(Say the Jesus Creed daily during Lent.)
The ascension. So what? That’s really behind chp 6 of Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Maybe the best chp yet. When I wrote both Embracing Grace and A Community called Atonement, I was aware that I had failed to include much about the ascension. Every now and then someone brings up ascension in theology and the subject often quickly fades … and we go along our merry way ignoring something, not much mentioned, but perhaps of much more significance than we realize. Wright brings it to the surface and shakes it as a central idea.
Some see the ascension in flat-footed literalness while others see the ascension as little more than a clever metaphor for the ongoing presence of Jesus. Wright sees it as entrance into heaven, and place and state more real than our reality.
Wright here says what he thinks heaven is and this will be (I predict) the most talked about feature of this book: heaven is, he says, not a different location than earth in the same space-time continuum, but instead a different dimension (right now) of God’s good creation. The One in Heaven is simultaneously present everywhere and elsewhere. Heaven is, he suggests, the “CEO’s office” or the “control room for earth” (111). It is not so much a place to which we go but a place from which Jesus will return for the New Heavens and New Earth.
Ascension theology affirms embodied existence, a new existence, and that Jesus is Lord over All.
The quote of the book: “At no point in the Gospels or Acts does anyone say anything remotely like, ‘Jesus has gone into heaven, so let’s be sure we can follow him.’ They say, rather, ‘Jesus is in heaven, ruling the whole world, and he will one day return to make that rule complete'” (117).
Then he discusses the Second Coming. As if he hasn’t already given us enough to think about. Two problems: American evangelicals are obsessed by the doctrine, and have gotten it muddled, and mainliners have done their dead-level best to avoid the doctrine, and are likewise muddled.
Next chp: Second Coming. See you Friday.