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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ascension and UFO

Folio 13v of the Rabula Gospels (Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo Laurenziana, cod. Plut. I, 560), Ascension

What do you think Christ's ascension into heaven looked like? Did he go up into the air like a "rocket man"? or like a "UFO" getting smaller and smaller until he vanished from sight? Or was it something else? How you answer the question could be diagnostic of your Christology.

I am writing an article on the Ascension and why it is important to Lutheran theology. Essentially, there are two views regarding Christ's ascension into heaven: one view espouses a literal, physical ascension to the right hand of God, while the other view understands the ascension to the right hand of God in terms of authority. The literal, physical ascension places Christ's physical body at the right hand of God, unable to physically leave the throne until the Parousia (2nd Coming). This is the understanding held by the Romanists and the Calvinists. The physical manifestation of this sort of ascension is that of a rocket ship (or UFO) rising higher and higher; from the perspective of the eye, the ascending Jesus (or UFO) would become smaller and smaller as he gained more altitude. In terms of the Lord's Supper, this view contributes to the Calvinist view that Christ is not physically present. It is also the reason Rome has Transsubstantiation.

The other view, held by Lutherans, maintains that the Ascension is primarily about Christ receiving "all authority on heaven and earth". This certainly does not deny that Christ physically ascended but does not confine his physical body to the right hand of God.

If you want to know more, read my dissertation or my upcoming article. The purpose of this post is to talk about UFOs.

Years ago, back in college, David Adams, now a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, took out his guitar and started to strum Larry Norman's UFO song. Larry Norman is described as the "father of Christian rock." He was born in Texas and was a "Jesus" person in the 1960s. You can read more about him in Wikipedia. Nevertheless, Norman's song UFO has stuck in my mind all these years, particularly in the discussion about the Ascension. Below is the first 30 seconds of the song from and the lyrics to the song. Enjoy!

UFO by Larry Norman from In Another Land released 1976.

He's an unidentified flying object.
You will see Him in the air.
He's an unidentified flying object.
You will drop your hands and stare.
You will be afraid to tell your neighbor.
He might think that it's not true.
But when they open up the morning paper.
You will know they've seen Him too.

He will come back like He promised.
With the price already paid.
He will gather up his followers.
And take them all away.

He's an unidentified flying object.
He will sweep down from the sky.
He's an unidentified flying object.
And some will sleep, but will not die.
He's an unidentified flying object.
Coming back to take you home.
He's an unidentified flying object.
He will roll away your stone.

And if there's life on other planets.
I'm sure that He must know.
And He's been there once already.
And has died to save their souls.

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