(America) Terrance Klein—Why Celebrate the Ascension?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the Ascension means the departure of the Lord Jesus, why celebrate it? Who rejoices over the loss of a loved one? Clearly this is not a day to remember what was lost. We celebrate what was gained.

For the first time, our humanity, the nature assumed by Christ, has been taken into the Godhead. This is a coming of age for the human race, something akin to the removal of training wheels.

Here, the sainted scholars of the Church diverge a bit. It’s not clear whether we were created to enjoy the very life of God, or if this is the gladsome result of the Incarnation. Put another way, we don’t know whether the Incarnation, and the resultant glorification of our humanity, happened because of sin, or despite it. Either way, as it did happen, Christ took on our humanity so that we might share his divinity. Today, in him, our humanity is first raised to that height.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsAscension

11 Comments
Posted May 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. MichaelA wrote:

“Either way, as it did happen, Christ took on our humanity so that we might share his divinity.”

Funny, I don’t recall the Bible saying anything about that.  I wonder where Mr Klein gets this idea from?  The Bible says that Christ took on our humanity so that he could bear the punishment for our sins, with the result that those of us who accept his gift become fully-redeemed humans, not gods or god.

To put it another way, Christ brought us salvation, not divinity.

“For the first time, our humanity, the nature assumed by Christ, has been taken into the Godhead. This is a coming of age for the human race, something akin to the removal of training wheels.”

Again, I wonder where Rev. Klein got this idea from? If our humanity has been “taken into the Godhead”, then surely that occurred at the incarnation? It didn’t have to wait for the ascension, which made no difference to the fact that Christ already bore two natures in himself.

And how in any sense can one say that the ascension was a “coming of age” for the human race? We were just as much “on training wheels” after the ascension as before.

May 19, 6:53 am | [comment link]
2. Todd Granger wrote:

MIchaelA, agree with it or not, Mr Klein did not make this up out of thin air.  As you know, the Eastern (Orthodox) Churches have taught from the time of the Fathers the doctrine of theosis, and according to that teaching there is no dichotomy between salvation and “divinization” (which is actually not so much being made gods per se as like Christ in sharing his divinely glorified humanity).  Theosis is the (God-bestowed) outcome of the process of sanctification.  There are western theologians who have taught this (or at least alluded to it) as well, including Luther (according to the Finnish school of interpretation) and several of the Caroline Divines.  Even the statement on the Lord’s Supper in the Scots Confession (1560) is patient of a “theotic” interpretation:

Thus we confess and believe without doubt that the faithful, in the right use of the Lord’s Table, do so eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus that he remains in them and they in him; they are so made flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone that as the eternal Godhood has given to the flesh of Christ Jesus, which by nature was corruptible and mortal, life and immortality, so the eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus does the like for us.

So, certainly a debatable point, but not one made up whole cloth by Mr Klein.

May 19, 9:24 am | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

At the RC Mass every priest prays at the offertory as he mixes a little water with the wine, that we may share in the life of Christ who humbled himself in sharing our humanity so that we might share in his divinity.  ‘By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.’  And what, for that matter, about Ephesians 3.19, that we may ‘be filled with all the fullness of God’?

May 19, 11:27 am | [comment link]
4. Hursley wrote:

Yes, this is basic Patristic exegesis of the Ascension and completely orthodox, something found most explicitly in Eastern Orthodoxy, but also (in less developed form) in Western Christianity (see Augustine’s sermons on the Ascension). It forms a major theme in Lancelot Andrewes’ sermons (and devotional material). Much of this thinking is derived from Johannine thought and the role of the Ascension in Hebrews, as well. Theotic views of Sanctification may even be said to run through some of the Wesley’s work. All of this is based on a more unitive view of the entire Paschal Mystery than is our won’t today. In Patristic and Classical Anglican thought, the Crucifixion-Resurrection-Ascension-Giving of the Spirit at Pentecost “events” are all one Mystery with specific “nodes” of meaning along the way. Using the language of the Gospel according to John, the divine Word descended so that our fallen humanity could ascended with Him to God in a restored, mutually-indwelling way—through the Paschal Mystery and the ongoing communion of the Paraklete (mediated especially through the Holy Mysteries).

May 19, 1:17 pm | [comment link]
5. jkc1945 wrote:

“It is to your advantage that I go away.  For if I do not go, the Counselor will not come;  but if I go, I will send Him to you.”  Jesus of Nazareth, found in The Gospel of John.

May 19, 2:15 pm | [comment link]
6. drjoan wrote:

What about the concept that Christ—both fully divine and fully human—now “resides” at the right hand of God?  What does that do to the idea that I could “invite Jesus into my heart” or that “Jesus lives in me?”

May 19, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
7. MichaelA wrote:

Thank you for the comments and the spirit in which they are written.

I appreciate that there is a line of teaching in the patristics, which comes from scripture, that in a sense when granted immortality we can be described as “gods”. 

“The gods know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
“I said, ‘You are gods;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.” [Psalm 82:5-7]

It is clear in the above passage that being a ‘god’ is something less than being God.  Nevertheless, Augustine in his commentary on this Psalm agrees that a possible meaning of verse 5 is:
“that is, to all of you I promised celestial happiness, ‘but you’ through the infirmity of your flesh ‘shall die like men’”

But my understanding was that, when used in this sense, the assumption of divinity happens (a) in a partial sense when we are adopted as sons and regenerated, and (b) in the fullest sense at the last judgment when those of us who are judged righteous before God (not through our own merits but solely through Christ’s atoning sacrifice) are admitted to celestial glory.

Where does Klein get his idea that this happened at Christ’s ascension?

May 20, 12:14 am | [comment link]
8. MichaelA wrote:

Sorry, I forgot to add, there are a number of passages where church fathers took about deification (of a sort) happening at baptism, and also when our bodies are finally redeemed after death. But I can’t think of any supporting the idea that Christ’s ascension played a role in this…?

May 20, 12:16 am | [comment link]
9. Terry Tee wrote:

Michael, I wonder if I might offer an image sometimes found in the mystics?  It is that of the mirror.  We can never become God, of course - the idea is blasphemous, so I sympathise with you.  But the more we grow into Christ, the more we take on his character, his nature, his love.  Mystics sometimes used the image of the mirror - a mirror does not ‘become’ what it reflects, but it does take on whatever it reflects.  May our souls be so united to God in Christ that we reflect more and more of that perfect which is uniquely his.  As for the ascension, that someone who took on our flesh is now assuredly in eternity, yet universally present, gives us great hope that God will accomplish what only he can do through our frail human nature.

May 20, 8:37 am | [comment link]
10. Terry Tee wrote:

And from the sublime to the ridiculous:  my real gripe about the article is that the author spells his name Terrance.  Bah.  Humbug.  An American deformation.  Correctly, it is Terence even if it is sometimes colloquially rendered Terry.

May 20, 8:39 am | [comment link]
11. MichaelA wrote:

Terry, thanks. I should make clear that I don’t intrinisically have a problem with the idea, and I agree that there are some scriptural passages that give some support, and some patristic comments on scripture that expound the idea. So my first comment in #1 was clearly overstated.

And, my deep commiserations on the mispelling of ‘Terence’ ... ;o)

May 20, 7:10 pm | [comment link]
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