What C. S. Lewis Got Wrong About the Cursing Psalms

Mar 22, 2023 by

By Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition.

C. S. Lewis got a lot of things right. He also got a few things wrong. And when Lewis was wrong, he was really wrong.

One of the places he was off was in how he viewed the imprecatory or “cursing” psalms, defined by Trevor Laurence as containing “a speech act that calls for, demands, requests, or expresses a wish for divine judgment and vengeance to befall an enemy, whether an individual or corporate entity.”

If you love the Psalter, and if you try the ancient Christian practice of praying through all 150 psalms every month (I have a Psalms in 30 Days prayer journey just for you!), you won’t get far before you run into prayers for God to enact justice, petitions for God to exact vengeance on the enemies of his people. Some of the psalms are primarily imprecatory in their nature, but a large number incorporate imprecatory elements—even the beloved Psalm 139 (“You have searched me and known me”), which, by the end, expresses hatred for God’s enemies. And then there’s the infamous ending to Psalm 137, which asks the Lord to dash the heads of enemy infants against the rocks.

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.”

Read here.

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