A letter and a response:
I didn’t want to hijack one of your missional Jesus blogs so I thought I would email this to you separately and if you had time to answer that’d be great – if you don’t – I understand!!!
Does being missional replace the “chief end of man”? In other words, does seeing the mission of God as being the basic principle behind God’s activities in history and the physical world and our participation in the mission of God as the guiding principle of our life and faith mean that to “glorify God and enjoy him forever” is not the best way to express our chief end?
Honestly, though I’ve read Piper and have a fair grasp of the meaning behind the glory of God I have to say I don’t really connect with the phrase and I even cringe when I hear people in our church expressing some hope that some particular activity or new ministry will glorify God – not that I don’t want that to happen of course, but it seems to put the cart before the horse.
Perhaps the chief end remains as expressed in the catechism, but our language should focus on what we do, the mission of God which in the end will glorify Him, and not on the glorifying.
any thoughts on the topic?
Dear Matt — notice I got your double “tt” just right 8),
That famous line — the chief end of man [i.e., humans] is to glorify God and enjoy him forever — was handed on to most of us through the Westminster tradition, though I suspect it came to them from another tradition. (Someone might know.)
When it comes to overall synopses of what life is all about it’s a good one. But it isn’t inspired and it isn’t found in the Bible. John Piper, you know, tinkered with it and created the evocative “Christian hedonism” by reframing it as “to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
And you ask if the word “missional” replaces this famous “chief end” line. I don’t know if the missional folks would say so or not, since I’ve not heard them. I know there are plenty of Westminster folks who embrace a missional perspective, so I suppose for them it doesn’t replace it. But, let me suggest that “missional” can replace it and I’ll suggest it by asking you to consider the following:
1. I’m not sure “glorifying” God is the end of all ends — it’s there and it’s close, but I think the final end is absorption and utter delight in God by loving God purely. Loving God perfectly glorifies God, but it is the love that is the end of all ends. (I personally think “glorify” would gladly hand over its ulimate aim to “loving God.”)
2. Put differently, if the perichoresis is the “eternal” state of God, then that perichoresis is the eternal state for us as well. If perichoresis is the mutual indwelling and absolute interpenetration of Father, Son, and Spirit, then our participation in and our gazing at that perichoresis is our final end.
3. Now let me back up. For Jesus the end of all ends is loving God and loving others — which means for Jesus we should look to love being the end.
4. Now you ask, “Are you going to answer my question?” Here goes: I think the word missional is at the heart of the perichoresis. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are “missional” with respect to One Another and, correspondingly, they are each hospitable to the Other. Which means that “missional” is another way of speaking of the perichoresis. Which means that missional is really about both acting in love and receiving in love.
So, do I think “missional” replaces? If understood properly, I think it would be good theology.
What do you think?