Posted by Gary on March 26, 2009
For the past few months I have been listening to Bob Dylan’s Christian music and have been greatly helped by it (“I Believe In You” from Slow Train Coming has become a song that says it all for me-I don’t seem to tire of listening to it). I cannot help but think (as I know many others do) about where Dylan stands in regard to Christ. I don’t take discussing someone else’s standing before God lightly. While some might think it wrong to speculate and write publicly about the potential salvation or damnation of another I think in some way Dylan is up for this himself.
I’ve watched a number of Dylan interviews and there is no doubt that he likes to keep us at a distance and even more, guessing about where he is spiritually. At one time Bob did speak very plainly about his beliefs (through his Christian music and testifying during his concerts-see the embed above). Dylan’s pointed gospel music and pointed public statements allow some place to conjecture about where he is. Though we have never met, my thoughts flow from a genuine concern for Bob Dylan and a desire to see him finish his days declaring the gospel and writing songs for Jesus Christ.
In the course of my listening I came across a song of Dylan’s from his “Time Out of Mind” album called, “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven.” While Time Out of Mind is not a gospel album something is being said through “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” and I have thought about it much.
First of all, let’s take Dylan at the simple meaning of his words, he’s trying to get to heaven. This would imply first a belief in the existence of heaven and without much assumption Dylan must believe it is not going to be entered by everyone, hence his effort, he is “trying’” to get there.
The initial lines would seem to indicate that Dylan thinks that the time is getting close when the question of whether or not he is going to get to heaven will be answered.
The air is getting hotter, there’s a rumblin’ in the skies
I’ve been wading through the high muddy water
With the heat risin’ in my eyes
This next phrase has been much on my mind as I think of Dylan. I am assuming that if Dylan is thinking about heaven, he must also be thinking about the God who inhabits heaven and determines who will enter heaven. Here Dylan’s former statements both in music and even what some called preaching in his concerts would remind us that Dylan claimed at one time to know Christ and that he was “Saved” (A great song from the album titled, “Saved”-check out the lyrics here). Here is my question, who is Dylan talking about when he says this?
Every day your memory grows dimmer
It doesn’t haunt me like it did before
I have wondered if Dylan is speaking about Christ here. Why might I think this? Quite simply because one does not come to the place of such commitment and public declaration about Jesus Christ as Dylan did at one time only to revert back to cryptic statements that leave one uncertain about a person’s relationship with Christ. As a disciple of Christ there is no stationary position, one either moves forward or is falling back and when you listen to the things Dylan was saying about Christ during his gospel era and listen now, it is obvious something has happened. Perhaps some will not understand this. In fact, unless you have been born again you cannot understand this. You don’t come to the place of bearing public scorn and persecution for Christ and then revert back to near silence and loss of evangelical zeal without something having gone wrong spiritually.
I remember very clearly meeting a man while in Bible college as I walked around a lake at a park near my college campus. He was fishing and as I approached him I hoped to witness to him about Christ. After just a few minutes he said, “You’re trying to witness to me aren’t you?” I admitted I was.
This man went on to tell me how close he had been to Christ at one time but had somehow gotten away from Him. I will always remember him saying, "If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be away from Christ and straying like I am I would never have believed it possible.” This man went on to say that he knew that he needed to get back to Christ but then admitted that he was not willing to just then.
What happens when we get away from Christ and stay away? His memory grows dimmer. We don’t hear His voice the next day as clearly as we did the day before. Refusal to draw near to Jesus results in an increasing hardness of heart. While we at one point might have been alarmed by what was happening to us, refusal to get right hardens the heart. For a time a person will be “haunted” by Christ’s absence but with time we are not haunted anymore. Christ is gone and we don’t care. Am I saying that this has happened to Bob Dylan? I am saying I wonder.