot change it, and we cannot devalue it. We are necessary because God has made us necessary. Could God have gone on for eternity fully glorified in and of Himself without man? Yes. He doesn’t need us; He wants us. What greater value is there?

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