Throughout his years as a leader of the Reformation, John Calvin had a special interest in the proprieties of prayer. This interest climaxed in his formulation of four basic rules for proper prayer, rules that he applied in his extensive commentary on the book of Psalms, which dominated his last several years.
Calvin was especially interested in the psalms associated with David, particularly the complaint psalms. He sensed an unusual personal affinity with David, who as king faced many situations that seemed to parallel his own less authoritative but very powerful role in Geneva. He was, however, quite critical of the psalm prayers that he found to be in violation of his rules. Riemann analyzes Calvin's criticism and offers a reevaluation of the complaint psalms in themselves.
Riemann finds the complaint psalms to have been misunderstood not only by Calvin but by many present-day commentators, who likewise find these psalms to only echo their own piety. Riemann demonstrates the risks of abstracting elements from someone else's piety and appropriating them for ourselves. He asserts that rather the complaint psalms can help us learn how to think about the humanity of God and become proper pray-ers ourselves.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"One of the best biblical interpreters of his generation, Paul Riemann has delved deeply into John Calvin's interpretation of the Psalms. The result is a captivating analysis of the significant differences between Calvin's reading and what actually takes place in the Psalms. Readers of this penetrating study of Calvin will have new and useful tools for interpreting both Calvin's theology and the Psalms." --Patrick Miller, author of Stewards of the Mysteries of God: Preaching the Old Testament--and the New
"There is a strange alienation between the oddity of biblical testimony and the requirements of established ecclesial tradition that seems tempted to reductionism and closure. Riemann shows Calvin is exactly a paradigmatic figure in that strange alienation . . . but he demonstrates that Calvin's preferred way is exceedingly difficult in the face of textual testimony. It will be important, after Riemann's remarkable study, to continue to assess the enduring losses and liabilities that have come in the wake of Calvin's work. Riemann's study invites us to consider the alternative piety of the Psalms that dissents from that of Calvin and from much of the conventional ecclesial tradition." --From the Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, author of Praying the Psalms, Second Edition
Paul A. Riemann Walter Brueggemann
Paul Riemann taught Old Testament at Harvard University and at Drew University. His special interest has been the psalms of complaint and the proper nature of prayer. Riemann and his wife now live alongside Burnham Cove in Maine.