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decrumpit
Apr 12th 2009, 05:07 PM
A favorite "proof" text for atheists is Acts 1:9, in which Jesus ascends to heaven.

The late astronomer Carl Sagan (a devout atheist) said that even if Jesus ascended at the speed of light, he has not yet left the milky way!

With the universe getting bigger and bigger (since the time of Christ), a bodily ascension seems to me to make little sense.

A Catholic teacher of mine once explained to me that the Ascension was when Jesus stopped appearing to the disciples, and they wrote of it as ascension. This lacks biblical support, in my opinion.

So how can we explain this text to those who might be questioning Christianity and those who say that science has rendered the Bible incompatible with reality?

Cheers!

Walstib
Apr 12th 2009, 05:21 PM
Did he ascened into the "clouds of heaven"? I don't know as we can say for sure but we know Stephen saw heaven in this way and in his sight line.

I would explain that the heaven that Jesus accended into was not "just the other side of the event horizon" but a different "dimention of creation" for lack of better words. String theory possibly has relevence and is something many athiests can relate to.

That is where I would start. Definately no big thing to overcome.

Peace,
Joe

apothanein kerdos
Apr 12th 2009, 05:32 PM
Considering it was a supernatural act and not a naturalistic one, Christ simply ascended and then most likely entered the spiritual realm.

Remember, never accept naturalistic presuppositions in atheistic arguments.

watchinginawe
Apr 12th 2009, 06:17 PM
A Catholic teacher of mine once explained to me that the Ascension was when Jesus stopped appearing to the disciples, and they wrote of it as ascension. This lacks biblical support, in my opinion.Why do you feel that this lacks Biblical support? I think that view does have support, at least as far as Jesus appearing in His resurrected body.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
...
John 16:5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;

10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.


We also know that Jesus appeared and called the Apostle Paul, but that appearance was not the same as those when He ate broiled fish and honeycombs with the Apostles. Paul said:

I Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.


So Paul indicates an end of Jesus' appearance as well. But technically, Jesus later spoke to the Apostle John in the Revelation.

Anyway, I would put Jesus' ascension into the same category as that of the dispatch and appearance of Angels.

God Bless!

*Hope*
Apr 12th 2009, 10:54 PM
Remember, never accept naturalistic presuppositions in atheistic arguments.

Excellent advice here.

watchinginawe
Apr 12th 2009, 11:58 PM
Considering it was a supernatural act and not a naturalistic one, Christ simply ascended and then most likely entered the spiritual realm.

Remember, never accept naturalistic presuppositions in atheistic arguments.I agree with *Hope*, this is good advice. Surely the resurrection was just as absurd to Carl Sagan as the ascension.

God Bless!

Walstib
Apr 13th 2009, 12:28 AM
We might as well throw the scripture for it in as well with my third in the agreement.



For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:11-16 NKJV)

decrumpit
Apr 13th 2009, 02:33 AM
Considering it was a supernatural act and not a naturalistic one, Christ simply ascended and then most likely entered the spiritual realm.

Remember, never accept naturalistic presuppositions in atheistic arguments. This is intuitive, although only once you mix it with modern presuppositions.

For the writers of the New Testament, the world was a three tiered universe (according to Aristotles cosmology) with hell below, the earth, and heaven above the dome of the sky. Christs's ascension was clearly an ascension upwards, to the sky. When one does this, he achieves orbit, not heaven!

I guess a moderate position could be taken here, saying that Jesus ascended for the people to give them an example of going up (and therefore to heaven), although this seems to be a modern reading of an ancient text.


I agree with *Hope*, this is good advice. Surely the resurrection was just as absurd to Carl Sagan as the ascension.
The Resurrection is something that would be simply God showing his mastery over the laws of the universe, not something that be misrepresented as unnecessary.


Why do you feel that this lacks Biblical support? I think that view does have support, at least as far as Jesus appearing in His resurrected body.
It seems plausible, although it is not found explicitly in scripture.

apothanein kerdos
Apr 13th 2009, 02:40 AM
This is intuitive, although only once you mix it with modern presuppositions.

For the writers of the New Testament, the world was a three tiered universe (according to Aristotles cosmology) with hell below, the earth, and heaven above the dome of the sky. Christs's ascension was clearly an ascension upwards, to the sky. When one does this, he achieves orbit, not heaven!

I guess a moderate position could be taken here, saying that Jesus ascended for the people to give them an example of going up (and therefore to heaven), although this seems to be a modern reading of an ancient text.

This also assumes that Jews from Judea would have accepted Aristotle's view of the universe, which wasn't even universally accepted. In fact, Platonism ruled the day in that area, where there was a physical (lesser) world and a spiritual (higher) world. The early Christians were almost all converted Platonist. In fact, Aristotle doesn't really become a central philosopher until the Muslim's re-discovered his writings. Hence the Christian Scholasticism at the turn of the first millennium via Anselm, Scotus, Aquinas, and others. But that's neither here nor there...all that to say that bringing Aristotle into this really means nothing.

Rather, the people at the time would have understood that Christ's ascension was to show that He was ascending into Heaven. As I stated, He didn't just "go into orbit." That's absurd. He entered into Heaven, which is spiritual, not physical. The "going up" is symbolic. He could have just as easily disappeared at that point. Instead, He "goes up" as symbolism. And this isn't a modern reading at all - that's what the Church Fathers taught (not an Aristotelian among them - they all use Platonic languages and terms, though they are not Platonist).

decrumpit
Apr 13th 2009, 03:08 AM
This also assumes that Jews from Judea would have accepted Aristotle's view of the universe, which wasn't even universally accepted. In fact, Platonism ruled the day in that area, where there was a physical (lesser) world and a spiritual (higher) world. The early Christians were almost all converted Platonist. In fact, Aristotle doesn't really become a central philosopher until the Muslim's re-discovered his writings. Hence the Christian Scholasticism at the turn of the first millennium via Anselm, Scotus, Aquinas, and others. But that's neither here nor there...all that to say that bringing Aristotle into this really means nothing.

Good call on Aristotle. Although the three tiered universe remains....

http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/glossary/plato.html


The "going up" is symbolic. He could have just as easily disappeared at that point. Instead, He "goes up" as symbolism. And this isn't a modern reading at all - that's what the Church Fathers taught (not an Aristotelian among them - they all use Platonic languages and terms, though they are not Platonist).

So Neo-Platonism is more the right description of the church fathers. I'm personally more convinced of the figurative explanation myself. I'm glad to know that some Christians do interpret this non-literally.

Just out of curiosity Kerdos, did you study these things academically? Or is this just your own inquiry that led you to these conclusions?

apothanein kerdos
Apr 13th 2009, 03:33 AM
Good call on Aristotle. Although the three tiered universe remains....

http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/glossary/plato.html (http://abyss.uoregon.edu/%7Ejs/glossary/plato.html)The problem is how they viewed it and how it would have been applied to Christ (assuming the early Christians were Platonists or neo-Platonists...we'll get to that).

I think you're looking at the physical universe, you're keeping the view of Christ in a purely naturalistic view. It's taking the modern reading - which is literal - and applying it to the text.

The Platonist and early Christians (even those under a non-Hellenistic mindset, say, a Hebrew mindset) would have understood the ascension of Jesus simply to be that He ascended into Heaven. That is, though He rose it was into a spiritual realm. He didn't leave orbit, He is not the first Apollo mission. ;)

An example is you can look to the analogy of Plato's cave. If you're familiar with it (and I'll assume you are, so I'll skip the detailed explanation - if not, I can come back to this), then you know that the physical realm is behind the wall, looking at the shadows, while the spiritual realm is behind the fire, seeing everything for what it is. A Platonist would have simply seen Jesus ascend into the "form world." So I'm not even sure if Plato's view of the universe is really applicable to the discussion on the ascension.


So Neo-Platonism is more the right description of the church fathers. I'm personally more convinced of the figurative explanation myself. I'm glad to know that some Christians do interpret this non-literally.Well, I wouldn't be so quick to call them Neo-Platonists (although the influence is certainly there, especially in the later fathers from in and around Alexandria, mostly due to the influence of Philo). :) I like Augustine's view (though he is a bit too Platonic at points, especially in his earlier writings, such as The Teacher), where he says Platonism paved the way for Christianity. Thus, there are quite a few similarities. For instance, both a Neo-Platonist and early Christian would look at the ascention of Jesus and agree that His "floating" up into Heaven and then being obscured by a cloud as being "symbolic" of Him entering into the spiritual realm. The differnce would come in the importance the place on this. A Neo-Platonist would, first of all, deny that Jesus was actually physical (as the physical realm is lesser than the spiritual realm - a form of proto-Gnosticism) whereas a Christian would have simply said Jesus went to a different, but not metaphysically better place.

Both Christians and Neo-Platonists were/are metaphysical dualists - there is a spiritual realm and a physical realm. The difference is that neo-Platonists placed an emphasis on the spiritual, thus it was:

God/Spirit/Souls/Elements (in some cases)
____________________________________
Physical world, creation, bodies, flesh

Christians, on the other hand, though acknowledging a divide between the spiritual and physiacl (like the Jews) held to a more Jewish understanding of the metaphysical divide, so the line came across like this:

God
_____________________________
Everything else (flesh, spirits, souls, elements)/creation

All of that to say that they would have viewed the ascension as symbolic of Christ going "up" into Heaven, but not that He would have left orbit. In fact, the Greek on the verse is quite clear that He was obscured by a cloud, indicating that He had gone into the immaterial realm.

I didn't know anyone actually interpreted this verse literally, that He flew off into space.


Just out of curiosity Kerdos, did you study these things academically? Or is this just your own inquiry that led you to these conclusions?Both? My interest in philosophy is what caused me to get my philosophy degree. My area of specification is in the history of philosophy, postmodernity, and epistemology, but I have extensive work with the writings of Plato due to my emphasis on the importance of accepting a realist metaphysic.

Hoping to one day obtain my PhD, but only time will tell. :)

decrumpit
Apr 13th 2009, 03:50 AM
A Platonist would have simply seen Jesus ascend into the "form world." So I'm not even sure if Plato's view of the universe is really applicable to the discussion on the ascension.


Good point, it probably isn't.


I like Augustine's view (though he is a bit too Platonic at points, especially in his earlier writings, such as The Teacher), where he says Platonism paved the way for Christianity. Thus, there are quite a few similarities. For instance, both a Neo-Platonist and early Christian would look at the ascention of Jesus and agree that His "floating" up into Heaven and then being obscured by a cloud as being "symbolic" of Him entering into the spiritual realm. The differnce would come in the importance the place on this. A Neo-Platonist would, first of all, deny that Jesus was actually physical (as the physical realm is lesser than the spiritual realm - a form of proto-Gnosticism) whereas a Christian would have simply said Jesus went to a different, but not metaphysically better place.

Kind of reminds me of Erasmus of Rotterdam referring to Socrates as "St. Socrates".


All of that to say that they would have viewed the ascension as symbolic of Christ going "up" into Heaven, but not that He would have left orbit. In fact, the Greek on the verse is quite clear that He was obscured by a cloud, indicating that He had gone into the immaterial realm.

I didn't know anyone actually interpreted this verse literally, that He flew off into space.

Thanks for clearing that up.


Both? My interest in philosophy is what caused me to get my philosophy degree. My area of specification is in the history of philosophy, postmodernity, and epistemology, but I have extensive work with the writings of Plato due to my emphasis on the importance of accepting a realist metaphysic.

Hoping to one day obtain my PhD, but only time will tell. :)

PhDs require so much work. You won't have time to post anymore!

But I wish you the best!

watchinginawe
Apr 14th 2009, 03:39 AM
A Catholic teacher of mine once explained to me that the Ascension was when Jesus stopped appearing to the disciples, and they wrote of it as ascension. This lacks biblical support, in my opinion.
Why do you feel that this lacks Biblical support? I think that view does have support, at least as far as Jesus appearing in His resurrected body.It seems plausible, although it is not found explicitly in scripture.Does your supposition that Jesus continued to appear to the disciples have any explicit biblical support?

We could take what we feel is the absence of an explicit exclusion and open the door to pretty much anything.

I think the matter is more established than you have given. Here is another passage that states the ascension as the end of Jesus appearing to the Apostles in more explicit terms,:

Acts 1:21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

God Bless!

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