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Ascension, Part I

A year ago in First Things, Abigail Favale wrote:

“I teach in a great books program at an Evangelical university. Almost all students in the program are born-and-bred Christians of the nondenominational variety. A number of them have been both thoroughly churched and educated through Christian schools or homeschooling curricula. Yet an overwhelming majority of these students do not believe in a bodily resurrection. While they trust in an afterlife of eternal bliss with God, most of them assume this will be disembodied bliss, in which the soul is finally free of its 'meat suit' (a term they fondly use).”

In the article, she posits that only a quarter of her students “affirm the orthodox teaching that we will ultimately have a body in our glorified, heavenly form.”

The Church doggedly persists in teaching that, although we cannot see him, the Lord Jesus ascended bodily to the right hand of the Father. The meaning of this is actually quite simple: that having assumed a full human nature, he does not extract his true self from this reality, but will always and forever be God and Man joined in a personal union. Yet, this seems to be lost in the daily thoughts of contemporary Christians who hope merely for a disembodied existence in heaven, free from the confines of a body, becoming entirely spiritual. Gnostic heaven, as I call it, might be intriguing to some, but for the Christian, it obliterates all need for the Resurrection, either of the Lord himself, or of a general resurrection. It means that, even now, our bodies are inconsequential, not really who we are. No wonder bodily reconfiguration seems to now be the ideal of human freedom, the destruction of even the smallest of human bodies deemed a constitutional right.

We need to ponder the Ascension because in it we see our perfect end: life with God in the goodness of the beatific vision, which with our very eyeballs, though risen and redeemed, we shall see God. Christians will always believe that even though there is immense beauty in this world, we still, as Paul puts it "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face." (1 Cor. 13:12) The tragedy of the modern world is that we have reduced all existence to the things that we can see, touch, taste, and hear. But, the Gospel shows us that this is only part of the reality we inhabit. There is a whole world of things we can't see, things which are, in a sense, more real, not less. And we hope in a Savior who is both fully God and fully Man, who is seated at the Father's right hand, reigning in glory.

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