The final session of the Where Are the Psalms? Conference was presented by Robby Bell, professor of counseling at Erskine Seminary. I took so many notes during this session that I’ve divided them into two posts.

In a conference that was rich on every front, this session probably impacted me the most, especially considering what Prof. Bell has gone through in the past couple of years. His session was entitled, Lament for a Wounded Faith.

  • No fitting words or means of transition from where we are to where we want to be are found in many churches.
  • One of the significant weaknesses in the American church is our inability to address hard times.
  • American Christianity is dying from a case of shallowness. – Hughes Oliphant Old
  • Christian Liturgy without lament becomes anorexic.
  • There’s no place in our worship for the expression of anguish or pain.
  • We don’t take Galatians 6.1-2 seriously.
  • The modern church demands that those who are mourning abandon them for the triumphant songs of Zion.
  • Christians turn into the tormentors of Psalm 137(!), demanding that the wounded sing happy songs.
  • The only help we can bring is “happy ease.”
  • In recent hymnals, among those that even include psalms to begin with, 75% of the omitted psalms have been psalms of lament.
  • We praise God for stability and the status quo.
  • More than half of the Psalms include lament.
  • Not a single text in the New Testament forbids lamenting. – K. Westerlund
  • Faith as trust & questioning vs. faith that is unquestioning. Which is more biblical?
  • Without lament, we truncate the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.
  • 1 Peter 4.12-13
  • We must teach our children how to lament.
  • The life of faith is an ongoing task – we don’t let people ask the questions.
  • Lamenting is a faith opportunity.
  • Lamenting involves us in the process of covenanting.
  • Can God be addressed in risky ways?
  • Lament is a cry over a relationship in process.
  • Does the absence of lament signal that we really don’t want to know God?
  • Lamentation is more than catharsis – getting things off our chests.
  • Recognition of God’s sovereignty isn’t resignation.
  • Lament is messy business.
  • When the option of lament is removed, we cannot express ourselves to God nor receive the formative character of lamentation.
  • Lament challenges every theology of guaranteed safety.
  • Lamenting involves risk. – Elllington
    1. Losing or turning loose the status quo.
    2. Newness. Should newness fail to materialize, the worshiper faces a death without meaning.
  • Caution: Be careful to insist that one must contend with God.
  • Lament is not an end in itself. – Sorrow leads to comfort and lament leads to praise.
  • There is a clear distinction between lament and grumbling.
    • Lament is truly seeking, asking and knocking.
    • Lament is a passion to ask, rather than rant and rave.
    • Lament moves toward God.
  • Why is it absent?
    1. Influence – we are too successful.
    2. Apathy – we don’t want God’s response.
  • Praise and Worship songs detatch God’s attributes from his acts. – Cornelius Plantinga
  • Theological astigmatism – happy texts or choruses alone render an incomplete view of God.
  • When we lament, we must be specific as to what we are lamenting.
  • Laments never end on the loss but on God. – Bruggemann

Post filed under General Christian Worship, Music, Psalms and tagged .

One Comment

  1. Eric,

    Good stuff. This is a great analysis on lament and where the church falls short. I would love to see a 3rd post on ideas on how this plays out practically in our lives and churches. We live in a world where we are expected to stand on our own… especially for men… often not even getting to know one another because we are afraid they find out something about us or simply because we like our privacy. How (as the church) to we reach out to those who are lamenting or help them find a path for lamenting? How can we be Biblical examples to the people around us?


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