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part two in a series
BY John Lilly
Last week, we discussed the predicament of those who try to
avoid the rather strong inference of a universe made by You Know Who via
recourse to the so-called “multiverse” theory.
This theory accounts for the extraordinary fine tuning of
the universe by positing an infinite number of other universes in which
physical laws are all different. Ours just happens to be the lucky one where
the one in 10-to-the-137th-power odds of everything making you and me possible
happen to have panned out.
Believe it or not, some people are so eager to get rid of
God they will buy those odds. However, most people don’t. And so most people
don’t need to be convinced of the existence of what we call the “supernatural”
beyond the visible world of time, space, matter and energy.
The difficulty, as we noted last week, is that “supernature”
can refer to many things besides God, and we often have a tough time
distinguishing those things from one another, much as an amoeba might have
trouble distinguishing a child, an adult and a redwood as anything other than
Looking up to heaven, we human amoebas likewise use
“supernatural” to describe not merely the uncreated God, but also creatures
such as angels.
Angels are higher in the order of creation than we, but they
are still as distinct from God (and even from each other) as they are from us
and as we are from beetles.
Partly this confusion is due to natural ignorance.
Revelation tells us only what we need to know for the good of our souls. Just
as Scripture is not particularly interested in questions of geology, cookery,
political science or physics except insofar as they happen to have to do with
the real story — God’s plan of salvation in Christ Jesus — so it is only interested
in angels when they have something to do with that basic story. So Revelation
tells us angels are real and that they serve God and us for our salvation and
for the praise of his glory — and that’s about all we know.
It’s interesting to note that the amoeba problem goes way
back. In the Old Testament, even the inspired writers have a difficult time
telling the difference between an angelic messenger and the One who sent them.
Frequently, the angel speaks the word of God in an odd
mixture of first and third person, leaving the reader to wonder if this is a
theophany (a manifestation of God himself) or just an angel. By the time of the
New Testament, however, confusing the angelic messenger with his Lord is worthy
of rebuke (as John discovers when he prostrates himself before an angel in his
Revelation). Angels work in the life of the believer to help us, defend us and
Always, they are about the work of bringing each person and
the world closer to the Triune God revealed in Christ Jesus.
Unfortunately, many Americans are now back to a pre-Moses
understanding of angels. Much New Age spirituality appears to resemble
something like religious methadone treatment: a sort of fuzzy devotion to
“angels” as pretty much the whole show, coupled with a curious aversion to the
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Such “angels” tend to show up in gooey
self-help books that affirm us in our okayness, promise us health and wealth
through positive thinking and assure us that the old tired message of guilt and
death and sacrifice and obedience to the Christian God is passé.
I expect that a lot of these reported encounters with angels
are just fiction (as indeed, most reported encounters with “orthodox” angels
are). But whether such Christ-denying angels are figments of the imagination or
not they fill the bill for Paul’s warning about angels of light.
The truth is this: The point of the spiritual life is not
angels any more than the point of driving is traffic signs. An angel who
directs you to himself or to your self-sufficient wonderfulness is a devil in
disguise. True angels know it’s not about them.
They love us and rejoice in our love, but they don’t want us
to love them more than we love God.
They are creatures who are completely ordered toward the
love of God and the love of his creatures. In the order of nature, they are
vastly greater than we are. But because, through Christ, we fallen humans have
been joined with the life of the Blessed Trinity, the glory of all true angels
is that they now look up to us and are not envious.
Since the Incarnation, even a mighty archangel like Gabriel
is now less than the least in the Kingdom of heaven, because by grace we have
been given something the angels can only admire: participation in the divine
nature by baptism.
Mark Shea is senior
content editor for catholicexchange.com