Monday, September 30, 2013

ANGELS


Our third grade teacher at Battle Creek Academy warned us to keep our eyes closed during prayer because sometimes our guardian angels became visible during prayer and shone so brightly that we could be blinded.  I believed her, sort of.  Then one day I opened my eyes during prayer because a couple of the other boys in the class were jostling each other and making noise.  There were no angels--at least visible--and no blindness.  Moreover, it was pretty obvious that these boys had regularly had their eyes open in the past and they didn’t seem to be having any vision problems because of it.  I don’t think that affected my religious faith at the time; I was only in the third grade.  But it did affect my confidence in what my teacher told me, which was more important, perhaps.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we were expressly forbidden to go to movies, which clearly constituted a sin.  Moreover, perhaps to drive the idea home, we were instructed that our guardian angels (we each were assigned one who looked out for us in times of peril) would not accompany us into a movie theater.  We would strictly be on our own.  If there were a fire, say, there would be no angels there to help us find our way out.  I used to imagine that there were all these invisible guardian angels hovering around outside every movie theater, waiting for their charges to come out at the end of the movie.  I suppose the same principle was deemed to apply to other sinful venues, such as dance halls and taverns, but I don’t recall being told that, probably because it was unlikely that as kids we would find ourselves heading into a nightclub or dance hall.  I think by the time we were old enough to get into those places, we no longer believed the guardian angel story.

So who are these angels anyway?  We were taught that they were created by God (as was everything else in the universe) and, unlike present-day humans, were created to be immortal, unless, of course, God should change his mind about their immortality (which he supposedly has with respect to the angels that cast their lot with Lucifer and have turned “evil.”)  The Old Testament speaks of at least two kinds, cherubim, which have two wings, and seraphim, which have six.  Presumably, angels are sexless, and when I was growing up most depictions of them envisioned them as slightly larger than humans, dressed in white robes, and having androgynous faces.  They are normally invisible to humans but can make themselves visible to interact with humans.  There are good angels, who help us to make the right decisions and who protect us from harm (unless, of course, we are in a movie theater), and there are the evil ones, who are there to temp us to sin.

Do people still believe in angels these days?  Angels seemed to be popping up all the time in the Bible, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, as a convenient medium by which God communicated with humans, from Abraham in the Old Testament to announcements of Christ’s birth in the New.  My sense is that angels have gone out of favor.  People still thank God for watching over them and sometimes make reference to a guardian angel.  But generally, I think, they are using angels simply as a metaphor for saying that God is looking out for them personally.  Do angels just have less to do these days?  Hardly, I would say.  Or is it that, like with the other superstitious trappings of classic religion, such as miracles, scientific advances have provided explanations and eliminated the need to posit any sort of divine intervention.

© 2013 John M. Phillips

9 comments:

  1. You're funny...I'm chuckling over your 3 grade view of angels and it hasn't changed much...kind of in the same category as Santa I think, and satan dressed in red with a pitch fork and long red tail.

    So if there were angels in this story of God and heaven, what role should they play?

    Is it possible that Jesus looked like an angel in heaven so that they could identify with Him, much like He came in the form of a human so we could see what God is really like? Could the great controversy have started because Jesus was immortal and He and God made plans separate from Lucifer. Lucifer became jealous because he wasn't included in these counsels of the Trinity and he determined they were unfair and arbitrary. Therefore he spread lies about God, and causing doubt that God was all loving, but instead judgmental and unfair? Didn't Jesus come to show us what God is like, a God who would give His life to restore trust and to expose the truth about satan and his ways? Satan killed Jesus on the cross, and Jesus died to break the hold satan had over humanity...he dispelled the lies...He showed the world and the universe He is trustworthy. He, the creator of all was willing to allow His creation to kill Him, in order to set us free. Satan separated himself from the source of life. Jesus said I am the Way the Truth and the Life....thought the life of Jesus we see the Father and their great love for us. The wages of sin ( separation) is death...satan is terminally ill.

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  2. Lisa,

    So are you saying that angels exist or not. You sort of went off on Lucifer and his supposed battle with God. To be honest, I'm not sure what that has to do with what I wrote.

    As a nonbeliever, I simply can't figure out what Jesus's death has to do with somehow "breaking satan's hold on humanity," particularly since presumably God knew that he could and would resurrect Jesus. From a nonChristian's perspective it is simply so much more reasonable to think that Jesus was one of any number of would-be messiahs that lived during the first century c.e. Roman occupation of Palestine, who was executed for his threat to the current government stability.

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  4. I used to think guardian angels hung around all the time because heaven had to be too far away for them to protect us at any moment. If one did something wrong they would message to God. Yes kinda like Santa "he knows if you've been good or bad". Kinda keeps you in line as a kid. Many religious beliefs kept groups of people cohesive and supportive of the current rulers in control.

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  5. I had forgotten that angels also acted as God's eyes.

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  6. Sorry, yes I believe angels are as real as you and me. They have a loving relationship with God, were companions of Jesus...came to give Him courage in the garden of eden when He was tempted to save self. The are friends of God, as we can be and want to help God restore a kingdom of love on earth...willingly help Him in whatever way is helpful to us. I believe they love us as much as the Trinity...my christian view!

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    1. I think you must mean the Garden of Gethsemane, not the Garden of Eden.

      Are there evil angels? Lucifer's cohorts?

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  7. One more thought...looking at the big picture... galaxy after galaxy...a universe expanding...who knows how many worlds there are...trillions? And little speck of dust, planet earth is the only flaw in all of this huge universe...Why would we be so arrogant to think that this is the only place life exist? And if it does most likely it wasn't infected by sin...we are the stage that sin will play itself out on, and then it will be gone forever...Peace will reign. And the angels have seen what selfishness does...it killed their Jesus! But death lost it's sting because Jesus overcame all the temptations satan could through at Jesus...He lived and died am unselfish life...and He lives.

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    1. Lisa,

      On the other hand, why would we be so arrogant as to think that we are the only place where there is sin, where the "great controversy" is being played out?

      Even though there is overwhelming evidence that there are millions, if not billions, of other worlds that have conditions favorable for harboring life, we have not yet had confirmation of other intelligence in the universe. My thought is that it is just a matter of time. And odds are that in most cases that intelligence is far advanced relative to ours. Whether such intelligence exists in an environment built on competition as was ours, remains to be determined. If so, then disputes borne of that competition (another way to define "sin") would seem to be part of the mix.

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