[asa] Inquiry about Orthodox view of heaven

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Wed May 30 2007 - 10:41:35 EDT

ASA member David Snoke (physics, Pitt) sent me an interesting post this
morning, which he is allowing me to reproduce here. I won't comment further
on it myself, except to say that in Galileo's day, it *was* an issue for
some that Christ "ascended into heaven," and that Copernicanism seemed to
make this somewhat problematic. It clearly was not an issue for a lot of
people for a long time, however--unlike evolution has proved to be. I know
only a little about science and Orthodox faith, and this topic does not fall
into that little box. Comments are solicited.


Here now is David's inquiry:
A few years ago I was in Moldova, visiting an atheist scientist, and
he took me to see a monastery. There we got into an interesting
discussion with the monks. The monk asked him why he wasn't a
Christian, and he said because he knew about outer space and there
was no God up there. I asked him where he got that silly belief, that
God was sitting up in the stratosphere. He said it is the universal
teaching of the Orthodox church. I asked the monk if it was true, and
he said yes-- and then he launched off into a diatribe that sounded
just like a young earther-- the appearances to the contrary were a
conspiracy by atheist scientists, etc. They both agreed this was the
teaching of the Church. It shed light to me on Yuri Gagarin's
statement, "I don't see God up here"-- I always thought that was just
facetious, but apparently it was a real issue in the Russian orthodox
So, here is my question. It seems at one time it was a universal
interpretation of the Bible based on Jesus "ascending" to heaven, God
speaking from the sky, Jacob's ladder, etc., that heaven is "up" in
the skies. In the West this belief seems to have passed without a
whimper, while in the East it is still alive with young-earth like
fervor. When did it pass away in the West? Why? Clearly by the 1800's
it was a nonissue in the West, long before there was space flight.
This is relevant today because I was just having a discussion with an
intelligent young earther and he asked whether it makes God a
deceiver to give us a text that everyone universally read as meaning
literal 24 hour days until science came along. But by the same token,
everyone read the Bible to mean that heaven was "up". If you argue
the one is deceptive, you have to argue the other, it seems to me.
Perhaps this issue is already well documented, and you can give me a

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Received on Wed May 30 10:42:24 2007

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