Michael Horton and the imprecatory psalms

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Before I post the below quotation, allow me to say that I really enjoyed Professor Horton's book (notwithstanding some obvious doctrinal differences); but I would be intrigued to see how PB members respond to his comments on the cursing psalms:

The imprecatory Psalms, invoking God's judgment on enemies, are appropriate on the lips of David and the martyrs in heaven. However, they are entirely out of place on the lips of Christians today, guided as we are not by the ethics of intrusion but by the ethics of common grace. Therefore, moderns are wrong for dismissing such episodes as immoral, and fundamentalists are wrong for invoking them as if they were in effect during this intermission between Christ's two advents.

Michael Horton, The Christian faith: a systematic theology for pilgrims on the way (Grand Rapids, 2011), pp 961-2.

What do you make of this quote? If the cursing psalms should never be on a Christians lips, does that also mean that we should never read or sing them? Moreover, are you aware of any critiques of Professor Horton on this point?
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
I wonder if he deals with Revelation 6:10.

"And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Before I post the below quotation, allow me to say that I really enjoyed Professor Horton's book (notwithstanding some obvious doctrinal differences); but I would be intrigued to see how PB members respond to his comments on the cursing psalms:

The imprecatory Psalms, invoking God's judgment on enemies, are appropriate on the lips of David and the martyrs in heaven. However, they are entirely out of place on the lips of Christians today, guided as we are not by the ethics of intrusion but by the ethics of common grace. Therefore, moderns are wrong for dismissing such episodes as immoral, and fundamentalists are wrong for invoking them as if they were in effect during this intermission between Christ's two advents.

Michael Horton, The Christian faith: a systematic theology for pilgrims on the way (Grand Rapids, 2011), pp 961-2.

What do you make of this quote? If the cursing psalms should never be on a Christians lips, does that also mean that we should never read or sing them? Moreover, are you aware of any critiques of Professor Horton on this point?

He is straightforwardly applying Kline's intrusion ethic to the Psalms here. I'm not aware of any works which specifically deal with a critique of such application, but I think you'd generally find what you're looking for in the responses to Kline's intrusion ethic more generally.

While VictorBravo's point is a good one, I'm sure that it would be interpreted by an intrusion ethicist easily by saying that Revelation is depicting the heavenly ethic in a heavenly setting, not the cries of saints living yet in a common grace kingdom. I might start by pointing to where the Apostles invoke Psalm 2 in their prayers when persecuted in Jerusalem (Acts 4). I think it is pretty clear that they are calling upon Christ to subject the rulers and elders to the word of grace or his iron rod.

This also highlights how the intrusion ethic perspective renders the vast majority of the Old Testament inapplicable to contemporary believers, excepting a tertiary application of the conclusions of redemptive history.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
In line with what Bryan noted , in Horton you are simply reading a republication (pun intended) of Kline's intrusion ethics. If you are looking for a specific withering critique of Kline's intrusion ethic, see Dr. Bahnsen's work "By No Other Standard" (I believe that is the correct title).
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
That would appear to make sense; the problems with this view are basically identical with the problems associated with intrusion ethics; hence any refutation of intrusion ethics is adequate to refute the criticism of contemporary usage of the imprecatory psalms. Thanks.
 
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