Glorifying and Enjoying God: 52 Devotions through the Westminster Shorter Catechism

William Boekestein, Jonathan Landry Cruse, and Andrew J. Miller, Glorifying and Enjoying God: 52 Devotions through the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2023. $22.00, clothbound.

“Catechisms are small books of big doctrines” – that’s the claim made by the authors of Glorifying and Enjoying God: 52 Devotions through the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechisms, they write, “boil down Scripture into major theological themes reflecting the high honor Scripture gives to doctrine” (33). Page by page, the authors back up their claim. The scriptural doctrines set forth in the Westminster Shorter Catechism are presented, accompanied by clear expositions of their biblical foundations. The devotional quality of the book lends itself to profitable personal use by believers at every stage of the Christian life, from teenager to senior saint. Its crisp and well-structured declarations of doctrine make it profitable for officer training, Sunday School classes, and small groups.

The book’s publication is timely. Reformed Theological Seminary is in the early phase of a multi-year enhancement program designed to ensure that the Westminster Standards are incorporated into every component of its curriculum. When graduates leave RTS, it is the desire of the seminary’s trustees that they be equipped to use the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms to strengthen God’s church.

In my lifetime, I have been saddened to see the church’s doctrinal standards frequently placed at the periphery of church life. Quite appropriately they are used to determine the doctrinal fitness of candidates for ministry and for resolution of doctrinal conflicts in church courts. Occasionally they appeared in Sunday School classes. Mostly, however, their use was limited to the most doctrinally alert members of a congregation.

As an instructor in pastoral theology, I enthusiastically commend Glorifying and Enjoying God to my students and fellow pastors. While I prize more extended treatments of the catechism (e.g., Thomas Boston’s), the church must have accessible, concise, and contemporary expositions of the catechism that can be integrated into the church’s educational ministry and devotional life, as well as providing a gateway for new Christians to enter the joys of Christian theology.

Glorifying and Enjoying God is arranged into fifty-two chapters accompanied by brief devotional chapters covering the 107 questions and answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It offers a manageable method for busy Christians to obtain a solid grounding in Christian theology.

The goal of the authors is “not only to increase knowledge but to stoke love for God” (ix). They succeed in by providing clear exposition, lucid illustrations, heart-targeted applications, and culturally engaged observations. I will supply examples of each.

First, exposition. Perhaps the most widely known answer in any Christian catechism is the Shorter Catechism’s first: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” The authors note that,

as light is to the sun, God’s glory is the sparkling of the deity. God cannot be made more glorious, just like the sun cannot be made brighter. But God’s glory, like the sun, can be reflected. To glorify God is to advertise Him (Ps. 19:1); He is life’s most significant reality, radically worthy to receive glory, honor, and power (Rev. 4:11). We glorify God when we make it our goal to please Him in all things (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 5:9). (3)

Another example, this time regarding Christ’s two natures:

Each nature of Christ is critical to His work of redemption. If He were not human, He would not feel our infirmities. If He were not God, He could not fix them. Because He is fully man, He can be my substitute. Because He is fully God, He can be your substitute too. That is, the infinity of His divine nature makes it so that His single sacrifice on the cross is accepted for the countless multitude who will believe on Him.” (56)

These kind of expositions – faithful to the biblical text, cogent, and accessible – appear throughout the volume and will deepen readers’ understanding of biblical revelation.

Next, lucid illustrations are taken from life experiences, literature, history, and Puritan works. On God’s providence we read:

God’s character interprets His providence. You trust some people because of their holiness and wisdom. We all have friends we would let make almost any decision for us because we know their character. Others say, “Just trust me” ­– but we can’t. God, however, is trustworthy. God’s works of providence are His most holy and wise preserving and governing of His creatures.” (35)

The authors model the skilled use of illustration­­ ­­– each illumines the point made, and needless details are omitted. As intended, their illustrations foster understanding of the exposition without ever taking on a life of their own that detracts from the principal point.

All good preachers make heart-targeted applications. While giving a full-throated defense of the sanctification of the Lord’s Day, our authors help us to think how to glorify and enjoy God on his day.

We should enjoy the Lord’s Day (Isa. 58:13). Perhaps curiously to modern people, the catechism forbids all Sunday recreation. That might not sound enjoyable. But we shouldn’t practice activities that entice us to forget God (Isa. 58:13–14) any more than we should fear activities that truly help us delight in Him (Luke 14:1). (126)

Valuable counsel on how to receive the ministry of the word is provided: attend it with diligence, preparation, and prayer (see WSC 90). Refuse to be a critic, practice full engagement with the word peached, receive God’s love, commit your way to him, and practice the sermon. One aspect of practicing the sermon is godly conversation about the sermon. Why? Because “talking about what we hear reinforces our recall ability.” (174-176).

Finally, cultural engagement is an attractive feature of this volume. Every generation – indeed, every decade – needs fresh presentations of the catechism. We stand on the shoulders of the faithful of preceding generations, but like a human pyramid, we must be prepared for the next generation to stand on ours, and especially so as we occupy space in a rapidly changing moral landscape.

As they answer the question, “What is a human?” the authors observe:

Neither men nor women are better than the other. But they are different. The church must be careful not to tacitly communicate either that women are inferior to men or that gender distinction doesn’t matter. . . . Male chauvinism is sin. Men are called to assist women to be as productive, influential, nurturing, and sacrificial as God has called them to be. The church should be fiercely pro-woman. The church must also oppose unbiblical feminism that denies that “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). (29-30)

The church confronts challenges today that were not at the forefront of earlier eras. It is gratifying to see the authors wrestling with some of these within the context of the church’s confessional standards.

At the outset, the authors express their hope that the book will facilitate family worship, assist in officer training by encouraging the careful study of the catechism, and provide one way to make the Shorter Catechism a part of the weekly liturgy in the fashion of the Heidelberg Catechism’s fifty-two Lord’s Day divisions. They even hope that unbelievers will find the book a reliable guide to the Christian faith.

But one aspiration struck me as particularly relevant to readers of Reformed Faith & Practice. The authors “pray that by God’s grace the Spirit may use His Word reflected herein to revive weary souls and stoke joy in the Lord.” (xv) In my experience, their prayer was answered.

Charles Malcolm Wingard
Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson