Hershael York on the importance, the existence, and the denial of authorial intent

Communication is successful only when the receptor accurately decodes the signal and comprehends the meaning that the source intended.

Modern theories of art and literature have attempted to remove the source from the equation entirely. For centureis people read a book or looked at a painting and asked themselves what the author or artist was trying to convey. The big question was, “What does it mean?” But for the past century, things have shifted. Literary and art critics think that the source is irrelevent. Now the question has become, “What does it mean to you?” Some have gone beyond claiming the irrelevance of understanding the source’s intent. They actually claim the impossibility of knowing the author’s intnent. Preachers who believe that are left to preach their own opinions and the felt needs of their listeners, hoping to strike a chord that resonates in their hearts and helps them cope with life.

But common expereience tells us that we can know an author’s intent. That is why we sign mortgage contracts and leave wills for our heirs and put instructions on a shampoo bottle! Words have agreed upon meanings. Communication is possible. One human being really can know what another person means. All that is neessary is that they use mutually understood signals in their shared space…

Our goal, therefore, is to preach so that our listeners hear and perceive the same message that God originally gave [in Scripture]. And to the degree that we faithfully preach the text, we speak God’s words.

Hershael York, Preaching with Bold Assurance, p. 137-138

About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
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