Friday, February 26, 2010

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 2

Question and answer:

Q: What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A: The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,[1] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.[2]

Reference Scriptures (taken from the New Revised Standard Version):


Matthew 19:4-5:

4He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, 5and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?

Genesis 2:24:

24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 

Luke 24:27, 44:

27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 
44Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 

1 Corinthians 2:13:

13And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

1 Corinthians 14:37:

37Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.

2 Peter 1:20-21:

20First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

2 Peter 3:2, 15-16:

2that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken through your apostles. 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, 16speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.


Deuteronomy 4:2:

2You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.

Psalm 19:7-11:

7The law of the Lord is perfect,
   reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
   making wise the simple;
8the precepts of the Lord are right,
   rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
   enlightening the eyes;
9the fear of the Lord is pure,
   enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
   and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold,
   even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
   and drippings of the honeycomb.

11Moreover by them is your servant warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.

Isaiah 8:19-20:

19Now if people say to you, ‘Consult the ghosts and the familiar spirits that chirp and mutter; should not a people consult their gods, the dead on behalf of the living, 20for teaching and for instruction?’ surely, those who speak like this will have no dawn!

John 15:11:

11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

John 20:30-31:

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. 

Acts 17:11:

11These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.

2 Timothy 3:15-17:

15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

1 John 1:4:

4We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.


We ask here a question which is of paramount importance to the Christian life and mind. Knowing that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1), we must, of necessity, the method or rule by which we can accomplish this. Our rule is found solely in the Bible, which is God's special self-revelation to us. We find this idea at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and as such, at the heart of Reformed Theology. It is best summed up by the first of the "five solas" of the Protestant Reformation: sola scriptura.

Sola scriptura holds that the Bible alone is the authoritative word of God, is accessible to all, and is, after a fashion, self-interpreting. This idea stands in opposition to the stance that the Bible must be interpreted externally by an "authoritative" teacher.

Thomas Watson (1620-1686), a Puritan preacher, said the following, regarding the sola scriptura stance, which, in light of the cited reference Scripture above, can be held as accurate:

The Scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost; it is a pandect of
divine knowledge, an exact model and platform of religion. The Scripture
contains in it the credenda , "the things which we are to believe," and
the agenda , "the things which we are to practice."

Watson delivered a method for Biblical interpretation, which can be found here, for those who are interested: How to Get the Most From Reading Your Bible 

The Presbyterian tradition to which I adhere holds a view of Biblical interpretation which I will sum up in the following points:

1: The Bible accurately delivers God's truth and is authoritative in doing so.

2: The entirety of the Bible should be read and interpreted in a Christ-centric manner.

3: Every attempt should be made, and every tool employed to extract the intended truth, from a cultural-historical perspective (hermeneutics) and from an original language perspective (exegesis). 

4: Traditional interpretation held by the church should be given weight, as it has endured over time and has been subject to much healthy debate and scholarly scrutiny.

5: Rule of Love -- If any passage is read that seems to stand in violation of the Rule of Love (Love God above all else, love your neighbor as yourself), then the passage should be subjected to further scrutiny until the seeming conflict is resolved.

6: Interpret from the large to the small. Overall meaning and theme contained in a passage, in a book, or in the Bible as a whole should be weighed heavier than an individual passage. God's truth does not contradict itself, but individual passages taken out of context may seem to make this so.

7: Pray always for illumination from the Holy Spirit when reading. It is this same Spirit which divinely inspired the Bible, and that Spirit is a key component for proper interpretation.

All too often, we find ourselves deferring to the "authoritative" interpretation of another. We say to ourselves "My friend/my mentor/my teacher/my minister/this author knows God far more than I. I should listen to them and accept what they say." Many times, this may be true, but only insofar as the person you are deferring to has sought their view in a diligent manner and it is rooted firmly in well-sought Scriptural truth. At times, this may seem to be the case, but is not so. If we are to be certain, we ourselves must seek the same truth in an unbiased fashion from Scripture itself. This is one of the facets of fostering a personal relationship with God, which is essential to the Christian life. Through this, we may hope to accomplish our chief end.


  1. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

    The all sufficiency of scripture is completely supported by scripture. Since the written word is self authenticating and offers no example of another form of authority we can know that sola scriptura is correct.

    we also know that each individual christian is responsible for understanding scripture. While we may go to our presbyters for advice due to their age and experience, we must each weigh what we read and as you said pray for understanding. We should never assume that we know, but always, as King David, inquire of the LORD.

  2. I absolutely agree, Ed. Thank you for the comment. Reformed theology (in my opinion, all Christian theology should) places a strong emphasis on individual reading and gives responsibility to the individual for interpretation. Unless we can read the Scriptures knowing that they are for each of us specifically and seek to internalize them and "make them our own", we cannot hope to have the kind of deep, personal relationship God wishes us to have with him.