Walter Brueggemann and the Psalms

Over the past semester, I have been working on a research paper for the Augustinian Honor’s Collegium at Boyce College. My paper is a study of Walter Brueggemann and his work on the Psalms, where I’ve taken a dive into the plethora of books Brueggemann has written concerning the Psalter and its importance in the Christian life. Though I do not agree with everything that Brueggemann has to say, I do believe he is an important and much-needed voice within the Christian community.

This past Sunday, Lydia and I were on our way to Sojourn (our church community in Louisville) and happened to drive past a church sign that said, “This Morning’s Proclaimer: Walter Brueggemann.” I think I made Lydia jump because I flipped out when I saw the sign! After spending a whole semester writing a research paper over Brueggemann, here he was about to preach at a church nearby us!

Thankfully, he was preaching at every service that morning so we were still able to go to Sojourn. After the Sojourn service, we drove over to the church where Brueggemann was preaching and were able to listen to him speak.

It’s finals week here at Boyce, so today’s blog post is just an excerpt from my paper because my brain is too busy trying to hold in all of the Greek we’ve learned over the past 2 semesters!

Enjoy, friends!

Brueggemann’s view of Scripture is intertwined with the idea that the God of the Bible is a God who dangerously enters into covenant with a broken, sinful humanity. In other words, God takes the risk of involving himself in the messy affairs of man. He freely chooses to set his love and affection on the people of Israel, as well as the rest of the world (Gen. 22:17). Thus, Brueggemann sees the Psalms as a collection of  covenantal interactions between God and broken humanity. The Psalms “offer speech when life has gone beyond our frail efforts of control (7; Praying the Psalms).” These covenantal interactions between God and man have proven themselves worthy of the community’s usage, not only because they are God-breathed, but because “the words are known to be adequate and because we have no better words to utter (33; The Psalms and the Life of Faith).” Lest anyone think that Brueggemann has a low view of Scripture, he states on many different accounts that the Psalter is grounded in God’s self-revelation.[1] One of Brueggemann’s deep convictions is that Yahweh is sovereign over the circumstances of all humanity and works good out of any situation.[2] N.T. Wright, a leading New Testament Scholar and professor, furthers this line of thinking about the Psalms by saying, “I think part of the point [of the Psalms] is that they are truthful, the sincere outpourings of who and what the worshipper actually is (29; The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential. 2013).” The Psalms are liturgy, the work of the people. They bring human experience to expression before the God who listens and acts. They are extremely essential to the Christian Community, offering deeply Biblical ways of freely expressing the heart in the midst of suffering, as well as guiding the Community’s praise and adoration of God.[3]

[1] Brueggemann, Walter. The Psalms and the Life of Faith. Fortress Press. 1995: 45-46.

[2] Brueggemann, Walter. The Psalms and the Life of Faith. Fortress Press. 1995: 77.

[3] Brueggemann, Walter. The Psalms and the Life of Faith. Fortress Press. 1995: 27-28.


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