C.S. Lewis’ humility in reflecting upon the Psalms

“Reflections on the Psalms” cover

This is not a work of scholarship. I am no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archaeologist. I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself. If an excuse is needed (and perhaps it is) for writing such a book, my excuse would be something like this. It often happens that two schoolboys can solve difficulties in their work for one another better than the master can. When you took the problem to a master, as we all remember, he was very likely to explain what you understood already, to add a great deal of information which you didn’t want, and say nothing at all about the thing that was puzzling you. I have watched this from both sides of the net; for when, as a teacher myself, I have tried to answer questions brought me by pupils, I have sometimes, after a minute, seen that expression settle down on their faces which assured me that they were suffering exactly the same frustration which I had suffered from my own teachers. The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago that he has forgotten. He sees the whole subject, by now, in such a different light that he cannot conceive what is really troubling the pupil; he sees a dozen other difficulties which ought to be troubling him but aren’t.

— C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1958, 1-2, emphasis mine.
Agree/disagree on the value of the fellow-pupil over the master in your academic context, in learning the practice of prayer, in reflecting upon the Psalms with another amateur (relates to Mike’s series on Evangelical approaches to Bible study)?
Note: Quote drawn from a conversation on “How do we learn how to pray?” in Theology & The Practice of Prayer (Summer 2012, Evangelical). What is the greatest challenge facing the church today? (07/02/2012) also inspired by this class.
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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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One Comment

  • drandrewwalsh@gmail.com'
    Andy Walsh commented on July 12, 2012 Reply

    My mom, a 1st grade teacher, has always felt a bit uneasy about the fact that when her students struggle with math, she doesn’t have many alternative techniques for trying to teach the material. For her (and, I imagine, many other adults) arithmetic has become second nature, and she no longer has any concept of how she learned it. That seems like a similar phenomenon to what Lewis describes here.

    In a completely different direction, I remember when I was visiting undergraduate programs, a lot of emphasis was put on the amount of instruction provided by faculty versus TAs. Several school representatives made of point of emphasizing the amount of teaching done by the faculty. In light of this comment, and having had a couple of classes with professors who were brilliant researchers but mediocre lecturers, I wonder if perhaps that distinction wasn’t as crucial as it was made to seem.

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