www.prshockley.org Part 4 of a 5-part series
What Makes Up the Good Life? A Theological Response:
When I apply the combinational test to the answer given in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever,” I have come to the incredible discovery that this answer not only meets my seven-fold criterion, but it also exceeds my expectations. Let’s explore this further.
First, this answer internally coheres with what I already know to be true about the nature of God as powerfully expressed in the historical reality of the person, words, and works of Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated what it looks like to glorify God and enjoy Him. Moreover, Jesus’ words internally agree about what I know about the frailty and depravity of humanity. His use of first principle of logic is unmistakable and His use of the correspondence view of truth is clear.
Additionally, this answer also internally coheres what I know about God from general revelation as reflected in physical beginning of the universe (Cosmological argument), the empirical design, order, and complexity that is evident in our universe and in our biological systems (Teleological argument; apparent design; irreducible complexity; anthropic principle), the unity and diversity in biological life-forms, the reality of abstract, non-physical realities like mathematics and the first principles of logic, the inherent search for redemption from sin and immortality (Religious Need Argument), the beauty that surrounds us (the argument from beauty), the reason for moral and nature evil and suffering in the world (the problem of evil actually firms the existence of God), moral values, duties, virtues, and accountability (Moral Law argument and its ontological foundations), the occurrence of miracles (e.g., configuration miracles which do not necessarily violate the laws of nature), and the nature of our human conscience (Divine, natural Law). Thus, taken all these things together, we have good reasons to believe God has an overriding purpose for our lives.
Second, this answer given to what makes up the good life, namely, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, is empirically evident when one examines the historical truths regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not what He claimed to be, then one needs to question how one may know anything else historically. Moreover, when one examines the extent of ancient manuscript evidence and compare them together, archeological evidences, and the actual precise fulfillment of Bible prophecy (e.g., Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Micah 5:2), one has good reasons to believe that the truth claim, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever has empirical weightiness.
But we also have the testimony of those who committed themselves to living out this answer in the moment-by-moment choices of life. The more closely people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, A. W. Tozer, Lewis S. Chafer, and John F. Walvoord followed this truth, their lives flourished, experienced fulfillment, and generated a legacy that is still impacting lives in the most positive ways. Those Christians who did not live out this maxim actually hurt others-and at times in the most horrific ways.
Third, this answer by the Westminster Shorter Catechism also possesses existential relevance. The more Christians adhere to this answer, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, the more satisfying life is -no matter how difficult life becomes. This life of abiding joy also spills out and qualitatively ministers to the afflicted, hurting, and troubled. Others cannot help but be inspired when such contentment, joy, and peace are seen in the difficulties of living life. People can feel this hope when the practical needs of others are met. People see this lifestyle of loving God as reflected in a life of intellectual and moral excellence. But people also can witness to the power from such a relationship when contrasted to a life of depravation, decay, and darkness. Moreover, the joy that follows from such a dynamic intimacy is but a foretaste of what one will experience when this physical life is over and believers are in the presence of God Himself.
Fourth, glorifying God and enjoying Him is also workable. The more one follows this truth, the greater God becomes in how one perceives, moves, and develops. As a result of living this maxim out, one’s life becomes sweet – no matter how bleak or painful the circumstances seem. Purpose, significance, and value become paramount as one becomes God’s committed disciple, blooming and flourishing where He plants His people according to His good providence. In contrast, when one does not follow this truth, self-inflicted loneliness, pain, regret, exhaustion, and tragedy become commonplace. If one stays on this path where self-interest reigns supreme, bitterness will take root and rob the best parts of one’s personhood. But when one seeks to glorify God and enjoy Him in the daily decisions one makes, one is able to experience the delight of His presence in the “now.” God’s presence becomes inimitable, His enablement evident, and His love unmistakable. With this type of love relationship, one is able to touch the lives of others in the most life-changing ways (e.g., loving the un-lovely, helping the hurting, meeting practical needs with the blessings God has bestowed, and stemming the tide of social injustice).
Fifth, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is also viable. This mindset not only agrees with what we already know to be true, but it also reaches down and meets the deepest of our needs, satisfies our deepest longings, and fills the void with a peace that surpasses all understanding. When Christians consistently follow this truth, their lives are changed qualitatively, bringing forgiveness where wrongs were committed and healing where wounds existed. But this mindset also fills the mind and heart with wonder and delight as the believer perceives all that His Hands have made; all of life has value. So, one’s surroundings is not taken lightly or taken advantage of. But the viability of this explanation is also seen in how it answers questions about our origins, identity, meaning, destiny, and hope. Because God made us, we know our origins. We know what we are and who we are. We understand why we are here and how we should live. We understand what’s gone with the world and what we can be done to the fix the problems of this world. Thus, this answer, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, not only touches the core of what it means to be human, but it also gives direction, meaning, and purpose to who and what we are, what we are called to do, and where we are going.
Related to above, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, also possesses explanatory power, for it pulls together the value and importance of living life to the fullest for the glory of God, the importance and need to obey the precepts of the Bible, and living for what matters most while we have air to breathe. Coupled with our understanding of the brevity and frailty of life, glorifying God helps us to understand the purpose, nature, and role of material goods, the existence of hope in the midst of trials and tragedies, and the nature of personal relationships. Moreover, this maxim sheds light on goodness, virtues, duties, and even acts of altruism, explains why evil is evil, why people of all gender, race, and age have inherent value, and why life itself is to be cherished. But this truth also helps explains the direction of history as it moves forward to its purposed end – all within God’s providence.
And seventh, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, possesses aesthetic and moral value for this type of purpose, significance, and meaning reflects the beauty of our perfect God in the decisions we make, the pleasures we pursue, and the values we embrace. The more we reflect God’s beauty in how we live, the more beautiful and morally meaningful life becomes. Following this maxim upholds what is honorable, noble, true, and trustworthy, enriches society, and ennobles virtues like justice, courage, self-control, and wisdom.