Most helpful positive review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Looking at the Psalms with a Beginner's Mind, a Kind Heart, Moving Words, and a Thirst for Learning
on 27 July 2012
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever." -- Psalm 111:10 (NKJV)
This is my first C.S. Lewis book, so I apologize for not being able to compare it to his other works. I can certainly attest that it's unlike any other book about the Bible that I've read to date.
Consider this statement on page 1: "This is not a work of scholarship. I am no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archeologist. I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself." He goes on to say that experts often focus on issues that beginners aren't even aware of. He wants to address the beginner's issues: ". . . I write as one amateur to another, talking about difficulties I have met, or lights I have gained, when reading the Psalms, with the hope that this might at any rate interest, and sometimes help, other inexpert readers. I am 'comparing notes', not presuming to instruct."
I was attracted to the book by the opportunity to discuss it after church services during a summer teaching series on the Psalms. From reading what Professor Lewis wrote, I can see that people bring many different reactions to the Psalms. Having just completed a year-long course on the Psalms, I was fascinated to see that Professor Lewis didn't bring up a single subject discussed in that course.
I think he succeeded in dealing with the new Psalm reader's issues. One of the reasons I've been studying the Psalms is that their contents often used to puzzle me. Now I realize that many of them are the sort of uncensored prayers of the sort that we make all the time, rather than perfect doctrine.
The sections are broken down into sections on "judgment", cursings, death, "the fair beauty of the Lord", "sweeter than honey", connivance, nature, praising, second meanings, Scripture, and second meanings in Psalms.
The comments are far from encyclopedic, often focusing on just one perspective or aspect of a theme. For instance, the section on judgments primarily contrasts the ancient Jewish rejoicing over expecting to receive justice for what others have done unjustly on Earth with the current Christian perspective as seeing justice mainly in terms of being guilty of sins oneself.
The observations don't necessarily come out where you might expect a Christian to. For instance, Professor Lewis is concerned that we not lose having a strong emotional reaction to evil doing, even though Christ calls us to love our enemies and do good to them. He is strongly appalled by those who can become conditioned to evil, even if they don't follow it.
The book abounds with sympathy for the writers and the proclaimers of the Psalms. I could feel a lot of love for those who are different from Professor Lewis in his comments. It's a good lesson for all Christians. In fact, he's a harsher critic of people in the 20th century than those in the days before Christ was born in Bethlehem.
The book raises enough fundamental issues of proper behavior in relation to God that anyone who reads it will justifiably squirm. It's good to be convicted by stylish phrasings, and I certainly felt that way at many points . . . especially in the temptation to get along with the rich, powerful, and admired . . . who aren't following God.
The section on praise will help many appreciate that praising God is for our benefit, not His.
The final sections on reading Christian theology into the Old Testament will help many new Christians to better appreciate the proper perspective to bring to reading any part of Scripture. It's a very fine discussion with good examples.
Praise God for this book that can help many people to gain more from reading the Psalms!