Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bob Dylan on the Imputation of Adam’s Sin

 

Temptation's not an easy thing,
 Adam given the devil reign
 Because he sinned I got no choice,
 It run in my vein

Pressing On        Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music

 
The Christian Doctrine of the Imputation of Adam’s Sin is not an easy one for Americans to swallow.  Now you’re telling me that simply because Adam sinned, I am guilty of it and I am in some kind of bondage to sin?  That doesn’t sound fair.  God wouldn’t do that to me.   He wouldn’t punish me for the sins of another…. would He?

But this doctrine, which seems to have fallen on hard times, it was once the popular and only one for the early British Americans known as the Puritans.  The New-England Primer, one of the first books printed in America in 1687 was the first reading primer designed for the American Colonies.  They used this little book to teach children the Alphabet by creating catchy rhymes to help children to remember each letter.  The first letter in the alphabet is A, so they thought they should begin with a foundational truth about Adam.  These early American Puritan children were taught to define the "self" by relating their life to the authority of God and His Word.



In Adam's fall
We Sinned all.
 
 
When you think about it, this idea of Federalism, i.e. that your Federal Head commits a sin and you bear the consequences, happens all the time.   When the leader of Iran, for example, makes a poor choice about developing an atomic weapon and the world responds with sanctions, suddenly all the people of Iran begin to suffer for the choice of the one.   Or if your parent is an alcoholic or addicted to gambling, the children will bear the consequences of no longer having a parent around or of not having any money left after the incessant gambling squanders away all that the family has to live on.

Now this word “imputation” is a bit hard to understand.  The dictionary tells us to impute, is to “ascribe or attribute to a source or cause” usually in a legal context.   We might use the word "transmission" instead of "imputation" if it is easier for us to understand this legal terminology common used by Reformed theologians.
But the theologians chose this legal word to connect it to the strong analogy made by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12-21 between the work of Adam and of Christ and the Christian's relationship to each.

All of humanity stands with Adam as their representation to the extent that both his guilt and his corruption are imputed to them.   And similarly those who stand with Christ as their representative receive both His forgiveness and His righteousness by imputation.
The biblical position is that in Adam's sin, humanity was constituted sinners in the same manner that the elect are constituted as righteous – so we see this parallelism between Adam and Christ again.

As Paul puts it in another place (1 Corinthians 15:22) “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 
Now there is another main theory on these matters and that is called Pelagianism.  It is named after the British Monk Pelagius (354-440 AD).  It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special Divine aid.   While few know the name of this belief,  Pelagianism is very popular in the world today, but it is a very hard doctrine to square with what the Bible says.   See for example Jeremiah 17:9   

"The heart is deceitful above all things, 
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?"

Or Gen 6:5

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

Only.... evil.... continually?, This is a pretty bad situation.  The human heart is clearly tainted

It is also very hard to square Pelagianism with a casual observation of the daily news, or the world around us.  In fact the doctrine of Original Sin is pretty easy to believe when you look reality squaely in the eye.   This biblical teaching is probably one of the best attested doctrines.   Look around for a minute or two and you will see human depravity almost every where you turn.   It is pretty clear to any honest observer; that there is something desperately wrong with human nature.  It is clear that sin has tainted human nature, so that it is no longer what it once was, and now one of the deepest longings of our hearts is to get back to that original place.

It was for this reason that James Madison, the father of the American Constitution, and student in his college days of the Presbyterian Minister John Witherspoon, wrote in Federalist 51, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."   So the American system of representative government is built upon this fundamental premise, the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin.

To get clarity on this difficult subject, we need more easy rhymes like the Puritans used:
“In Adam’s Fall, We sinned All.”

Or like we find in some of Bob Dylan’s songs:
Well, God is in His heaven
And we all want what’s His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is


Blind Willie McTell       Copyright © 1983 by Special Rider Music

For a really great version of Pressing On, Click the Link below to hear Dylan's poetic description of Original Sin and the difficult, but fundamentally important doctrine of the Imputation of Adam's Sin.

Pressing On by Liam and Glen Dublin 2011

Doug

Saturday, January 11, 2014

“How Long Can you Falsify and Deny What is Real?” When He Returns, Bob Dylan 1979


If Bob Dylan can release a great song like Dreaming of You over 11 years after he wrote it, than I guess I can dig up an old book review from about five years back and post it. 

Seth Rogovoy’s new book, Bob Dylan Prophet, Mystic, Poet is an admirable piece of work in many ways.  By reading its pages even the most devout Dylan fan is bound to learn many new things about Bob Dylan’s amazing life story and endless connections and influences upon Bob Dylan, America‘s preeminent singer songwriter who is estimated to have written 1,500 complete songs. Rogovoy’s love, even self confessed “obsession”[i] with the subject matter (i.e. Bob Dylan) is everywhere apparent and can be seen by the great attention he pays to every possible detail from most obscure liner notes to the most obtuse rumors.  All of this are tell-tale signs of the serious and difficult labors that went into this work.  However, it is this same obsession with the subject matter that seems to be its undoing -- as the obsession causes this book to be fundamentally flawed, and at times….. almost completely undermined.
Because Seth holds Bob Dylan in such high esteem –there are places in the book where he seems to regard him as of equal stature as the Biblical (that would be “canonical” for Seth) prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel -- he simply cannot accept the notion that Dylan might have truly converted to New Testament Christianity.  To do so in Seth’s mind would be to completely turn ones back on one’s upbringing, one’s culture, one’s friends, one’s faith and one’s family.   In Seth’s world, to become a New Testament Christian is the ultimate sacrilege and if Seth can find some way to interpret the data to hold open the possibility that Dylan has not completely gone over to the dark side (i.e. born again Christianity) then he is going to try to do it. 

But Seth, get over it!  He’s gone over!  And Seth, until you are willing to acknowledge that Bob Dylan has gone over – then we simply can’t trust you to be an honest interpreter.  We can’t regard you as an honest broker of the truth, until you are willing to do this simple, so self evident thing, then we just simply can’t believe you.  As Dylan cried out in the Royal Albert Hall in 1966 between songs when somebody from the audience yelled "Judas" and Dylan responds.... "I don't believe you!"  …..”

I have a friend who is Jewish and he is the one who told me about the promotional book tour that Seth was beginning at a local Jewish cultural center.   I had read many good articles by Seth in the past and esteemed him highly as a Dylan interpreter, so of course I wanted to go.  It turned out that Seth had obtained some advance copies of his book prior to its official release and he made these autographed copies available on this, his very first stop, of his fall book tour.  Both my friend and I purchased copies of the book that night and began reading them together.  We would see each other weekly as our children took tennis lessons together with the same coach throughout the winter season.  So each week we would be able to debrief and compare notes with each other out on the courts as we compared how the reading was going.

Now my Jewish friend told me that he was a slow reader, but I am a super slow reader.  I have always wanted to get that book entitled How to Read a Book Slowly but because I read so slowly, I have never had time to get around to it.  I can’t read a book unless I have a pen in my hand, and I use the pen extensively as I read.  I never fail to consult a footnote when it is presented before me.  So as my Jewish friend and I are working our way though the book my friend is starting to get a head of me.  He starts telling me things like “Oh you are not going to like this next chapter.”  “Why not,” I ask?  “Because of what he says when he is interpreting the Christian era, Oh No!  You are not going to like it at all.”  As the weeks move on, he moves on through the Christian era, while I am still working through the Rolling Thunder years while he heads on into the album called Infidels.

Now when I see my friend the next time, his countenance has dropped when he sees me.  “Oh this is really getting bad, it’s getting embarrassing.  You are not going to believe what he does with the song Man of Peace.”  Now this is really starting to peak my curiosity, but I am a disciplined reader, so I am simply not going to skip ahead -- even if strongly tempted by these sorts of provocations.  As a bit of an aside here, to get some background on the song Man of Peace, and Dylan’s understanding, at this period of the Antichrist figure in the bible, I recommend the linked “between song rap” at Massy Hall in Toronto, in April 20, 1980.  Here he says Adolf Hitler is a "preview" of the Antichrist figure and "he is going to bring peace to the world."

But the fact that even my Jewish friend found Seth’s interpretation of the Christian era so difficult to swallow, I think is very telling.  I set now before the reader my Jewish friend as exhibit A that I am not exaggerating when I say that Seth has almost completely undermined his good book.  And this is a shame, because as I have said, this book is a good work.  It just needs about 10 or 20 pages to be cut out because they are so incredibly far-fetched.

Sure it is a little bit more than annoying to always be seeing the italicized phrase in Seth’s book about Dylan’s “so called Christian period,” but I willing to cut him some slack on that.  But when Seth comes out and says things like the following, I just have to draw the line:

When I told people I was writing a Jewish biography of Bob Dylan, the question I was asked was:  “Isn’t he still a born-again Christian?”  To which I always replied “Who knows?”  Indeed who knows?  And in any case, it’s beside the point.  This book sets out to make no claims about Bob Dylan’s past or present religious beliefs or self-identification.

Now I am sorry Seth -- but who are you kidding!  Your whole purpose is obviously to point out Bob Dylan’s large indebtedness to his association with, and by extension, his personal beliefs in Judaism.  And you do a good job of it.  You accomplished your goal of digging deeply into the unique socio-cultural context in Duluth and Hibbing, where he was raised in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  But an honest reader will recognize that it is also very clear that part of your agenda in this book is to cast some serious doubt upon the idea that Dylan still is a “born again Christian” ………  as everyone keeps on reminding you.

And almost as if designed to blow up the thesis, just as Seth’s book is coming out in the fall of 2009, Dylan releases a Christmas album!  That really had to hurt.  And then when several reviewers of the Christmas album notice that Dylan is singing the Christian Hymns in complete seriousness like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” they are prompted to ask Dylan if he is signing these Hymns as a true believer in the Christian gospel (the Christian gospel is the good news described in the hymn as “the hopes and fears of all the years”).  To which Dylan replies in a promotional piece for public consumption, “I am a true believer.”   Then add to this that Dylan is at this same time beginning to open his fall tours with the song Change my way of Thinkin’ where he is proclaiming in very clear, not to be misunderstood language:  “Jesus is Coming, Coming back to gather his Jewels.”  This is certainly not anything your typical Jewish believer would ever be willing to confess.  To proclaim this message one has to have gone over… to have done the unspeakable…..to have become….a Christian.
I applaud the way the early life of the Zimmerman family in Hibbing are described in much more elaborate detail in Seth’s book than in any of the other many biographies, and this is great.  Seth has done a fine service here in unearthing unique information about the Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin, his mother’s family’s connections to the movie theaters in Hibbing, the Yiddish family connections, all of the this is great stuff.   He has done the work of a true historian here and given us a lot of texture to help us understand and begin to imagine the Bob Dylan boyhood.  Too bad we have to revoke Seth’s credentials as a true historian a little later in the book.

But let’s get right to that section in the book where Seth goes so seriously off the rails.  The section that becomes really too much to take is the chapter eight entitled, “Burnt Offerings” and we going to be suggesting that this part of the book should be excised and actually become … a literal burnt offering.  Seth gives us a little taste of what it was like for him when “word first started leaking out in early 1979 that Bob Dylan had become a ‘born-again Christian.”  He says “this seemed the worst kind of betrayal” …it “came as a huge letdown” and for Jewish fans it was to “turn his back on the faith of his forefathers” and it was simply “intolerable.”  When things become intolerable in a tough family situation (say in the case of alcoholism or child or sexual abuse) the way that many attempt to deal with the intolerable is resort to denial.  Sadly, this is the road Seth has chosen to walk down.   How many roads can a man walk down? .....and pretend that he still doesn't see?
So early in this chapter Seth indicates how he is going to try to explain all of this away.  He informs us that we are about to see that this really “wasn’t as stark and religious –  certainly not as Christian – as it’s often been made out to be.”  So he is telling us that a work like as Slow Train Coming is not really “as Christian” as it appears to be.  Really?  Now this is going to be interesting!  He is warning us …to get strapped in… and buckle our seatbelts, for he is about to take us on a ride of some serious intellectual gymnastics.  If he can pull this one off it will be akin to a miracle (like turning wine into water) because even the producer of the album, Jerry Wexler, a fervent atheist, famously said of this album: "His material [in Slow Train Coming] turned out to be wall-to-wall Jesus," said Wexler, "but I didn't care: it could have been the telephone directory.”  Wexler didn’t give thought to the material because he felt so honored when Dylan asked him to produce the album.  As Jeff Cocran says in the online journal Like the Dew, “It turned out to be a huge success, reinvigorating Dylan’s career and introducing him to a whole new audience.  Although many fans were disappointed, mystified or just plain angry about Dylan’s conversion to Christianity, millions were delighted with his musical sermons.  The album went platinum in the U.S. and peaked at Number 3“[ii]and earned Bob Dylan his first Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

I am wondering where Seth’s reference to a book that I found to be so helpful during this period of time was, and that was Paul William’s 1979 Book: Bob Dylan: What Happened?  If you are going to cover this period of the Dylan story, you really need to read William’s amazing descriptions of what those very first born again concerts were like in San Francisco.  Paul went to all of them, described them in exquisite detail, and was absolutely blown away.

And where are the references to the documentary film of Joel Gilbert’s Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years, Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years: Busy Being Born… Again!, which feature extensive and insightful interviews with Bob Dylan’s Pastors at the Vineyard Fellowship in Southern California as well as Jerry Wexler the producer of the Slow Train Coming album and Mitch Glaser founding member of Jews for Jesus.  As Joel Gilbert describes putting this documentary DVD together:

Everyone I approached was willing to speak with me, except the major figures at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, which included founding Pastors Kenn Gulliksen, Bill Dwyer, and Larry Myers.  For four months, I worked on these potential interview subjects, but encountered resistance because of a policy in the late seventies to protect Dylan’s privacy so he could grow in his faith without press intrusion.  I found these pastors were still playing the same role in protecting Dylan’s privacy – there had been no reason for them to change that approach despite the passage of years.  It was only by assuring them that my project sought to explain the history and context of Dylan’s religious music vis a vis the times, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, the evangelical movement in the late 70’s, the born again experiences, Jews for Jesus, and so on that Pastor Bill Dwyer agreed to open up on the subject for the first time.  Pastor Dwyer explained that Dylan (who was a student in his Bible class), to his amazement, learned the Bible very quickly, and that his lyrics in “Slow Train Coming” displayed a fantastic grasp of the messages of the Bible.[iii]

This documentary by Joel Gilbert should have been consulted by Seth, because it provides the very helpful background details that are needed as one is piecing together the way the born again experience went down.  After viewing these materials it is easy to understand and appreciate the Christian albums as a sincere outgrowth of Dylan's own spiritual seeking.

Dylan’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as his personal savior was made known in Spring ‘79, soon after his conversion.   According to Clinton Heylin’s Behind The Shades, Dylan alluded to his faith in a pre-trial deposition to a defamation-of-character suit filed by Patty Valentine, regarding his song “Hurricane.” When asked about his wealth, Dylan replied, “You mean my treasure on earth?” He responded to a question about the identity of the song’s “fool” by describing that person as being whoever Satan gave power to….whoever was “blind to the truth and was living by his own truth.”  Five days later the deposition was reported in The Washington Post.  More statements of faith were on the way.

I was in the audience when Dylan returned to my home town, the always left leaning, Madison, WI, as a born again Christian and the Dane County Coliseum that Dylan which had always sold out for a Dylan concert in just a few days, was now only half filled.  I heard the boos and cat calls as Dylan persisted in his wall to wall Jesus proclamations, preaching and beautifully singing these exciting new songs.  I was an eye witness to the “Jews for Jesus” evangelists handing out religious information describing how one can be saved like Bob had been inside the Coliseum; it was obvious they were invited there by the artist himself.  I saw some older Dylan fans almost coming to blows with the evangelists when they presented them with the religious tracts.  I know what happened…because I was there and it was electrifying, both in the performance and the whole ambiance of the place, and  I know what price Dylan paid for his new found faith in the face of the shameless scoffers.  It is all well explained and described in the Bob Dylan song from a couple years later:  Dead Man, Dead Man.

But I digress.  I don’t think I need to go over the mountain of evidence that Dylan has plainly confessed to being a Christian in 1979 and that he continues to follow this road today, albeit a little less overtly.  If I went on, Seth won’t believe it anyway, even if I filled a thousand encyclopedias with the evidence.  As Dylan sings “for all those who have eyes, and all those who ears, It is only Him that can reduce me to tears.”   The Apostle Paul, himself a converted Jew, explains what it is like when you are given the eyes to see and the ears to hear the gospel, He says:
2 Corinthians 3:16   "But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."
 
At the time of this book, Seth’s mind was completely closed off to this possibility.   Can he cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?   It’s a shame because the rest of the book is a pretty good read.



[i] In the Acknowledgments on the final page of the book (p.298) before the Permission and index, Seth thanks his children for “sharing their father with an obsession and the need to work it out through the writing of a book.”
There is a great version of the song:  Slow Train Coming from a performance in Rotterdam, The Netherlands  September 19, 1987 at the following site:
 
 

Monday, November 18, 2013


It must be nice to hear something you wrote about 35 years ago suddenly rediscovered and sung by someone with the voice of an Angel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qadnY8p-Hi8

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Bob Dylan has Got Charles Darwin Trapped Out there on Highway 5


In Bob Dylan’s High Water (For Charley Patton) which was released on "Love And Theft" on Oct 19, 2001 there is a remarkable lyric that few have really taken notice of.   Let me quote here in context, to get it out in front of us:

Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew
 "You can't open your mind, boys

 To every conceivable point of view."

 They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway Five
 Judge says to the High Sheriff,

 "I want him dead or alive
 Either one, I don't care."

 High Water everywhere

George Lewis and Charles Darwin are some old bluesmen from the south right?  Friends of Blind Lemon Jefferson or something like that right?   No, I don’t think that is the reference.   He can’t be talking about Charles Darwin the English Naturalist, can he?  I mean this seems to be sort of a negative reference.   There was a time when Bob could warn about “Karl Marx having you by the throat and Henry Kissinger having you tied up into knots.”  But those days are long past for Bob, right?   Having Charles Darwin trapped out there on the highway and "wanted dead or alive?”   That is how we might talk about Billy the Kid or his outlaw sidekick Alias, but certainly not the distinguished English naturalist.
Dylan is not challenging the established orthodoxy of the university and the scientific culture of the Western World is he?  I mean if there is one thing that can’t be challenged in polite society in the twenty first century it has to be Charles Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.  Hopefully Dylan isn’t still so “born again” that he is questioning this, the unquestionable verity?  I mean Neo-Darwinian evolution is accepted at every level, from the grade school, to the high school, in the university, graduates schools, to institutions of research, to the Smithsonian.  Come on Doug, you are not about to suggest that Dylan would be willing to question this overwhelming consensus are you?  To question this is tantamount to questioning the cultures’ overriding understanding of reality, he couldn’t, he wouldn’t go there, would he?  That would make him a rebel, and Bob Dylan is such a nice man, only occasionally “Preachin’ the Word of God, Putting out your eyes.”

Dylan understands the larger implications of this scientific theory, the larger worldview implications that arise from it.  Every worldview must answer the question, What is the thing or the process from which everything else comes?  A materialist or naturalistic worldview answers that question with reference to matter and energy and strictly material processes.   So Darwin’s theory provides a critical plank in this larger materialistic narrative or theory of being.   Is Dylan, with just a couple of words in a song, trying to undermine the very foundation of this very comprehensive and strictly materialistic view of reality?  In a word  …. Yes.   He claims this theory has a limited future:
Oh it’s rush hour now
On the wheel and the plow
And the sun is going down
Upon the sacred cow


Dylan has been critical before of those who would come to a place in their lives where “all they believe is their eyes, and their eyes just tell them lies.”  There is so much more going on in the world than simply what can be seen with our eyes.   We can’t even see the wind, only its effects, but we "don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows."

The artist has been concerned with this issue for a long time.  Forty three years ago on the New Morning Album from 1970 there was the interesting song called Three Angels.  The artist is sitting on a park bench observing things near 10th Avenue,  presumably Manhattan, and he is noticing everybody failing to ask basic questions….
One U-Haul trailer, a truck with no wheels
The Tenth Avenue bus going west
The dogs and pigeons fly up and they flutter around
A man with a badge skips by
Three fellas crawlin’ on their way back to work
Nobody stops to ask why…


And as a result, they are missing out on something real going on in the unseen world, the world beyond

The angels play on their horns all day
The whole earth in progression seems to pass by
But does anyone hear the music they play
Does anyone even try?
These are great questions by a sensitive seeker of truth, “In this concrete world full of souls” who can hear the music played by the three angels that is being drowned out by the whole earth passing by in progression, totally oblivious to what is really going on.

There is a bio-ethicist at Princeton, Peter Singer who is an advocate of the radical animal rights agenda and the denial of any qualitative difference between animals and man.  He says that we are just catching up with Darwin and anyone who puts any kind of distinction between “us and them” is not following the theory consistently.  It follows from that to assert anything like human dignity simply has no ground on which to stand.  To stand up for human dignity is just a form of “specism” Peter Singer says.   And this naturalistic way of thinking has a way of bleeding into our understanding of the other disciplines, sociology, political science, jurisprudence.
But Dylan reminds us that this way of thinking is headed in a bad direction in the conclusion to his song Ring them Bells,

Oh the lines are long
And the fighting is strong
And they’re breaking down the distance
Between right and wrong


There is only a little distance between right and wrong when there is no distinction between man and the animals.  Tattooed my babies with a poison pen” i.e. murdering them, can be made to seem justified if the world is over populated and the gravest danger facing mankind is made out to be something as banal and commonplace as “climate change.”
 But Bob councils his friends,

"You can't open your mind, boys…….To every conceivable point of view."
You have to find some place to stand.   Maybe it should be on the “Solid Rock, made…. before… the creation of the World.”  Which is something to which "he won't let go, and he can't let go."

Doug

For a good live performance of this song, with some great harmonica work from July 27, 2011 visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48jd7a0PEMM

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bob Dylan is hanging in the balance, of a perfect finished plan

I have written on how from a theological perspective Bob Dylan has expressed some of the great truths of Reformational Theology, i.e. the Theology of the great Martin Luther or John Calvin when Dylan demonstrates for example, a sophisticated understanding of "the chosen few, who will judge the many, when the game is through."   Today I want to follow up on that thought with this important lyric change that is found in the following November 16, 2002 performance of a wonderfully reworked version of the masterpiece "Every Grain of Sand."  You can watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n39emlTMo8U

But before you do, consider with me the significance of the lyric change on the penultimate verse of this great tune.   The original release of the song in 1981 is "supposed" to concluded this way:

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man  * (this half couplet I am calling penultimate)
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand


This great song first appeared on the album Shot of Love and while the critics did not receive this album well, everybody had to acknowledge that this offerring, "Every Grain of Sand" stood apart and bore all the marks of a bona fide Dylan master stroke.

Now in the Boston Fleet Center performance of 2002 which I have provided a link to above, that second to last line of the song, has been significantly altered.   How do I know it has been altered?    You can check your lyrics at the official website of the artist at:

http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/every-grain-sand

Now what is the lyric change, and why do I think is so significant?   I have blogged about Dylan's trip to China where he was opening with Gonna Change my Way of Thinkin,' not the version from the original Slow Train Coming release in 1979, but the Alternate version, which is now also posted on the lyrics page on the official site, which was released on the Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan  album which received the official imprimatur of the artist by including one of his own contributions.  Here he was changing what used to be:  "I'm going to put my best foot forward"  to "I'm going to put my best friend forward."   It just one word Doug!  Why are you attaching so much significance to it?  Well we know that the artist doesn't do these things for no reason, so we have to try to determine what the reason is.  It seems pretty clear the artist is talking about a personal relationship with a friend that he wants to put forward.   No longer a foot.  But a friend.  Surely the friend that is referred to is the same reference as that described in scripture as "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother"  i.e. the Lord.

Permit me to comment on one more significant lyric change that I have been noticing in recent years on the well known, and frequently performed tune Tangled Up in Blue. The Song ends on the official site with:

But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

What I have been hearing in recent years is:  

But me, I'm still on the road
trying to stay out of the joint.....

What is the significance here?   Well in the original 1975 release of the song, there is a clever double entendre that references the artist's use of a certain popular hallucinogenic weed widely used at the time.  Now, it seems, in recent years, the artist wants to distance himself from this possible interpretation, thus the lyric change.

Ok that brings me to my reason for posting tonight, the lyric change on Every Grain of Sand.  Again it is only a small change.  From the original

I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man 
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

to

I am hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

Again just a couple of words, but thunderous in significance.   In the later version we are confessing that God is in control of everything, the plan is complete.  There are no loose screws.  Not the slightest chance that something could fall outside of the perfect finished plan.  God is completely and utterly sovereign.  He makes His plan, He finishes His plan, He works his plan out in time.   Time is an Ocean, but it ends at the shore....So that "whatsoever comes to pass" it is all part of God's perfect plan.  Which bring me to one of my favorite Bob Dylan lines of all time, from Man in the Long Black Coat:

There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way

This brings together comedy and deep philosophical and theological reflection in the space of a very short couplet.   If there are no mistakes in life.... as some people say..... then it can't be true "sometimes"..... it has to be true all the time.   And this truth about no mistakes in life is not some thing that you can "see it that way" in other words, something that is totally subjective to the interpreter.  This must be an objective fact.  So this way of putting things cracks a joke, and interjects some uncertainty at the same time.   We have to be a bit humble and reveal our uncertainty when we talk about these deep mysteries of God's sovereignty and the way it interoperates with man's responsibility.

So small lyric change, large significance.   No mistake.  At least some people say so.  And everything written above, is true sometimes, at least "you can see it that way."

Doug



 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dylan Debuts Slow Train Coming on Saturday Night Live



I remember very vividly watching this Broadcast by NBC-TV, on October 20th, 1979 of the program Saturday Night Live when Bob Dylan debuted three of his new tunes from the Slow Train Coming album.   It was stunning!   How could they let this dramatic presentation of the gospel on television?  And how could they do it on a show that was probably the most watched show in America at the time?  Something slipped through.  Where were the censors?   He can't do that!  That is the Bible he is talking about out there.  It was totally unbelievable that this would or could happen.  But I am witness that it did.  And you can watch these incredibly brave and unabbreviated performances at the following link: 


http://johannasvisions.com/bob-dylan-nbc-studios-new-york-city-20-october-1979-videos/

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Here is a fine reworking of Every Rain of Sand with a few modified lyrics and some outstanding vocals.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFN6alT38x4