The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
When John Piper wrote his classic Desiring God, he argued that one word in that answer should be swapped out for another word. He said it should read: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
This viewpoint rankled some confessional Reformed folks, who were quick to point out that some will glorify God, not by enjoying him but by being damned by him eternally [i.e. reprobation]. Thus, Piper’s revision is not correct; the chief end of man is not to glorify God by enjoying him. The argument goes, God will be glorified by men despite their not enjoying him. They will glorify God, not actively but passively.
This is an ingenious kind of response, as it rightly recognizes that God is glorified even among rebels who refuse to believe in him. But as an exegesis of WSC 1, it is dreadfully wrong.
This becomes clear when one consults question two of the catechism which says, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”
Properly speaking, if the shorter catechism had been talking about how God is glorified even in damning sinners, the answer to ‘What rule has God given to direct us how…’ is: “his mysterious, sovereign decree,” as that is the basis behind God’s being glorified in all things, even damnation.
But because the catechism points to Scripture as a guide to glorifying and enjoying God, the intent is more narrow, focusing on the design of humanity in general. WSC 2 shows that Piper (even if his swapped verbiage is unnecessary) was closer to the intent of the Q&A1 than some of his detractors have been. WSC 1 is talking about God’s revealed design that humanity should enjoy fellowship with a glorious God forever, and WSC 2 explains how humanity in general gains the knowledge needed for that fellowship: Scripture.
That some do not enter into this fellowship for which humanity was created is dealt with elsewhere in the confessional standards. But it is reading into the text to see those concerns in WSC 1, for it truly and simply is about a blessed invitation offered to all people without exception.