The Psalms – Psalms of Creation and Nature

This week we are looking at Creation and Nature in the Psalms. Both Lewis (chapter 8) and Bonhoeffer (“Creation”) address these types of Psalms. Please read both of these chapters as background for our discussion. As additional background, also please re-read Genesis 1, which is the first great creation hymn in scripture. The Psalms we are studying on Thursday are: 104 (Creation), 147 (God’s care of Creation); 29 (God of the Storm), 65 (God of Rain),      93 (God of the Sea); 148 (Praise of Creation); and 19  (Creation as an analogy).

Yesterday, I was reading back through a portion of C. S. Lewis’ God in the Dock. Lewis writes that religions are divided, like soups, into “thick” and “clear”. By Thick he means those pagan and animistic religions which are grounded in and worship creation and engage in “orgies and ecstasies and mysteries and local attachments.” Alternatively, Clear religions are “philosophical, ethical and universalizing” such as “Stoicism, Buddhism, and the Ethical Church”. Such religions see creation as something not-good and attachments to this world as something which must be overcome in order to better understand and follow the divine. Christianity, and its antecedent Judaism, bring together these two types of religion. So, as Lewis says, a Thick animistic convert is told to obey an “enlightened universalist ethic,” whereas a Clear “twentieth-century academic prig” is told to go “fasting to a Mystery and to drink the blood of the Lord.”

This melding of Thick and Clear permeates the Creation Psalms. So, for example, Psalm 104 celebrates nature and the natural world. Nature is not something which is evil that must be overcome, rather it is a means of gladdening and strengthening our hearts, giving us a cheerful countenance, and providing us a tool by which to keep time. Ps. 104:15-16, 20. But, of course, it is not the natural world itself to which we owe worship. Ps. 104:34-37. Or, for example, Psalm 19 celebrates the heavens and the sun from which “nothing is hidden from its burning heat.” Ps. 19:6. But then this physical world is also an allegory for the ethical laws of God by which we are “enlightened” and our “secret faults” are cleansed. Ps. 19:11-12.

As you read through the creation Psalms for Thursday be aware of how the psalmist views the natural world and its appropriate place. And think about how this view of the natural world brings together Think and Clear religions. We in the West have a great tendency to spiritualize everything while forgetting that “God saw that it was good.”

Dinner is served at 6. Turkey Tetrazzini is on the menu.

Teaching Notes – Creation and Nature in the Psalms
Genesis 1
Bonhoeffer “Creation”; Lewis, Ch.8
     Psalms 104, 147; 29, 65, 93, 148, 19.

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