Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I think, for the non-Christian, one of the most off-putting things about Christianity today is the singing.

I went to schools where we had to sing songs that, really, seemed to have little relevance to our lives.

Whether you agree with Christian thinking or not, the songs we sang at school do little for most adults today too. Of course, there are many churches who don’t sing those songs. They sing different songs. Which makes no difference at all if you don’t like singing, which most people don’t.

If you’re running a church, and you want to attract more non-Christians in, you’ll never sell salvation to many people when part of the cost is having to sing. Every week. About God. In public. Forever!

I think, for non-Christians, the only thing more off-putting than being expected to again act like a child at school every week, is actually being expected to start taking the lyrics so incredibly seriously.

All of which flies in the face of The Psalms.

A lot of Christians consider these 150 songs / poems to be beautiful. I have no problem with that - everybody's different.

Today (the date of this post) I read all 150 of them, and I feel fairly non-plussed. There are bits that remind me of things about God that I like, but as songs, or rather as poems, I'm afraid I don’t really like any of them. At this sentence you may like to duck to avoid the bolt of lightning coming past you at my words on this screen.

Teaching is hard to find in here too, written as so many of these appear to be as allegorical expressions of feelings about God. I’m always a bit wary when someone tries to mount a Biblical argument based upon the cries of a psalmist.

When the earth and all its people quake,
It is I who hold its pillars firm.

- Psalm 75:3 (NIV)

God is a righteous judge,
A God who expresses his wrath every day.

- Psalm 7:11 (NIV)

Of course, you do have to temper that with bits like:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

- Psalm 51:17 (NIV)

There’s teaching in that last excerpt for sure, but partly because, like so much of the Bible, these are not facts that we can test, only take on faith.

What I do like about The Psalms though is the very fact of their inclusion in the Bible. Most of them strike me as predominantly expressing faith in God through trying times. And there’s nothing more real about our Christian faith than that.

The psalms are very encouraging, and very comforting when the psalmist still has no answer from God by the end, but generally they appear to me to be man speaking to God with man’s wisdom, rather than vice versa.

Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
"Tear it down," they cried,
"tear it down to its foundations!"

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-

he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

- Psalm 137:7-9 (NIV)

In my anguish I cried to the LORD,
and he answered by setting me free.

- Psalm 118:5 (NIV)

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