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Reflections on the Psalms

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,269 ratings  ·  210 reviews
“We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

The Psalms were written as songs; we should read them as poetry, in the spirit of lyric, not as sermons or instructions. But they are also shrouded in mystery, and in this careful reading from one of our most trusted fellow travelers, C
Paperback, 138 pages
Published October 7th 1964 by Harvest/HBJ Books (first published 1958)
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Some of my favorite things about this wonderful little book by my favorite author:

1. Right away, he takes on the difficult, hard-to-stomach psalms, the ones about such things as dashing the Babylonian babies against the stones. Hard stuff. I'm sure I would have avoided it.

2. This quote:
"But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog's ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read."

3. And this quote:
"What we see when we think we are looki
Lewis is often unfairly placed at the helm of Christian apologetics. In fact, if you hear two intelligent people debating the merits of Christianity, it will probably be only a matter of seconds before one of them is refrencing Lewis. Lewis apologetic works (Mere Christianity, Miracles) are attempts to rationalize his beliefs to himself and to any who will listen - they are not the authority on Christian theology and scholarship that they are made out to be (Lewis usually outlines his shortcomin ...more
Julie Davis
5% Done UPDATE
I'm 5% done with Reflections on the Psalms: I never ever stopped to think before about the difference between judges in Old Testament times versus judges in our very modern times. We expect impartiality, no graft, and so forth. Our system is so different from the OT Jewish system that it is no wonder we need mental adjustment before comprehending why their view of God's judgment is so much more joyous than our own. Completely different POV. Fascinating.

25% Done UPDATE
I found myself
Lewis finds a niche for himself in these essays on the Psalms. He is no Biblical expert, he says, but the commentaries of Biblical scholars often fail to consider the questions of the average reader of the Psalms, questions that Lewis himself has. So Lewis writes his own thoughts in hopes of "comparing notes" with other students like himself. Of course, as one goodreads reviewer has already pointed out, there are hardly other students like the brilliant Lewis.

How can someone who is a sinner hims
Paradigm shift is a word I despise mostly because of its misuse in modern language. Though, that is exactly what happened to me with Psalms after I read the book. I finally saw them in their raw beauty. The anger, the rage, the love, it's all unmasked, not altered. Jewish poets were really something I must admit, and while reading the book it made me want to read the psalms more than the book. That's why I gave it 5 stars. This book actually encourages you to cope with the hard language and the ...more
Douglas Wilson
Glorious, but awful in parts.
Much good in here, but some things that might, for instance, cause Jeeves to raise an eyebrow. The first chapters cause the most furrowing of the brow - Lewis' understanding of how Scripture came to be emphasizes too much the role of man in writing (and thus human error and caprice) and too little of the Holy Spirit's guidance (incidently, I think Reformed Christians sometimes make the opposite error - emphasizing the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of any human medium). I think Lewis always did be ...more
Joseph R.
This book has a refreshing honesty and candor. Lewis immediately states that this writing is not scholarly, definitive, or all-encompassing. He writes as one simple Christian to another, seeking a better understanding by pondering problems he has discovered and sharing insights he has gained while reading the Psalms.

Lewis writes about a variety of topics in the Psalms that strike him as significant. First, he notes the difference in the Psalms's presentation of divine judgment and the Christian'
Some chapters were really good most were just average.

The two chapters to be sure and read are:

"A Word about Praising"

This quote is worth the price of the book, however:

"I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise--lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, player praising
A very good approach, I think. Understanding the problems, world, and issues of the writers of the Psalms is key to understanding a lot of the troublesome parts of the Book (and any book, really, is better understood by knowing the context in which it was written). Lewis' comments on allegory and prefiguration were also welcome, as modern critical theory seems to deny the ability of seeing things on multiple levels at once. More is required to have a full understanding the work (I'm sure Lewis w ...more
John Martindale
I got little out of this work of Lewis the first time I read it several years ago, in fact it was my least favorite work of Lewis. I decided I ought to revisit the book now that I've matured a bit and I am glad I did. I appreciated Lewis' reflections on the Psalms, but most of all, in this short work, I was able to get a better glimpse of Lewis' approach to scripture and how he understands it to be the "Word of God".

When I originally read this, the good evangelical that I was, I wouldn't have b
Lots of good stuff in here. My favorite quote: "But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog's ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read."

And another: "I cannot be the only reader who has wondered why God, having given [St. Paul] so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition." Yes!

One more: "The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise
Ty Melgren
I read Psalms and Proverbs and Isaiah a lot because they're strange and good. So when Garon read some paragraphs from this in his sermon a few years ago I found this book and read it. The parts Garon read were the best parts. Also the bizarre final sentences: We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. "How he's grown!" we exclaim, "How time flies!" as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeate ...more
David Sarkies
Feb 20, 2014 David Sarkies rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to David by: My Dad
Shelves: christian
I would have to say that the thing that I appreciated the most about this book was that Lewis opened it by saying that he was not writing this book as a theologian, since by his own admission he is not a theologian, but rather that he is writing this book as a normal person, and even in saying that he is suggesting that he is not the colossus of English literature that he actually is. The second point is that in writing he actually writes in a very simply and easy to understand way indicating t ...more
Timothy Stone
When one begins reading the book Reflections on the Psalms, by CS Lewis, one reads the author's initial disclaimer that the book is not a serious work of theology. Lewis notes that it is his rambling ideas and personal “reflections” that he explored in his own private devotions. This is an important caution he gave his readers, as he knew that some may take his words for the best interpretation, and he feared that often this would be a spiritual error for them.

That said, he did have some experti
Rebekah Choat
Lewis opens the introductory chapter of this book with the statement that it is not a work of scholarship; but simply "the thoughts…to which I found myself driven in reading the Psalms." He then gives a brief history and analysis of the Psalms, the main point of which is that they are poems and must be read as such in order to be understood, followed by an explanation of the primary poetic characteristic of the Psalms – parallelism.
The next eight chapters address recurrent ideas or phra
Lewis the higher critic? Dare I say the heretic?? I kept hoping I would find one chapter in this book to embrace, but the entire volume turned out to be reflections of a C. S. Lewis I had not anticipated.

To his credit, Lewis introduces the book by stating that he is no scholar, no Hebraist, (he also says no higher critic, but that I take as a technicality since he certainly employs higher-critical reasoning throughout), but rather one unlearned writing for the unlearned. Of course the fact is t
C.S. Lewis was no Evangelical and it is for that we like him, even at his worst. Somehow, paradoxically Lewis can get me to like things I don't normally go for. Here I got a lot of questions I want to work through because of the issues he raises:

* "Judgment in the Psalms." I'm afraid this really knocked down total depravity as we often frame it. The Psalmist says, quite frankly, that "give sentence with me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the innocency that is in me" (7:8)
Jeri Massi
This book presents Lewis about as far as he gets from the Fundamentalist interpretation of the Scripture. Lewis treats the Psalms much as he would treat any ancient text: with great respect but without any sense that they are more than an ancient text of the writings and songs of devout people who worship God but worship Him in a certain amount of ignorance.

First of all, for readers coming out of Fundamentalism, this is still a great book, because Lewis definitely knows the Psalms that he is dis
Seth Holler
Above all, this book takes an honest look at some hard questions. Some Christians doubtless call it blasphemy rather than honesty. My childhood pastor, from whom I learned so much, and who almost always championed CSL, didn't care for this book. He probably thought it irreverent, particularly the first three and final three chapters.

Honesty notwithstanding, REFLECTIONS is not my favorite of Lewis's books. Odd thing: my favorite CSL books were published in the late 1930s and early 1940s. THE DISC
I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars . . . this is totally not what I expected from Lewis. There are parts that are beautifully said as only Lewis can say, lovely observations about the quality of the Psalms that someone with a history in literature makes the best.

And then there are parts that are weird and totally unexpected . . . like his apparent separation of "Jewish" from "Christian" throughout the book, as though they were completely separate "religions," not something I would expect from someo
Zack Mollhagen
Let me start off by saying how much I absolutely love C.S. Lewis. He is arguably my favorite author of all time. However, this may be my least favorite “book” of his. I use the term book loosely because of how much it reads like an essay. I think that is perhaps why it is my least favorite of his works. It definitely has a treasury of valuable information like all of Lewis’ works. It offers perspectives and explanations on multiple aspects found within the psalms, which is fitting since they are ...more
Lewis introduces the book by saying he is not presenting himself as a teacher of the Psalms, but as a novice student sharing his thoughts with fellow novice students. Thus, the things that trouble him about the Psalms may trouble other novices, whereas the experts have long since moved past them and perceive far different things that warrant our attention. This proved quite true in my case where many of the things that trouble Lewis, also trouble me. I found his reflections helpful and insightfu ...more
Not real impressed with this one. Difficult to read. Perhaps I had faulty expectations for what the book would be; it is not devotional. It is more topical / theological / how to read the Psalms. Lewis does make some valuable observations, however.
Not my favorite of C.S. Lewis but chapter 9 is worth the book. His thoughts on praising God were exactly what I have wrestled with and needed.
Adam Shields
Book Review: Reflections on the Psalms by CS Lewis - I picked it up in part because it is only $2.24 on kindle. But it is a good introduction to the Psalms both as a book of prayers that have been used by Christians to pray for generations and as biblical literature. Lewis was a professor of literature, so bought a pretty sophisticated (but readable) background to what for most Christians is just a book of poetry and nice sayings.

My full review is on my blog at
My temptation is to say the book is brilliant and be done with it. But how does that particular superlative assist the individual? We each of us carry a history of emotions and experiences which bestow a unique and peculiar tint upon a word like 'brilliant'. How do you know what I mean?

So to clarify 'brilliant': The Reflections on the Psalms is generous, judicious, merciful, loving, thoughtful, sweet, and sad. Each chapter is illuminated by the radiant ability of Lewis, when he is at his best, t
Derek Winterburn
The key to this book is in the Introduction 'I write to the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself.' This of course might be a warning sign - 'don't read any further!' Not in this case.

Of course Lewis was far from unlearned, he just was not a professional theologian. Instead he brought his intellect to the psalms as a careful reader and pray-er. He asks questions from the point of someone not dazzled by Hebrew or antiquity: 'What does it mean for me to say this?' 'Would I even li
Steve Watson
So I was on my way to a two or three star review before the final three chapters. Lewis' reflections on the psalms' themes were sometimes stirring and insightful, but also stuffy, from my perspective, and marked by other limitations of his era, including some (maybe) borderline anti-Semitism.

But then I read the final three chapters on double meanings in literature, on scripture itself, and on reading the psalms in light of Jesus' reading of them. Those sections are six stars!

"The human qualities
Emma Lavern
This is a good book for anyone, and for anyone who has difficulty reading the conflicting -- and often contradicting -- voices in Psalms, and understanding Psalms as it is a literary asset to our lives.

As a master of literary criticism, C.S. Lewis starts by first saying Psalms is a compilation of poems; and since the book is written as poetry, it needs to be read as poetry rather than as a doctrinal essay (or epistle) for meaning to make its appearance to the reader. For if we read it as an ess
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CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than th ...more
More about C.S. Lewis...
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

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“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” 29 likes
“Lead us not into temptation' often means, among other things, 'Deny me those gratifying invitations, those highly interesting contacts, that participation in the brilliant movements of our age, which I so often, at such risk, desire.'
Reflections on the Psalms, ch 7
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