For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q1

WE start again with yet another cycle of Catechism instruction.  Someone new to the faith asked,  “Just what does the phrase catechism mean?”  It is a somewhat arcane word, not used much even in Christian circles.  In the simplest of terms it is a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of fixed questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians. The word is derived from the Greek Catechize, meaning to instruct by means of questioning.  Historically, Catechisms are doctrinal manuals - often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized by the Church, and have been used to teach and disciple - a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. …Note the referenced here to the secular realm as well. I know of at least one.
WHEN I worked for Southern California Edison, coming out of the Operator Training School so many years ago, I was assigned an Operator Check-Off Book.  It was a thick manual of progressive questions with two adjoining signature boxes related to every aspect and detail of Power Plant Operation. The task was to take the initiative, learn, stand and deliver upon peer inquiry the correct answer to each question to first and then second level supervision.  Only then were you deemed qualified and permitted to assume the responsibilities of your position.  It was truly an effective (and often intense and nerve wracking) means of instruction. Maybe this is one reason I have such a strong affinity for the catechisms!
THERE are 107 Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions.  This is the third cycle going through all 107 questions on this blog.  In the last cycle a harmony of the Confessions was added to the Shorter Catechism with both the Larger Catechism and Confession of Faith being added at the end of each lesson after the Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions.  In this cycle of instruction a Harmony Index has been added to the home page that will include a doctrinal heading for each topical division of instruction. The Harmony Index will be progressive in that it will expand in line and reference to each week's catechism study question, completed at the end with Q107. 
AS a reminder, each study begins with an introduction, followed by the catechism question and answer, along with Scripture references; then the question is paraphrased, followed up with discussion comments. Each study concludes with questions based upon the book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade, published by P&R Publishing, PO Box 817, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-0817. This book is a 349-page “Family Devotional based on the Shorter Catechism” that breaks down all 107 questions into weekly studies, making use of six concise Monday to Saturday devotions. Obtaining a copy of Training Hearts, Teaching Minds is highly recommended. The book may be purchased from various sources, included P&R Publishing at www.prpbooks.com.
AND now, praying as always that this study will be a blessing to your understanding and walk in Christ.
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Westminster Shorter Catechism Q1
THE Heidelberg Catechism begins, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer is this: “That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ...” Both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism commence with a statement concerning “man’s reason for being.” We were not made to be our own, but for the cause, purpose, and enjoyment of the God of heaven and earth; and all that is within us is to that end. To start here is to start rightly, as the Reformed Confessions declare; this is a God-centered understanding of life, for His glory, honor, and praise alone. So many other belief systems place man at the center, as though God were the servant of men. But biblical Christianity admits humbly that I, the believer, “am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,” and my “chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.”
MAY God grant us the grace to properly understand this primary and all-encompassing principle of God-centered living. May our lives consistently demonstrate that commitment. And may we draw near to Him in faith and understanding in the study and memorization of His truth found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
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WSC Q1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer:  Man’s chief end is to glorify God[a] and to enjoy him for ever[b].
[a]  Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]  Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4
Question #1 asks what man’s primary purpose is, and provides the answer, to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Comments and considerations:
Early in my Christian experience I was given a little series of booklets entitled “Key Words that Unlock Scripture.”  I found those little books to be so helpful. It may be one of the reasons I’m fond of focusing on single words and definitions even to this day. Words have meaning, and the etymology of words can be a fascinating study. With this in mind, I’m going to commence our study by looking at one word in this catechism instruction, the word “chief.” It’s a simple word, not that difficult to define. But I do find it interesting that when I look it up in most current dictionaries, the definition is rather narrow, noting a “leader or ruler, a person of rank, to be formally addressed,” or noting “something of importance, rank or authority.”
I like the older dictionaries, which seem to get to the root meaning and origin of words. In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, I find a more expansive list of definitions with Scripture references (yes, you read that right, Bible references). In addition to what I’ve previously mentioned, we find these definitions: 2) Principal or most eminent, in any quality or action; most distinguished; having most influence; commanding most respect; taking the lead; most valuable 3) First in affection, most dear and familiar, or 7) The principal part; the most or largest part, of one thing or of many.
An instructive and rather convicting exercise at this point is to take the word “chief” and to begin substituting some of these different words or phrases. For example, “Man’s most distinguished end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”  Or, “Man’s principal or most eminent end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Or how about, “Man’s most valued end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.”  Let’s try, “Man’s first in affection, most dear and familiar end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.”   Or maybe, ”Man’s principal part and end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.” Of course, there is the most common definition, “highest in office or rank,” and there is certainly no higher calling than to “glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever” (WLC Q#1). There is so much to consider, simply from looking more closely at a single word in this most important question and answer.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.       What happens when you use something for a purpose other than its real purpose? We can all think of many examples where we experienced using an item contrary to its design, sometimes to our embarrassment, sometimes to our hurt. That applies to all of God’s creation, and especially to us, who were made in his image. Disappointment and pain follow abuse and misuse. But when we use something according to its purpose, and see it accomplish something intentional and meaningful, satisfaction and joy follow. Read Ps. 16:11. How does it relate? What promise is stated here, and what implied warning?
2.       If we really want to “enjoy” something, how should we go about doing it? See Luke 10:38-42.
3.       If we make beauty, wealth, things, or friends our main purpose in life, what happens to our happiness if (or when) these things fade away? What does Hab. 3:17-18 say to this?
4.       Someday everyone everywhere will know of God’s great glory (Hab. 2:14). What are some ways we can observe God’s glory today? See Ps. 104:31; Ps. 19:1.
5.       How can we show God’s glory in our lives?  See Ps. 29: 2; 50: 23a; Matt. 5:16; I Cor. 10:31.
Harmony of the Standards:  WSC Q#1 and WLC Q#1
WSC Q1. What is the chief end of man?
A.  Man's chief end is to glorify God,[a] and to enjoy him for ever.[b]
[a]  Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; ICor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]  Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4
WLC Q1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God,[a] and fully to enjoy him forever.[b]
[a]  Rom. 11:36; 1Cor. 10:31
[b]  Ps. 73:24-28; John 17:21-23
Question(s) for further study:

What differs between these two question and why? What might be the reason for fewer scripture references to the Larger Catechism and how are they different?

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