22 Mar 2023

Lewis and Laurence on the imprecatory psalms

At The Gospel Coalition Trevin Wax has written on What C. S. Lewis Got Wrong About the Cursing Psalms. While Lewis's writings carry insights appreciated by generations of Christians, he nevertheless questioned the propriety of using the imprecatory psalms:

Lewis thought these psalms “devilish,” naive, “diabolical,” given to “pettiness” and “vulgarity.” He believed their “vindictive hatred” to be contemptible—full of “festering, gloating, undisguised” passions that can in no way be “condoned or approved.”

 As a corrective to Lewis, Wax recommends Trevor Laurence's new book, Cursing with God: The Imprecatory Psalms and the Ethics of Christian Prayer, published last November by Baylor University Press:

21 Mar 2023

Psalm 150: Sweelinck

Who could possibly tire of listening to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's choral arrangement of Psalm 150?

20 Mar 2023

Martha and the psalms of lament

Everyone remembers Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead as recounted in John 11. Although this episode is found in the New Testament, the dialogue between Jesus and Martha reflects the structure of the psalms of lament. This is the thesis of the late biblical scholar Gail R. O'Day in a remarkable article to which my wife alerted me last week, Martha: Seeing the Glory of God. (If you set up a free account, you can "borrow" this ebook for one hour.)

13 Mar 2023

Psalms of Grace

As more and more evangelical protestants are discovering the liturgical riches of the Psalms, new collections of sung psalmody are constantly being produced, sometimes by denominations and sometimes by single congregations. Psalms of Grace falls into the latter category, having been created by Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, a neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Grace Community Church is an independent megachurch with more than 8,000 members and an expansive campus including a Spanish-language congregation, a seminary, a bookstore, and a production company. Its longtime pastor, John MacArthur, has had an enduring radio ministry called Grace to You. The congregation has recently produced two liturgical collections, Hymns of Grace and Psalms of Grace

As I've observed before, it is unusual for a single congregation to produce its own hymnal and highly unusual for one to produce a metrical psalter. The resources needed for such projects are generally beyond what a congregation can manage on its own. By contrast, a denomination can pool the resources of multiple congregations to compile hymnals and psalters. The successive Psalter Hymnals of the Christian Reformed Church are probably the best known examples, as is the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, which was put together by two co-operating denominations. Two years ago I reviewed New Psalter: Psalms for the Church, the work of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Florida. Now it's time to evaluate Psalms of Grace.