Let’s just admit it: the Bible makes us uncomfortable at times. We recoil when we read about the destruction of the Canaanites or Father Abraham pimping his sister/wife, Sarah. But these stories are right there on the pages of the Bible, and we have to grapple with its sometimes shameful narratives and unsettling ideas. Sooner or later, every thoughtful Christian has to come to terms with an inscrutable Creator they do not and cannot fully comprehend. Because we live in the yawning gap between the already and the not-yet in the unfolding of God’s eternal plan, we inevitably find ourselves struggling to understand the ways of God.

Actually, I am inclined to think one of the spiritual requirements for being a follower of Jesus is that you must wrestle with God. After all, when God gave a new name to Jacob and his descendants, he called them “Israel,” or God wrestlers: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have wrestled with God” (Gen. 32:28, paraphrase mine). Wrestling with God is in our spiritual DNA.

There is plenty of wrestling to do in the early section of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. This remarkable letter begins with a lavish outpouring of affection. But Paul throws us a curve when he employs what many Christians consider a “repulsive” idea. There is one word in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that has given heartburn to millions of Jesus followers for a very long time—for much of the last 2,000 years. To make matters worse, Paul uses this disturbing word twice in the same passage for emphasis. That word is “predestination.” For many this word conjures up images of the dark side of the “force” and the malevolent ...

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