02 July 2011

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

In its present form, the Book of Psalms has been designed to teach people how to meditate.  It is the biblical manual on meditation.  -- Dr. John Kleinig, *Grace upon Grace* p. 133.


Chris said...

What exactly does he mean when he says "in its present form?" Is he comparing it to the psalms pre-Masoretic canon? Just curious.

William Weedon said...

He means the way they are arranged in the Scriptures - especially with Psalm 1 kicking off the Psalter.

Chris Jones said...

I don't think this statement is true, at all. The primary purpose of the Psalter is (and always has been) liturgical worship, not personal meditation.

I suppose that it depends on exactly what the author means by "meditation," but I am hard pressed to think of any understanding of the word "meditation" which would make this statement true.

William Weedon said...

In the same paragraph: "In fact, the Psalms were so closely associated with the practice of meditation that when the teachers of the early Church spoke about meditation they most commonly referred to the custom of chanting or saying some of the Psalms each day..."

Chris Jones said...

the custom of chanting or saying some of the Psalms each day

Surely the "custom" being referred to here is the public liturgical practice of reading the psalms in the Church's daily office, not (in the first instance) a custom of private piety.

I think the reason that this remark gets my goat is that when someone claims that a book of Scripture "has been designed" for a particular purpose, he is claiming something about the Holy Spirit who, after all, is the "designer" in question. Absent a revelation in Scripture of what the designer's intent was, such a claim can only be speculation. And it is speculation that is at variance with how the Psalter has actually been used, both by Israel under the Old Covenant and the Church under the New.

It is a nice sentiment that sounds good, but it does not bear scrutiny.

William Weedon said...

Actually, I think it does, for it is how the Book of Psalms begins:

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditateth day and night.

As Luther once said the entire Psalter is but meditation upon the first commandment, and it is this liturgically, as it shapes the mind of the Church in what it is to have a God to whom it may turn for every good thing in time of need.

William Weedon said...

P.S. I don't think there is cleavage between public and private - the Church meditates on the Psalter as a community, no?