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The Ascension Revisited

     The belief that Christ Ascended into heaven is one the cornerstones of Christian faith and theology. Its seminal place in Christian thought is cemented in many of the great creeds, most notably the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. The Ascension is placed right alongside, the Incarnation, the passion, and the resurrection of Christ in the aforementioned creeds with no indication that it is by any means of lesser importance or magnitude. Some may find it strange, however, that such a seminal event would be recorded in just one of the four Gospels, Luke, and even stranger that Luke is the only author in general that records the event, recording it also in Acts 1: 9-11. 

    Our major source of information on this crucial subject is given to us by Luke at the beginning of the book of Acts, which has proven to be a somewhat perplexing title. The title “Acts” was added in the second century.1 “So far as the extant evidence goes, it first received its title in the so called anti-Marcionite prologue to the third Gospel.”2 Some of the early fathers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria) called it “The Acts of the Apostles”3 despite the fact that the book focuses only on the ministry of Peter and Paul. In some Christian circles it is assumed that the book is primarily about the Acts of the Holy Spirit. One can see how this could be an easy conclusion to draw given the major outpouring of the spirit in Jerusalem (2:1-4), Samaria (8:17), Caesarea (10:44-46) and Ephesus (19:6). Luke however starts off Acts by connecting it to his Gospel account and telling Theophilus that it is a book about all that Jesus began both to do and teach.4 It seems painfully clear that this book, Acts, is a recording of the Acts of the ascended Jesus. “Christ is ascended, but his abiding presence and energy fill the whole book of Acts and the whole succeeding story of his people on earth.”5 

    The Ascension of the risen Lord is the backdrop against which the drama of the entire

Blaming God

The long line of ants parading across the kitchen counter leads to a jar of sticky strawberry jelly left open last night by someone who raided the fridge for a midnight snack. A perturbed voice echoes through the house: “Who forgot to put the jelly away? Daa-ad?” Blame. We point a finger at another person and say, “It’s your fault.” When we blame, we assign responsibility usually in an attempt to hold someone accountable (for not putting away the jelly) or to explain an event (a thousand ants doing the conga in the kitchen). Blame is almost always an indictment. The prophet Nathan stood before King David to confront him about his adultery and the murder of Uriah. Perhaps you’ve imagined the scene as he solemnly utters the words, “Thou art the man.” Blame. Responsibility has been placed at the feet of David.Or, as the sign on President Harry Truman’s White House desk announced, “The Buck Stops Here”. In a folksy way, Truman invited citizens to blame him if things in the country weren’t going the way they should. At the same time, he wanted to take the credit if things were going well.

Now, I know I’m being a bit cheeky in using the word “blame” since both credit and blame are the similar action of assigning responsibility. But the issue on my mind is how we assign responsibility to God for what goes on in the world and in our lives. My hunch is that when we “blame” God, the doctrine of God takes a beating, our relationship with God suffers, and we open ourselves to doubt and fear.

As I reflect on my own behavior, particularly the opinions I blurt out without thinking, I have to admit that I frequently, and sometimes carelessly, assign responsibility to God for what