“Until quite modern times—I think, until the time of the Romantics—nobody ever suggested that literature and the arts were an end in themselves. They ‘belonged to the ornamental part of life’, they provided ‘innocent diversion’; or else they ‘refined our manners’ or ‘incited us to virtue’ or glorified the gods. The great music had been written for Masses, the great pictures painted to fill up a space on the wall of a noble patron’s dining room or to kindle devotion in a church, the great tragedies were produced either by religious poets in honour of Dionysus or by commercial poets to entertain Londoners on half-holidays. It was only in the nineteenth century that we became aware of the full dignity of art. We began to ‘take it seriously’ as the Nazis take mythology seriously. But the result seems to have been a dislocation of the aesthetic life in which little is left for us but high-minded works which fewer and fewer people want to read or hear or see, and ‘popular’ works of which both those who make them and those who enjoy them are half ashamed. Just like the Nazis, by valuing too highly a real, but subordinate good, we have come near to losing that good itself ” (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, pp. 279-280).
“We need to take special care to tell stories that are ‘not suitable’ for modernists. The Bible contains dragons, giants, principalities, satyrs, and unicorns. Invariably, these get cleaned up in translation so that modernist evangelicals are not embarrassed by them. In such instances, the liberal is often to be trusted with the text of Scripture over the evangelical, because the evangelical is stuck with the results of his exegesis. If the evangelical wants to have it both ways (e.g. inerrancy and respectability with moderns), then he has a lot of work cut out for him” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 156).
“At their most radical and pessimistic, all great playwrights, including Moliere and Racine, have more affinity for the enemies of the theater than for its pious friends. Their implacable genius rejects the self-serving platitudes of cultural idolatry. Great theater has never flourished except in periods when it was distrusted and ostracized” (Girard, A Theater of Envy, p. 159).
Minister: Lift up your hearts!
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!
Our great Lord reigns above all things,
He is clothed with majesty itself.
Strength is His garment,
Power is tied around His waist.
The world is fixed, established by Him
This throne is ancient,
Established of old.
You have been from everlasting.
The floods cry out,
O Lord, the floods lift up their voice,
The voice of many waters,
The floods arise, lift up their waves.
The Lord on high is mightier than these,
His voice is beyond the many waters,
His voice is greater than the waves out at sea.
Your testimonies are certain,
All of them are very sure.
Your Scriptures are the ocean waves,
Each text a monumental height.
Holiness befits Your house,
Our Lord and God, forevermore.
And so, gracious Father, we worship You now through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end, amen.
The message today is on Psalm 35, one of the psalms of imprecation. These psalms have given many Christians many difficulties, and we don’t quite know what to do with them.
Let us grant at the outset that they can be abused by people who pretend to embrace them. We can want to “destroy the Amalekite” in the wrong way, and not know what spirit we are of. We can confuse God’s honor with our own. We can try to settle personal scores when God has told us to forgive. We can seek to “hew Agag to pieces before the Lord” and discover on the day of judgment that we only “hewed Agag to pieces.”
But as C.S. Lewis remarked somewhere, we love to prepare to resist temptations that we are most unlikely to encounter. Confronted with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers. It is this way with us, and the psalms of imprecation.
We live in complacent times. We live in a time when the hearts of many believers have grown cold. We do not refrain from imprecatory prayers because, in our saintliness, we have risen above the fray, but rather because we are apathetic about spiritual things. It is not that imprecation might interfere with our burning love for the lost, but rather that imprecation might get us in trouble and lose us a few clients. We are afraid that imprecation might offend the great god Mammon.
So I want to give this exhortation before we consider the words of Psalm 35. Imprecation is another one of those inescapable issues. Either you will model your prayers after the prayers in the Bible, including this one, or you will come to the point where you are uttering imprecations against those who do You will speak this way—the question is whether you will speak this way against righteousness or against unrighteousness.
There are many “all you need is love” Christians, who refuse to have anything to do with these prayers against the unrighteous. At the end of the day, they carp against the righteous. So prepare your hearts to receive the word.
One of the central things we learn as we come to this Table is the nature of our triune God, and consequently the nature of the world He created. Many of the disputes between Christians about what happens at this Table is the result of their secret agreement about the rest of the world. The world around us is a humdrum sort of affair, and we then debate whether that changes or not when we come to the Table. Is this a mere memorial, like a post-it note on the fridge, or is it a grand exception to that world of post-it notes?
The whole world is remarkable. Said with appropriate qualifications, the universe is a miracle. This is not because the universe is a violation of natural law (how could that be?) but rather because the whole universe is nothing but sheer, unadulterated gift or grace. God overflows, and He overflows infinitely into the created order. There is no such thing as the mundane.
So this Table is not a spiritual exception to the mundane, and it is not a mundane continuation of the mundane. Rather, this Table instructs us how God is all the time. What is God like in everything?
Everything is remarkable, for those who have eyes to see. And this Table, these means of grace, this bread and wine, is one of God’s appointed means for giving us eyes to see. This bread strengthens your soul to resist temptation. This is odd, but no more odd than how peanut butter helps you get through your morning’s work. This wine, taken in faith, knits you together with Christ, and this is odd too. But no more odd than water falling out of the sky so that your breakfast might grow in a field somewhere.
The universe is always and everywhere a personal place. It is in God that we live and move and have our being. He is a covenant-keeping God, and this aspect of His nature is reflected in everything that He does—and He does everything.
Ed Iverson is one of NSA’s faculty members and serves as the librarian of our Tyndale Library. In addition to these duties, as well as being a gracious Christian gentleman, he also writes a periodic column for the Moscow/Pullman Daily News. But the ongoing reaction to his column by our local lefties resembles a series of bottle rockets more than anything else. Today there was a letter to the editor demanding an end to his dissenting voice. Last night there was a letter lamenting the fact that Ed’s column ran on a weekend when many out-of-towners were visiting, the effect of which was to recklessly expose them to another point of view entirely. They might start thinking that some red state gunk is seeping into our little blue town. And then some of them might move here, bringing more gunk with them.
But the thing that is really fascinating about the ongoing objections to Ed’s column (not to mention objections to other stuff we are doing and saying), is the regular assertion that his column espouses “hate.”
And so it does, but you have to be really creative to get to that conclusion. If hatred is defined as disagreement with secularist fundamentals, and if Ed is guilty of that (which he is, routinely), then of course he is guilty of “hate.” And liberals do define hatred this way. Liberals are so commited to the unity of their god Demos that any disagreement on their fundamentals is not just “disagreement,” it is an attempt to divide the godhead. It is therefore hatred, blasphemy.
But one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is that the human race is divided into two categories — the saved and the lost. This means that the Christian claim is that humanity is divided — but if humanity is the god, and it is blasphemy to divide the god this way, then the historic Christian faith is a hate crime by definition.
Of course this sets up a troublesome problem. If Christians see the world as divided between the sheep and the goats, the humanists see the world as divided between those who know the world is not divided and and those who erroneously think that it is divided. Now wait a minute . . . There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.
This inconsistency is why liberals are so shrill when it comes to the presence of actual disagreement. They have to get the inconsistency out of sight pronto. Express disagreement at any kind of basic level, and off they go, like the aforementioned bottle rockets. But they cannot afford a reasoned discussion of about whether the humanist god is divisible; the claim has to be treated as outrageous on the face of it. To treat it as a reasonable question would be to allow pollution in their sanctuary, which they cannot do. So the person who blasphemes in this way must be shouted down and frogmarched off the stage. There is a mob of liberals gathered in the hall, standing on their seats, shouting their indignation, and pumping the air with their fists. If the hapless offender is not careful he will find himself in a Reeducation Center for the Tolerance Impaired. Who do the leftists want send there? Who must learn that differences must be accepted and embraced? Why those who are different, of course, Where you been?