I have had so much fun writing my little blog over the past few months! I really haven’t stretched my creative muscles much at all since my school days, when I was forced to do it against my will. It’s been great! And it is exciting and humbling that there are folks out there who take time out of their day to read what I have written. I’ll try to do good by you! Last week I was honored that Karen asked me to write on a specific topic: Angels. Around the same time my friend, Judy, suggested that I write a daily devotional. The only problem with that is the “lazy” part of me. I’m not at all sure that I’m up to “daily.” However… I do love to discuss (not argue about) all things spiritual in nature. And hippies are all about the spirituality, right? And so with that, I’m introducing:
I used alliteration. Hehehe
Each Thursday I will ponder some topic related to religion/spirituality that is on my heart. This week, just for Karen (though the rest of you are welcome to come along for the journey!), I’m going to write about angels.
This is a huge, massive, ginormous topic. There are entire bookstores dedicated to the discussion of angels. According to a 2004 Gallup Poll 78% of Americans believe in angles (up from 74% 10 years earlier).
Belief in angels is not limited to those of Christian faith. Buddhists, Muslims, Islamics, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and many Pagans believe in the existence of some sort of spiritual helper/guide/messenger beings.
OK. So, put all of that in a pot and let it simmer on a back burner in your mind for a moment.
If you’ve been with me for a while you know that I’m Christian. I was raised in the Christian faith and I went to a Christian college where I studied (way too much?) theology. I struggle a lot at times with the modern church. But that’s a post for another Thursday. Regardless, I still call myself a follower of Jesus. So, when I discuss topics related to spirituality I am coming from that background. I use a lot of Biblical reference because that’s what is most familiar to me and I think the Bible is full of Truth.
In the Christian faith, the word “Angel” comes from the Greek, “aggleos” which means messenger. In fact, there is no exact count of how many times angels are referred to in the Bible because that word is used interchangeably as referring to non-human messengers of God and regular Joe’s with a note in their pocket and the distinction is not always perfectly clear. And here is another thing about angels in the Bible… there aren’t really any stories, just about them. J. Hampton Keathley, III, in his book “Angels, God’s Ministering Spirits,” says, “Every reference to angels (in the Bible) is incidental to some other topic.” For example, the angel, Gabriel, is mentioned in story of the virgin, Mary. But we don’t get any stories where Gabriel takes center stage as the main character. Further, there are some places in the Bible, such as Isaiah, chapter 14 that are interpreted by modern scholars as multi-layered. That particular passage is clearly, obviously talking about a human king that grew too big for his britches, at it were. But those who have studied the original languages and so forth say that it is ALSO clearly, obviously talking about the fall of Lucifer from chief among the angels of God to leader of the demons. So, even in a single church, of a single denomination, within a single religion, you won’t find 100% agreement on everything about angels. In fact, even in the Hippie household you won’t find agreement. Handsome Hippie Hubby and I have debated about the origin of angelic beings several times without ever finding middle ground.
All right, bring your pot back to a boil and let’s move on.
So you have all these different people from different cultures, worshipping in different religious traditions. And they disagree on many important points of theology. But they all agree there are some sort of spirit-beings that act as messengers, helpers, protectors, guides, intercessors, etc. Add to that cultural stories… fairy tales and such… about, well… fairies. Those stories are full of spirits, trolls, dragons, giants, vampires, ghosts, shape shifters and more.
So, here is what my oddly wired brain has done with all that (this is where my very conservative protestant pastor puts his head in his hands and sighs loudly in regard to my theology):
I believe that every wide-spread “myth” has some seed of truth in it. For example, there are references to some sort of vampiric creatures in nearly
every culture in the world. Do I think that families of vampires like the impossibly attractive Cullens are living amongst us? Well… a girl can hope. Hahaha. Just kidding. No. I don’t think they probably are. But I think there must be something in our racial past that gives us all a similar memory of sorts.
The very oldest part of the Bible (the part that was written thousands of years ago and that was based on what was, even at that time, considered an ancient oral tradition) has a single, vague, reference to such things. Genesis chapter 6 says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”
Christians debate this verse half to death. Feel free to Google, “Nephilim” and read all 6,300,000 interpretations. I’m not going to get into all that.
But I read something on “Yahoo Answers” the other day. Someone asked if it’s possible that fairies and angels are the same thing. Most of the answers were along the lines of, “Your a stoopid idiut.” (I’ve noticed that the people who answer like this tend toward poor spelling and grammer). But I’m not so sure it isn’t a valid question. Doesn’t Genesis 6 leave open all sorts of room for the existence of creatures beyond humans? I agree with Shakespeare: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. I think it is a mistake to assume that we mere mortals understand exactly what angels are or what they have done or are capable of doing.
However, I think that, if you read the Bible and/or other religious texts (or even cultural history, if you’re a person that resists organized religion) a few things are clear:
- They are not human. Perhaps they were at one point (I tend to think not) but they are not human now.
- They are spirit beings, not physical beings. But they are able to take physical form.
- They are not all exactly the same. There is more than one kind of angel. Different angels may have different appearances, abilities, or desires.
- They are not all good. Demons are angels too.
- They are more powerful and more knowledgeable than humans, though not omnipotent or omniscient. They may be “gods” but they are not THE God.
- They interact with people frequently in a wide variety of ways.
- They are outside of time and space as we understand it.
Within those parameters I think that it is entirely possible, even likely, that angels can be sent as guides to help teach or lead us, as messengers, comforters, helpers, protectors, and teachers – especially if we ask God to send them. He does so at least 273 times in the Bible! I believe I have experienced this personally and so do millions and millions of other people.
I think that angels are among us more often than we realize. Sort of like the Cullens. But less romantically inclined. And probably not as pretty. Because, sheesh! Those are some pretty people.
I also think that it is a mistake to worship angels. Fear them? Respect them? Act with honor toward them? Sure. But don’t worship them. Worship God, who is above them and created them.
And I think that it is important to be careful. Angels can be tricky and deceitful and… well… evil. In case this very long post isn’t quite long enough for you, go here, and see my thoughts on trying to control things of the spirit world.
And so, there it is: Theological Thursday, Take One.
What do YOU think about angels? I’d love to hear! I think that the best way to grow and learn is through discussion and I’m certain that some of you are more knowledgeable than I will ever be.