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Putting the Brakes on Poetic License
By Ronald Gallagher
CHURCH DIRECTORY

Church message imageI love Christian music. Or perhaps I should have said I love most Christian music. Music is a language all its own, and adjustments are often considered necessary to keep the message within the constraints that musical expression requires. Those adjustments are referred to as "poetic license,” and sometimes they can be problematic.

Poetic license purportedly grants the artist extensive freedom to change things in order to present the original version in a different context. For instance, comparing a novel to Hollywood’s version of the story might cause you to wonder if the producers read the same book. Characters you thought you knew from the book might emerge on the big screen totally differently. Scenes you enjoyed in the book may be missing entirely, and by the time a Hollywood producer gets done with your iconic male hero, he might be a seductive blonde female. Some changes can be inconsequential, but others are not. Unfortunately, only those who read the original are likely to notice--or care.

Our cultural proclivity for applying poetic license has made us complacent with it, and that can be hazardous when the original is uniquely authoritative. Poetic license can result in changes that damage, obscure, or totally sabotage the original author’s intent. The Christian music I referred to earlier has more than a few examples, and we’ll get to one in particular, but first let’s consider a vitally significant statement that the Bible makes of itself.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

The term "inspiration” literally means that the Scriptures were "God breathed,” i.e., that the words themselves proceeded from the mouth of God. The authority and trustworthiness of the inspired words rested upon the fact that they came from God and were thus immutable and eternal and not subject to alteration. No latitude or "license” to change them, poetic or otherwise, was ever allowed. Peter described it this way:

...knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV)

But what about those who would hear those inspired words and then decide to proclaim them to others? While God offers incredible blessings for dispensing them, there are also serious responsibilities. Would-be proclaimers of God’s truth were warned that their work would be judged according to a higher standard because of the influence their words could have on others.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1 (NKJV)

Given the devil’s tendency to use deception and subterfuge, it isn’t surprising that the most dangerous threat confronted by the early Church didn’t come from the outside. The worst problems were created by those who claimed to be followers of Jesus, but who presented perverted interpretations and pagan philosophies in place of the Word of God. Most false teaching was intentional, but sometimes even well-meaning believers inadvertently misrepresent God’s truth, and we must be vigilant.

For example, there’s an idea that I’ve heard in Christian praise songs lately where the singer is praising Jesus for having taken all our wrongs and made them right. That may sound good, but it’s inaccurate and reveals a troubling tendency to do what God will never do. Many of us easily reclassify things that are unacceptable, sometimes illegal, from wrong into right. The premeditated murder of innocent unborn babies, for instance, has now been proclaimed as not just "right,” but a Constitutionally protected "human right.” And prostitution has been deemed "wrong” in America since before our founding, but now some states have declared that it’s a "victimless” act and sex-for-pay is now an approved "industry.” Apparently the fact that this "industry” enslaves untold thousands, destroys relationships, and helps to condemn souls to an eternity without hope doesn’t matter. Misguided and foolish legislators decided that what is wrong and criminal on so many levels is now considered neither.

Things that God has judged to be wrong are forever wrong and cannot be made right. Jesus didn’t endure the cross to make wrong things right. He did it to take our history of wrongs away from us and accept them, along with their awful penalty, as His own. Jesus didn’t reclassify my wrong things into right. In His great love for each of us, He did something far better. He took them upon Himself and away from me forever. In their place, He gave me a new birth, a new identity, a clean and brand new record, and secured a forever future where wrongs don’t exist anymore because they’ve been cleansed and removed by His precious blood and will never be found again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In addition to being an active writer, speaker, teacher, and blogger, Ron Gallagher serves in a variety of roles as a ministry consultant for local churches. His Biblical insights are coupled with down-to-earth humor, satire, and relevant stories aimed at promoting "Right Side Up Thinking ~ in an Upside Down World.” Ron strives to apply God’s truth in a way that stimulates the mind, encourages the heart, and challenges the cultural norm.  Check out his blog, "Gallagher’s Pen” at www.gallagherspen.com

NEW BOOK . . .Ron’s new book, Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth, is now available on Amazon and through Lighthouse Bible Studies. Learn more at http://bit.ly/2IDsNpB
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