The first recorded act of free-will is recorded in Genesis 2:19, where Adam exercising a quality associated with him being made in God's image, names the created animals. God did not over-rule this exercise nor its results, as we read, "...and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." He later names his help-mate, "Eve." Adam still possessed the divine nature, as he had yet to sin. Eve, who a symbol of Christ coming forth from the Father (Jn.16:28), was always in the bosom of Adam (his rib being the building material God used to create Eve), exercised her free-will to hearken unto the temptation of the devil. By free-will man entered into his lost (spiritually dead) state, by this selfsame free-will he makes the choice to accept God's gracious offer of sib's antidote being the blood of atonement, which not only expiates the sin, but covers sin as the skins of the sacrificed animals (God initiated), were offered as a covering for their nakedness (a reminder of sin).
As I am reluctant to simply repeat the often cited verses by Calvinists and Arminians to make their respective arguements, let me offer scripture which evidences God's will that no man perish, as he gives grace to the humble, whose hearts are detected by the Holy Spirit as God's eyes search the heart of every man as we are naked (can't hide anything) before Him (Heb 4;13).
Niniveh was the capitol of Assyria, and oft times the enemy of the Children of Israel, yet the LORD insisted that Jonah go there to preach to them concerning their wickedness (depravity). Even as Jonah resists, seeking his own way (away), the grace of God overruled Jonah's position that they deserved destruction (which he eagerly waited for-even after his preaching from his elevated perch outside of the city). The people of Niniveh hearkened unto the word (a "type" of gospel message) of the prophet, and chose to humble themselves before the merciful God of the Israelite...even unto the king who sat mourning the sins of the nation (and likely his own) in sack-cloth and ashes (Jon 3;6).
Then, the king made his decree calling for the obedience of the people unto fasting, praying fervently to God, that God might be merciful and not destroy this huge metropolis. Having the luxury of hindsight, we know destruction was deferred for another 120-140 years until Niniveh's enemies overran her.
The citizens of Niniveh chose: 1) to listen to a lone Israelite who had the moxie to deliver the warning of God. 2) to humble themselves in sackcloth and ashes. 3) to "fast" even unto the non-consumption of liquids such as water. 4) extended that fast even unto the wealth of livestock they had, (imperiling their very food supply). 5) to pray and cry out to the God of Israel.
It is evident that God made the offer....and they by their own will accepted the conditions, and were benefitted thereby.
If we consider all the conditional offers made by God, one sees they are follwed by God responding to those freewill choices. It is the multitude of scriptures which have the "If-Then" construct. A fine "If-Then" scriptural sample most shall recognize is 1 Chronicles 7:14, where we read, "If my people who are called by my name shall....,....,...,...,Then, will I hear from heaven and....,....,...." God calls us unto obedience, to wit His response is a beneficial response of mercy and grace...or, occassionally, a word of warning, which if the people freely chose, they would suffer the consequnces. Either way, the offer was made for the people to "choose".
If we consider the words "election", "predestination", and "chosen" to be applied to Israel, we do well by that.....even Calvin recognized this to be so. The error comes through the subtlety of "replacement theology", where one posits that the "church" has somehow supplanted Israel in God's economy. Lest we forget, our "predestination" is within Christ the "elect" and "chosen" Lamb of God, by whom we have been engrafted into the stalk, because some of the Israelite branches had been broken off. Where one may posit that it was the Scribes, Pharasees, Sadducees, lawyers, and generally the Sanhedrin who sought to kill Jesus (and Lazarus), or specifically those committing the "unpardonable sin" of ascribing the miraculous works of Jesus to the devil.....we cannot tell with certainty. However, the bottom line goes to the "whosoever" of John 3;16 who respond in obedience to God's calling through the gospel message.
For the Calvinist who relishes in his eternal salvation, I fearfully direct him to the parable of the seed (gospel) being sown abroad. Three of the four seeds sown evidenced "life", as even Judas evidenced the working of miracles under the commission and authority of Jesus when they were initially sent out two-by-two.
But, only one of the seeds became fruitful. Of the other two, one died-having no depth of root; and, the other was choked out by its representative persons being focused on the riches and cares of this world. Where was the everlasting life for the germinated seed which lacked root? Was it not born unto "life"?
Where we who study the Word, look to it literally first, within its context, hopefully, with an eye to the customs and understanding of the people of that time to whom it was directed (usually the Jew); we must also consider how error of hermenuetics may have crept in. Where Calvin was not hostile to the Jews, as his senior Reformist Luther most certainly was, he never-the-less was preparing doctrine which distanced the Reformers from the Catholic Church, not unlike what the Church did in the early centuries after the destruction of the Jewish Temple, as the Gentile Christians were quickly outnumbering the Messianic Christians.
Where the church of Gentiles allowed error to creep in, such as the determining proper day to celebrate Easter named after the goddess Eshtar (Aphrodite), said celebration drifted from the proper day of the "offering of first fruits" which technically fell on the first day (we call Sunday-Jewish "day one") which followed the sabbath which fell within the week of unleavened bread initiated at the passover meal consumed every Nisan 15, following the twighlight passing of evening Friday Nisan 14.
We see today, this "Easter" holiday sometimes is celebrated on a different day than the proper Jewish time reconing of the "first-fruits" day one (Sunday). Likewise, Calvin, regardless of his scriptural mastery, sought to distance nascient Protestantism from Catholicism. This has proved to be unfortunate regarding the doctrine of predestination being applied beyond the people group to whom Jesus was initially sent....and, moreso to that predetermining many, from before conception, unto eternal damnation.
History indicates, at least to me, that whenever doctrine is being fashioned by a Christian group to distance it from its undesirable branch from which it has budded, Satan is more than pleased to offer his devisive assistance. Note my beloved friends and brethren who are "Pentecotals" who insist that the evidence of being "born again" is glossolalia (speaking in tongues). It is unfortunate to cast a hardhearted position that my dear brethren who evidence "not" such a manifestation could be called into question regading their "making it into heaven".
So, I close by thanking those of you willing to expand your narrow horizon enough to consider the overarching mercy of God towards mankind, and the observation that every harmonic ripple of denomination from the autograph (original texts) lays one at risk for eisegesic manifestations as we've witnessed historically....and, in particular to this subject, a construct of one of the most respected of the Reformers.
Bob Dylan smiles during a meeting with the British press, April 28, 1965. Harry Thompson/Getty Images hide caption
Bob Dylan smiles during a meeting with the British press, April 28, 1965.Harry Thompson/Getty Images
Bob Dylan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama on April 26, 2012. The honor is due in no small part to songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" still asking the same hard questions 50 years later.
By 1962, Bob Dylan had been hanging around McDougal Street in Greenwich Village for a little more than a year. He was known as a nervous guy with a funny cap, a singer and writer of songs like dozens, maybe hundreds, of others. Happy Traum and Bob Cohen were members of a folk group playing the Village at that time, called The New World Singers. They would invite Dylan up on the stage to join them.
"He was very sort of rough around the edges," Happy Traum notes, "and at the same time he had built this mythology about himself where we didn't know where he came from; he just sort of appeared, hitchhiking or riding boxcars out of the Southwest or something like that. And so he was immediately this kind of iconic figure even for a 19- or 20-year-old kid."
Rough as he was, Dylan had caught the eyes and ears of some important and influential people. John Hammond, already a legendary producer at Columbia Records, heard Dylan and signed him for the label. His first album contained just one original composition, "Song to Woody," and sold only a few thousand copies. But Dylan continued to play and to learn. One night at Gerde's Folk City, Dylan heard The New World Singers perform a Civil War era freedom song, one that Bob Cohen still remembers.
"It was very dramatic and a very beautiful song, very expressive. And Dylan heard that and heard other songs we were singing. And some days later, he asked us, he said, `Hey, come downstairs.' We used to go down to Gerde's basement, which was—is it all right to say?—full of rats, I don't know, and other things. And he had his guitar, and it was kind of a thing where when he added a new song, he'd call us downstairs and we'd listen to it. And he had started—and he wrote, (singing) `How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?' And the germ of that melody of "No More Auction Blocks" certainly was in that."
The New World Singers were the first to record "Blowin' in the Wind." Dylan later said he wrote the song in a cafe across the street from the Gaslight. He claimed it took him 10 minutes. Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, gave a demo of the song to another act he managed, a trio named Peter, Paul & Mary.
"Blowin' in the Wind" quickly became an anthem of the civil rights movement then reaching its peak. Dylan sang it himself at a voter registration rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, in the spring of 1963. Peter, Paul & Mary performed it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of that year, a few hours before Martin Luther King delivered his `I have a dream' speech. And Peter Yarrow remembers singing it during the march from Selma to Montgomery.
"When we sang it, it was in a field where probably I'd say, oh, 5,000 of the poorest people I'd ever seen, all of them black. And they waited in the rain for a couple of hours 'cause the sound system had gone to the wrong destination. We sang it very slowly, very, very—in a very determined way, but with a sense of the weariness of the people that surrounded us."
"Blowin' in the Wind," with its references to cannonballs and white doves, was also adopted by the anti-war movement. Peter, Paul & Mary's version of the song became the fastest-selling single in Warner Brothers' history. It was topical, it was political and it was completely unlike anything else on the radio, which at the time was dominated by highly produced pop songs: Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips, Part 2," "Judy's Turn To Cry," by Lesley Gore, and The Four Seasons' "Candy Girl."
Writer David Hajdu chronicles the era in his forthcoming book, "Positively Fourth Street."
"I think it beat out the 'Chipmunk Song,' or it was right up there with the "Chipmunk Song" and "To Know Him Is to Love Him. And can you imagine what it was like to be a teen-ager and to be flipping through the dials and to hear that kind of silly pop and then the next thing, or the next song, is "Blowin' in the Wind"? What a revelation that must have been."
In fact, it's the most covered of any Dylan song, with everyone from Duke Ellington to Glen Campbell to Stevie Wonder having recorded it.
Greil Marcus has written about Dylan and the '60s. He says "Blowin' in the Wind" was a product of its era.
"You know, there are songs that are more written by their times than by any individual in that time, a song that the times seem to call for, a song that is just gonna be a perfect strike rolled right down the middle of the lane, and the lane has already been grooved for the strike. And this was that kind of song. Someone had to write this song."
But what does it mean, `The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind?' Dylan himself was cryptic about it, telling Sing Out! magazine in 1962, quote, "There ain't much I can say about this song, except the answer is blowin' in the wind. It ain't no book or movie or TV show or discussion group, man. It's in the wind." Writer David Hajdu says its ambivalence is part of the song's appeal.
"The song can be anything to anybody. It's critical and it's hard, this litany of questions about what's wrong with the world, OK; so if you're inclined, you know, to damn the establishment and the prevailing authority, there's your song. If you're of a more positive nature, well, this song provides an answer, too, or it hits—it leans toward an answer. `The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.'"
Peter Yarrow, who, with Noel Stookey and Mary Travers, has probably sung the song more often than anyone else, says it's wrong to take the lyrics too literally.
"You can hear in this a yearning and a hope and a possibility and a sadness and sometimes a triumphal proclamation of determination. The answer is blowin' in the wind means we will find the answer. So it's a matter of interpretation and, frankly, I think Bobby was probably right and legitimate in not giving a specific interpretation."
Dylan's own version of the song appeared on his second album, the 'Freewheelin' Bob Dylan,' released in May 1963. What it lacks in polish it gains in authenticity."
Dylan himself has downplayed the significance of "Blowin' in the Wind." In the liner notes to his 1985 "Biograph" collection, he called it `just another song,' although he admits he knew it was special but not to what degree. It is still a staple at protest rallies and campfires, and it remains, in Peter Yarrow's words, "part of the secular liturgy of our times."