Friday, April 8, 2011

The cursing psalms, a raging fire (Part 4)

FireRescueServicesFire400 For we can still see, in the worst of their maledictions, how these old poets were, in a sense, near to God. Though hideously distorted by the human instrument, something of the Divine voice can be heard in these passages. Not, we trust, that God looks upon their enemies as they do: He ‘desireth not the death of a sinner’. But doubtless He has for the sin of those enemies just the implacable hostility which the poets express. Implacable? Yes, not to the sinner but to sin. It will not be tolerated nor condoned, no treaty will be made with it. That tooth must come out, that right hand must be amputated, if the man is to be saved. In that way the relentlessness of the Psalmists is far nearer to one side of the truth than many modern attitudes which can be mistaken, by those who hold them, for Christian charity... It is nearer than the pseudoscientific tolerance which reduces all wickedness to neurosis (though of course some apparent wickedness is). It even contains a streak of sanity absent from the old woman presiding at a juvenile court who — I heard it myself — told some young hooligans, convicted of a well-planned robbery for gain (they had already sold the swag and some had previous convictions against them) that they must, they really must, give up such ‘stupid pranks’. Against all this the ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God. In that way, however dangerous the human distortion may be, His word sounds through these passages too.
    But can we, besides learning from these terrible Psalms, also use them in our devotional life? I believe we can; but that topic must be reserved for a later chapter.

C.S. Lewis, ‘The Cursings,’ Reflections on the Psalms (1958) as republished within C.S. Lewis: Selected Books (London: HarperCollins, 2002) 325-326.

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