Growing to Love the Psalms
Herman Selderhuis, in Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms, notes how Calvin grew in his love and appreciation for the Psalter:
…for Calvin the book of the Psalms assumed greater and greater significance in his theological development. In the first edition of the Institutes (1536) the Psalter is the least-quoted biblical book, in the last edition it is quoted more than any other with the one exception of the epistle to the Romans. (16)
Is it fair to conclude that a sign of growing Christian maturity is a deeper appreciation for God’s songbook?
Perhaps by the last edition Calvin knew the Psalms by heart and they were easily recalled for reference. Reading the introduction to the Psalms found in the Reformation Study Bible, I read, Martin Luther referred to the Psalms as “a little Bible, and summary of the Old Testament”. The theology of the Psalms being as extensive as the entire Old Testament. Maybe Calvin was getting tired :).
What a blessing it is that our children memorize those psalms to silence the foe and the avenger. The RSV speaks of bulwark in Psalm 8. To think of our children as a bulwark of the Church really makes this memorizing of the Psalms so important. May it be that our children love the Psalms and appreciate the Psalms from an early age.
A. If you thesis is correct, what does that mean about churches that sing fewer Psalms every year, and appreciate hymns and Christian contemporary songs more and more, in a pace that cannot be stopped? What is developing there, is the opposite of growing Christian maturity: a decrease of Christian faith maybe…?
B. I made a Psalm CD, also to promote the Psalm singing and appreciation for Psalms. I expected that the CanRC (familiar with the Psalms – a ‘psalm singing church’, a church based on the 16th century Reformation, self proclaimed ‘Calvinistic churches’) to have a substantial interest in the first CD recording with Psalms in the English language – however, the demand for this Psalm CD from outside the CanRC has been much higher. Could the assumption be made that a deeper appreciation for God’s songbook would most likely mean that people should like to listen to Psalm singing on a CD in the car, in the kitchen?
C. When there were no radio’s yet at the construction sites, in Holland Psalm singing was heard frequently (in between the romantic folk songs). The people knew the songs by heart. Calvin started to teach learning the Psalms by heart, and by singing all Psalms people remembered. Today hardly anyone can sing 25 psalm verses by heart. Could it be concluded that there was a higher level of Christian maturity in the past, because the people were more familiar with the Psalms? (Assuming belting out Psalms on the scaffolding means that people appreciated what they sung, else they would not have chosen Psalms).
D. Elderly people generally like the Psalms. You would think that age and life experience/hardships brings people closer to God, closer to the Psalms through which He so beautifully reveals himself. Although you can also say, because the older people were taught the Psalms more than the current generation it is logical that they fall back on what they are familiar with, when they have a hard time reading, understanding and sometimes can’t go to church anymore. If the latter were true, I am not sure what to think about the younger generation when they get older…
E. A colleague organist in Holland shared last Sunday with me that his Psalm CD (one in a series) received much, much higher insterest from the ‘overly’ conservative Reformed churches in the Netherlands, for singing on the recording as well as the interest in the CD itself. The more conservative the church, the higher the interest in the Psalms, the greater the maturity of the Christian faith…?
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