Monday, July 13, 2015

Angels from the realms of glory

I've discussed this before, but now I'll approach it from another angle: 

i) In Gen 1, the creation of angels is conspicuous by its absence. That despite the fact that angels figure prominently in Genesis. 

ii) Then there's the identity of the Tempter in Gen 3. According to the NT, that's Satan. 

iii) This in turn raises the question, not only of when the angels were made, but when they fell. If the creation of angels is implicitly included in Gen 1, and you have the Tempter on the scene in Gen 3, that's a rather brief interval between the Lucifer's creation and Lucifer's fall. 

Admittedly, Gen 3 doesn't indicate how long after the creation of Adam and Eve this took place. Was it days, weeks, or years?

I'd add that this is more of a problem for YEC than OEC. 

iv) A liberal would say this chronological tension is due to two conflicting traditions: the serpentine Tempter in Gen 3 reflects a different tradition than the Satanic Tempter in the NT–which reinterprets Gen 3.

But even if we granted liberal assumptions (which I don't), that proposal lacks explanatory value. It simply relabels the same issue. 

For you still have the issue of how evil entered creation so early. Even if you claim the primordial Tempter wasn't Satan, it still functions as an evil agent. The archetypal villain, who resorts to solicitation. Enticement to commit mutiny against their Creator.

v) Indeed, I think the very fact that so little is said about the Tempter is an indication that his reputation precedes him. Not from the standpoint of Adam and Eve, but the reader's. That's part of the dramatic tension. Although this is the first time he makes his appearance on the stage of Bible history, the record of the event took place long after the fact, so it's more like a flashback. The audience is expected to be more discerning than Adam and Eve, because the audience has the benefit of hindsight.

vi) Now, even if Gen 1 implicitly includes the creation of angels, I don't think that puts an intolerable strain on the narrative chronology–not even from a YEC perspective. As I say, the interval between Gen 1 and Gen 3 could be considerable. 

Even so, there's a sense in which the Tempter in Gen 3 seems to be much older than Adam and Eve. Has a degree of experience and worldly knowledge which they lack, because it's been around so much longer than they. That's what gives it a tactical advantage. 

vii) One solution is that Gen 1 does not include the creation of angels. Not even by implication. 

After all, an obvious explanation for the omission is that it didn't happen. It wasn't recorded because there was nothing to record in that respect. Although that's not the only possible explanation, certainly one plausible reason it wasn't mentioned may be because the angels were not created within that timeframe. 

And when you think about it, that wouldn't be surprising. Gen 1 is basically an account of how the physical universe came into being. Physical creatures. Even if Cartesian dualism is true, the emphasis in Gen 1 is on the physical side of things. The incorporeal soul is a refinement that's left to subsequent Biblical revelation. 

Although angels have the ability to interface with the physical world, they are not a part of the physical world. That's not their natural realm. That's not where they come from. Not their "country of origin" (as it were). 

So it's quite possible that they were created apart from or "before" the creation of the physical universe. They normally exist in an alternate reality. 

viii) I put "before" in scare quotes because it isn't clear if it's meaningful to arrange these two different scenarios (assuming if they're different) along the same timeline. It's like theories of an oscillating universe. Is it meaningful to say there was a universe before ours came into being? Is it meaningful to say there will be another universe after ours ceases to be? That presumes a common timeline transcending each universe. But how is that grounded?   

A better comparison might be the relationship between the physical world and the dream world. "When" did my dream take place? If I take the physical world as my frame of reference, I could say it happened after I went to bed but before I got out of bed.

But what if I take the dream world as the frame of reference? When did I go to sleep or awaken in relation the dream world? 

Both the physical world and the dream world have their internal chronologies. And these are independent of each other. The sequence of events in the dream world can't be intercalated with the sequence of events in the physical world, or vice versa. Can't be synchronized. Can't be arranged on a common timeline. Things happen in a certain order within their respective histories, but because what happened in one realm didn't happen in the other, they don't line up. Since what occurred in one realm did not occur in the other, you can't say what happened in one realm is sooner or later than what happened in the other. 

When angels "come" to earth, or "return" to heaven, that could be analogous to how humans pass back and forth between the physical world and the dream world. When we awaken, our mind uses the body to interact with the physical world. When we dream, our mind interacts directly with the dreamscape. 

Over the course of a lifetime, we have a history of dreams, although most of them are forgotten. By the same token, angels may have a history in the angelic realm. Ancient history. When they "enter" the physical universe, the way our minds use a brain and body, they bring that experience with them. 

ix) This dovetails nicely with Synoptic accounts where demoniacs encounter Jesus. Even though it's the first time that the demoniac met Jesus, the possessive spirits  act as if it's hardly the first time they met Jesus. Even though Jesus is empirically human, they sense his deeper identity. There's instant recognition. In part, that seems to be spirit sensing the presence of another spirit.

But it's more than that. There's shared history. They remember the Son. They knew him from before their downfall. He is their Creator. 


  1. Thanks, Steve. :-) This is a really intriguing concept.

  2. The entire subject of angels is an interesting study. CS Lewis and his science fiction works speculate in interesting ways. Principalities and powers apparently refer to levels of hierarchy of which we know very little. How long those "powers that be" have actually ruled over their various appointed domains in respect to "earth time" may only be revealed at the second coming of Christ. It seems to me that your proposal makes good common sense, though. God and the angelic realm are "outside space and time" and therefore are not subject to the laws of the physical world except as God decrees. I pray that all will be revealed when we see HIM face to face.

  3. The real question remains: "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

    Just kidding - interesting thoughts on an interesting subject. They were at least around to rejoice at God's creative acts a la Job 38.

  4. I think the subject of angels is an underappreciated apologetical angle (almost typed "angel"). I think apologists sometimes stay away from the topic because in the past (and present) it has been overtaken by non-Christians, the New Age and by charismatics. However, it's precisely because angelic encounters are universal (among Christians and non-Christians) that it points to the reality of the supernatural. In which case, testimonies of angelic encounters from every point of view would be evidence against materialism and naturalism. Even if it's not specifically confirmatory of Christianity. That's true even though from a Christian perspective some angelic encounters (especially among non-Christians) would be demonic deceptions/counterfeits. They are STILL evidence for the reality of the supernatural.

    But even then, as Christians we wouldn't have to categorize all non-Christian testimonies as demonic since Christian theology allows for the possibility for God to send or approve of the good angels to help out non-Christians. Sometimes because they may have future descendants who are to inherit salvation. Even the predestinarian John Calvin taught that out of sheer benevolence God sometimes answers the prayers of non-Christians.

    There is one psalm which clearly teaches that prayers are not without effect, though they do not penetrate to heaven by faith (Ps. 107:6, 13, 19). For it enumerates the prayers which, by natural instinct, necessity extorts from unbelievers not less than from believers, and to which it shows by the event, that God is, notwithstanding, propitious. Is it to testify by such readiness to hear that their prayers [i.e. non-Christians'] are agreeable to him? Nay; it is, first, to magnify or display his mercy by the circumstance, that even the wishes of unbelievers are not denied; and, secondly, to stimulate his true worshippers to more urgent prayer, when they see that sometimes even the wailings of the ungodly are not without avail. [Calvin's Institutes, third book, chapter 20 section 15]

    My blog: Evidence and Testimonies of Demonic and Angelic Encounters