Professor Bob Dylan

February 24, 2015 — 13 Comments

dylanCan you imagine having singer Bob Dylan as your high school history teacher?

According to a recent interview,* it could have happened.

Still actively touring in his seventies and considered an American musical icon. I was stunned to hear what he said about another path his life may have taken. The interviewer posted the remark this way:

Bob Dylan: His True Calling

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d be a schoolteacher—probably teach Roman history or theology.”

I didn’t realize he and I had so much in common! When I did my undergrad studies in history, I took every Roman history course the University of Washington offered. As for theology . . . well, having become a pastor, my interest in the study of God’s revelation of himself to the world is a given.

Can you imagine Dylan lecturing on apotheosis in the early empire? [Apotheosis is the elevation of a person to godhood, and was a formal event after the death of some emperors. The emperors themselves knew it was a farce, of course. Seneca wrote that emperor Vespasian, on his deathbed, actually said, “Alas, I think I’m becoming a God.”]

Bob Dylan’s interest in spiritual matters is genuine. He has high praise in the interview for Billy Graham. “This guy was rock ‘n’ roll personified. He filled football stadiums before Mick Jagger did.”

In 1979, Dylan released the first of three “Christian” albums, “Slow Train Coming.” It has a number of great pieces, and I listen to the album at least once a month. One song, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” won him the Grammy that year for “Best Male Vocalist.” It’s lyrics are sobering, and everyone should hear it at least once.

And, Speaking of C.S. Lewis

Well, we weren’t actually. But, here at Mere Inkling we usually do.

These two men bear some obvious parallels. They are masters of words. Poets extraordinaire. Lewis and Dylan both possess enviable creative imaginations. Each has accumulated a vast legacy in their work, which will continue to inspire for many generations to come.

I also learned this on the internet—they share the same Myers-Briggs personality type. At least, this site claims they are both INFPs. (I’m an ENTJ myself, a common personality aggregate for pastors.)

And, they had at least one more thing in common. They knew that in this life, there is no such thing as spiritual neutrality. When we ultimately stand before the throne of our Creator, it will not suffice to say, “Well, I didn’t do anything truly evil.”

In a moment we will listen to Dylan’s ballad about the choice before us. First, though, consider how Lewis uses the imagery of the war engulfing the world in the 1940s to describe this truth.

Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side.

God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world.

When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.

It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it. (Mere Christianity).

Now, as promised, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”

_____

*You can read the entire interview in the current issue of AARP The Magazine, available here.

13 responses to Professor Bob Dylan

  1. 

    Excellent, informative post–being a fan of both young and old Bob Dylan, reading this post really got me thinking. . .I love some of Dylan’s stuff from his Christian period in the Seventies–“Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Jokerman,” “Series of Dreams,” etc, etc. I think you’re right in saying that Dylan’s interest in spiritual matters is genuine; I agree 100% with that.

    • 

      I cannot think of a single artist (of any type, musical, literary, painting, etc.) whose work has covered so wide a gamut as Dylan’s. A very talented man, indeed.

  2. 

    An icon for sure. (but never thought he really could carry a tune well – even before the motorcycle wreck. I know. It’s just his style.)

  3. 

    He would probably be known as Mr. Zimmerman, using his real name.

  4. 

    Now there’s a theology teacher I’d pay to learn from!

  5. 

    I bought a collection of Lewis’ poetry from Dover Books. I would not rank him with Dylan as a poet. Actually, I would not rank Lewis as a poet at all.

    I think Lewis’ rivalry/mutual dislike with T.S. Eliot is more interesting than Lewis’ actual poetry. My impression, on reading both men, is that Lewis was answering Elliot in a number of his poems. I think Eliot won the contest.

    Lewis was at his best as a commentator on modern culture and art. Eliot most closely matches Lewis’ style in the footnotes to his poem, “The Wasteland.” Eliot could not resist explaining himself in detail – a trait that makes him sound like Lewis.

    • 

      Lewis’ poetry is, I think, of an older school. It wasn’t his forte, but some find it quite meaningful. Yes, he and T.S. Eliot had an interesting relationship. Despite their differences, in A Preface to Paradise Lost, Lewis wrote, “I agree with Eliot on matters of such great importance that all literary questions are trivial in comparison.” Just as it should be for brothers in Christ.

      That is a great observation about Eliot’s inclination to explain himself.

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  1. Life in Middle Earth « Mere Inkling - August 25, 2015

    […] general validity of the best known personality inventory, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I have posted in the past about C.S. Lewis’ (likely) personality type being an INFP. That appropriately […]

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