Sunday, June 26, 2011

the connection is unclear connection

So, things are still going on over at the Emergent Village blog post about Process Theology. We all must, of course, be wary of how we interpret things there, because no one's interpretation is accurate without qualifications, especially if you are not a qualified emergent. But, here we go...

As far as your “plain meaning” goes, what do you think is the “plain meaning” of the ascension in Luke-Acts? Did Jesus float up into the sky and finally reach heaven which is just above the firmament? Or does ascension mean something else? It seems like the most plain reading of the ascension which is consistent with 1st century cosmology is one where Jesus could literally ascend to heaven which is literally up in the sky. So a “plain reading” seems to indirectly support an ancient, pre-scientific cosmology. If we are only relying on “plain meaning” (whatever that is), how can anyone take the Bible seriously? So when does plain meaning give to something else? Or are you stuck backing an ancient cosmology (along with many other problematic things) because of your insistence on plain meaning?

Well, let's see the passage or two in question.

Luke 24
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Acts 1
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

So, I'm wondering, what exactly about these accounts is suppose to be refuted by the knowledge that the earth goes 'round the sun? So far as I can tell, nothing.

Notice that the EV blog poster adds to the passage, obviously trying to turn the argument in his/her favor. There is nothing in the passage about Heaven being "just above the firmament".

The word translated "heaven" in the Luke 24 passage has the meaning of sky. Jesus ascended, then obviously He went up into the sky. No problem there. It is also the same word used in Acts 1. While the word can also seem to mean Heaven in the sense of the spiritual Heaven, the primary meanings seem to be rather more material.


The EV poster tries to use this passage as a weapon against a "plain meaning" of Scripture, I would suppose to support some kind of non-plain, metaphorical, basically dismissive reinterpretation. But the attempt simply falls flat.

But one can see the kind of esteem this EV poster and others there hold our Lord and His Word in by some of their statements, as quoted below from a few different comments there.

just as an aside i have no problem with jesus floating up and being hidden by clouds. The geezer had just risen from the dead so a little bit of levitation doesn’t sound so hard. It doesn’t mean heaven is in the sky, it’s just a cool way to exit and for the people watching it would have made complete sense :)

Did he do these things? Totally, yes. Does it matter if he didn’t? Not to me in this lifetime, no. It’s an odd thing to say but my faith isn’t actually dependant on the literal existence of Jesus… :)

That’s good. Faith that is rooted in such historical contingency as the resurrection of Jesus is misplaced...but whether Jesus existed or not should not affect one’s faith if one’s faith is truly rooted in God.

...Anyone wanting to appeal to both “straightforward meaning” and the divine origin of Scripture must conclude that either modern cosmology is wrong and heaven is actually just above the clouds somewhere OR that God wasn’t really on his game when he was divinely inspiring this particular passage. Otherwise, the proponents of a plain reading of Scripture must admit that careful interpretation is necessary.

But as far as Jesus floating up into the sky…I agree, at some level, that if Jesus was truly resurrected from the dead, the gospel account of his ascension wouldn’t be nearly as troublesome an event to imagine. Yet even if one accepts the resurrection as historical, the account of the ascension still can be questioned as historical.

Funny, though, how in that last comment, it is admitted that Jesus' resurrection is true, than His ascension is not all that troublesome. Funny, too, that the poster in question is the same who went on about the the ascension in the first place.

But that's just my interpretation of the whole thing. And not being a registered and certified emergent pomo, my interpretation must be taken with qualifications, because I am not qualified.

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