Even now – almost 50 years after its publication – I continue to come across references to how the book has influenced someone.Sometimes even someone famous or someone who is in a position to influence others.
It happened again just this week.
And from the most unexpected place:The music world.
A friend sent me an article he found in a Jewish publication.“Forward” is the online incarnation of a venerable Jewish newspaper, “The Forward,” which dates back to 1897.
In a recent edition, Seth Rogovoy reviewed Columbia Records’ release of a compilation of rarely heard, even unreleased, recordings from Bob Dylan’s “Christian” period.
Do you remember Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity in the late 1970’s? Of course, the fact that Bob Dylan is Jewish caused it to be even more sensational.During that time, he released a trilogy of albums beginning with "Slow Train Coming," which featured "Gotta Serve Somebody." The second album was "Saved." The third was “Shot of Love.”
Though the purpose of Rogovoy’s article is to discuss the rather obscure material included in this unusual release, he emphasizes the spiritual catalyst that made it all possible.He entitled his review, “Was Bob Dylan At His Best When He Was A Christian?”
Here is a brief excerpt from that article in which Rogovoy discusses that "period" of Dylan's life:
“Those concert recordings are especially worth hearing; they feature one of Dylan’s best touring bands, and the singer himself was on fire. The box set, plus a purposely well-timed new book by Dylan chronicler Clinton Heylin, “Trouble in Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years — What Really Happened,” begs for a reconsideration of this period, musically and otherwise.
As the title indicates, Heylin’s book, which recounts the period beginning with Dylan’s three-month attendance in Bible class at the Vineyard Fellowship, and travels through the recording sessions and subsequent tours, is meant to portray “what happened” as the product of an authentic faith experience that propelled Dylan into a kind of rock ’n’ roll evangelism. Dylan delivered preacher-like sermons at many of these concerts, in which he admonished the audience and his fellow rock ’n’ rollers to change their ways of thinking (and behaving), lest they be left behind in an imminent and inevitable apocalypse.
Heylin demonstrates that much of the inspiration for these sermons came directly from the contemporaneous writings of popular Christian author Hal Lindsey. In “The Late, Great Planet Earth” and “Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth,” Lindsey put forth an obsessively eschatological brand of Christianity that saw the establishment of the State of Israel and the Cold War as fulfillment of prophecies indicating that the end of days was imminent. Rather than offering any kind of personal testimony, Dylan was very much parroting Lindsey’s line.”
Rogovoy goes on to discuss other aspects of Dylan’s “Christian” period.Whether or not, in truth, Bob Dylan was actually influenced in his Christian conversion by my writing, I will never know.But the fact that four decades later, this particular writer (and the author of the mentioned book) still “blames” me for playing a role is invigorating.
Every day I thank God that He allowed me to be a small part of His great plan for these final days of the Age of Grace.And in His mercy and kindness, He sends along little reminders like this that anything and everything we do to share the Good News of the gospel of Christ will someday bear fruit.Indeed, “…it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”(Isaiah 55:11 KJV)