Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds
Today’s Passage: Ephesians 2
Confession: I’ve never seen an episode of The Walking Dead. You’d think I’d at least have read an issue of the comic or something, but no.
Think about that title, though. Thanks to overexposure, you forget what it means, but remember the funerals you’ve been to. The deceased wasn’t ambulatory. The body wasn’t up and about, wandering among the crowd of funeral attendees. Bottom line is, the dead aren’t supposed to walk. But here in Ephesians 2, centuries upon centuries before the modern zombie, that’s Paul’s picture of the human being before receiving God’s grace in Christ.
And just like his statements on predestination yesterday, Paul’s metaphor does not make it easy on those of us who would believe humans have free will. Paul writes: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (1-2). To be dead is to be inert, a corpse, incapable of motivating your physical self. The dead are lifeless. But Paul says that we, before Jesus Christ gets to work in us, as we walk around and trespass and whatnot, are spiritual corpses. Despite our motion, from a moral and spiritual standpoint, we’re stillborn.
Is there any room for free will in that? Well, it gets worse. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with these verses: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (8-9). Perhaps Paul brought up the “walking dead” thing to emphasize not our powerlessness, but the undesirable spiritual condition we found ourselves in, our separation from the vital power of God. But now we have to square our views with this picture of salvation that’s a gift, not of ourselves, and not a result of works.
You can talk about how we’re free to receive the gift or reject it. You can talk about how it’s not something we earn, and in that sense it doesn’t result from works, but it’s still something we have to accept for ourselves. But Paul specifically says it’s “not of yourselves.” And the only way I can think of that free will might be compatible with that notion is if God himself gives us our free will. If the freedom to exercise faith and receive grace is a gift from God, and in that sense is “not of ourselves,” then perhaps we are not entirely constrained by causal forces, God or the prince of the power of the air or whatever else determines our actions.
If our wills are free, they are barely free at all. And especially so as we walk around without Jesus Christ, cut off from life, volitional zombies.