Today at church, we had a baptism, celebrated the Lord’s supper, and recognized Ascension Sunday.
I remember celebrating Ascension Thursday at the Latin mass that I attended in Cincinnati. The priest who preached about love was speaking at that service, and his emphasis was on what happened to humanity when Christ became a man and took his human nature into heaven. The priest connected this with humanity’s destiny to become God—and, by this, he probably meant something different from what Armstrongites mean, though both would agree that humanity was exalted in some sense by the incarnation, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Or, more specifically, Christians were exalted.
The pastor at my Presbyterian church this morning focused more on what happened to God as a result of Jesus’ incarnation, resurrection, and ascension. The pastor was saying that God no longer knows about what it’s like to be human merely in an abstract sense, for there is a piece of the Godhead that actually knew what it was like to be a human being.
The pastor said some other things this morning that stood out to me, for he made me wonder if he had read Bishop Spong. The pastor said that the ascension of Jesus is about God, not so much about a man floating up into heaven. This stood out to me because I remember Bishop Spong mocking the idea that Jesus floated up into heaven, as if that was unscientific. But the ascension of Jesus never struck me as a significant problem for Christianity. It’s not as if, in this case, the fossils say one thing, and the Bible says another. Rather, Christianity is just saying that a man ascended into heaven, and, even though our current conception of “heaven” may be larger than and different from that of the ancients, a God-man can still ascend past the stratosphere into outer space—up to the throne of God. Why not? Jesus could survive outer space!
The pastor also said that it was not merely the idea of Jesus who went to heaven. I wonder if he has come across some liberal theologians, who deny that Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead. I think of Wili Marxen, who said that the resurrection is a metaphor for the cause of Jesus going on. But my pastor doesn’t buy that!