Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis: An Honest Critique

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

A Brief Review or Critique

Summary

C. S. Lewis seeks to help other amateurs understand the Psalms in his book Reflections on the Psalms (2). His purpose is not to examine the theology of the Psalms, for he argues that this is not their purpose; he does not even seek to sermonize them, for he argues that this is not their purpose either (2). The purpose of the Psalms then rests on the fact that they are poems meant to be sung in worship to God (2). They must be read as poems if they are to be properly understood in light of the authors’ intentions (3).

Lewis’ “amateur” attempt at gleaning from Psalms begins with his emphasis upon the Psalms’ “Judgments” (ch. 2). He points to the fact that God’s judgment in the Psalms causes the righteous to rejoice as one (9). The righteous furthermore request the righteous judgment of God in response to the wrongdoing of the wicked (10-11). They trust that though God’s judgment may not be immediate, it will surely come in His timing (11-12). Finally, Lewis briefly examines the dangers for those who look forward to God’s judgment (17). These individuals must realize that they are not righteous (for no one is, save Christ), but may be in the right (17). Furthermore, the character of the individual is irrelevant in determining whether either individual is in the right or wrong within a specific situation (17-18).

Lewis’ examination of the cursings—those Psalms that have a spirit of hatred or happiness in the failings of others (20-21) —then follows (ch. 3) (20-33). He points to some of the most-difficult passages in Psalms to interpret.  He calls these Psalms contemptible (21-22) and devilish (25). Lewis believes these Psalms distort the truth of God, but God’s hatred for sin is yet shown somehow through them (32).

Death in the Psalms in then reviewed (ch. 4). Lewis argues that in most parts of the Old Testament there is little or no mention or no belief in a future life beyond this world (36). He believes that there is meaning lost is the translating process from Hebrew to English (36). For examples, he refers to “soul” in the English translation as actually meaning “life” in the Hebrew, “hell” actually meaning “land of the dead,” and the state of all the dead—good and bad—being “Sheol (36).” The early Jews, unlike the New Testament writers, spoke very little about eternal life (38-39). Lewis argues however that God may have spoken about and inspired writers to write little on the subject because of the Egyptian and surrounding nations’ obsession with the afterlife (39-40). He finally argues that in place of their hope of heaven and eternal life, the early Jews focused on temporal peace and provision on earth (42-43).

In chapter 5, Lewis discusses “the fair beauty of the Lord.” He argues that when the Jews discuss seeing the Lord or wanting to be with Him, they are describing being in the temple, the central aspect of their worship to God (44-48). The early Jews did not separate “beholding the Lord” and the act of worship itself (48). Though Gentile readers are unfamiliar with the temple and other Jewish elements of worship found in the Psalms, Christians can still glean from the Psalms’ God-centered emphasis and its pointing to the highest degree of joy found in God Himself alone (49-53).

The “Sweeter than honey” aspect of the Psalms is examined next (ch. 6). In this chapter Lewis gleans how the Psalmists describe God’s law as “delicious (54-55).” He finds this peculiar, and yet, he understands that the Psalmist has delicately woven his meticulous love for God’s Law into his poetry (56-60). Lewis further gleans that God’s Law is righteous, not because He decided it would be righteous, but because God Himself is righteous (61-62). Thus, God’s Law can be nothing but righteous, for it comes from God, flowing from His nature (61-62). These Psalmists then must see God’s Law as delicious especially when compared to the sodomy, sexual immorality, and human sacrifice of its neighboring religions (62-63). Christians today too can find God’s Law delicious due to the immorality surrounding them as well; however, with this delight in the Law, there is a danger that the sinful Christian will turn this into delighting in himself (64-65).

What Lewis calls “Connivance” is discussed next (ch. 7). He begins this chapter by arguing that God’s Word not only condemns those who do evil, but those who do nothing about evil as well (66). According to Lewis, silence concerning surrounding evil is indirect approval (67). Christians however must be very careful that in coming against evil, they do not become Pharisees (67). He furthermore argues that Christians should avoid, where they can, wicked men, because they are too weak to endure the temptations, and will at least silently approve of their neighbors’ wickedness (71-72). Lewis does argue however, that if Christians will argumentatively, not dictatorially, disagree with the individual(s), it will glorify God, and may cause the hearer to eventually repent (73). He then concludes this chapter pointing to the evils of the tongue described by the Psalter (74-75).

Lewis then examines “Nature” in the Psalms (ch. 8). He begins this chapter pointing to the fact that the early Jews in the Psalms were largely peasants and very familiar with the land in which they lived (76-77). Cities like we see today were non existent (76-77). Furthermore, the Jews could use nature to point to the attributes of their God, because He created nature (77-83). This separated Israel from pagan nations because nature, according to their gods, is presupposed, while in Judaism, God is presupposed (77-83). Lewis then notes that not only is humanity utterly and helplessly dependent upon God, but all creation needs and depends on Him as well (83-85). He concludes this chapter examining a 14th Century B.C. Egyptian named Akhenaten and his poem Hymn to the Sun (85-89).

“A Word about Praising” is examined next (ch. 9). Lewis argues that God should be praised because of who He is and because He commands it (90-93). For those who enjoy God, praise is the natural result of their joy (93-96). Because of its sinfulness, the church’s praise today is simply a .01 % (if even this) comparison of the praise occurring in heaven now and that will occur in the future as well (96-97).

In chapter 10 Lewis examines “Second Meanings” in the Psalms. In this chapter, he refers to the Scriptures’ additional allegoric meaning (99). In order to determine whether the Psalms should all be viewed as allegorical, he examines the difference between prophecy, luck, and fact (103-104). Lewis spends the rest of this chapter trying to show his readers that intrinsically in God’s world there is truth accessible to non-Christians that unknowingly points to Christ because of humanity’s need for Him; evil naturally always seeks to “crucify” that which is good (104-108).

Lewis then examines how “Scripture” has second meanings as well (ch. 11). The first reason he gives for the multiple meanings of Scripture is because the Scriptures must be approached in a Neo-orthodox fashion (109-117). The second and final reason is that in Luke 24:26-27 Jesus taught that He Himself is the second meaning of the Old Testament (117-119).

In the final chapter, Lewis examines the “Second Meanings” found in the Psalms (ch. 12). He begins by pointing to the sufferer and conquering king (120). The sufferer he argues is identified as Israel and the king is the coming Messiah (121). Lewis furthermore points to David and Meclchizadek typifying Christ (122-124). He then briefly examines various Psalms that point ahead to God the Holy Spirit and Christ (124-127). This is followed by an examination of Christ and His bride, the church (127-132). Lewis concludes this chapter with a brief examination of the humanity of Christ; and a brief summary of the contents of this book (132-138).

Evaluation

Interacting with Lewis’ work is a daunting task because the man is a literary giant, and I’m not equal in comparison. Although Lewis did not seek to make theological arguments concerning the Psalms, because this is not their purpose (2), when studying the Scriptures, theological conclusions cannot be avoided because theology is “the study of God” and the Bible is a book about God. Furthermore, though the Psalms are indeed a collection of hymns that are to be sung to God (2), this does not mean that they are not theological in nature. After all, Christians must assume that God wants to be exalted (since the Scriptures throughout testify to this reality), and the only songs that do exalt Him, are true songs. Where the Psalter speaks, God speaks. I agree with much of Lewis’ “gleanings” throughout this book. There are however, several issues that need to be addressed. Due to the limits of time and space, only one example will be used for each issue.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is Lewis’ declaration that the cursing Psalms are wicked. Lewis references Psalm 137:9 as “devilish” because it says that a person will be happy if he takes up a Babylonian baby and smashes him or her against a rock (20-21). Lewis was on the right track when he argued that God’s hatred for sin is somehow shown through these Psalms (though he also argued that they distort the truth of God) (32). If these Psalms are “contemptible” and “devilish” as Lewis purports, then this must also mean that the acts they describe must also be “devilish” and “contemptible.” The problem with this assumption is that, carried to its consistent end, it calls into question the holiness of God. God Himself told Saul to kill all the Amalekites, including women and children; God Himself sent the flood to drown literally over a million people, including babies; the list can go on and on. In order to fit these “cursings” into the rest of Scripture, the best interpretation is that these Psalms are seeking to guard the holiness of God. Instead of viewing these as “hatred,” it is just as easy and more biblically sound to view them as a holy, righteous jealousy for God’s glory. Furthermore, if these Psalms were indeed sung to God, I seriously doubts that He would want to have “devilish” words sung to Him in worship.

The second issue that needs to be addressed is Lewis’ reference to there being little reference to eternal life in the Old Testament.  Though this is an interesting observation, I do not really understand the significance of including this in his book.  After all, “little” reference still means that there are clear references to eternal life in the Old Testament.  Because of these clear references, one cannot conclude that early Jews did not believe in eternal life.  However, it must be noted that Lewis’ reference to God inspiring writers to write little about the subject due to Him desiring their sanctification (in light of the surrounding pagan nations) is thought-provoking.

The third issue I observed is Lewis’ encouragement of Christians to withdrawal from culture in chapter 7 (71). He argues that it is good for Christians to basically avoid meetings with wicked people (71). I understand his argument, but I believe he is Pharisaical in this “gleaning.” The Bible indeed tells Christians to avoid every form of evil (1 Thess. 5:22); however, the question comes, “Is it evil to voluntarily surround oneself with wicked people?” The answer must be an emphatic “no” even with a cursory glance at Jesus’ life. I agree with Lewis that silence concerning surrounding evil is indeed indirect approval. The problem is that Christ has commanded the church to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16), and if His church is always surrounded by salt and light by choice, then they can never really shine in or permeate the darkness. The answer is being “in the culture” without being “of the culture.” Although I believe Lewis intended what I wrote above, I believe he should have been more precise in his description.

The fourth and final issue I observed was Lewis’ Neo-orthodox approach to the Scriptures. Based on Lewis’ own words, it seems he holds that the Scriptures are not the Word of God literally, but the words of God written in the words of men. For example, on page 97, Lewis says concerning “the bargaining Psalms,”

 As for the element of bargaining in the Psalms (Do this and I will praise you), that silly dash of Paganism certainly existed. The flame does not ascend pure from the altar. But the impurities are not its essence. And we are not all in a position to despise even the crudest Psalmists on this score. Of course we would not blunder in our words like them.

Lewis clearly says here that some of the Psalms were not divinely inspired or if they were, that they are not the “essence” of what God intended. They are not as “pure” as they were on the altar. He believes something is lost when God’s infinite Word is given to the finite. The problem with this is that Christians are only left with ectypal knowledge of God; and thus, God may be unknowable.

Lewis furthermore makes his Neo-orthodox approach clear on pages 111-117. Concerning the Scriptures, he says, “The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even wickedness are not removed (111).” Furthermore, Lewis argues:

The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries [Emphasis mine] the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message (112).

If the Scriptures only “carry” the Word of God, then how can the church know which ectypal aspect carries enough archetypal truth for His church to know Him? The answer is that the church cannot know if the Neo-orthodox view is true.

In the same vein as above, Lewis argues for more than one meaning for the Scriptures themselves. He writes:

If the Old Testament is a literature thus “taken up,” made the vehicle of what is more than human, we can of course set no limit to the weight or multiplicity of meanings which may have been laid upon it (117).

This quote is interesting because on page 121 Lewis says, “What we see when we think we are looking into the depths of Scripture may sometimes be only the reflection of our own silly faces.” He furthermore calls some allegorical interpretations of various texts, “strained,” “arbitrary,” and “ridiculous (121).” I wonder if there are multiple meanings and the Scripture writers’ words only “carry” the Word of God, how then Lewis can come against any interpretation. I believe he is being inconsistent, wanting to “have his cake and eat it too.” I further believe Lewis’ arguments “fly in the face” of all of Scripture. Thank God, however, that Lewis chose to be inconsistent and serve a knowable God.

In conclusion, although Lewis claims Reflections on the Psalms is an “amateur” attempt at gleaning from the Psalms, it must be noted that if Lewis is an amateur, then I’m a beginner. Although I have some major issues with some of Lewis’ theology, this does not mean solid Christians should not read this book. I wouldn’t recommend this book to young or immature Christians, but all mature Christians should read this work. Lewis is a literary giant, and all of his books are beneficial to discerning believers. This book is no different, and should be read if for its illustrations alone. Moreover, most of this work, the overall majority, will be beneficial and encouraging to its readers. Lewis succeeded in his purpose to examine the poetry in the Psalms; however, he only somewhat succeeded in his purpose to understand the Psalms in light of the authors’ intentions.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Comments

  1. volfan007 says

    YOu know, something I heard last night, while my wife, Sherrie, and I were out visiting people, is something I’ve heard more than a few times before. The man in the home that we were visiting said that he just couldnt believe that a preacher was out visiting people. Now, he was an active member of another Church, but I didnt know if he was, or not. He had attended our Wild Game Supper a while back….so, we went to share the Gospel with him, and to invite him to our Church….of course, we backed off after hearing that they were active at another Church…..but, those words he said haunt me….I mean, he just couldnt believe that Preachers still got out, and knocked on doors. He said that it’s like they just expect people to show up, and he appreciated that we were out there visiting people….trying to reach people with the Gospel….and, like I said, I’ve been told this same thing in just about every place I’ve lived, by several different people….
    Pastors, we need to be out there…..amongst the people….reaching out to people….

    Amen?

    David

    • volfan007 says

      Jared,

      I just wanted to make a statement…encouraging Pastors to get out there to win souls…..I hope you’ll just let it stand…..I’m sorry about commenting about something that was not about your post….but, I just wanted to let the Pastors know, who read this blog, that we should be out there seeking to win the lost.

      David

      • says

        Actually, I think your comment works nicely with Jared’s analysis that we cannot wall ourselves off from the world.

        Of course, I think this is a real tension in the life of a Christian. If we recognize, “Evil company corrupts good morals,” then it follows that we must separate ourselves from the world and the appearance of evil. Of course, we cannot all go into a monastery and still carry out the Great Commission. So, it becomes a task to find the proper balance.

        • volfan007 says

          Chris,

          No, of course not. But, Pastors should certainly be doing it, and leading the way.

          David

          • says

            David,

            Can you point me to the biblical support for the idea that pastors should certainly be engaged in door to door visitation? I’m not against the practice and even encourage it to some degree and it’s one of the regular methods my church uses for outreach, but like so many other things we do, it’s a method we have innovated rather than a method biblically mandated and like evangelism in general it is the work of the body as a whole, not the pastor in particular.

          • Frank L. says

            Dave,

            Jared discusses “withdrawing from culture.”

            I think that is where going door to door intersects his post. I think it is a good response.

            Nothing engages us with the world like knocking on a neighbors door to say “Hello.”

            Chris, what other method did they use in the N.T. It was all door to door except for a city-wide evangelism revival occasionally. Interestingly, both these practices have fallen out of fashion.

          • says

            Dave,

            It isn’t. I distract easil… squirrel!

            Frank,

            Where do you ever see door-to-door in the NT? I mean, even once? Ever? We see seemingly random encounters, we see numerous public preaching instances (something that has *really* fallen out of favor), we see people going to homes when invited, but we don’t see them knocking door-to-door. Most of the evangelistic activities seem to be somewhat serendipitous rather than pre-planned. They were always ready in any situation, taking every opportunity, but few of the engagements are presented as though they were pre-planned whether in the form of a rally or some sort of outreach event. Our planning is a good thing, but nonetheless deviates from the typical approach demonstrated in the NT.

            It occurs to me even as I write this that this could reflect one of the downsides of our highly organized and structured outreach events: people are used to thinking of outreach as, well, an event – a rally, a revival service, an evening going door-to-door, etc, rather than thinking in terms of taking advantage of each and every opportunity. Again, planning and intentional outreach are good things, but let’s not miss the spontaneous nature of New Testament evangelism, and let’s not allow it to become absent from our lives.

          • volfan007 says

            Chris,

            Here’s one instance from the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul…

            Acts 20:20-21: “20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

            From house to house…both to the Jews and to the Greeks…repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

            Also, Jesus spent a lot of time where people were…..Temple, streets, market places, on a hillside, etc, etc, etc. And, Jesus told us to go out to the highways and the backroads, and compel them to come in.

            Besides, if you wanna win ‘em, then you gotta go get ‘em. Like, the time a Reb soldier wanted to shoot some Yanks…and, he asked another soldier, who was escorting some prisoners, were he caught all of those Yanks. The Reb soldier said, “The woods is full of ‘em, boy, go and get ya some.”

            David

          • Frank L. says

            Chris, look up the phrase “house to house.” Search any number of references to the oikos family of words.

            My point is: what other way was there to spread the gospel but door to door? They just did not call it that.

            As far as “revivals” are concerned and my suggestion they have fallen out of favor—just draw up a conversation with any Southern Baptist evangelist.

            I know it looks like the N.T. pattern was serendipitous. I’m not so sure we are reading that back into the text. I have a feeling, reading Paul’s letters, that he was very “strategy driven” and had a well thought out plan of world evangelism.

            By the way . . . having knocked on thousands of doors (both as an evangelist and a salesman), let me say that is perhaps the most sure way to experience a bit of serendipity that I can think of.

            Perhaps we are seeing the same thing in a slightly different way. For me, door to door is an adventure with Christ, not a chore or duty. I agree that the latter usually falls flat.

            There are many ways to engage the marketplace and door to door is simply one. So, I think we are closer in our views than might seem at first.

            Also, I live in a community that includes a couple of billionaires (that I know of), and many millionaires that live in guarded, gated communities. So, door to door is not as effective as it was when I planted a church in rural West Virginia.

            So, I see your point, Chris.

          • says

            This is good stuff Volfan! Is it not written in the Bible:

            Matt 28:18-20
            18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
            19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
            20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
            (NKJ)

            We are to GO! So GO we must – house to house, office to office, cubicle to cubicle! Any place we GO, we are GO sharing the Gospel with all. Pastors must lead in this! It is a command to all Christians with no exemptions for leaders!

          • says

            David and Frank,

            Fair enough, Acts 20:20-21 is a good example, as is Acts 5:42. The two instances which frown upon or forbid going house-to-house (1 Tim 5:13, Luke 10:7) would be referring to a different practice. I think it is fair to conclude that the instances in Acts does refer, as you say, to a regular practice of what we would consider door-to-door evangelism.

            Even so, the particular method we see them using does not translate into a necessary mandate that the same method be pursued today in every place. Neither of those two verses call on all believers to spread the gospel in that way. The call on believers is to spread the gospel. We cannot neglect that work, but the work will not look the same in every place.

            I was in Peru a few years ago shadowing a native Quechua pastor. I went with him on several trips into the mountains and his method there always astonished me. They set up in the town square (which was typically literally an open square piece of land in the middle of town), preparing to show the Jesus film. Joshua would send people knocking on doors to summon the locals then he would get on the megaphone calling, “Leave your plates, leave your forks, your food will still be waiting for you, leave your houses and come join us, we have something much more important for you.” Try something like that in the States and the police would be quickly called, but in Peru it was effective.

            Scripture does not mandate a particular method because what reaches people in Ayacucho, Peru may not reach them in Panama City, Florida or in Jerusalem. There are people in my church who were saved through door-to-door outreach, but in general this is not a methodology that bears much fruit. We still do it, I still advocate it, particularly since we can’t come up with anything better (I have one person in particular who criticizes the approach; I tell him we will shift our energy to something different when he comes up with a better idea), but we do not act as though this is The Method established by God for reaching people with the gospel.

            In fact, David’s original example provides a much better model. He did not tell us about someone they met while going door-to-door; he told us someone originally met through an outreach event at the church who was later contacted at his home. In general, I think the results from these kinds of contacts tend to bear much greater fruit than door-to-door cold calls.

          • Tarheel says

            Chris wrote:

            “The particular method [Door-to-Door] we see them using does not translate into a necessary mandate that the same method be pursued today in every place. Neither of those two verses call on all believers to spread the gospel in that way. The call on believers is to spread the gospel. We cannot neglect that work, but the work will not look the same in every place. ”

            Frank Wrote;

            “There are many ways to engage the marketplace and door to door is simply one. So, I think we are closer in our views than might seem at first.”

            Should we knock on doors and spread the gospel? Yes.

            Should we creatively seek other ways to share the life changing news of Christ? Yes.

            I know its becoming a bit of a mantra around here….but what we have here is a….

            Both/And not an Either/Or.

            The command is to go make disciples of all nations. The methods we use in carrying out that command are various and diverse and contextual, and we should pull out all stops so to speak to reach people….so long as we are faithful to the truth of Gospel in our proclamation and teaching we are good. ;-)

          • Frank L. says

            Tarheel, Chris, and David,

            Thanks for the insight. The point, going back to Jared’s post more directly, is “withdrawing from culture.”

            We agree, we should NOT withdraw but engage. How to do that will take many forms–and should–as this discussion points out. The key is “get the Word out!” This will of necessity mean dealing with some sticky issues, as C.S. Lewis points out.

          • Christiane says

            when ‘in the world, but not of the world’ becomes too much of a burden,
            a retreat is advised in sacred Scripture . . . ‘come away and rest for a while’

            there is no shame in wearing down in service to God, and the promise of renewal in sacred Scripture is there for those who LISTEN to Him, and follow His example

            find a place to pray, where it is quiet and serene. . .
            go fishing, camping, sailing, go to a monastery (Protestants have them, too), go to a retreat house, or just go out walking at night under the stars where you can be alone with God for a time . . . seek His refreshment, trust Him to provide it, and drink deeply of the well of the sacred Trinity

        • cb scott says

          No, of course it is not limited to pastors! That is a little crazy, don’t you think? However, any pastor worth his salt will go out of his comfort zone and get into the places lost people conduct their lives and share the Good Story of Jesus Christ.

          God will save some of those lost people as you are obedient to the mandate of the Great Commission.

          Also, and I know some of you guys just hate this, but if you do this, your baptisms will strangely increase and who knows? You might have to begin to do some real discipleship of new believers and who knows? Those disciples might go out and start new churches and who knows? They might not even need NAMB or some church planting network to do it.

          Boy howdy!! That would be strange, would it not. Yep, that would be amazingly new!

          Oh wait. I got overly beside myself. I became too caught up in the concept. Why, that not new at all is it? A bunch of guys were doing that in the first century.

          Oh well, it was just a thought. Forgive me fellows. I live in an alternate universe. In the “real” world, door-to-door just does not work, right?

  2. Christiane says

    “” . . . . I feel as if God is rebuilding me,
    but I’m tired and little pieces of the psalms are all I can
    handle.
    Once you’ve fallen apart, you take what nourishment you can. The
    psalms feel to me like a gentle spring rain;
    you hardly know that it’s sinking in, but something good happens.”

    (words of a sister who had experienced devastation in her life,
    as quoted by author Kathleen Norris)

  3. Frank L. says

    Jared,

    Good post though a bit long. I like the fact that you deal honestly with a great Christian apologist that has been almost canonized by the church.

    His idea of “wicked psalms” needs to be analyzed carefully. Though, these are difficult to fit into the warm and fuzzy Christianity the culture has become used to.

    Good post. I’ll have to go back and read again before I give you a final grade.

    • volfan007 says

      Mark,

      Modern day “Temples” would be ball parks, beauty pageants, golf courses, town events, and school functions. :)

      David

  4. volfan007 says

    BTW, I never said that going door to door was the ONLY method…in fact, we try to do all kinds of things to reach out to people with the Gospel …but, it’s a crying shame that so many Pastors dont get out there, and try to win people to Jesus.

    David

    • Tarheel says

      What does it mean to ‘get out there and try to win people to Jesus”?

      I am not being a smarty…I am serious. It seems to me (and I certainly could be reading you wrongly) that you are saying that unless we go door to door or otherwise meet some kinda of “I shared Jesus with X people today/this week” quota we are somehow failing at the great commission.

      What does it mean in your vocabulary to “win” people to Jesus?

      No doubt one could go to a prison or a nursing home and “win a lot of converts”…but is that really fulfilling the great commission? Jesus said to make disciples….he never said to convince a bunch of people to like Jesus.

      Now to be clear, of course we are to actively share the gospel…God has chosen the hearing of the gospel as the format for responding to it (Romans 10). We are of course, to both share the gospel and call people to repentance.

      Ending where I started….I guess my question is more to understand definitions of phrases…what does it mean to “go out there and win people to Jesus”?

      • cb scott says

        “What does it mean to ‘get out there and try to win people to Jesus”?”

        Well, I think it means that since you are going to be out there anyway, make disciples. Somebody said that mean: Reach, Teach, Win, and Develop people who follow Jesus so that they will in turn: Reach, Teach, Win, and Develop people who follow . . . .

        But, of course, that’s just one old guy’s opinion. Strange thing is, it worked and still does.

        • volfan007 says

          And Tarheel, it’s always amazing to me that the more we’ll get out there, and witness, and reach out to people with the Gospel…then, the more God elects!

          So, get out there and WIN souls to Jesus!

          David

          • Greg Harvey says

            So your purpose in your original comment on Jared’s thread–as he originally surmised–was to chastise him for discussing the Psalms theologically. Because he has presented himself as a Calvinist. It wasn’t to engage the topic.

            Shame on you David.

          • volfan007 says

            Greg,

            I’m not sure where you got all of that. I’m not even sure what you’re saying to me. But, my intent on my original comment was to encourage Pastors to get out there, and preach the Gospel, and try to win people to Jesus. What I’ve said after that is in response to the comments that were made to me…to my original comment.

            Good grief, people, is talking about Pastors getting out of their offices, or out of their recliners, and getting out there in the streets and into the homes of people, with the sole purpose to try to win them to Jesus, now a topic to be argued, and condemned, and analyzed to the Nth degree???? Is this where modern day Calvinism is taking the SBC?????

            Good gracious.

            So, Greg, I’m not so sure if it’s shame on me, or not.

            Pastors need to out there, where the people are…..in their homes, at events, or wherever….and they should be trying to lead people to Jesus. Amen? or, oh me?

            David

  5. Greg Harvey says

    “Jared Moore June 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

    David, did you post this on the right article?

    Reply

    3 volfan007 June 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Jared,

    I just wanted to make a statement…encouraging Pastors to get out there to win souls…..I hope you’ll just let it stand…..I’m sorry about commenting about something that was not about your post….but, I just wanted to let the Pastors know, who read this blog, that we should be out there seeking to win the lost.”

    This comment is a repudiation of those with Calvinistic positions on soteriology and is definitely inconsistent with God hardening Pharaoh’s heart:

    “then, the more God elects!”

    That you would say that after feigning innocence on posting on Jared’s thread borders on reprehensible in my opinion, especially after you asked him to let the original comment stand as simply an admonition to pastors to witness. I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday and neither did you, Mr. Worley.

    • says

      His response was in how Tarheel attacked the idea that people should go out door-to-door. I would say that it is just as clear today as before Houston that there are the equivalent of SBC theology police that want to eradicate anything that might appear to be against Calvinism—even blog comments encouraging people to go out into the world and win people for Christ.

      • Greg Harvey says

        I’m not that simple minded, Alan. And neither is Mr. Worley. His comment at the end of the stream suggests he had an ulterior motive at the beginning.

        • volfan007 says

          Greg,

          You do not know my motives. YOU are not the HOLY SPIRIT. And, whether you fell off of a turnip truck, or not….I have no idea what’s happened to you in your lifetime.

          But, I posted my first comment to ENCOURAGE Pastors to get out there, and go to the homes of people, and try to win them to the Lord. My first comment was a sadness in my heart that I had been told by a bunch of people….in the places of which I’ve been a Pastor….that Pastors just dont get out and witness and visit people, anymore. And, they were telling me that they were glad to see me, out there, visiting people. And, that goes for CALVINIST and NONCALVINIST Pastors, alike.
          We need to be out there witnessing for the Lord….preaching the Gospel…trying to win people to Jesus.

          I am really shaking my head in amazement that there’s any arguement and disagreement, and analysis, and anger over what I’m saying….it’s incredible to me….

          David

          • Greg Harvey says

            Stop the feigned disgust and mock indignation. You chose to make fun of the (Calvinist view of) the doctrine of election. That was your choice, not mine. You didn’t have to do that. You chose to.

            I’m not the Holy Spirit. I’m just a believer. You don’t have to listen to me. Now what is the Holy Spirit suggesting you do? Berate me more?

      • Tarheel says

        To take a page out of VolFan’s play book….

        If you think I attacked “going door to door”I’ll ask that you read my posts again. In fact I’ve explicitly encouraged it more than once.

  6. Joe Blackmon says

    And Tarheel, it’s always amazing to me that the more we’ll get out there, and witness, and reach out to people with the Gospel…then, the more God elects! -

    And, of course, being a Calvinist, I would say that when we get out there, witness, and reach out to people with the gospel…then, we see those who God has elected repent and trust in Jesus for salvation.

    :-)

    Either way, tho, the gospel is being preached whether we’re going door to door randomly, going to someone’s home who visited our church, or meeting someone in a restaurant. Preach the gospel and anyone who repents and trusts Christ for salvation will be saved.

  7. Tarheel says

    Yea, I caught the “more ya get out, the more God elects” jab too, and it kinda bothered me….was weighing how and if to respond. It’s nice to see that I was not being overly sensitive and others saw it the same way.

    I wonder what would be the reaction if I had posted in a comment something like:

    “the more we preach the gospel those who are appointed to eternal life will believe.”

    • Greg Harvey says

      When David cools off he’ll admit it was an unnecessary jab. And he might even admit that we can’t fulfill God’s plan FOR God. WE can only faithfully participate IN IT. Which is roughly the same thing as admitting that “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

      • volfan007 says

        Greg and Tarheel,

        It was not a jab. It’s the truth. The more we get out there, and actually preach the Gospel, and try to win people to Jesus, then the more people will get saved.

        But, no matter what you believe about election….just get out there and preach the Gospel…..tell people about Jesus….

        David

  8. Tarheel says

    Vol said ; “It was not a jab. It’s the truth. The more we get out there, and actually preach the Gospel, and try to win people to Jesus, then the more people will get saved.”

    Please stop pretending that you’re not intentionally jabbing at us by the invocation of “your side” of a highly debated soteriological position over and over again.

    I ask again….woukd you feel jabbed if I or Randall, for example, repeatedly posted “We should get out there, and preach the Gospel, because God will, through the poclomation of the Gospel bring to salvation those whom He has appointed unto salvation.”

    • volfan007 says

      Tarheel,

      No, I wouldnt feel jabbed….that’s what you believe….I’d just like to see Pastors get out there, and preach the Gospel and try to win people to salvation.

      David

      • Tarheel says

        It seems implied in your posts that you might feel that other pastors commenting on the blog do not agree that we should be proclaiming the gospel.

        • Tarheel says

          In other words…who has argued that we shouldn’t?

          You’re arguing against boogie men that just don’t exist among the posters I’ve seen here.

  9. volfan007 says

    Tarheel,

    I’m tired of this game. I aint playing anymore. I know what I wrote, and I know what I meant, and I know what was said afterwards. If you wanna play the parse every word, and analize to the Nth degree, and say, “did anyone REALLY say this or that” game….be my guest.

    I’m done.

    BTW, if you’ll go back to my original comment, you’ll see that I was responding to what people said about Pastors not visiting….People said it….and, they’ve said it often, in the different places I have lived and served the Lord….this last guy expressed shock that a Pastor was going out visiting people…many of my friends have expressed the same thing to me about Pastors where they live….And so, the original comment, and my comment now, is about Pastors of all stripes and colors…Calvinist and Non Calvinist…

    I dont know….maybe you, and Chris Roberts, and Greg Harvey are climbing all over this for a reason? Maybe it’s conviction? I dont know… but God and yall know.

    David

  10. Bill Mac says

    I’ve gone round and round with Volfan on a lot of different blog posts and comment threads on a lot of different topics, but honestly I think you guys are unnecessarily reading ill-intent into his comments on this thread. I don’t think he’s jabbing at anyone. It never hurts to be reminded that no matter what our soteriological stance, it is the proclamation of the Gospel that God uses to win people to Christ.

    He’s wrong about BBQ (beef is better than pork) but he’s not wrong here.

  11. Tarheel says

    Vol said;

    “I dont know….maybe you, and Chris Roberts, and Greg Harvey are climbing all over this for a reason? Maybe it’s conviction? I dont know… but God and yall know.”

    ‘m guessing that’s not a jab either.

  12. Tarheel says

    Vol,

    No one ever said pastors Shoud not go “out” and proclaim the gospel …. Yet your’re invoking the plea to do so in almost every post as if someone had. Again, implying that some don’t believe in saring the gospel.

    Whatever….I’ve got a game to watch. Good night.

    Go Spurs!

        • Tarheel says

          It was a fun series to watch though….I detest the Heat for many reasons….and I have always liked the spurs….Tim Duncan is the man. Parker is money (well typically), and Danny Green was a favorite of mine when he played for my beloved Tarheels, so its natural for me to follow him as well.

          Btw, when I said that is just wrong…I hope you know I was jesting. I enjoy sports banter so feel free anytime.

          I’m hoping to be a able to talk lots of junk when college basketball comes backs around… GO TARHEELS, and GO ACC!

          I’m also holding out Hope that the Heels college football team will do well this year as well.

          • cb scott says

            Well Jason, you know, when you got it, you got it and when you don’t, you don’t.

            The SEC and the SABANATION has it!! . . . and the ACC and the TARHEEL NATION don’t. THat is life and that is NCAA FOOTBALL in the FOOTBALL UNIVERSE!

            The Threepeat is coming.

            Oh yeah, before I forget: ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!

        • Tarheel says

          I know that the ACC is not a football conference…I just hold out hope that one day…LOL

          Now roundball….with the new additions….Look out!

          • cb scott says

            Tarheel,

            I am thankful that you have the cognitive capabilities to realize the ACC is not a FOOTBALL Conference.

            Now, if you could just explain that to:

            Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, NC State, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Duke, GA Tech, Miami, UNC, Pitt, UVA, VT, Wake Forest, and non-FOOTBALL playin’ Notre Dame.

            If you could explain to them that playing Basketball means a little something in the Sports World (although not much), you will be helping a lot of people not to suffer the agony of constant defeat and save them from so much embarrassment at the hands of the SEC FOOTBALL NATION led by the Flagship, The SABANATION.

          • Tarheel says

            LOL.

            FYI, Maryland bolted.

            Don’t forget Louisville. LOL.

            The ACC has had glimmers of being competitive in the football world….it may happen, you never know.

            Saban seems to be a lunatic…LOL. I seriously think he has anger issues.

            ‘Bama has been a powerhouse…then went through a slump….and are now back on top….but you do know what happens eventually to that which rises???

  13. Tarheel says

    Bill Mac,

    “It never hurts to be reminded that no matter what our soteriological stance, it is the proclamation of the Gospel that God uses to win people to Christ. ”

    Agreed. We’ve all agreed to it in fact…but he keeps putting it in every post.

  14. volfan007 says

    Tarheel,

    One more thing…I’m assuming your nickname has something to do with where you live. So, I’m gonna suggest that you go East Carolina, or UNC Asheville….there, they offer classes in reading comprehension, I’m sure.

    Then, go back to my very first comment….right at the top of the comment thread….and read it, again.

    Jab.

    David

    • cb scott says

      ” . . . they offer classes in reading comprehension, I’m sure.”

      You are right, Vol. As a matter of fact all they offer in the TARHEEL NATION universities is reading comprehension, third grade reading comprehension . . . and of course, Hog Farming, specializing in cleaning those refuse ponds. TARHEELS are good at that.

  15. Tarheel says

    I’ll just chalk that jab up with the others (plural) you’ve extended here.

    I re-read it, and your other posts in this thread.

    Same conclusion. ;-)

    • volfan007 says

      Tarheel,

      If you dont like being a Pirate, or a Bulldog, then check out UNC Wilmington. If you get real desperate, go to Wake Forest. If you go to Wake, ask for Prof. Cranium….tell him you need more reading comprehension….he’s written many books on comprehension. Of course, I’m not sure how you’d comprehend a book on comprehension, if you’re having trouble comprehending. But, Prof. Cranium can work all that out for you.

      ONe thing, if you go to Wake, watch out for those Deacons….I’ve heard that they can be Demons.

      Jab.

      David :)

  16. Tarheel says

    I thought you were done? Just gotta keep digging don’t ya?

    You win. I surrender. Uncle….what else ya want me to say?

    Let it go.

  17. Joel says

    The back and forth on this is unproductive, IMO. I want to propose a different question: how do you who are pastors apportion your time? Barring emergencies, how much time are you spending in the office studying, how much time visiting church members, how much time seeking to engage the unreached, how much time praying? I know things vary week to week but I wonder how you do it. I know we can’t have hard and fast rules and I know different situations mean there will be different ways time is used but I am interested to know if anyone would reveal how their week most normally unfolds.

    • Greg Harvey says

      Why not write a blog and submit it and ask that question, Joel. Phrased well, I feel a certain amount of confidence that Dave would publish it.

      As to the original blog:

      I think C.S. Lewis is largely guilty of what–by casting of aspersions–many of the comments hint that Jared is guilty of. And yet C.S. Lewis’s works have been profoundly effective. Well, that’s hardly fair. For ME they have been effective in providing a philosophy of faith that neatly marries a thoughtful perspective with being a follower of Jesus Christ. So that’s a biographical comment, not the results of a survey.

      Does Lewis always get it right? Nope. But he will get you thinking. I don’t agree with his categorization of the Psalms. But I think he’s more right than not about them. I am not a fan of “imprecatory prayers” which is a persistent subject of the Psalms. Yet the writer usually returns to peace with God instead of frustration with either his fellow man or with God’s slowness in acting. That’s why the common person finds the Psalms both intriguing and comforting. There is a sense in them that we can cry out and that God hears.

      Even more so because there is Messianic prophecy embedded into the Psalms through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as acknowledged by Jesus himself. In the midst of a possibly otherwise unengaged sheepherder–you know…PASTOR?–out in a pasture just hanging out doing his assigned task, out of that life emerged these “poems”. And there is very much the sense that these are among David’s good works that God prepared in advance for him.

      And if you notice the play on words in the Greek between “good works” and the English word “poem”, good for you. You’re well learned and you’re more likely to be a good pastor because of your efforts at study than if you only focused on “soul winning”. Your flock needs you to be a learner in front of them because the Great Commission isn’t specifically about “going” or even primarily about “baptizing” but is instead about the imperative to “make learners of all the nations”.

      Make learners of what? The things he commanded us. Make learners of whom? Every nation. Should we “go”? If we’re going to reach every nation you can’t do it from home. But that isn’t the verb with the imperative mood attached to it. “Make learners”. To make them you have to be one.

      • Tarheel says

        Greg said;

        ” Your flock needs you to be a learner in front of them because the Great Commission isn’t specifically about “going” or even primarily about “baptizing” but is instead about the imperative to “make learners of all the nations”.
        Make learners of what? The things he commanded us. Make learners of whom? Every nation. Should we “go”? If we’re going to reach every nation you can’t do it from home. But that isn’t the verb with the imperative mood attached to it. “Make learners”. To make them you have to be one.”

        Amen! Agreed Greg.

        Make disciples is the command.

      • says

        Which to me implies that if I have an attitude that I learned enough, and don’t really need to learn any more, I’m not being much of a disciple.

  18. volfan007 says

    Greg, Tarheel, and others,

    To share further about my motives for posting my first comment on this post of Jared’s…..let me just share with you that I first posted this comment on FB….to my wall….then, to a FB group for Pastors…before I ever posted this comment here….which Dave Miller can testify to, since he and I are FB friends. So, when I posted this comment to FB for all my friends and Pastor friends to see….all of them….was I trying to throw a jab at Jared for being a Calvinist? No. The fact of the matter is….after posting that comment on FB…I thought it would be good for more Pastors to see what people were saying, and it would encourage us to get out there and try to win more people to Jesus…so, I copied and pasted from FB to this comment thread….and then, all the hoopla from yall….

    So….there’s the long and short of it…..And, I really think some of yall give me too much credit for being smarter than I am…I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier…those who know me well can testify to that….

    David :)

    • Greg Harvey says

      Fair enough. We don’t all share the same context of the other things going on and–for better or for worse–interpret them in the context we see. I suspect you wouldn’t be surprised by that nor that you are really that surprised by the response that at least I put up.

      You also know I’ve gone out of my way in the past to keep dialogue open largely through using the private discussions between my dad and myself as an example of the basic disagreements but how the dialogue continues.

      I want to add a little more based on our Father’s Day discussion just this past week. He remains frustrated that–and he didn’t specifically finger Calvinists on this but I know that was part of the thought process–we teach something other than is precisely in the Bible. I would argue that an emphasis on doing exactly that–sticking to the text–would move our in-public presentation of theology more towards a position of accommodation between “Calvs” and “Trads”.

      But very specifically using technical terms straight from text such as predestination and election in a way that honors the mystery God has left embedded in those words seems necessary to me. And using a term in a way that belittles what “the other side” believes seems to me to be both unnecessary and unwise even when it is used–which in the kindest reading of your comment I can acknowledge you were doing–in jest.

      But your broader point that we can’t just read books and expect to have the influence that Jesus expects us to have is–whether that was the point you were intentionally making or not–worth its own, separate discussion. Separate from Jared’s post that is. And Jared’s review deserved consideration. Perhaps the only thing that went wrong is that you didn’t take the opportunity to offer it as a guest blog to Dave.

      I won’t speak for Dave, but I suspect it deserved consideration for publishing by him just as a matter of comity and unity on its own merits. But more importantly: the opportunity was there to reiterate your original purpose instead of defending the discussion that got off track and instead of the derisive comment about election (even if you truly do believe we can create more of it through human effort.)

      I’m not mad at you. I’m not upset at you. I just want the conversation to be respectful and to take into account that others might (and definitely do) disagree with that kind of characterization of their theology of soteriology. We need to permit differences on this if we wish to be effective in our Great Commission work as Southern Baptists. I think this comment stream illustrates the possibilities for doing a better job of practicing not a false peace but a true unity.

  19. Tarheel says

    I see you are still not done after pronouncing yourself so, huh?

    I will kindly ask that you no longer include me in the salutations or body of your little informational rants on this topic, please.

  20. volfan007 says

    Not only that, but I also just posted my comment in Jared’s blog post, because it was the newest one…and, I didnt want what I said lost in some old post….so, THAT is the reason I put it on Jared’s post.

    Geeesh…Wow.

    David

    PS. Now, I’m really done with this.