He Ascended Into Heaven


The title of this post is also the tile of a new book by Tim Perry & Aaron Perry, published by Paraclete Press.  Before starting out on my comments on the book I need to state that Tim, is both a friend of mine and a clerical colleague in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.

In the brief preface, the authors lay out their claim as to why the Ascension is of continuing importance to the life of the Christian, stating that:  “The only way to maintain theat the Ascension countinues to speak to contemporary followers of Jesus is to begin from the conviction that the Ascension is, in the first instance, something that really happened to Jesus.  In his body.  At least, that’s what this book hopes to show.”

Having read the book, I think the authors have done what they set out to do.  This book is not designed to reach out to those who find the whole concept of the Ascension either nonsense, or at best a spiritualised explanation of Jesus’s departure from his disciples, but rather to reach those who wish to take seriously the statements that are found in the creeds, but find themselves without the resources to do so.

Each chapter is prefaced with a portion of scripture and a quote from one of the church fathers.  These serve to show that the Ascension at one time had not only an important place in the thinking of the church, but the quotes from the fathers also demonstrate how the early church thinkers interpreted events such as the crucifixion and resurrection in light of the Ascension.

One thing that the book works to correct is the tendency towards conflation in theology.  When the authors discuss the loyalty of the Christian to Christ as a higher loyalty than that to the state, they do so in light of what has happened in the Ascension.  Too often, these concepts are talked about either in relationship to the Resurrection, whereby it often simply becomes a matter of living lives of spiritual purity, while staying disentangled from the world vs a view that discards the future for political struggle in the here and now.  The authors demonstrate that in the Ascension, both of these views have their proper places.

That is all the comments for the content, I invite people to read the book and answer for themselves that they may have. The book is designed to be used as a study guide for groups, including questions at the end of each chapter.  From my reading, these questions are one of the real highlights of the book.  I have an aversion to inductive studies because I find them to be reductive studies, with the questions at the end of each chapter generally leading the readers back to the regurgitation of information provided in the chapter itself.  While the questions in this book also lead the reader back to the chapter, they do so in a manner that encourages critical interaction with the authors writing.  Furthermore, they also encourage the reader to look further into the questions raised in the chapter.

For example, the final question in chapter 2 is:  “Is it appropriate to read the life of Mary in light of Jael, Esther and Deborah?  How might this picture shape our vision of female leadership in the church?”   Such a question
provides opportunity, not only to reflect on the commentary in the chapter, but also provides encouragement to the reader to go back to the stories of the three woman mentioned and reread them.

Additionally the shortness of the chapters means that the book doesn’t require that any member of the study need spend a lot of time on weekly reading.  This is good for group members who may have time constraints, but should also work well for those who would like to dig deeper into some of the questions raised by the questions at the end of each chapter.

One last thing about the layout of the book is that by breaking it down into seven chapters, the book nicely dovetails into the period of time between Easter and Pentecost, which fits in perfectly with the theme of the book.

Tim is holding a book launch at St. Margret’s Anglican Church, 160 Ethelbert St., on Thursday, July 8, at  7:30 p.m.  Tim said there will copies of the book available that evening, otherwise I invite you to go the Paraclete Press website and order a copy for yourself.

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