Sometimes it feels like Bob Dylan says: "I practice a faith that's long been abandoned, ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road"

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Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 3 (of 3)


Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and Wasted Years’ – an analysis – Part 3 (of 3) by Kees de Graaf.

In this final part of my analysis we continue where we left off part 2.

The next verse: ‘Two trains running side by side, forty miles wide, down the eastern line.  Oh you don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine’ shows that the oasis of good will expressed by the words 'Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ cannot take away or conceal the rift which the downfall of man has caused in history. A rift  between the first two people on earth, Eve and Adam. This rift, this brokenness,  would from then on define and burden all future human relationships. The words ‘Two trains running side by side’ make it clear that there is a love covenant here between two people, a love relationship in which they share their lives. The lovers, the two trains, have a certain degree of unity because they run ‘side by side’ This fragile unity is also shown by the fact that these two trains are heading in one and thee same direction and that is ‘down the eastern line’. The feeling still lingers that actually it should be only one train and not two trains. In Dylan’s rewritten version of ‘Gonna change my way of thinking ‘ (2002) he mediates on the fact that one day  harmony in love relationships will be restored and from that day on it will be only one train, not two trains, heading in the right direction. This idea is expressed when he wrote in that song: ‘The sun is shining, ain't but one train on this track’ . And in the song ‘Duquesne Whistle’ he, full of rejoice, adds that his time his woman will be on board of that train: ‘Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing,  blowing like my woman's on board’. Perfect harmony will be restored between all the chosen players on the world scene, between Eve and Adam, between man and woman and between Christ and His bride. Lost paradise will be regained.
Although there is a certain degree of unity and harmony between the two lovers when the poet writes : ‘Two trains running side by side’, at the same time, there is also a deep rift, a large gap between the two lovers, between the two trains. This is expressed when it says that the two trains running side by side are running ‘forty miles wide’. There is a distance, a gap of forty miles between those two trains. The number ‘forty’  stands in the Bible for a fixed, predetermined and yet limited period time of tribulation, judgment and temptation. Some examples: During the sin flood it rained for forty days and nights , the people of Israel had to wander in the desert for forty years before they were finally allowed to enter the promised land of Canaan, Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert for forty days. When we take this into account within the context of the song, the number ‘forty’  may mean that although they are having a hard time in their love relationship, this predetermined period of tribulation and alienation, underlined by the number ‘forty’ will come to an end and a final decision about the final direction and destination of this love train still has to be made.
The words 'down the eastern line' may simply mean that this train is running down the East coast (the East coast of the US for example) but the poet may also have thought of the direction in which this train is running.From the words ‘down the eastern line’ one may conclude that right now the poet feels that these two trains are not running in the right direction. These two trains should go to the West but they are in fact running to the East, they are running ‘down the eastern line’ and that may be the source of alienation and separation between the two lovers. As lovers they are not on the same track. Although they say that wisdom comes from the East, it does not mean that the root of spiritualism  that comes from the East is acceptable to the poet. Why not? Because in eastern spiritualism – like in Buddhism – there is lack of an authoritative figure. In Eastern spirituality there is no metaphysical deity to whom you should submit. Although in Eastern spirituality you are able, through inner contemplation, to fulfill your desire for purpose and broader understanding, the whole mental, spiritual experience and fulfillment is within your own grasp, just like Dylan once wrote in ‘License to kill’: ‘Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool, and when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled’. I read somewhere that there may be an autobiographical undercurrent in these words. They say that there was a time when Dylan’s former wife Sara Lowndes was involved in some sort of Zen Buddhism. Initially Dylan is said to have found some comfort in some of the ideas of his wife’s Zen Buddhism but later turned away from them  as we may learn from a line in the song ‘Precious Angel’: ‘You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed  in the same breath, you never mentioned one time the Man who came and died a criminal’s death’.
The ostensibly kind words that now follow: ‘Oh you don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine’ seem to reduce and soften the poignancy  of the fact that there is no unity between the two lovers and that they are on two separate trains which are obviously running in the wrong direction. At first glance these kind words – like the words ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ – seem remnants of a paradise lost and an attempt for reconciliation between the two lovers.
However, when you take a look at the origin of those words, these words ‘Oh you don't have to go, I just came to you because you're a friend of mine’  are not as friendly and as cool and forgiving as they sound. Just like an  earlier line in the song, these words echo an African-American folktale called ‘Uglier Than A Grinning Buzzard’ . An old shrewd  buzzard lures an unsuspecting  squirrel for a ride on his back. The squirrel accepted the buzzard’s invitation but the squirrel paid by his life for this mistake and was eaten by the squirrel. We quote from the story: ‘Hold it right there now,' the buzzard said, 'I am not begging you to go. You don't have to go if you don't want to. I have folks lined up who want to go for a ride. I just came to you because you're a friend of mine and I thought you might like to cool off, but if you don't want to go, you just tell me’. What may be the message underneath those words? . It may be a warning not to be deceived. It may be a hint that eastern spiritualism – spiritualism from ‘down the eastern line’ - may sound inviting and attractive  at first glance (causing instant inner peace) but  this sort of spiritualism is deceptive and it will kill you in the end because enlightenment, fulfillment and  salvation has to come from somewhere else and enlightenment and salvation is not a capacity which man possesses and may exploit as he pleases but this capacity has to be gracefully given to man through the way of  trusting your fate in the hands of God.
The words ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’ seem to support the idea- of which we wrote in our introductory remarks - that the  ‘Long and wasted years’ refer to the entire epoch from the downfall of man in paradise till the Latter Day, albeit seen from an anthropological stance and  not from a metaphysical one. Seen from where we as humans stand as sinners, this whole epoch seems like ‘Long and wasted years’ but not from where God stands. God uses what we regard as ‘Long and wasted years’’ to create something entirely new and in His plan these years are not long and wasted at all.  So here we see a phenomenon, which we see more often in Dylan’s work, and that is that it looks like Dylan has Jesus speak through his mouth. So it is as if Jesus says: ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’. We find something similar in Dylan’s song ‘Summer Days’. In ‘Summer Days’ Dylan has Jesus say: ‘I’m leaving in the morning just as soon as the dark clouds lift, gonna break the roof in—set fire to the place as a parting gift’. In this line Dylan refers to Jesus’ ascension into heaven on a cloud (Acts 1:9). After His Ascension Jesus sent them the Holy Spirit as His Counselor (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is the parting gift from Jesus, a parting gift which indeed ‘set fire to the place’ as we may read in Acts 2:3: ‘and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them’. It is possible to interpret the words ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’ as pointing in the same direction. After His Ascension into heaven, when Jesus turned his back to this world so to say, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and by the fire of the Holy Spirit the gospel spread through the world like wild-fire, that’s why it says: ‘the whole world behind me burned’. However, it is also possible, and more likely, not to think of fire from the Holy Spirit but of Judgment’s fire here. When Jesus paid in His own blood on the Cross, it meant the downfall of Great Babylon. As soon as Jesus turned His back to this world and ascended into heaven the fate of  Great Babylon was sealed and the Great Babylon, the powers which are hostile to God’s kingdom, will  enter into a process of burning. Revelation 18:8 speaks of this burning Babylon: ‘Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her’. This will culminate in the purifying fire of the Latter Day as we may read in 2 Peter 3:10: ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare’. (NIV)Therefore, this Latter Day will be the day when the words ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’ will come to its full impact and culmination.
Some see in what now follows: ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’  an autobiographical note from the poet in covert terms. ‘Long aisle’ would refer to ‘Long Island’, New York. This place Mineola, Long Island, is supposed to be the location where Dylan, in a secret ceremony during a break in his tour, married Sara Lowndes under an oak tree on November 22nd 1965. True or not, we feel that within the context of the song, the poet digs deeper than that. We feel that the words ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’ embroider on the previous line ‘I think that when my back was turned, the whole world behind me burned’. Again- as so often –when the poet says: ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’ the poet has Jesus or God speak through his mouth. In the Bible the love relationship between God and his people and between Christ and the church is often metaphorically compared with a marriage between God and His people or Christ and the church, whereby God or Christ is the groom and his people (the church) His bride. For example Isaiah 54:5: ‘For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name-- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth’. (See also Ephesians 5:23,24). So when God or Jesus now overlooks this whole epoch- which from a human point of view can be denoted as a period of ‘Long and wasted years’ - it is as if God or Jesus now says:  ‘It's been a while since we walked down that long, long aisle’  which means that I made a covenant with you, Adam and Eve, long time ago in paradise and we started walking down that long aisle of  time and history with you and your posterity. You, Eve and Adam, your posterity, my people, my children, throughout history, all these long years, you were unfaithful to me and committed adultery over and over again but I never gave up on you, I kept on walking with you on that long, long aisle and we have nearly reached our eternal wedding party which will be held very soon at the end of times, just as it says in Revelation 19: 7-9: ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people.) Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb’. Unlike the so-called ‘never ending tour’ this eternal wedding supper will never end and when that day has finally come all tears will be wiped away and that will be the moment when the epoch of ‘long and wasted years’ will come to an end. But before that day comes we first have to go through a valley of tears, this is put into words when it says: ‘We cried on a cold and frosty morn', we cried because our souls were torn’.  Eve and Adam, who represent the whole future mankind, driven away from the gates of Eden into a cold and frosty world, these two ardent lovers still together, ‘heart burning, still yearning’, are now fully confronted with the bitter consequences of their downfall. It is like Dylan wrote elsewhere in the song ‘Mississippi’: ‘So many things that we never will undo, I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too’. All that is left now is bitter remorse and tears in a cold world, full of cold hearts. It may be the reason why it says: ‘We cried on a cold and frosty morn'.
It is as if on behalf of mankind that Eve and Adam cried bitterly because innocence had died and their souls – though not destroyed – were battered and torn because of sin. Implicitly there is at the same time also a glimmer of hope in the words ‘We cried on a cold and frosty morn', we cried because our souls were torn’  because it reflects what Ecclesiastes 7: 3,4 explicitly says: ‘Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better . The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth’ (KJV) and also what it says in  2 Corinthians 7:10 ‘For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death (NLT)’.
The final words ‘so much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years’ may be understood as  some sort of final conclusion. There is a song called ‘Wasted years’, written by Wally Fowler and sung by Rev. Jimmy Swaggart. Its chorus runs like: ‘Wasted years, wasted years, oh how foolish, as you walk on in darkness and fear, turn around, turn around, God is calling, He’s calling you from a life of wasted years’.  The expression ‘so much for’ has various shades of meaning. For instance, ’so much for’ may express disappointment at the fact that something has not been helpful at all. Did all those tears and all those long  and wasted years during which ‘we cried on a cold and frosty morn’ because our souls were torn’ help us to get out of this dreadful situation of pain, bondage and brokenness?. No, these tears and years did not help us at all, and in spite of many tears and in spite of  the long years we spent to overcome this ordeal, we did not succeed  in overcoming our problems. What a waste all those tears and all those wasted years!: ‘so much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years’.
Another meaning of ‘so much for’ is  used to indicate that ‘it is the last of someone or something, you have finished talking about a subject, there is no need to consider someone or something anymore’. Within the context of the song, it may  implicitly express the hope that one day all tears will be wiped away and have to be considered no more. The present suffering is not unending (Romans 8:18) and one day it will be ‘enough is enough.’ The number of tears and of wasted years is limited and one day the memory of all those tears and wasted years will be wiped out, just like it says in Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’.(NIV) Psalm 56: 8 may give a lot of solace: ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book’, in the same way as Dylan once wrote in the song ‘If You ever go to Houston’:
‘Put my tears in a bottle, screw the top on tight’.
At the beginning of this analysis (Part 1) we wrote  that ‘these long and wasted years’ may be a metaphor to describe the whole epoch of fallen mankind. An epoch which started when man fell into sin and had to leave the Gates of Eden behind, an epoch which still lasts as we speak and will last till the Latter Day .’Long and wasted years’ bears heavily on the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is as if we hear Ecclesiastes speak:  ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, what does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3).  Ecclesiastes realizes that when  only seen from an anthropological, human, perspective, all these long years feel as if they are wasted, as if  all these years are in vain and serve no purpose at all. However, Ecclesiastes also came to understand that when seen from a divine perspective these years are not long and wasted at all and that for everything  ‘there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9) For God, Who created time and Who is above time, Psalm 90:4 is a reality: ‘ For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours’. What to us, mortal human beings feels like an endless period of ‘long and wasted years’ of tears and suffering, a sort of a detour without any ending, for God these years represent an indispensable part of a perfect finished plan, ‘so much for tears, so much for these long and wasted years’……... 

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Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 2 (of 3)


Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and Wasted Years’ – an analysis – Part 2 (of 3) by Kees de Graaf.

In this part we continue where we left off  part 1.
With the words ‘ Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ the poet seems to take us in an entirely different direction. ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ reminds us of a song ‘Twist and shout’ written in 1961 by Phil Medley and Bert Burns. The original title of the song was ‘Shake it up, Baby’. It was covered by the Isley Brothers and later on by the Beatles. Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ takes us back to social dancing in the 1960s. The ‘twist’ which involved the shaking of the hips and pelvis introduced a new style of dancing and replaced coupled dancing in youth clubs and gatherings. At the time this dance was even banned from television because  by many it was seen as a provocative way of dancing. The dance caused an almost worldwide craze, mainly because of its simplicity and lack of restrictions.
After the words ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ it says:‘you know what it’s all about’. Does this  ‘you know what it’s all about’  refer to this dance, the ‘twist’ as if Dylan meant: ‘Baby you know all about this way of dancing’ or does it refer to the preceding or next verse()s?. To answer this question we first have to examine what follows next: ‘What you doing out there in the sun anyway? Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out?’. It is obvious that these lines echo an African-American folktale called ‘Uglier Than A Grinning Buzzard’ in the version by Louise Anderson which can be found in the book ‘Talk That Talk’: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling. It is a tale about a trickster –an old buzzard - which had fooled a rabbit and a squirrel into taking a refreshing ride on his back which in the end led to the rabbit and the squirrel being eaten by the buzzard. In return we see that the buzzard is tricked by a clever monkey which is out there in the sun, about to give the buzzard his comeuppance. From the tale: "They said, What's the monkey doing out there in the sun? Oh, that monkey done lost his cool. The sun done burned that monkey's brains out’. So we see in this story that the trickster gets tricked. It is all about getting what one deserves.
If we now go back to the story of Eve and Adam just after they had fallen in sin we may see some of the same phenomena as described above come back. Because Adam had sinned God said to him: ‘By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”(Genesis 3:19). ‘Being out there in the sun,’ sweating and planting and harvesting what the earth brings forth, is not Eve’s territory but Adam’s. Therefore in that situation it is as if Adam says to Eve: ‘What are you doing out there in the sun anyway? Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out, this hard labor in the fields in the burning sun  will be much too much for you Eve, you have your own agony to bear Eve which is quite different from mine because God has said to you: ’I will make your pains in childbearing very severe, with painful labour you will give birth to children, your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”  (Genesis 4:16).
The next verse dwells on the same subject. Not only Adam and Eve- representing mankind - had to bear the dreadful consequences of their downfall but also the serpent who had deceived Eve and Adam gets his comeuppance. We see this paraphrased in the next verse: ‘My enemy crashed into the dust. Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust. He was run down hard when he broke apart. He died in shame, he had an iron heart’. Some commentators have argued that this verse deals with the struggle a reborn Christian is going through. When you surrender your heart to the Lord, you increasingly become aware of the fact that there is an enemy within you who continuously tries to crush your new way of living and continuously tries to drag you back into your old way of living. Some call this enemy within a Christian the ‘old man’ or the ‘old nature’ within you, as contrasted with the indwelling ‘new man’ or ‘new nature’ worked by the Holy Spirit (cf Ephesians 4: 22-24, Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:9,10). It reminds us of what Dylan once wrote in the song ‘Where are you tonight? (Journey through dark Heat)’: ‘I fought with my twin, that enemy within, till both of us fell by the way’. This verse ‘My enemy crashed into the dust. Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust. He was run down hard when he broke apart. He died in shame, he had an iron heart’ would describe the final outcome of this struggle within a reborn Christian. In the end when a Christian dies physically, that enemy within him will also die suddenly but then in a spiritual way. It is now as if a Christian looks back on his life after he has died and is in heaven and now says: ‘The battle is over, ‘my enemy crashed into the dust, stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust, once my body had to return to dust when I died on earth but this enemy will remain in dust forever and this enemy is  no longer capable to stir up lust within me, his downfall came suddenly and abrupt,  he was run down hard when he broke apart , and had to let me go, I was raised to glory but he died in shame, I received new eyes and a new heart, not a heart of stone but a new heart of flesh but he had an iron heart, a heart harder than stone that can never be converted, he died in shame, for my enemy it has come true what it says it says in Psalm 83: 17 ‘Let them be humiliated and terrified permanently until they die in shame’ (ISV).
However, this verse may also be interpreted as relating to the state of fallen mankind. Not only Eve and Adam were held accountable but also the trickster, the devil, the serpent is cursed. So in this interpretation, this verse  echoes Genesis 3:14,15: ‘So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’. It is clear that this serpent, the devil will not only eat dust, he will also crash in the dust. When he will be crashed into the dust, his head will be crushed as well. In order words: he will be ‘stopped dead in his tracks’. It will al happen suddenly in the twinkling of an eye, like a flash of lightning as it says in Luke 10: 18: ‘I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!’. Falling from heaven is the same as being ‘run down hard’ and ‘to be broken apart’, like it says in Romans 16:20 ‘then the God of peace will soon crush the Satan under your feet’. In the end the serpent, Satan, will lose his power to deceive nations and individuals which means that he will lose his lust and he will be consumed by fire and thrown in the lake of fire and sulphur (Revelations 20:10) and this way he will die in shame. This may be called the second death (Revelations 20:14). The serpent, the devil has  ‘an iron heart’ a heart which is harder than stone and can never be converted.
The words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ again echo the ‘Battle of Angels’ from Orpheus Descending. In the ‘Battle of Angels’ Sandra says to Valentine Xavier: ‘I wear dark glasses over my eyes because I've got secrets in them’. This line ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’  expresses shame, fear and embarrassment. For the first time, paradise lost caused shame to be introduced into the fallen world as we read in Genesis 3:7: ‘Then the eyes of both  (Eve and Adam) were opened , and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons’. It was the moment that man fell into sin that the big masquerade started. Eve and Adam – and through them mankind - lost their innocence and capacity to communicate with an open-mindedness in which there are no hidden secrets. For the first time now they had entered into a situation in which ‘saying things you shouldn't say’ is a mistake which should be avoided.  Eve and Adam started to wear aprons to disguise their physical nakedness and vulnerability and the words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ is just another modern metaphor to express this feeling. The poet makes it clear that if he would not wear those dark glasses,  compromising secrets which are very harmful to him or to other people, would be disguised and made public. Ever since the downfall into sin the human mind is so defiled, depraved and corrupted that man needs to deploy all kind of means – in this case ‘dark gasses to cover his eyes’ - to disguise all the wicked things that are going on in his mind. If man would not wear clothes or dark  glasses to disguise his real intentions, all wicked thoughts and plans would come out into the open and man would become so vulnerable that it would be impossible to have a livable society.
However, no matter how defiled and depraved the human mind may have become,  even today there are still some remnants left in the human condition of the original  good an uncorrupted state of mind which man once had when he was in paradise. It is the reason why these words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’  are followed by the words:  ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’.  These words express a certain sense of responsibility, regret and remorse for the things that have gone wrong in a love relationship and prove that accepting responsibility, and showing regret and remorse is still part of the human condition. At the same time this oasis of good will worked by the Spirit holds a promise for the future that one day all evil will be wiped out and that the paradisiac  open mindedness, innocence and  honesty will be restored. The feeling which the words ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ expresses,  very much resembles what Dylan wrote in his song ‘Never gonna be the same again’: ‘Sorry if I hurt you, baby, sorry if I did, sorry if I touched the place where your secrets are hid’. We may conclude that in a fallen world it is sometimes better that secrets remain secrets.

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Will be continued……….


Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 1 (of 3)


Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and wasted years’ – an analysis by Kees de Graaf – Part 1 (of 3).

Undoubtedly this is another masterpiece – like so many – from the album ‘Tempest’. It is rather unique in Dylan’s oeuvre. Like ‘Brownsville girl’ the song is more recited than sung which very much adds to the drama of the song. Apart from this, there is no bridge, no chorus or refrain in the song which gives every word equal significance, felicity of expression and penetrance. The melodic repetition together with the descending guitar riff yields both momentum, dispense and tension. The phrasing is absolutely magnificent, Dylan twists and bends the words to give them maximum impact. From beginning to its sudden end there is no let up,you are overwhelmed by the continuous pounding of waves of words and when the drama suddenly comes to an end, it leaves you somewhat bewildered and with the feeling that the poet has something very important to say, yet you cannot immediately pinpoint what exactly this  is all about.
What is this song about? The least one could say is that something has gone terribly wrong in this love relationship. Two lovers still stuck together in a bond full of pain, tears and remorse, seemingly mutually incapable to heal the wounds they have inflicted on each other. A thought  which we feel  can hardly be dismissed is that of burning Eden, paradise lost. If this supposition is correct, and I found many allusions in the song which point in that direction, ‘Long and wasted years’ may be a metaphor to describe the whole epoch of fallen mankind. An epoch which started when man fell into sin and had to leave the Gates of Eden behind, an epoch which still lasts as we speak and will last till the Latter Day The poet  now confronts us with the bitter consequences of this downfall. Is there an auto-biographical undercurrent in this song? Maybe. However, we have to bear in mind what the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamar (1900-2002) wrote. Gadamar wrote that the finest and greatest art in this world always has something which is inexplicable and remains a mystery, full revelation of this mystery will blur great art and make it superficial. This also the case here. This analysis is an attempt to get a little closer to what may be nothing more than a possible interpretation of this great song.
Having said this let’s make a start with the daunting task of analyzing the  lyrics of this song.
‘It's been such a long, long time, since we loved each other and our hearts were true’. In the poet’s mind this introductory dialogue may be taken from a scene in which Adam is addressing Eve, shortly after they had been expelled from the Garden of Eden. When somebody is in agony and pain for one’s perception, time moves slowly and happiness seems such a long time ago, that’s why he says: ‘It's been such a long, long time’. The memory of the perfect happy days in the Garden of Eden still linger but in Adam’s perception this happy period seems such a long time ago. The happy days flew by in the twinkling of an eye, just like Dylan wrote in ‘Standing in the Doorway’: ‘Yesterday – in the Garden of Eden - everything was going too fast, today, it’s moving too slow’. In the Garden of Eden they loved each other in the most truthful and perfect way: ‘our hearts were true’. There was a perfect understanding between the two, no anxiety or fear to blur their love relationship, mutually serving and supporting each other in all circumstances and walks of life.  In some sort of a way the poet here reiterates what he wrote in the final verse of his song ‘Gates of Eden’: ’At dawn my lover comes to me and tells me of her dreams, with no attempts to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means.  At times I think there are no words  but these to tell what’s true, and there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden’. But for Eve and Adam that is now something from a distant past.  Adam goes on to say to Eve: ‘One time, for one brief day, I was the man for you’. That ‘One time’ may have been in paradise, in the Garden of Eden. It now looks as if this perfect matrimony only lasted for a brief day. However, they say that time flies when you’re having fun, when you are happy and having a great time. Though this ‘brief day’ might in reality have lasted much longer than a day, it now feels it was over before it had even started. It is just like a short dream as Dylan wrote in ‘Sugar Baby’: “Happiness can come suddenly and leave just as quick”.
The fictitious conversation goes on when Adam says to Eve: ‘Last night I heard you talking in your sleep, saying things you shouldn't say’. ‘Talking in your sleep’  may mean that whatever Eve said  in her sleep she did not say those things consciously. ’Talking in your sleep, saying things you shouldn't say’ may show that when Eve and Adam fell into sin in paradise, not only their conscious state of mind but also their subconscious state of mind had been corrupted. For the first time after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam overheard Eve say wicked things, wicked things  Adam obviously  never heard before. For them this was  a new phenomenon. Whatever Eve and Adam’s mind produced in an unfallen state in paradise, also in their sub- consciousness, was always true and without any sin or flaw. But things had changed. In the Garden of Eden Man had deliberately risen against God by eating from the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-7). This is what happened immediately after Eve and Adam fell into sin: ‘At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you? He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked’. Here we see shame and fear enter into this world. Things deteriorated between the two of them. Adam blamed Eve and Eve claimed that the serpent had beguiled her (Genesis 3:12,13). Ever since that day it has become an integral part of the human condition to decline any personal responsibility for whatever evil there is in this world  and always blame others, others like your husband or wife, your neighbors, the government, the system, or other races, nations and religions.
After Adam overheard Eve talking in her sleep ‘saying things she shouldn’t say’ Adam now says to Eve: ‘Oh baby, you just might have to go to jail someday’. The words ‘go to jail’  may be a metaphorical expression for ‘to be sent to hell’ meaning that one day Eve will be held accountable for all the wicked things she has said and done and has to face judgment. We find this metaphor more often in the Bible e.g. Revelation 20:7: ‘When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison’ and ultimately Satan will be judged.
‘Is there a place we can go? Is there anybody we can see? once again expresses fear and bewilderment. These words may be uttered when somebody has committed a crime and urgently needs help or medical assistance. When somebody has committed a crime one cannot go to the authorities or to a doctor, for if one does he or she will immediately be arrested and imprisoned. Man has no courage to go back to God because he now fears God and cannot go back to the serpent because that will bring him into further trouble, so in bewilderment he desperately asks: ‘Is there a place we can go? Is there anybody we can see? Of course Adam could have gone back to God but after the downfall of man this is also part of the human condition that man has no inclination at all to turn to the only place where he can have his problems cured and that is with God. When the poet goes on to say: ‘Maybe, it's the same for you, as it is for me’, this sounds like an understatement. Once again, after the fall of man into sin, part of the human condition is his ability to exactly pinpoint evil and sin in other people, but to turn a blind eye to one’s own mistakes, flaws and sins. Adam clearly sees Eve’s sins but underestimates his own situation which is equally dreadful. It is as if Adam says to Eve: ‘You have sinned and you will be held accountable for what you have done but my flaws and sins are not so bad as yours, therefore I say: ‘Maybe, it's the same for you, as it is for me’, we have to wait and see if I’m equally accountable for what I’ve done but I don’t think I am’.
When the poet goes on to say: ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years, that ain't easy to understand, they may be dead by now,  I lost track of them after they lost their land’  the focus of the camera now seems to shift from this post paradisiac scene to a more universal level, albeit there is still some sort of a connection with the Garden of Eden because in a way also Eve and Adam lost their land when they were expelled from the Gates of Eden. When it says: ‘that ain't easy to understand’ it is as if the poet wishes to emphasize that the words ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years,  should not be understood in a literal, autobiographical, sense, as if Dylan had not seen his family, his siblings, in twenty years or so. ‘That ain't easy to understand’  challenges the reader not to focus on what seems obvious here – Dylan’s own family or siblings – but to meditate on and search for a deeper, more spiritual meaning. At the same time ‘That ain't easy to understand’  also says that although it is not easy to understand what the poet means, it is not impossible to find out what the poet means and he actually challenges you to find out what he wants to say. The fact remains  that Dylan  wants to be understood here.
First we have to find out what ‘to lose one land’ means. The line ‘I lost track of them after they lost their land’  seems to echo the ‘Battle of Angels’ which is an early version of Orpheus Descending.  After  Myra had asked: ‘Don’t you have folks anywhere?’, Valentine Xavier answers: ’I lost track of ‘em after they lost their land’. In Biblical times, in Israel, the land was the life and blood of God’s chosen people. God took the tribes of Israel to the promised land. This land was an inheritance of grace. This land was a free gift from God and had to be cultivated and was not for sale, it had to be passed on from one generation to the next. It is the reason why Naboth refused to sell his land to King Ahab (I Kings 21:2,3). However, Naboth had to give up his land, not because he sold it, but because he was subsequently falsely accused in a mock trial and stoned to death for ‘the wrongs that he had done’. In those days ,selling your family land was seen as a treacherous act towards your family and simply ‘not done’ because land was the only God given means by which families and communities could survive. In those days, to lose one’s land is the same as to lose one’s identity both as a nation and as a tribe or family.
However, the word ‘land’ used here has an ever deeper meaning than just the physical land of Israel or Canaan. The promised land, the land of Canaan, was just a foretaste of the real land and this real land is heaven. Dylan dwells on that in his song ‘Sweetheart like you’ where it says: ‘There’s only one step down from here, baby,  It’s called the land of permanent bliss’. This land of permanent bliss is heaven.
This land, the full realization of one’s identity, this New Jerusalem, the city of gold, is close by and will be coming down from heaven (Rev. 21:2) and will  be a tangible reality once again, in the same way as the land of Canaan was a tangible reality. Each follower of God will have his own land – one’s own mansion – one’s own identity - in the New Jerusalem, just like Dylan also said in ‘Sweetheart like you’: ‘They say in your father’s house, there’s many mansions (John 14:2) ,each one of them got a fireproof floor’..
When it says: ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years, they may be dead by now, this might be a vague reference to the arch patriarch Jacob who had been working in Haran with his uncle Laban for twenty years when he was instructed to go home and return to Canaan (Gen. 31: 3 and 41). The distance from Haran tot Israel was more than 400 miles. Jacob had not seen his family for twenty years and without today’s modern means of communication (mail, telephone internet) he had no knowledge of their whereabouts and might quite rightly have concluded: ‘they may be dead by now’.
What may be the deeper, spiritual meaning of this verse? We first have to see  that falling into sin – like Eve and Adam did in the Garden of Eden ,or Jacob when he deceived his brother Esau and ultimately the people of Israel when they refused to recognize and accept Jesus – will lead to permanent estrangement from your land, it will lead to losing your identity, this notion is expressed by the metaphor ‘losing your land’.
On the other hand, the longing for a land where one’s identity is fully acknowledged and recognized, this home-coming, is very much present on the album ‘Tempest’. Listen to what Dylan says In  ‘Duquesne Whistle’: ‘The lights on my native land are glowing, I wonder if they'll know me next time 'round’ .It is as if Dylan has Jesus speak through his mouth here. Jesus ‘native land’ is  the land of Israel and as the Duquesne train passes by, it is as if Jesus sees the lights of this beautiful land flicker and Jesus wonders:  ‘will they know me next time round’ .  When Jesus says ‘I wonder if they'll know me next time round’  this should be seen from a human perspective as if Jesus wonders if they – the people of Jerusalem – will accept and acknowledge Him when He will come back to His land and that will happen on the Latter Day.
Therefore,we paraphrase this verse as if Jesus says the following:  ‘I ain't seen my family in twenty years, which means it has been twenty centuries since I’ve seen my family, my Jewish compatriots, at the time when I was in there in the land of Israel my Jewish compatriots refused to acknowledge and accept me. Being disobedient and not acknowledging and accepting me is the same as being dead and now it looks as if they are dead – they may be dead by now. Being disobedient and not acknowledging and accepting me  when I was there, led to my compatriots losing their land. They lost not only their earthly temporal land but what is worse, those who persist in  being disobedient and not acknowledging and accepting me will lose their future eternal home and identity. After they lost their land I lost contact with them – I lost track of them – so I went to the gentiles to show them my mercy,  and the gentiles acknowledged and accepted me but I will come back and be merciful for the remainder of my Jewish compatriots, I will also reconcile and reunite with some of them ’ ( see also Romans 11:25-32).

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Bestaat er in de kerk wel een verschil tussen 'Hoofddienst' en 'tweede' dienst?


Bestaat er in de kerk wel een verschil tussen de ‘Hoofddienst’ en ‘tweede’ dienst?

In een notitie van het Steunpunt Liturgie van de GKV geschreven door Anje de Heer met als titel: ‘Morgendienst & tweede dienst – elk een eigen karakter’ lezen we onder het kopje ‘Waar komen beide diensten vandaan’? het volgende: ‘Er loopt een rechte lijn tussen de kerkdienst op zondagmorgen en Pasen’. Dat roept bij ons een aantal vragen op. Als er een rechte lijn loopt van Pasen naar de eredienst op zondagmorgen dan wordt hiermee – wellicht onbedoeld - op zijn minst de suggestie gewekt dat de zondagse middagdienst niet dezelfde importantie en prioriteit heeft. Zo kan er gemakkelijk een tegenstelling ontstaan tussen de morgendienst en de middagdienst op zondag. De ‘hoofd’ dienst schijnt daarmee automatisch belangrijker te worden dan welke andere eredienst dan ook. Dat doet een beetje denken aan een soort van ‘hoogmis’. Die ‘hoofddienst’ mag je in ieder geval niet missen. De vraag is dan ook of het terecht is dat er een dergelijke scheiding tussen ‘hoofddiensten en ‘andere’ diensten gemaakt wordt?
Laten we beginnen met te stellen dat de inrichting van erediensten zoals wij die nu kennen een lange geschiedenis van ontwikkeling doorgemaakt heeft. Men zegt wel dat we al in Genesis 4:26 kunnen lezen van de eerste eredienst: ‘In die tijd begon men de naam van de HEER aan te roepen’. In de oudtestamentische bedeling werd nauwgezet de inrichting van de cultische tempeldienst voorgeschreven. Met de komst van Christus en de uitstorting van de Heilige Geest is dit veranderd. Eén ding is zeker: Christus vergadert Zich een gemeente (een ecclesia Mat. 16:18) en Hij regeert die gemeente door Zijn Woord en Geest en zal dat blijven doen tot aan de jongste dag (HC21; v&a 54).
Maar als die gemeente samenkomt dan ligt er geen blauwdruk klaar in het nieuwe Testament hoe zo’n vergadering van stap tot stap ingericht dient te worden. De liturgie ligt niet vast maar gaat zich in de gemeente ontwikkelen. Dat past ook bij de nieuwtestamentische tijd. De Geest rust op heel de gemeente. We zijn geen onmondige kinderen meer (Ef. 4:14 )en daarom mag de gemeente nu zelf gaan bedenken wat passend is bij de dienst aan de Heer. Dat geeft vrijheid en ruimte. Niet om er en onordelijke janboel van te maken (1 Kor. 14:40). Want er geldt maar één norm voor dat ‘bedenken’ en dat wordt prachtig verwoord in Filipp. 4:8: ‘Voorts, broeders, al wat waar, al wat waardig, al wat rechtvaardig is, al wat rein, al wat beminnelijk, al wat welluidend is, al wat deugd heet en lof verdient, bedenkt dat’ (vert. NGB 1951).Dat ‘bedenken’ is een opdracht, een imperatief!
Bij dat ‘bedenken’ komt het aan op fijngevoeligheid ‘zodat u kunt onderscheiden waar het op aankomt’ (Fil 1:10). Die fijngevoeligheid krijg je als je als gemeente groeit in liefde en in kennis van Christus. Het sleutelwoord dat de Geest van de vrijheid hierbij gebruikt is het woord SAMEN zoals verwoord in Ef. 3:17b- 19: ‘ Geworteld en gegrond in de liefde, zult gij dan samen met alle heiligen, in staat zijn te vatten, hoe groot de breedte en lengte en hoogte en diepte is, en te kennen de liefde van Christus, die de kennis te boven gaat, opdat gij vervuld wordt tot alle volheid Gods’.(Vert. NGB 1951).
De ontwikkeling van dat ‘bedenken’ wordt in bovenvermelde notitie van het Steunpunt Liturgie treffend verwoord: ‘Kenmerkend voor de viering van de eerste dag van de week, de dag van de Heer, zijn vanaf dit begin: Woord en Tafel. Zo ontstond het grondpatroon van de christelijke eredienst: twee kernen met daarbij een aanvang en een afronding. Dit grondpatroon is oeroud, het is in ieder geval aanwijsbaar vanaf de 2de eeuw. De twee kernen zijn: a) de Dienst van het Woord, b) de Dienst van de Tafel (of: Dienst van de Dankbaarheid)’. Net zoals bij de totstandkoming van de canon (Art. 5 NGB) geloven we dat het grondpatroon van de christelijke eredienst onder de leiding van de Heilige Geest tot stand is gekomen. Daarom kan dit grondpatroon een gave van de Geest genoemd worden. Op dit grondpatroon is in de loop van de eeuwen voort gebouwd. In de tijd van de Reformatie is de tweede dienst erbij gekomen. De notitie stelt terecht dat de tweede dienst zoals wij die nu kennen aanvankelijk een openbare catechisatie was en zich geleidelijk aan ontwikkelde tot een volwaardige kerkdienst rond de leer van de kerk (de catechismus). We zouden geen reden kunnen bedenken waarom ook die tweede dienst – net zoals de eerste – niet onder de leiding van de Geest tot stand is gekomen en geen gave van de Heilige Geest genoemd kan worden. Dat neemt niet weg dat alles wat er in de eredienst gebeurt ook voortdurend aan de Bijbel getoetst moet worden. Ook al geloven we dat die tweede dienst voluit een gave van de Geest is, daarmee is nog niet gezegd dat de tweede dienst een uitwisselbare kopie van de eerste zou moeten zijn. Om helder te krijgen waarom de term ‘hoofddienst’ o.i. een ongelukkige keuze is willen we proberen eerst uit te leggen wat het unieke karakter is van iedere eredienst.
Als aanvlieg route daarvoor, kunnen we gebruiken wat we lezen in Johannes 20:19 en 26. Vers 19: ‘Op de avond van die eerste dag van de week waren de leerlingen bij elkaar; ze hadden de deuren afgesloten, omdat ze bang waren voor de Joden. Jezus kwam in hun midden staan en zei: ‘Ik wens jullie vrede!’ Vers 26: ‘Een week later waren de leerlingen weer bij elkaar en Tomas was er nu ook bij. Terwijl de deuren gesloten waren, kwam Jezus in hun midden staan. ‘Ik wens jullie vrede!’ zei hij’. In de christelijke traditie wordt deze verschijning van de verhoogde Kurios in de in de kring van de discipelen wel gezien als de eerste kerkdienst in de Nieuwtestamentische bedeling. De woorden van deze groet ‘Ik wens jullie vrede’ hebben een diepe lading. Het ‘sjaloom’ van de verhoogde Heer en Heiland is op Pasen werkelijkheid geworden. Er is eeuwige verzoening tot stand gebracht. De gemeente mag nu vanuit dit sjaloom van de Heiland in diezelfde vrede gaan leven en zo de nieuwe toekomst tegemoet treden. Als Jezus een week later, weer op de eerste dag van de week, opnieuw in de discipelen kring verschijnt dan klinkt weer dat ‘Ik wens jullie vrede’ . Door dat op die manier te herhalen legt Hij a.h.w. een grondmodel vast voor de toekomst. Het zou te ver gaan om op alle aspecten hiervan nu in te gaan maar we zien in ieder geval een lijn naar de latere begroeting ‘Genade zij u en vrede van God onze Vader en van de Heer Jezus Christus’ die we in de brieven van Paulus tegen komen. Met die groet worden we elke kerkdienst door onze Heer begroet. De voorganger spreekt deze woorden namens Christus uit. In de dogmatiek noemen we dat functionele representatie. De voorganger representeert Christus alsof Hij in eigen Persoon ons begroet en zo moeten we het ook opvatten.
We zien hetzelfde aan de Avondmaalstafel. De voorganger representeert Christus. Christus is de echte gastheer aan de tafel. Zo hebben we elke eredienst hoog bezoek. Deze groet ‘Genade zij u en vrede’ is veel meer dan een groet in de trant van ‘Goede morgen’ of ‘Goede middag’. Met deze groet legt de Verhoogde Heer met zijn Woord en Geest beslag op de gemeente en wordt de kerkvergadering a.h.w. geconstitueerd. Constitueren dat betekent dat er met die groet een wettelijke basis onder de ontmoeting met de Heer gelegd wordt. Woord en Sacrament worden nu namens de Heer ambtelijk en in het publiek ‘bediend’. Daarmee draagt elke dienst van Woord en Sacrament een uniek karakter en om die reden dient de dienst van Woord en Sacrament onderscheiden te worden van allerlei andere vergaderingen en bijeenkomsten en activiteiten, zoals bijv. huiskringen, bijbelstudiekringen, gebedsgroepen enz., hoe goed, nuttig en noodzakelijk deze bijeenkomsten, vergaderingen, en activiteiten ook mogen zijn. Natuurlijk, het werk van de Heilige Geest is veel breder dan wat er in de eredienst gebeurt. Overal waar de Bijbel open gaat werkt de Geest van God. Maar dat doet niets af van het unieke karakter van elke eredienst. Bij dat unieke karakter hoort ook dat je geen vrijblijvende houding kunt aannemen. Als de Heer je roept en je bent niet verhinderd dan is wegblijven geen optie.
Door dat unieke karakter van elke eredienst kan en mag je aan de ene eredienst dus geen grotere importantie toekennen dan aan de andere eredienst. De onderscheiding ‘Hoofddienst’ en ‘tweede’ dienst wekt de indruk dat dat verschil in importantie er wel is en dat kan o.i. in het licht van het bovenstaande niet vol gehouden worden en roept een verkeerde tegenstelling in het leven. Omdat Hij het is, onze opgestane Heer, die de gemeente samenroept is elke eredienst van gelijke prioritiet, en wel van de hoogste prioriteit en dit ongeacht hoe vaak Hij de gemeente samenroept.
Voorts zegt de notitie: ‘In de hoofddienst op de zondagmorgen vervult de gemeente haar liturgische taak’. Op zich is dat juist als je het daar maar niet toe beperkt. Want als je dat zo zegt dan wek je op zijn minst de indruk dat de gemeente in de tweede dienst geen liturgische taak te vervullen heeft, en dat terwijl de Heer ook in de tweede dienst Zijn gemeente samen roept en in liturgische communicatie met haar treedt. De notitie zegt dat het kenmerkende van de hoofddienst op zondag morgen is vieren, gedenken en dienen. ‘Vieren’ zegt de notitie terecht is: ‘gedenken, het gedenken van de grote daden van de HEER. Dit gedenken leidt tot dienen, en dat komt uit in zowel levensheiliging, als in het liefhebben van de naaste’. Wat blijft er dan volgens de notitie over voor de ‘tweede’ dienst? Er blijft over een leerdienst a.d.h.v. de Catechismus en een avondgebed. Dit wordt in de notitie samengevat onder: ‘leren, mediteren en bidden’ en in ieder geval mag er in de tweede dienst geen herhaling plaats vinden van dat wat ’s ochtends is behandeld is en er mogen geen sacramenten bediend worden.
Als we dit patroon volgen gaat de praktijk binnen de GKV steeds meer worden – en dat is nu al heel vaak de praktijk - dat alle feestelijke elementen die eigen zijn aan het vieren geconcentreerd worden in de ‘Hoofddienst’ op zondag morgen. Feestelijke elementen zoals bijv. ondersteuning door een cantorij, extra muzikale bijdragen door gemeenteleden, het kind moment en wat je als gemeente daarbij ook maar mag aandragen. Tezamen met de bediening van de sacramenten wordt het een vol programma. Een feestelijk programma dat ook tijdmatig behoorlijk kan uitlopen en in toenemende mate een extra appel doet op het concentratie vermogen van de gemeente. We zijn immers, ook als het op concentratie aankomt, beperkte mensen. Velen komen dan ook met een ‘vol’ of ‘vervuld’ gevoel uit de kerk en we bedoelen dit in positieve zin. Maar ja, dan is er ook nog een tweede eredienst in de middag……
Het is nu al zo, los van de notitie van het Steunpunt, dat die tweede dienst er in de beleving van velen niet alleen anders uitziet, die voelt voor velen ook heel anders. Geen feestelijke elementen en omlijstingen meer zoals in de morgendienst, de helft van de gemeente of nog minder komt opdagen, er zijn maar weinig kinderen aanwezig. Het is daarom begrijpelijk dat die tweede eredienst voor velen zowel letterlijk als figuurlijk een ‘leeg’ gevoel kan geven. Door al die lege stoelen kan jezelf gemakkelijk eenzaam en verweesd voelen. Een gevoel alsof je in een totaal andere wereld terecht bent gekomen dan in de morgendienst. Je mist de aanwezigheid van veel broers en zussen en dat kan een flinke domper op je enthousiasme zetten. Terwijl je elkaar juist zo hard nodig hebt. Het is o.i. wel te begrijpen dat er velen zijn die het moeite kost om zich hier overheen te tillen. Aan de andere kant is het ook zo dat een ieder die zich over dit gevoel heen zet, ook rijkelijk beloond wordt en ook veel bemoediging en troost uit de leer dienst haalt, juist ook vanwege de rijke inhoud. Het ontslaat ons in ieder geval niet van de plicht om ons best doen om ook die middagdienst tot een echt feest te maken. Want ‘leren’ is net zo belangrijk als ‘vieren’.
Laten we daarom eens gaan kijken wat de Bijbel zegt over ‘leren’ en het belang daarvan. In Handelingen 2:42 lezen we: ‘Ze bleven trouw aan het onderricht van de apostelen, vormden met elkaar een gemeenschap, braken het brood en wijdden zich aan het gebed’. Deze tekst wordt wel gezien als de ‘mission statement’ van de eerste christelijke gemeente. Het woord dat hier met ‘onderricht’ is vertaald is het bekende Griekse woord didachè ( διδαχῇ). Het gaat hier om de vasthouden aan de leer, het onderwijs van de apostelen over de grote daden van God, in het lijden en sterven en de opstanding van Jezus Christus. Het schriftbewijs heeft in het onderwijs een belangrijke rol, kijk maar naar de Pinksterrede van Petrus (Hand.2) en de rede van Stephanus (Hand. 7). Het leren heeft in de Bijbel betrekking op wat God wil dat nu gedaan zal worden. Net zoals de verkondiging vraagt om geloof, vraagt de onderwijzing om gehoorzaamheid. In de latere brieven van Paulus aan Timotheüs en Titus zien we een verschuiving optreden. De leer is daar veel meer een heilswaarheid die op formule is gebracht en die bindend is voor alle christenen. De gezonde leer komt tegenover de dwaalleer te staan en vraagt om een positiekeuze. De leer heeft nu niet alleen betrekking op wat men moet doen maar ook op wat men moet geloven.
Hier valt nog veel meer van te zeggen maar het is wel duidelijk dat ‘leren’ met zijn diverse aspecten erg belangrijk is in de Bijbel. Dat was al zo in het oude testament met zijn nadruk op het ‘inprenten’ (Deut. 6:6-9). Hoe vaak wordt het kern leermoment van het O.T., de verlossing uit Egypte, niet herhaald in het OT zelf? Kortom, ‘leren’ is in de Bijbel van essentieel belang om staande te kunnen blijven en te groeien in geloof en in liefde.
Als we in de liturgie nu ‘vieren’ tegenover ‘leren’ zetten dan zou je gerust kunnen stellen dat je niet eens kunt ‘vieren’ als je niet eerst ‘geleerd’ hebt, als je niet eerst bent onderwezen. ‘Leren’ en ‘vieren’ zijn dan ook nauw op elkaar betrokken. Je moet nl. weten waar je mee bezig bent en dan pas kan je het beleven en vieren. Vandaar dat het al vanaf de eerste eeuwen de gewoonte is om voorafgaand aan het vieren van het HA en ook voorafgaand aan de doop eerst -korter of langer – onderwijs te geven.
Voor de duidelijkheid: we vinden het een goede zaak om iedere eredienst een eigen accent te geven. Het is goed verdedigbaar om in de morgendienst het accent op vieren te leggen en in de tweede dienst het accent op leren te leggen. Maar dan gaat het echt om een accent. We moeten beide diensten zeker niet gelijkschakelen zoals zo vaak is gebeurd. Het onderwijs a.d.h.v. onze belijdenis dient dan ook in de middagdienst te blijven. Waar we wel ernstige bedenkingen tegen hebben is om ‘vieren’ en ‘leren’ van elkaar te scheiden zoals in de notitie van het steunpunt wordt voorgesteld. De suggestie om bijv. het bedienen van de sacramenten niet meer in de tweede dienst toe te staan, lijkt ons dan ook veel te ver te gaan.
Wellicht chargeren we, maar als wat de notitie voorstelt ten volle praktijk wordt, dan krijg je in de beleving van velen een rijke, en volle hoofddienst waarin gevierd wordt en een kale middagdienst waarin ‘slechts’ geleerd wordt. Als dit meer en meer de praktijk gaat worden in de kerk dan is het pastorale advies van Ds. B. Luiten dat we elders lazen logisch: ‘Als je maar één keer komt, kom dan ’s morgens, dat is de ontmoeting die God heeft ingesteld, de viering van de opstanding van Jezus Christus, van de verzoening in Hem en van je nieuwe leven hier en nu’.(‘De Reformatie’, Jaargang 89, nummer 2 d.d. 18 oktober 2013, Pagina 35, Ds. Bas Luiten in een artikel “Naar de kerk maar anders”).
Maar als je het zo stelt dan schijnt het ons toe dat je –onbedoeld - de slag om het behoud van de tweede dienst reeds bij voorbaat verloren hebt, want waarom zou je perse naar een tweede dienst op zondag gaan als alleen de eerste dienst door God zou zijn ingesteld en de tweede kennelijk niet? Ten diepste komen we toch niet op gezag van mensen naar de kerk? Maar we hadden reeds gesteld dat ook de tweede dienst een ontmoeting is van de verhoogde Kurios met Zijn gemeente. Laten we eens proberen het vanuit Zijn kant te bezien, vanuit de Heer zelf. Als Hij een belangrijke boodschap voor de gemeente heeft en Hij staat tegen lege stoelen te praten, hoe zou Hij zich dan voelen, zou dat Hem niet veel verdriet doen? Als je dit als gemeente op zijn beloop laat, mag je dan een zegen van Hem verwachten op je kerkelijk leven?. Ligt hier niet een bron van malaise in het kerkelijk leven? Als je bij de slager staat dan mag je de vraag of het een onsje meer of minder mag zijn met ja of nee beantwoorden. Bij zoveel rijke gaven kan je in de kerk niet zeggen: ‘voor mij hoeft dat allemaal niet, ik heb aan één keer genoeg’.
Jezus volgen is nu eenmaal alles of niets, Hij vraagt het offer van je hele leven, niet alleen op zondag maar alle dagen (Rom. 12:1-2). De Heer heeft een hekel aan halfslachtigheid, aan halve offers, aan halve diensten (Maleachi 1:10, Openb. 3:15,16). Laten we daarom elkaar blijven aanvuren om beide erediensten gelijke prioriteit en importantie geven, ook al is de inhoud nog zo verschillend.
Ten slotte nog dit. Ook geestelijke energie kent zijn beperkingen. Laten we daarom onze liturgische energie gelijkmatig over beide diensten op zondag verdelen, zodat beide diensten als een echt feest van ontmoeting met onze God beleefd kunnen worden. Want het is in de kerk net zo als bij het nuttigen van een maaltijd in het gewone leven. Niet alles in één maaltijd (c.q. eredienst) proppen, zodat je daarna geen trek meer hebt. Als je de maaltijden gelijkmatig over de dag verdeelt, dan is dat het beste voor je. Maar als je nog maar kort geleden een vijf gangen menu achter de kiezen hebt, dan heb je een paar uur later geen trek meer in een volgende maaltijd, ook al eet je heel wat anders. Zo is het in de kerk ook.
De belangrijkste vraag is niet eens wat er precies gebeurt in de erediensten, maar óf ik daar wel elke keer graag wil zijn als Hij mij roept. Als ik tot Hem nader met een toegewijd hart dat niets liever wil dan dicht bij Hem te zijn, dan gaat er iets geweldigs gebeuren. Als we allen komen, telkens als Hij roept, dan geeft dat een enorme blijdschap en gaat daar een geweldige stimulans vanuit. Die blijdschap zorgt voor eensgezindheid. En door die eensgezindheid gaan we voor onze broer en zus ruimte gaan maken om de ontmoeting met God voor iedereen tot een feest te maken. In de morgen vieren en in de middag leren en toepassen.
Is dit een achterhoede gevecht? Misschien wel, maar ook achterhoede gevechten moeten gevochten worden.
Door op onderstaande link ‘reacties’ te klikken kunt u online reageren op dit artikel.

Dr. Chales F. Stanley and sanctification.


In our previous weblog article called 'How secure is Dr. Charles F. Stanley's eternal security?'' we  stated that ‘over and over again, Dr. Stanley has emphasized that people are saved only by an act of divine grace which does not depend at all on any deeds of the individual believer and there is nothing  a person can do to influence his or her salvation. Dr. Stanley even takes this to the point that once a person is saved there is nothing the believer can do to undo his or her salvation, even if this seems to happen at the expense of the sanctification of the believer’.
We feel that this point needs further clarification. As said before, I admire Dr. Stanley’s wisdom a lot and I really enjoy listening and watching his weekly message on the In Touch Ministry's website. It is true, in his messages Dr. Stanley talks a lot about the necessity of sanctification in the life of the individual believer. Yet I have the feeling that Dr. Stanley’s knife of sanctification by far does not cut deep enough from a biblical point of view. To outline this, here is a quote from Dr. Stanley’s book ‘Eternal Security: Can you Be Sure?’. In a chapter called "For Those Who Stop Believing", Dr. Stanley says: "The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand” (p. 74). Earlier in the book Dr. Stanley writes: "Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy… believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation”.  When I read this I really had to rub my eyes? Is this statement of Dr. Stanley  really backed up by the Scriptures? So if this were true, you may even renounce your faith and denounce the Lord and still you will be saved because obviously at one time in your life you confessed your faith in the Lord? But then I wonder what the true value is of such a confession, if it is not followed by a life of sanctification? If I understand Dr. Stanley well, then the justification of the believer – through the blood of Christ – is not always necessarily followed by the sanctification of the believer.
Now the concept of ‘sanctification’ has two important aspects. The first one is ‘separation’. The word ‘sanctification’ is derived from the  Greek word ‘hagios’ which means ‘holiness’. Once you are truly saved you receive an entirely new position, you become ‘separated’ from all evil and tied to Christ and you are His property. The second aspect of sanctification is ‘devotion’. You devote your life to Christ. Once you are truly saved, The Holy Spirit enters into your life and turns you into a devotee of Christ. The Holy Spirit brings ‘holiness’ into your life but the Holy Spirit does so in a progressive way. The Holy Spirit starts up a process of inward renewal, a process  which brings you both pain and tremendous joy. Pain because more and more you start to realize what is wrong with you, more and more you become aware of the fact that you are a sinner and that you need daily cleansing from your sins. But at the same time, you also start to feel more and more a tremendous and abundant joy, more and more you will find great comfort in the forgiving arms of Jesus Christ and within you, you will more and more find the fruits of an awakening new life and this will fulfil you with great joy. This is not a static thing but a lifelong process, just like a branch of a vine is continuously pruned by the vinedresser so that it may produce abundance of fruit (John 15: 2). But once thing is certain: this will only happen to those who abide in (the vine) Christ and  only those (John 15:4) can and will bear fruit.
However, what will happen to the believer who does not abide in Christ, what will happen to the ‘believer’ who, like Dr. Stanley  says,‘ for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever’?.
John 15:6 makes it very clear what will happen to such a ‘believer’: ‘If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered into the fire and burned’. Is the salvation of such a ‘believer’ not in jeopardy like Dr. Stanley suggests?
Is it really true that branches which are cut off from the vine Christ will retain their salvation, just like Dr. Stanley says: “believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation”?.
It often happens that during mass meetings where the Gospel is preached to large crowds, in the heat of the moment, numerous people step forward, confess their sins, and publicly accept Jesus as their Saviour. But will it last? Thank God: Sometimes it lasts! But unfortunately, often enough it does not last. This is made clear by Jesus in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13-1:23). The gospel, the word that is sown in the heart of many people is snatched away by the devil (verse 19). Somebody receives the word with great joy. However verse 21  says: ‘yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation and persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away'. Somebody else (verse 22) ‘hears the word , but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful’. Verse 23 says that only the seed that was sown on good soil, ‘he who hears the word and understands it, he indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty’. Only such a believer is truly saved! And only to such a believer the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints applies. God will never give up such a believer. Such a believer may fall into sin, like David and Peter once fell into sin, but the grace of God will sooner or later always be there to make him or her repent and restore him or her into His grace.
Dr Stanley has said: "Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy… believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation”. Does Dr. Stanley give any scriptural back up for his extreme stance on this issue?
Yes he does. Dr. Stanley refers to 1 Corinthians 3:14 and 15 where it says:’If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire’. So seen from Dr. Stanley’s point of view, the only thing a Christian may lose is his reward but not his salvation. Even if a Christian produces nothing but rubbish and worthless things on the foundation (Christ) – which is the same as becoming an 'unbeliever for all practical purposes' - yet he cannot lose his salvation but only his reward. So if I understand Dt Stanley correctly,  on the new earth to come there will be children of God with a reward and children of God who have suffered a loss and have no reward at all.  However we don’t think that this is what 1 Corinthians 3 tries to make clear to us. When we read the pericope 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 as a whole, we note the following:
1. Paul does not deal here with the individual believer but speaks here of his work as an apostle ( a skilled master) in comparison with other evangelists (verse 10).
2. But more importantly: Verse 11 makes it clear that all builders mentioned here, build on the same foundation and this foundation is Jesus Christ. Not all builders build in the same way and some building material cannot stand the test of fire. However, all the builders have in common that they build on the foundation Jesus Christ. They all have the intention to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ. God is merciful and will cleanse their imperfect work on the Latter Day  - he will cleanse it by fire – and in this way they will be saved. But what happens to believers who once confessed their faith in Jesus Christ but have abandoned their faith and denounced the Lord? Well, for all practical purposes, they do not build on the foundation Jesus Christ but they sow to their own flesh and they will reap corruption (Galatians 6:8). The question in 1 Corinthians 3 is: do you as an apostle or evangelist build on the foundation Jesus Christ? If you do you will be saved, no matter how imperfect your work may have been.
3. This pericope ends with a serious warning: ‘if anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him’,(I Corinthians 3:17). So if you are a builder, take care!. As a builder, an apostle or evangelist you bear a great responsibility. When you destroy the work of God, His temple, God will destroy you and then you have much more to lose than just your reward.
1 John 3:7 still stands: ‘Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as He is righteous’. And what about Matthew 7: 21: ‘Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. You cannot at one time put your trust in Jesus and then become an unbeliever ’for all practical purposes’ and still be saved. Such a confession must have practical consequences, otherwise such a confession does not have any value. Therefore, from a biblical point of view “Once saved always saved” should be understood as “Once truly saved, always saved”. That makes a lot of a difference! 



Bob Dylan's 'Jokerman' - an analysis - Part 5 (final part)


Bob Dylan's 'Jokerman' - an analysis – Part 5 (final part).

In this fifth and final part of our analysis of Dylan’s Jokerman we examine the last three verses of the song.
Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers. In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features. Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space, half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face”.  
One wonders why the poet only mentions the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy as his only teacher and why not the whole Pentateuch or the whole Old and New Testament? The Pentateuch consists of the five books of Moses of which Leviticus is the third and Deuteronomy the fifth book. The obvious reason may be that the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy –and also the Book of Numbers - are predominantly legalistic Books.  However, these books not only deal with the specific laws, commandments and cultic prescriptions for the people of Israel but especially the book of Deuteronomy also emphasizes God’s love and mercy (Deut. 4:31) and His continuous protection and commitment if the people of Israel obey and keep His commandments laid down in the Covenant. So in this verse we note dualism, controversy and ambiguity in the mind of the Jokerman between trust and faith in the laws of a righteous and merciful God as shown in the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy on the one hand, and belief in the harsh reality of ‘the law of the jungle and the sea’ on the other hand. The ‘the law of the jungle and the sea’ reflect the Darwinian thesis of the ‘survival of the fittest’. In this thesis only the strongest and fittest of any specimen or organism survive whereby all others are eliminated.
In the next line Dylan describes two separate scenes or notions – King Jesus Christ and his predecessor and forefather king David – and in a certain way he combines both notions into one picture. First Dylan draws our attention to ‘a milk white steed’ which looms largein the smoke of the twilight”. Horses generating smoke during twilight is an apocalyptic sign representing conquest and war. In Revelation 19: 11-13 we find Jesus Christ riding on a white horse, ready to judge and to conquer. When Dylan goes on to say that “Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features” he refers to the statue of the biblical King David (see the picture of David's statue on the right top of this page) which Michelangelo made between 1501 and 1504 andit seems obvious that Dylan sees Michelangelo carve out the features of Jesus Christ in the statue of his predecessor King David of Israel. The Bible states that in a lot of ways the temporary kingdom of David resembles and foreshadows the eternal kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ. Matthew 22: 42, 43 not only says that Jesus Christ is David’s Son but also that David calls Jesus ‘’LORD”.  When we take a closer look at the statue, we see king David with his head turned to the left while his left arm is raised to his left shoulder with his sling flung down behind his back, ready to attack Goliath (I Samuel 17:40). Michelangelo’s David certainly is one of the most famous works of Renaissance sculpture, and it is a clear symbol of both strength and youthful determination. So if you take a close look at this statue, and although you do not literally see David riding this milk white steed, you may nevertheless discern the carved out features of King Jesus Christ, ready to conquer his enemies, in the same way as his predecessor, the righteous king David, combatted and conquered the Philistines and in particular the mighty giant Philistine Goliath. A studio outtake of “Jokerman” at this place has different lyrics: ‘No crystal ball do you need on your shelf, Michelangelo himself could've carved out your features”. These alternative lyrics seem to confirm that the features which Michelangelo has carved out here are indeed the features of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ does not need any fortune telling crystal ball but He has direct insight into the future through His Father in heaven.   
Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space, half asleep near the starsmost likely refers to King David as well. Before David became king of Israel, he had been persecuted by King Saul for many years. We read of this in the first book of Samuel. To avoid being captured, David was constantly on the run and forced to leave theturbulent” villages and towns and to take refuge in the open fields and in the caves. “Half asleep near the stars” indicates that he could not find any enduring rest; he was always on the alert and in danger of being captured.A small dog licking your face” brings in a new element  and at first glance this dog has nothing to do with King David but the image of this dog is presumably used to reintroduce  ambiguity and uncanniness into the song. Again we are taken to the Tarot cards. On some of these Fool Tarot’s cards we see a small dog licking the elbow of the Fool. This Fool looks like a beggar or a vagabond, like David once may have looked when he was on the run for Saul “far from the turbulent space”, to the times when David took refuge to the land of the Philistines and acted like a lunatic in front of the Philistine king Achish. Even in great men like King David, an act of bravery may soon be followed by an act of utter cowardice. The alternative studio outtake of ‘Jokerman’ – which unfortunately has not been released up till nowhas the following lyrics: ‘So drunk, standing in the middle of the street, directing traffic with a small dog at your feet’. Again we see these ambiguous elements. When it says ‘directing traffic’ we see the positive characteristics of leadership, but this positive image is immediately neutralized by negative and contradictory and even preposterous elements when it says: ‘So drunk, standing in the middle of the street’. When you are drunk, the last thing you should do is directing traffic.
“Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame, preacher man seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain. Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks, Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain. False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin, only a matter of time 'til the night comes stepping in”. The first part of this verse can only be grasped if we read it against the background of what it says in the Gospel of John, Chapter 5:1-10. In Jerusalem there was a pool. Around this pool lay a multitude of sick, blind, and lame waiting for the moving of the waters. Sometimes an angel of the Lord went down into the pool and stirred up the water of the pool. Whoever then first got into the water, after the stirring up of the water, was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. (Verse 4).That is why it says: "who'll get there first is uncertain". Now there was a lame man at the pool who had been disabled for 38 years. Jesus came up to him and asked him if he wanted to be cured. The man answered that whenever the water was stirred up; there was no one around to help him to reach the water of the pool first. Then Jesus cured him and ordered him to pick up his pallet and walk (verse 8). The Jews however, (verse 11) stalked and rebuked the cured lame man because he had been cured by Jesus on the Sabbath and on the Sabbath it was not permitted to carry a load (his pallet). Actually the Jews were persecuting Jesus for what Jesus had done on Sabbath (verse 16). Now the ‘rifleman’ may be a metaphor for the Jews and the Pharisees who were ‘stalking the sick and the lame’ to find pretexts to persecute and kill Jesus. The ‘preacher man’ may be a metaphor for Jesus. A preacher man is a person who brings the good news of the gospel and that is exactly what Jesus did. But there is a major difference between the ‘rifleman’ and the ‘preacher man’. The ‘rifleman’ has evil intentions because he isstalking the sick and the lamein order to persecute and kill Jesus, whereas the ‘preacher man’ has nothing but good intentions. Jesus ‘seeks’ the sick and the lame in order to cure and heal them, even if this takes place on a Sabbath.‘Who'll get there first is uncertain’ may be an allusion to the healing pool in Jerusalem. The first sick, lame or crippled man who is able to step into the pool is healed and no sick or crippled man is sure that he will ever reach this water. However, whoever meets Jesus will certainly be healed, either physically or spiritually. Between the lines Dylan makes us feel the ambiguity in this world. The Jews and the Pharisees, pretending to defend a good course, the Sabbath rest, play a deadly cat and mouse game with Jesus with the purpose of preventing Jesus to ‘seek the sick and the lame’ so that their own authority is maintained, even if their attitude is at the expense of the sick and the lame. During the lifetime of Jesus we see the intensity of the ‘stalking of the sick and the lame’ increase. Because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin not only planned to have Jesus killed (John 11:53) but they also tried to murder Lazarus himself (John 12:10).
From a biblical image the focus suddenly shifts to a modern 20th century picture as Dylan goes on to say: “Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks, Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain”. All these words are related to oppression and show that nothing will ever change in this world. This world is a violent world full of oppression and this is of all times and will never stop. The dictionary says that a “nightstick” is a short stout club  used primarily by policemen, “tear gas” is a gas that is used to combat riots and disperse crowds, a ”padlock”  is a detachablelock and  has a hingedshackle that can be passed through the staple of a hasp or the links in a chain and then snappedshut, and aMolotov cocktailis a crude incendiary bomb made of a bottle filled with flammable liquid and fitted with a ragwick. When it says that these things are “behind every curtain” this means that this weaponry is concealed to the eye. This is a typical trait of the Jokerman, to be intentionally ambiguous about his real intentions. An ostensibly peaceful status quo may, with a flick of the wrist, turn into war. For the same album ‘Infidels’ Dylan wrote the song ‘Neighborhood Bully’ which deals with the harassment of the Arab countries against Israel. Dylan writes in this song: “Well he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace, they pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease. Now they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep. They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep”. It is therefore not at all unlikely that at the time when Dylan wrote this song, he may have had in mind the precarious situation Israel had been in for quite some decades.
The studio outtake of “Jokerman” has:“well, the preacher man’s talking’ about the deaf an' the dumb and a world to come that's already been pre-determined. Nightsticks an' water cannons, teargas, padlocks Molotov cocktails an' rocks can't drown out his sermon. You let the wicked walk right into the trap. You're giving' away all good things that fall in your lap”. These alternative lyrics confirm that the message of the preacher man – Jesus – cannot be wiped out. Dylan seems to refer to the Sermon of the Mount here (Matthew 5-7). “A world to comeis the pre-determined Kingdom of God (Mat 6:33). Blessed are not only the “deaf and the dumb” (Mark 7:37) but blessed are also the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteous’ sake (Mat 5:3-10). The Jews and Pharisees at the time tried to “drown outthe message of Jesus. However, also in our days modern combat means like “Nightsticks an' water cannons, teargas, padlocks Molotov cocktails an' rocks” cannot drown out the Sermon of the Mount. Dylan would later on warn us in ‘Shooting Star’ that one of these days it may be ‘the last time you might hear the Sermon of the Mount’ before the Latter Day finally arrives. “You let the wicked walk right into the trap” may refer to Matthew 22:15 where we read: “Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested” (NLT). The outcome was that the Pharisees walked right into their own trap and from then on no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any questions. (Mat 22:46).However, Jesus goes on doing the right thing: “Giving' away all good things that fall in your lap”. The good things fell into His lap – the gifts he received from the Father – and He gave the good things away  to the sick and the poor, the deaf and the dumb, in fact the whole world could have fallen into his lap, if only Jesus had given in to the temptations of the devil(Matt 4: 8-10). 
When the ‘official’ lyrics conclude: “False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin”, this expresses basically the same idea as “You let the wicked walk right into the trap”. As so often in this song, things are not what they seem and take an unexpected turn. Jesus was convicted to death by the “false-hearted judges” of the Jewish Sanhedrin, but in the end they were not able to withhold Jesus and the good news of the Gospel spread all over the world.  “Only a matter of time 'til the night comes stepping in” takes us to Judgment Day when these false-hearted judges will be condemned and forever sent into the eternal night. Dylan’s song ‘Foot of Pride’ was also recorded for the album ‘Infidels’ and was written about the same time as ‘Jokerman’. This song says about false-hearted judges: "Well, there ain’t no going back when your foot of pride comes down” and also:“Sooner or later you gonna meet them coming down”. As the Book of Judas (verse 13) says these false-hearted judges are “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever”. Biblical and at the same time very much Dylanesque language.

It's a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray, a woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet. He'll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat, take the motherless children off the street and place them at the feet of a harlot.  Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants, Oh, Jokerman, you don't show any response”. Also this final verse breathes an atmosphere of ambiguity and at the same time makes an ultimate but fruitless appeal to the Jokerman to respond and to show his real intentions and to put his cards on the table. Who is who,who this prince really is,can only be determined by the way this prince is dressed and by what this prince is doing. Things are again contrary to what they seem at first glance. “It's a shadowy world” indicates that the picture which is drawn here lacks clarity and distinctness and at the same time this “shadowy world” is a sign that the real event, which the shadow foreshadows, will be coming up soon. The prince is borne under a sky which is denoted as “slippery grey”. The clouds and the color of sky often foretell what is coming, what the weather will be like (Luke 12:54, 55). This sky however, is “slippery” grey. “Slippery” may have the connotation here of the word “wanton” or “unchaste” or” loose in morals” (Shak). This slippery sky is “grey”. Grey is said to be any color of neutral hue between white and black. The word slippery seems to foretell that something “wanton” or “unchaste” is about to happen but at the same time the word “grey” somehow neutralizes the picture of what is coming up.
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarletis an important line in this verse. “A woman just gave birth to a prince todayfirst seems to take us back to the days when Jesus was born, to what it says in Luke 2:7: “And she (the Virgin Mary) brought forth her firstborn son”. In many a place in the Bible this “Son” Jesus is called a “Prince”. Centuries before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah already prophesied the coming of this “Son” and called Him a “Prince”. Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”. Deception and confusion comes in when the poet goes on to say that the woman dressed this prince “in scarlet”.This seems confusing because Luke 2:7 says: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn”. From a different viewpoint also Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is about to give birth to a male-child (Christ) of whom we are told that he will rule the nations with an iron rod (verse 5).
However, to dress the Son of God in scarlet would in itself be very appropriate because usually only the noble and very rich were dressed in scarlet. Scarlet is a vivid red color, sometimes with an orange tinge, and just like purple was typical of the exuberant lifestyle and clothing of the rich and the wealthy (see also Proverbs 31:21). However, the Son of God, when he came to this earth, chose to be dressed in swaddling clothes, the clothing which was typical of the poor. Therefore, the point the poet wants to make is to contrast between the humble and poor appearance on earth of the Son of God – wrapped in swaddling clothes but with the purpose of making us rich – and the exuberant and wealthy appearance of his opponent, the anti-Christ – who “dressed in scarlet” leaves us bereft of our children at the feet of a harlot.   
To further understand in what direction the poet may have been thinking when he wrote “A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarletwe have to realize that in the Bible, the title “Prince” is not only given to Christ but also given to God’s and Christ’s opponent the devil, the beast; for instance John 12:31 says: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out”.  When it says that this prince is not dressed in swaddling clothes but “in scarlet” it is at this point where deception and ambiguity bursts upon the scene and where we are led to think in a completely different direction. The word ‘scarlet’ combined with the wordharlot’ – a word which will follow later on in the verse – makes us no longer think about the “princeof peace Jesus but about his opponent, the “princeof this world, the realm of the devil, the realm of darkness, the evil, spiritual empire of Babylon described in the Book of Revelation Chapter 17 and 18. However, the lyrics of the studio outtake of “Jokerman” haveShe's dressed in scarlet”, in that case the woman who gave birth to the prince is dressed in scarlet and not the prince. Either way, the combination “scarletandharlot” resonates in the Book of Revelation Chapter 17:3-5: ‘So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement’.
The same word combination “scarlet“ and “harlot” comes back in Dylan’s song “Soon after Midnight” from the album “Tempest” where Dylan writes: Charlotte is a harlot, she dresses in scarlet”.
We conclude that the “Prince” here represents the beast, the devil, the spiritually evil empire of Babylon and that this prince of darkness is out there to oppose the coming of the Kingdom of God. As outlined in the Book of Revelation, the devil does this in a variety of ways. The first weapon the devil, the beast, the dragon, deploys is temptation and deception through false prophecy. This weapon looks peaceful but does more harm than brutal force because it is ideological warfare. Therefore, when it says: “He'll put the priest in his pocketthis expression may be a metaphorical expression for the  attempts of the devil – the prince of darkness - to wipe out the influence of his opponentthe prince of peace” through false prophecy, through false priests and prophets. We read of this in Revelation 16:13, 14: “And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty (NLT)”. “He'll put the priest in his pocket” means that devil is in full command of those false priests and prophets, he has them in his pocket, to deceive not only individual believers but also to deceive whole nations and stir them up into ideological and spiritual warfare against the kingdom of the prince of peace.
The second weapon this prince of evil deploys is brutal force; this is expressed by the words: ”He’ll put the blade to the heat”. A hot blade is said to be an edged weapon that heats up, adding the thermal energy of its temperature to the kinetic energy of its blow to achieve extreme cutting power. Think of a flaming sword, in our imagination we see – as Dylan would write later on in his song ‘Shooting Star’- ‘the last fire truck from hell rolling by’ –the devil heating up his sword by taking fire from the last fire truck to destroy as much and as many as he possibly can, in a sort of scorched earth policy (Rev. 13:13). In Revelation 11:7 we read that the beast managed to kill the last two witnesses, these were the last two prophets or priests left, fully realizing Dylan’s metaphorical words: “He'll put the priest in his pocket and put the blade to the heat”.
For young children, to lose their father is a tragedy, but it is even a greater tragedy for young children to lose their mother and be left wandering in the streets “motherless”. That is exactly what this prince of evil, dressed in scarlet, has been doing for so long. He has been stirring up all those nations to make war, culminating in the final battle of Armageddon (Rev. 15:16).Throughout the centuries these wars have caused a continuous stream of blood shedding, devastation, destruction, destitution and poverty. These wars literally leave many children out on the streets of big Babylon, orphans, fatherless and “motherless”.  But what does this prince of evil do? Help thosemotherless” and helpless children? On the contrary:He takes the motherless children off the street and places them at the feet of a harlot”.  He abuses those motherless children for his own purpose in a morbid cycle of sexual abuse, whereby victims become perpetrators and end up in prostitution at the feet of harlots. 
In a metaphorical way those “motherless” children represent people without any direction, stability or proper guidance in their lives. These people make no choices in their lives just like Dylan wrote in “Man in the long black coat’: ‘But people don't live or die, people just float”. In an ideological way they become easy victims to the beast who places them at the feet of “a harlot”, so that they become servants of this harlot. The wordharlot” is metaphorically used in Revelation 17 to represent the antagonistic spiritual empire of Babylon. The word ‘’Babylon” is in itself a metaphor for all the big evil powers in this world who try to oppose the coming of the kingdom of God (Rev. 17:5).
The studio outtake of Jokerman has: “He'll turn priests into pimps and make all men bark,take a woman that could have been Joan of Arc and turn her into a harlot”. This verse line basically expresses the same idea. A pimp is someone who procures customers for whores or arranges sexual partners for others. When it says:He'll turn priests into pimpsthis may not be meant literally but is a metaphor for the continuous efforts of the devil, through false prophets, to deceive entire nations through erroneous doctrines, theologies and ideologies into becoming advocates and servants of ideologically evil empires and having those nations commit idolatry in a spiritual way. “Take a woman that could have been Joan of Arc and turn her into a harlot” refers to the kind of woman who resembles Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc –ca. 1412-1431 – was nicknamed “The maid of Orléans" and is regarded as a French folk heroine and a Roman Catholic Saint. At the time she saw it as her mission to support Charles VII in his attempts to recover France from English domination. She was eventually captured by the British and put on trial. She was convicted to death on charges of heresy and was burned at the stake when she was about 19 years old. The poet may have intended to say that the deceptive power of the prince of evil is so great that he successfully turns people who were meant to be saints into the opposite, into becoming harlots.

Having said all this, it is now finally time to confront the Jokerman with the dreadful consequences of all this. Therefore the words: “Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants, Oh, Jokerman, you don't show any responsemay have been intended to draw some sort of a conclusion. The Jokerman is now put on the carpet. It seems as if he now says to the Jokerman: ‘oh come on Jokerman, stop mocking and joking, you know exactly what this prince of evil, the devil, the beast is up to! You know exactly “what he wants”.  All this prince wants is evil; in fact this prince is the incorporation of all evil. His purpose is total destruction of this world through a scorched earth policy. As the end of times approaches, he does his utmost – he puts the blade to the heat - to inflict as much pain and destruction and agony as he possibly can. Like it says in Rev. 12:12:’. So Jokerman, althoughYou don’t show any response”, you must respond now, you cannot have your cards in your sleeve any longer, you must put them on the table. You cannot play the joker card any longer to hide your real intentions. When you see all those innocent motherless children being abused you Jokerman must stop ‘laughing in the face of what sorrow brings’. You Jokerman, you’ve said all along that ‘there must be somewhere out of this’ but this time you will not get away with this. Although “you don’t show any response” I must ask you again ‘’which side are you onwas once on the same cross roads and concluded the following:‘ Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination, or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards’.

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How secure is Dr. Charles F. Stanley's eternal security?


Some time ago I stumbled upon a Christian TV Channel here in the Netherlands called “Family7”. I witnessed a broadcast from the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, ministered by Dr. Charles F. Stanley (born in 1932, on the right you can see a picture of him). I was very impressed by what I heard and saw. Dr. Stanley is the founder of In Touch Ministries . What struck me particularly was not only the reverence for the Word of God which I felt was abundantly present in this church but also the great wisdom of Dr. Stanley. I curiously went to the website of In Touch Ministries and started to watch and hear many more sermons from Dr. Stanley. Listening to all these sermons you can almost sense the lifelong experience Dr. Stanley has in dealing with all the major biblical issues a believer has to deal with in his or her lifetime. I also noticed that Dr. Stanley puts heavy emphasis on so-called ‘Eternal Security’. One of the many books Dr. Stanley has written deals with this subject and this best seller is called: ‘Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?’ 
As I understand it, in my own words, eternal security means that our security of salvation is in what God has done for us when he sent His Son to the cross at Cavalry to pay for all of our sins. Elsewhere Dr. Stanley quite rightly writes: “The very gospel itself comes under attack when the eternal security of the believer is questioned. Placing the responsibility for maintaining salvation on the believer is adding works to grace. Salvation would no longer be a gift. It would become a trade—our faithfulness for His faithfulness. This is a far cry from the good news Jesus preached”.  I could not agree more with Dr. Stanley.
However, Dr. Stanley also states: “Eternal life is received by grace through faith. It is a once-and-for-all transaction that can never be undone. Because of the nature of God’s grace, once you become a Christian, you are always a Christian”. Here I sense the beginning of a problem. To state this more accurately from a Biblical point of view, I would rather say that once you become a true Christian, you are always a Christian or once you are truly saved, you will always be saved (e.g. I John 2:19). Eternal security has therefore all to do with the doctrine of the so-called ‘Perseverance of the Saints’.Perseverance of the saints advocates the Calvinistic doctrine that if God has elected to save you, you are going to be saved forever and nothing can snatch you out of His hand (e.g. John 10:27-30). Because I  never hear Dr. Stanley say that once you become a true Christian, you are always a Christian, I had some doubts and wanted to know exactly where Dr. Stanley stands on this issue, so I sent him an email. I received a reply from his staff and his staff confirmed to me that indeed Dr. Stanley believes that this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is supported by the Bible. That was quite a relief.Perseverance of the saints represents the P in the acronym TULIP, which is commonly used to enumerate what is known as the five points of Calvinism.
However, Dr. Stanley’s staff did more than I asked for and returned a document to me which states Dr. Stanley’s stance on all five points of Calvinism summarized in the acronym TULIP. What appeared? Dr. Stanley only believes that the T which stands for Total Depravity of man and the P which stands for Perseverance of the Saints are scripturally supported. Dr. Stanley believes that the other three points - the U which stands for Unconditional Election, the L which represents Limited Atonement and the I which represents Irresistible Grace – are not scripturally supported. I was really surprised to learn this from Dr. Stanley. Why?
The reason for my surprise is – as history has clearly shown us - that these 5 points are closely connected to each other and you either accept them all as scripturally supported or you reject them all as not scripturally supported. Those who reject TULIP entirely, mostly take their starting point in the T of Total depravity. They deny the Total depravity of man because they believe that although man may have fallen into sin and is in need of divine grace, there is something good left in him which leaves him at least some power to do well and – through good works – contribute to his own salvation. This stance has a lot of consequences for the interpretation of the rest of the contents of TULIP and most of the time the rejection of the Total Depravity gives reasons enough to reject the rest of TULIP acronym. This chain of reasoning to reject all five points of TULIP runs as follows:
If man has (part) his own salvation within the reach of his own capacity, he may chose for himself what way to follow and does not need any divine election as basis for his salvation, therefore he will denounce the U of Unconditional election.
Consequently he will also reject the L of Limited Atonement because man himself has the capacity to decide whether he will belong to the total number of those who will be atoned.
The result of this is that he will also denounce the I of Irresistible Grace because he is free to either accept or resist the offer of God’s grace and companionship and finally he will also reject the P of Perseverance of the Saints because man feels he has free choice to either persevere in his faith or to give it up entirely.
Dr. Stanley however rejects three of the five points of TULIP and in my opinion that does not seem to make any sense.Why not?
Because Dr. Stanley over and over, has emphasized that people are saved only by an act of divine grace which does not depend at all on any deeds of the individual believer and there is nothing  a person can do to influence his or her salvation. Dr. Stanley even takes this to the point that once a person is saved there is nothing the believer can do to undo his or her salvation, even if this seems to happen at the expense of the sanctification of the believer. I’m sure that Dr. Stanley’s thesis of eternal security would make much more biblical sense, would be much more coherent and convincing, if he would accept all the five elements of the TULIP acronym. The fact is that all these five elements support eternal security and now, by rejecting 3 of the elements of TULIP, Dr. Stanley tremendously weakens the case of eternal security. Let me try to explain how all 5 elements of the TULIP acronym are indispensable to make eternal security Rock solid:
Because of my sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1) I am completely lost and helpless and unable to save myself. By nature I am so fully Depraved that I am even hostile to God (Romans 8:7), therefore for my salvation I am a 100% dependent on God’s mercy in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5). So the first thing I need to embrace to get eternal security is the doctrine of Total Depravity.
But if there is one thing which gives me eternal security, then it surely must be Unconditional Election.  By nature I was a sinner and a trespasser and hostile towards God. There was nothing in me, not any works, not even my faith, no reason at all why God should love me, on the contrary, and yet He has chosen me to be His child forever. He really has chosen me unconditionally. God had chosen me before I was even born (Psalm 139:16), He had chosen me even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He has chosen me from all eternity and into all eternity. There is nobody and nothing in this world which can undo His election as is stated Romans 8:33: ‘Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?’.To make my election even more secure, God has sealed me with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 13) which is the guarantee of our childhood and our participation in His inheritance (Ephesians 1:14).So Unconditional Election is fully biblically supported and one of the corner stones of eternal security.
But because it is also biblical, I also need to embrace the thesis of Limited Atonement to get eternal security. Although the blood of Jesus Christ is more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, not all will be saved. Saving grace through the blood of Christ is available for the whole world but not all will be salvaged. The effectiveness of Christ’s death works itself out in the elect only and that is saving grace. Through saving grace I am elected to be a sheep in the flock of the good Shepherd Jesus Christ. He laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). As a sheep in His flock, He gives me eternal life, and I will never perish, and no one will snatch me out of His hand. (John 10:28). The total number of sheep however, is Limited to those given to the good Shepherd Jesus Christ (John 17:9). Being a sheep in His flock makes me grateful and gives me eternal security.
The love and Grace of God, the Father, is Irresistible for and to me. By nature I am hostile to God (Romans 8:7) but His sovereign grace simply overwhelms me and conquers my natural resistance, resistance and hostility which is a bad fruit of my total depravity. I am not saved because my conscience is tenderer than that of other men or that I was more willing to accept His offer of salvation than other men – such a thought would again mean: works! -, on the contrary, there is no reason in myself which would give God any reason to save me. God is my loving Father and loves me for His own sovereign reasons and that is why His grace is so Irresistible and never depends on what I do or not do, like it says in John 6:44–45: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.... Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me." Therefore also the doctrine of Irresistible Grace is biblical and gives me great comfort and makes my soul rest in Him and brings me eternal security.
The Bible teaches me that there is also Perseverance of the Saints .Indeed: ’Once saved is always saved’.I am His child forever and God will never give up on me, no matter what happens to me in life .I may fall into sin and even, for some period in my life, lead a rebellious life, I may for some time have the feeling that I have lost my faith, for some time it may be dark in my life but my loving Father will never forsake me. Because I am His child, through the Holy Spirit, He will, in due course, surely make me repent and restore the joy and comfort of faith in me as it says in 2 Timothy 2:13: ‘if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself’, and also what it says in I John 3:9: ‘No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God’. Therefore, the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is fully biblical and gives me great comfort, consolation and eternal security.  
So I repeat the question: why does Dr. Stanley not accept all the five elements of TULIP when all these elements support eternal security? Please feel free to respond to this article. Please push the button ‘reacties’ and write a comment on this article.

Vier kritische vragen van mijn buurman over de fundamenten van het christelijk geloof.


Met mijn zeer gewaardeerde - niet christelijke - buurman ben ik in discussie over de fundamenten van het christelijk geloof. Mijn buurman is zeer analytisch ingesteld en laat zich niet met een kluitje in het riet sturen. Terecht. Ook als het gaat om het christelijk geloof, wil hij een duidelijk en logisch verhaal horen. Nu heeft buurman inmiddels gereageerd op mijn weblogartikel: 'Het unieke van het christelijk geloof'. In dat artikel had ik o.a. gesteld dat het grote geschenk van het christelijke geloof gratis, voor niets aan de gelovigen geschonken wordt en dat de gelovige die dit geschenk van God aanneemt, hiervoor geen tegenprestatie moet, mag, of kan leveren. Ten opzichte van alle andere religies of wereldgodsdiensten is het christelijk geloof op dit punt bepaald uniek. Nu heeft mijn buurman als reactie de volgende vragen aan mij voorgelegd die hier op neerkomen:
1. “Jij stelt dat ik als mens geen tegenprestatie kan en mag leveren en dus aan mijn behoud niets kan bijdragen maar jij stelt ook dat ik dat geschenk dan wel moet aannemen anders word ik, als ik dat geschenk weiger aan te nemen, daarvoor verantwoordelijk gesteld en gestraft. Is een geschenk wel een geschenk als je het verplicht moet aannemen?”.
2. “Als ik dit geschenk van God nu wel aanneem dan is dat aannemen van dat geschenk toch een verdienste en prestatie van mijzelf waardoor ik mijzelf toch onderscheid van alle andere mensen die dit geschenk niet willen aannemen? Is God op die manier voor de realisatie van zijn plannen uiteindelijk niet afhankelijk van mijn beslissing om dit geschenk al dan niet aan te nemen?”.
3. “ Jouw predikant Ds Bas Luiten heeft gereageerd op jouw artikel en heeft gesteld dat jouw stelling dat we niets hoeven te doen eenzijdig en ongeloofwaardig is. Hoe zit dat”?
4. “Waarom word ik verantwoordelijk gehouden voor de weigering om dit geschenk aan te nemen als de inhoud van geschenk mij niets zegt? Jij hebt veel met Jezus, dat is fijn voor jou, maar mij zegt het allemaal niets, voor mij is Jezus hooguit een historisch figuur waar christenen kennelijk wat mee hebben”. Puntsgewijs ga ik nader op deze vragen in.

1.   God heeft de mens goed en als een verantwoordelijk wezen geschapen. De mens heeft zich moedwillig en welbewust tegen God gekeerd en is daarmee in zonde gevallen. Toen de eerste mens in zonde viel en misbruik maakte van zijn verantwoordelijkheid, heeft hij daarmee de hele mensheid in het verderf gestort (Romeinen 5:12) en is er tussen God en mens – vanuit de mens gezien – een onoverbrugbare kloof ontstaan. Echter, ook na de zondeval is de verantwoordelijkheid  van de mens- en dus ook van de mensheid - blijven bestaan. De gevallen mens Adam wordt ter verantwoording geroepen: ‘Adam waar ben je?’ (Genesis 3:9). Gods ‘toorn’ – die niets anders is dan Zijn gekrenkte liefde – rust sindsdien op de mensheid (Romeinen 1:18.). God echter, heeft Zijn schepping niet opgegeven, maar heeft Zelf een unieke weg van verlossing gecreëerd door Zijn Zoon Jezus Christus te schenken als verzoenmiddel en als plaatsvervanger voor de gevallen mensheid. (2 Corinthiërs 5:19-21). Christenen lezen dit in de Bijbel. Maar ook al ben je geen christen en lees je nooit in de Bijbel, toch maakt God zich ook buiten de Bijbel aan jou kenbaar. Dat gebeurt als je met een onbevangen blik naar de schitterende pracht van de schepping kijkt. Want zegt Romeinen 1: 19: ‘want wat een mens over God kan weten is hun (de mensen) bekend omdat God het aan hen kenbaar heeft gemaakt. Zijn onzichtbare eigenschappen zijn vanaf de schepping van de wereld zichtbaar in Zijn werken, Zijn eeuwige kracht en goddelijkheid zijn voor het verstand waarneembar. Er is niets waardoor ze te verontschuldigen zijn’. Handelingen 17:27 zegt dat ‘Het was Gods bedoeling dat ze Hem zouden zoeken en Hem (God) al tastend zouden kunnen vinden, aangezien Hij van niemand van ons ver weg is’. God is in de schepping zo dichtbij dat de mens dus nooit onder zijn verantwoordelijkheid uitkomt. De kracht en de schoonheid en de glans van de schepping daagt de mens a.h.w. uit om op zoek te gaan naar deze machtige Schepper en nader met Hem kennis te maken.
 Je kunt Hem nader leren kennen in de Bijbel. In de Bijbel vind je Zijn ultieme liefdesaanbod in Jezus Christus.  Nu kan de mens dit geschenk aannemen of weigeren. De stelling van mijn buurman dat hij er voor verantwoordelijk wordt gesteld en gestraft als hij dat geschenk niet aanneemt is in feite een verkeerde voorstelling van zaken en daarom onjuist.
Vergelijk de toestand waarin de mensheid verkeert nu eens met een schipbreuk. Het schip is –door eigen schuld overigens - vergaan en we zwemmen met zijn allen in de woeste oceaan. Als er geen reddingsboot komt zijn we reddeloos verloren en verdrinken we allemaal. Maar gelukkig, er komt een reddingsboot langszij. Er wordt vanuit de reddingsboot een hand naar je uitgestoken die je omhoog wil trekken uit de woeste zee, een hand die je wil redden. Maar je weigert die hand vast te pakken en gered te worden. Het gevolg is dat je omkomt en verdrinkt. Dat is dan toch gewoon je eigen schuld! Je bent voor je eigen ondergang verantwoordelijk. God hoeft in feite al helemaal geen veroordeling meer over je uit te spreken want het oordeel van God bestaat hierin dat je in de toestand waarin je verkeert gelaten wordt (zie Johannes 3:36). Je was drenkeling en je koos ervoor om drenkeling blijven. God dwingt je niet om tegen je wil aan boord te komen en gered te worden. Het grote probleem van de mensheid is dat de mensheid zich geen drenkeling voelt en dus zegt, wat mijn buurman impliciet ook zegt: ‘Ik heb helemaal geen redding nodig, ik zie niet in dat ik verdrink, het gaat goed met me’.

2.  Als we dit beeld van die schipbreuk nu even vasthouden dan is de tweede vraag voor een deel al beantwoord. Wie zal, als hij al uren in het ijskoude water heeft gelegen en op het nippertje gered is door een reddingsboot, er na zijn redding prat op gaan dat hij het gepresteerd heeft om zijn hand uit te steken om gered te kunnen worden? Dat is toch absurd! Vooral als je bedenkt dat de werkelijke situatie zo is dat de mannen van de reddingsbrigade de woeste zee getrotseerd hebben en hun eigen leven op het spel hebben gezet om jou te redden, dan ben je toch alleen maar intens dankbaar dat die mannen dat voor jou over hebben gehad! Hoe vanzelfsprekend dit antwoord ook lijkt, toch zijn we nog niet klaar met deze vraag en willen we ons er niet gemakkelijk van afmaken. Vanuit de Bijbel gaan we er wat dieper op in. Dat maakt het er niet gemakkelijker op, maar toch moeten we ook het volgende zeggen: De Bijbel maakt het duidelijk dat we van naturen helemaal niet gered willen worden. Romeinen 5:10 zegt dat we met God verzoend zijn toen we nog ‘vijanden’ van Hem waren. (Zie ook Romeinen 8:7). Als je dan toch gered wordt dan is dat volgens de Bijbel enkel en alleen genade. Efeziërs 2: 8-9 zegt: ‘Door zijn genade bent U immers gered, dankzij uw geloof. Maar dat dankt u niet aan uzelf; het is een geschenk van God en geen gevolg van uw daden, dus niemand kan zich erop laten voorstaan’. Het woord ‘geloof’ in deze tekst zou je in zekere zin kunnen vergelijken met de ‘hand’ die je uitstrekt om als drenkeling gered te worden. Het geloof is het middel om gered te worden. Ook dat geloof, die hand die je uitstrekt, krijg je uit genade! Dit wordt bevestigd door o.a. Filippenzen 2: 12,13 waar staat: ‘Blijf u inspannen voor uw redding en doe dat in diep ontzag voor God, want het is God die zowel het willen als het handelen bij u teweeg brengt, omdat het Hem behaagt’. In deze laatste tekst blijven beide elementen overeind staan. Je bent en blijft verantwoordelijk, je hebt nog steeds een keuze (blijf je dus inspannen!) maar je kunt dit op een -ontspannen- manier blijven doen omdat het God Zelf is die het hele veranderings en vernieuwingsproces – ook de kracht om de reddingsboei te kunnen aannemen - in jouzelf tot stand brengt.
Nu heeft mijn buurman mij gewezen op een inconsequentie, een soort van paradox, in het christelijk denken op dit punt, iets wat volgens hem niet logisch is. Het is volgens mijn buurman óf óf. Dat betekent dat het óf 100% genade van God is, maar dan ben ik als mens niet verantwoordelijk voor het vanuit mijzelf niet kunnen aannemen van de redding en kan ik er dus niets aan doen dat ik wordt veroordeeld, óf God is afhankelijk van mijn welwillendheid om Zijn aanbod te accepteren, maar dan is God geen God meer omdat Hij dan afhankelijk is van mijn beslissing. God heeft de mens dan nodig om Zijn eigen plannen te kunnen realiseren. Nu kan je gerust stellen dat God de mens ook nodig heeft. Maar niet omdat Hij dat zou moeten, maar enkel en alleen omdat Hij dat wil. Hij wil Zijn geweldig grote liefde aan de mens schenken, daar heeft Hij Zich geheel vrijwillig toe verplicht.
Die hele ‘óf óf’ redenering klopt m.i. dan ook niet. De christelijke –en m.i. ook Bijbelse- leer spreekt echter over én én. De Bijbel spreekt over twee dingen die in het bekeringsproces van de mens tegelijkertijd waar zijn. Enerzijds is de mens voor zijn redding, voor zijn bekering en wedergeboorte, voor de volle honderd procent van Gods genade afhankelijk, én  anderzijds blijft de mens tegelijkertijd  in dat hele proces volledig verantwoordelijk voor het maken van zijn eigen keuzes. Dat die twee zaken – keerzijden van dezelfde medaille - tegelijkertijd waar zijn en een onlosmakelijk onderdeel vormen van een zelfde proces, kunnen wij als mensen, met ons beperkt verstand, niet begrijpen en doorzien. Dit hele proces is dan ook zoals onze belijdenis zegt een ‘volstrekt bovennatuurlijke, zeer krachtige en tegelijk zeer liefdevolle, wonderbare, verborgen en onuitsprekelijke werking[1]’.
Ik weet dat mijn buurman vanuit zijn analytische denkwijze deze verklaring als een zwaktebod zal ervaren en hij heeft mij al verweten dat als christenen iets niet begrijpen ze naar God verwijzen. Daar staat tegenover dat het christelijk geloof nu eenmaal geen logisch systeem is, het is en blijft een geloof, een geloof dat vraagt om vertrouwen en om overgave. Wij kleine mensen, schepselen, missen de dimensie die de grote God, de Schepper, wel heeft om, dit ‘én én’ geheel te kunnen doorzien. Job 36:26 zegt niet voor niets: ’God is groot en wij begrijpen Hem niet’.  

3.       Ik had in mijn vorige weblogartikel 'Het unieke van het christelijk geloof' geschreven dat het unieke van het christelijk geloof o.a. hierin bestaat dat je als mens er niets voor hoeft te doen. Nu is Ds. Bas Luiten zo welwillend geweest om op mijn weblogartikel te reageren. Ds. Luiten schrijft: ‘Je benadrukt zo dat een mens NIETS hoeft te doen, dat het m.i. eenzijdig wordt. Daar word je dan weer ongeloofwaardig van, want iedereen zal zeggen dat hij wel iets moet doen, en dat is ook zo. Wedergeboorte en bekering gaan hand in hand. Misschien helpt het je als je benadrukt dat het om nieuw LEVEN gaat. Leven kun je alleen krijgen, welke zorg je er ook aan moet besteden. Op die manier kun je krijgen en zorgen laten samen gaan, wedergeboorte en bekering, genade en inspanning, enz’. Mijn buurman signaleert hier een meningsverschil met Ds. Luiten. Dat is echter niet het geval, integendeel, ik ben het van harte eens met wat Ds. Luiten schrijft. Ik heb in mijn artikel slechts willen benadrukken dat je niets moet, hoeft, kunt, of mag doen als tegenprestatie voor het geschenk van het leven dat God je geeft. Je kunt met God geen handeltje drijven, dat is een puur heidense gedachte, die diep in de menselijke genen zit. Ds. Luiten heeft gelijk wanneer hij dit nuanceert en stelt dat het hier om NIEUW leven gaat, dat je van God krijgt en waaraan je ook zorg moet besteden. Wanneer God met NIEUW leven in het hart van de mens binnenkomt, dan gaat er in dat leven van die mens heel wat gebeuren en veranderen. Zie hiervoor het artikel over Billy Graham dat rechts boven staat afgedrukt. Maar die verandering ligt dat niet meer in de sfeer van het moeten maar van het willen veranderen. Daar zorgt God Zelf voor (Efeziërs 2:10). Maar hoewel God dit Zelf doet, schakelt Hij de mens in dat proces wel degelijk in en blijft de mens ook hier zijn verantwoordelijkheid houden. Onze belijdenis zegt hierover: ‘En wanneer de wil vernieuwd is, wordt hij niet alleen door God geleid en bewogen; maar door God in beweging gebracht, werkt hij ook zelf. Daarom wordt terecht gezegd dat de mens zelf gelooft en zich bekeert door de genade, die hij ontvangen heeft[2] .

4.  Tenslotte nog iets over de laatste vraag van mijn buurman: “Waarom word ik verantwoordelijk gehouden voor de weigering om dit geschenk aan te nemen als de inhoud van geschenk mij niets zegt?”. Mijn buurman vraagt ook: “ waarom is dat geloof allemaal zo ongrijpbaar? Ik bedoel, als dat geschenk van God dan zo geweldig groot is, en Hij mij wil redden, waarom gebruikt God – die volgens jullie christenen immers Almachtig is - dan geen andere en betere middelen om de grootte van dit geschenk zodanig onder mijn aandacht te brengen dat ik er niet onderuit kan?”.
Mijn antwoord is dat God zich op een andere manier bekend kan maken, als Hij dat ook zou willen. Als Hij dat zou willen kan Hij zo maar een blinkende engel in stralend licht voor de neus van mijn buurman zetten die aan mijn buurman duidelijk maakt dat het evangelie de waarheid is. Ik verzeker je dat mijn buurman door deze verschijning zo overdonderd zal zijn dat hij geen kant meer op zal kunnen, en geen andere mogelijkheid meer zal hebben dan de waarheid van het evangelie te erkennen. Maar zou het ook helpen? In de Bijbel lezen we iets wat hier op lijkt. De rijke man van Lucas 16[3] is in de hel terecht gekomen. Hij wordt daar gekweld en nu wil hij dat iemand -in dit geval Lazarus – uit de hemel afdaalt naar de aarde om te verschijnen aan zijn vijf broers die nog op aarde zijn om die broers te waarschuwen. De rijke man zegt: “want ik heb nog vijf broers. Hij kan hen dan waarschuwen, zodat ze niet net als ik in dit oord van martelingen terechtkomen[4]”. Het antwoord aan de rijke man is dat dit niet gaat helpen want als de broers niet naar het evangelie willen luisteren, dan zullen ze zich ook niet laten overtuigen als er iemand uit de dood opstaat[5]. God is bij machte om Zijn glans, macht en majesteit onmiddellijk aan ieder mens op deze aarde met het oog zichtbaar te maken. Hij kan, als Hij dat zou willen, hier op aarde een PR campagne ten uitvoer brengen die zijn weerga in de geschiedenis niet kent. Hij kan, als Hij dat zou willen, voor ieder oog zichtbaar aan de hemel verschijnen zodat iedereen gedwongen zal zijn Hem te erkennen. Maar Hij doet dat niet. Althans nog niet. Als Jezus terugkomt, zal Hij dat wel doen. Openbaring 1:7 zegt dan ook: “Hij komt te midden van de wolken en dan zal iedereen Hem zien, ook degenen die Hem hebben doorstoken”. Maar nu houdt Hij zich in zekere zin nog verborgen. Waarom doet Hij dat? Het kan wel eens zo zijn dat God dat doet om dat Hij met zo veel mogelijk mensen een relatie van liefde en trouw wil aangaan. En het eerste wat in die relatie niet past is dwang. Als Hij in Zijn hemelse glans en heerlijkheid, voor het oog van iedereen zichtbaar zou verschijnen dan zou Hij in feite de mens dwingen Hem te accepteren, zonder dat die mens echt van Hem houdt. Het zou van de mens slaafse liefde zijn, zonder een toegewijd hart.Maar echte liefde kan in een relatie niet ontstaan en bestaan als die moet worden afgedwongen. Geloof is dan ook geen geloof als de mens daartoe gedwongen wordt. De tweede reden waarom God dat zo doet is dat echte liefde gevonden wil worden. Echte, duurzame, liefde wil gezocht en stap voor stap ontdekt worden. Hebreeën 11: 6 zegt dat iedereen die God oprecht zoekt door Hem (God) zal worden beloond. God wil zich dus heel graag laten vinden. Hij nodigt je uit om naar Hem op zoek te gaan. Als je dat serieus doet met een onbevangen hart, dan zal je Hem ook vinden. Gegarandeerd!! Zijn grootheid straalt je al in de schepping tegemoet. Kijk eerst naar de lucht en zie de zon en de maan en de sterren. De onmetelijke ruimte met zijn vele miljarden sterren. En kijk naar het wonder van de natuur en de pracht van het menselijke lichaam met zijn duizenden microscopische cellen, cellen die op zich al werelden zijn. Sla dan de Bijbel open en ontdek dat dat dezelfde God is die de wereld gemaakt heeft en die jou liefheeft. Alles heeft Hij voor jou over gehad. Zelfs zijn eigen Zoon. Meer kan Hij niet doen. Een groter geschenk is er niet. Reageer op dit artikel door naar beneden te scrollen en te klikken op ‘reacties’.


 1] DL Derde en Vierde Hoofdstuk Artikel 12
[2]  Slot van Artikel 12 DL Derde en Vierde Hoofdstuk.
[3] Lucas 16:19-31
[4] Lucas 16: 28
[5] Dit is m.i. de betekenis van Lucas 16:31

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