Saturday, October 19, 2019

Praying the Imprecatory Psalms

At the risk of tripping Rauser's hair-trigger persecution complex: 

Tentative Apologist
The imprecatory psalmist gives us this worldview: there are good people and evil people; God loves the good people and hates the evil ones; God anticipates with relish destroying the evil people; we too, if we are good, should hate the evil people and relish God destroying them.

The imprecatory psalms describes people in binary terms: good and evil; they say God hates the wicked and laughs at their destruction; the imprecatory psalmist likewise relishes their destruction and calls down curses on them.

Kinda like the way Rauser bifurcates the world into progressive heroes and fundy villains, progressive good-guys and wicked Trump supporters. 

The Christian reader who tries to baptize this worldview as a description of reality is fated to the hinterland of cognitive dissonance. 

What about the cognitive dissonance of pitting the OT against the NT when Jesus and NT writers constantly appeal to OT validation? 

The only consistent reading is to judge this worldview mistaken and properly critiqued through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The person and work of Christ include his endtime role as the eschatological judge. 

Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. That is the mandate to which we strive even when we experience rage and hopelessness at the injustice in the world. The psalmists are properly interpreted with our christological reading glasses.

i) This is Rauser talking out of both sides of his mouth. He doesn't feel obligated to submit to whatever Jesus teaches. He deems it acceptable to regard Jesus as a fallible teacher, a child of his times, due to the Kenotic Christology Rauser treats as a valid option. 

Rauser himself is a spiteful, vindictive person. Just read how he castigates fundamentalists and Trump supporters. 

ii) It's not as if we're confronted by two sets of contradictory commands. The Imprecatory Psalms aren't divine commands to harm your enemy. So they don't run directly counter to divine or dominical commands to love your enemy.

iii) The Imprecatory Psalms are not about exacting personal revenge, but calling on God to uphold justice. They leave the matter in his hands. 

iv) Suppose, in spite of earnest prayers for his repentance, your enemy never repents? What then? Is it wrong to agree with God about the just deserts that rightly await your impenitent enemy?

A Christian can pray or sing the Imprecatory Psalms hypothetically or counterfactually. He can pray that God grant repentance to his enemies, or more generally, to those who harm the innocent. 

But many enemies don't repent, despite of frequent, heartfelt prayer offered on their behalf. So a Christian can also pray that God mete out justice according to their works, if they persist in patterns of oppression and injustice. 

There's no cognitive dissonance in those two positions. They aren't logically or theologically dichotomous. 

v) Does Rauser think the church should eliminate certain Psalms from the lectionary? Banish them from the public reading of the Bible? Erase them from the canon? 

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