Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

95 Theses, #12-14 - Solving the Riddle of Angels and Demons

(To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction)

Some of the elements of Theses 13-14 are my own speculation (specifically, the timeless nature of angels and demons, and what that means for their moral capacity); unlike most other theological arguments in this series, these thoughts rest on the work of no other authority, so they are to be taken as potentially fallible suggestions touching on matters of which we really cannot have full knowledge.

 (Painting: "The Fall of the Rebel Angels," by Luca Giordano, c.1660, oil on canvas; image is in the public domain)

12.) Non-Material Created Beings - God, being good and loving and creative, created all the kinds of things that could be created. This includes not only beings that are constituted by matter (and which, because of matter’s potentialities, are able to grow through the manifold processes of time and space into beings capable of choosing to become like God in his moral nature), but beings which are immaterial like God, existing as minds (“spirits”) alone, possibly also outside of the normal constraints of space and time (however, we must not assume that being outside of normal time-constraints would grant them infallible knowledge of all future events; such an attribute would also require a further ability of unbroken, all-encompassing perception, which we do not believe such beings have).

13.) The Moral Nature of Angels - What follows below is my attempt at an explanation for why such beings, though volitional, seem incapable of the sort of major changes that we would call “repentance.” These beings, since they exist outside of the materiality and progressive nature of the physical universe, are in a sense simpler beings, and more static. As with all living creatures, they are endowed with choice, but because they exist outside of time, their “choice” represents a more permanent orientation than is possible for time-bound creatures. These beings are usually referred to as angels or demons, though Christian tradition allows for the possibility of many different classes of such beings. Many of these angels have, in their own volition, oriented themselves in obedience toward their Creator. As such, they act as faithful servants to his ultimate purpose and mission in the universe. Christian revelation and tradition depicts them as intelligent and powerful, but somewhat simpler than humans in their moral natures—obedience (i.e., proper orientation towards God) seems to be their main virtue; I would speculate that since they do not have the benefit of the painful, progressive road of moral growth that we have access to in the material universe, they may not be capable of growing fully toward “love” as we can.

14.) The Moral Nature of Demons - Some of these angels, on the other hand, used their volitions to choose a timeless orientation away from God and toward themselves. (In answer to the question of how beings who, according to tradition, knew God’s nature and power so clearly, could actually choose against him, we might posit that perhaps not all spirit-beings of the angelic sort had as near an experience of God as we might expect; they too, like us, may have merely seen “through a glass darkly,” and thus the temptation to disbelieve, or to think they could succeed in disobedience against God, becomes more believable.) These are usually referred to as fallen angels or demons. Because of the limited nature of timeless choice, they are as consistently oriented against God as good angels are towards Him. Also intelligent and powerful, they are able to exercise their volition as adversaries of God’s purpose in the universe. Their “timeless choice” is one single act of volition, but for us time-bound creatures, we experience their act of volition as discrete events within our timescape (the same is also true for God’s one, all-encompassing act of volition—love). However, much as with the many forms of animals, demons are fundamentally good creations of God, and he loves them as he loves all creation. They are allowed to operate in this world, and, in fact, provide some of the “moral-progress-through-suffering” dynamic of this reality for us. They also, however, do a great deal of evil, and the fact that God consents to let them continue to exist and operate in this age (rather than having done with them now, or strictly barring them from interfering) hints both that God is completely able to undo all of the evil they cause (and that he will do so) and that God is probably not done with them yet.

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