Presbyterian Smack Talk

(No, I am not claiming that either Ali or Frazier were Presbyterians.)  🙂

Here is a little tidbit from B.B. Warfield regarding the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

No catechism begins on a higher plane than the Westminster “Shorter Catechism.”  Its opening question, “What is the chief end of man?” with its answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” . . .sets the learner at once in his right relation to God. Withdrawing his eyes from himself, even from his own salvation, as the chief object of concern, it fixes them on God and His glory, and bids him seek his highest blessedness in Him. (The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume VI, p.379)

But he doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to compare the Shorter Catechism with other Reformed catechisms, including the Heidelberg.  He states that many of them basically begin by asking the question, “What shall I do to be saved?” instead of asking the very purpose for our existence.

He calls such a starting point “a sort of spiritual utilitarianism” and goes so far as to say, “Even the Heidelberg Catechism is not wholly free from this leaven” (!).  He warns that because of such a starting point, there was the possible “danger that the pupil should acquire the impression that God exists for his benefit” (and not vice-versa).

Personally, I subscribe to the Westminster Standards (as a Presbyterian pastor), but hold the Heidelberg Catechism in high regard as well.  I just found the above quotes to be interesting, bordering on humorous.

Makes me wonder what a debate between Warfield and Herman Bavinck would have sounded like.  🙂


  1. That’s an interesting point, although in HC’s defense (even though I’m presbyterian) the immediate response of HC1 is to redirect away from the self to Christ, “…that I am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior…” One could argue that HC understands man’s predilection for self-interest just as well as Westminster, and uses it as a hook (bait-and-switch?) to reel the catechumen in.

  2. I’m sure Warfield must have held the Heidelberg in high regard, but part of me likes to imagine him jokingly sparring with his Reformed friends and colleagues about the superiority of the Westminster Standards, probably over cigars and brandy (or hoagies & stogies). 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s