The book of Ephesians, like many others in the Bible, starts off with an excited flurry of language—It feels a little excessive, really, to the modern reader. And, to further the case against Ephesians, the book contains a slew of phrases that have become the basis of “christianese”: insider language that is so over used, it has begun to loose some meaning. To top off the caseagainst Paul and his short but manic letter, just about every corner you turn in the book, you run up against a new mystery—something that is true, yet something we aren’t able to figure out or comprehend.
It is packed with language such as “chose before the foundation of the world” and “forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which he lavished on us.” Really, it’s just enough to make you think Shakespeare wrote it, not Paul. But then again, this is what happens to the highly educated when they get excited about something: they get wildly verbose. It happens to the best of us. And, like my allusion to Shakespeare, I find that having a theatrically-oriented mind can be an asset when wading through a passage such as this.
And I don’t mean you have to plan when to take a breath as you read this passage aloud, as an actor would do with a script—although in some places you may have to do just that. What I’m getting at is that I think there may be a few theatre analogies that could be drawn to help better understand the text. But as with any other analogy, its usefulness goes only so far; and once it is pushed to the point of breaking down, we should abandon it.
For instance, there is a phrase in the first chapter of the book “…we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose…” Now, for some people, this is a spot where they can easily get hung up. He wrote “predestined”, and we all know what that means, right? But I’m not so sure we really do. Because when I read this passage, my mind wanders over to the casting process. When I audition to act in a play, I don’t actually know that I can play the part, or that I will. I didn’t even get to initiate the casting process, because it didn’t start with me showing up. It started days or weeks earlier, when the director decided to hold auditions. Now, when I audition, I don’t know that I can play the part, nor do I know that I will be offered the part, but then I get cast. Now I have the role, but I still do not actually know that I can do it. So, I go to rehearsals, relying on faith that the director knows what they are doing, and that they see something in me that assures them I can breathe life into the script. So I rehearse in faith. And, eventually, I discover that I can play the part, because I do.
The director chose me to do the work before I knew what it was or if I could do it, to fulfill the purpose of bringing a play to life. Is this a perfect explanation of what predestination is? Certainly not. This is something like what I think predestination might be. This is how my art has helped me understand my faith.
If you happen to be a person who cracks open a Bible from time to time, have you ever noticed that some life-skill or training you’ve gotten (that wasn’t directly about Biblical interpretation) ended up helping you decipher the ancient text? If not, what do you think about all of this?