Friday, January 14, 2011

The Feeling and The Meaning

It all started the other night as I was making my way up to Belfast from Enniskillen. To aid my journey, I listened to two cds by The Feeling. Their quirky tunes, unusual lyrics and high energy songs made the trip seem fairly short. As I was listening to one of their songs, I finally realised (having heard it many times before) that it wasn't being sung to a girl called Rosie, but was rather a song to Rosé wine:

When I got home, I mentioned this on Twitter, which was found to be funny by some people, sparking a discussion on mishearing lyrics and making up your own lyrics. It was then that one of my friends made the following statement:

Art is never up for interpretation. None but that of the artist's.

In terms of art, I'm not sure if I would agree. After all, each of us can have differing reactions to a piece of art/music/literature; sometimes in line with what the artist intended, but not always necessarily so. Indeed, our reactions can add to the contribution of the art.

The other problem with that, though, is that you can't always know what the author was intending. Maybe it is my case of misheard lyrics; or the art being a complete mystery - I find most modern art unintelligible. Ideally, in order to hear what the artist is saying, we need an explanation by the artist.

It got me thinking, though, on our approach to the Bible. Many people would fall in the take what you will from it camp, so that the Bible can mean anything to you, whether it's close to the original intention or not. In this approach, the Bible becomes a launchpad for your own feelings, thoughts, emotions and directions, whether or not they are legitimate or 'biblical'.

Rather, as Christians, and particularly Bible teachers and preachers, we want to know the author's intention, so that we communicate the vital and essential message of the Bible, text by text and passage by passage. And not just the human author's intention either, remembering that men spoke by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), so that the urgent question as we come to Scripture is: what is God saying in this section of his word?

To trifle with fancies and blind alleys of our own interpretations is dangerous and useless. To hear and understand the intention of the Author is the key to all our studies, meditation, and teaching. To do it, though, requires our effort and the help of the Spirit. Nothing else is good enough.

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