Angels, continued

And the angel discussion goes on....

You can scroll down and read Zach's post (if you haven't already, or to refresh your memory). The friend with whom Zach was originally having this debate comments by saying:
Indeed one cannot be a Catholic and not believe in angels.

Now, the fact that you can't be Catholic and pro-choice I get. And agree with. But this? Ridiculous.

Rejecting angels is in a real way rejecting Christ.

Quite a charge, Zach.

The Bible tells us that there is a very real war being waged, and it worries me that professed Catholics could be so lukewarm about the existence and the nature of the enemy. It is terribly dangerous to see the opposition as simply "deep evil" rather than spiritual beings seeking nothing short of our utter despair and the resignation of our souls.

I don't see it as an either/or. I believe in deep evil that seeks our utter despair and the resignation of our souls; in short, death. I think I take evil much more seriously than people who simply believe in "angels" and "demons" and "possession" and all that. Such people rarely actually identify evil in the world. War? Just part of life. Poverty? We will always have the poor with us. And so on. Evil is not named as evil by the very people who profess to believe in the "demonic."

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

I love this passage and believe every word of it. It's an important verse for Christian radicals. Dig a little deeper and you will find that this is NOT about "angels" or "demons."
And, lest someone be swayed by these comments, here is my response:

Firstly, according to the Fourth Lateran Council, belief in the existence of angels is a dogma of the faith. God "by His almighty power created together in the beginning of time both creatures, the Spiritual and the Corporeal, namely, the Angelic and the earthly, and afterwards, the human as it were a common creature, composed of spirit and body." As Peter Kreeft says in Catholic Christianity, his companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Angels are not mythical but real. They are not an optional addition to the Catholic faith...The life of Christ especially is surrounded by their work (see Catechism 333)" (51). He continues: If the devil is [and by extension, angels are] not real, the Bible lies (see I Pet 5:8), and Christ was a fool, for he certainly believed in demons and in Satan (see, for instance, Luke 10:18)" (52). So, to reject angels is in a very real way to reject Christ, or to at least claim intellectual authority over Him. If, for some reason, you are a Catholic who isn't compelled by dogmas of the faith, the revelation of God, or the testimony of Jesus Christ, ask yourself this: if you believe in God who is an invisible and purely spiritual Being, why would you refuse to believe in angels? if one purely spiritual being can exist, why not another?

Additionally, I'm confused about your statement that you "believe in deep evil that seeks our utter despair and the resignation of our souls." Evil isn't a "thing," because it wasn't created by God. In the way that darkness is a lack of light, evil is a lack of good. It is a turning away from the goodness of God. This turning away is a choice, thus there must be a chooser. As with human free will, angels have the capacity to choose evil (turn away from God), and to tempt and oppress humans (as demons). This is not so much an
argument for spiritual beings as it is an argument against your idea of evil itself seeking our souls.

Finally, I sincerely hope that you don't actually mean that you "take evil much more seriously than people who simply believe in "angels" and "demons" and "possession" and all that." This would be assuming the moral highground over the Church, Tradition, and Jesus Christ.


Michael said...

Do you and Zach (or either of you) believe that Jesus knew everything? That he was not limited intellectually by his context? Because orthodox christology holds that Jesus was fully human. And to be fully human involves, among other things, limitation in knowledge.

You might counter that Jesus was also God. This is true but no where does the Church teach that Jesus must have known everything since he was God.

We also have to work, theologically, to the divinity of Christ through his humanity. We have come to discern that Jesus is God, but it is far from clear what that means exactly. But we do know what it means to be human, and it involves being limited creatures. In his humanity, Jesus was limited too.

Zach said...

Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of the Father, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, took on human nature and in so doing took on the limitations of human nature, including, as you say, finite knowledge.

I think this is saying something different than saying Jesus spoke falsely, especially about those things for which He came to speak, i.e. matters of revelation and salvation. Angels play a role in salvation so I think He was not mistaken, as you suggest.

Fortunately we don't even have to wonder whether He was mistaken about angels because the Holy Spirit has already settled the question for us, through the Magisterial Teaching office of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Michael said...

Do you believe that Jesus said everything that the gospels say he said? Are you, in other words, a literalist?

It's okay if you are. Just be aware that the church does not insist that we be literalists.

I'm not aware of a church teaching that says Catholics MUST believe in angels.

Zach said...

The word "literalist" sounds like a loaded term to me, so I would not say I am a "literalist". It could mean too many things, and I don't want to debate whether or not I fit into some category.

I can say that I trust the historical accuracy and the witness of the Gospels to Divine Truth and things pertinent to Salvation. The Church does insist that we understand Holy Scripture as one of the three fundamental sources of Divinely Revealed Truth, and I think to spend time calling into question whether Jesus really said this or really said that bespeaks a basic distrust of God's Holy Word.

And to reiterate what Catherine has already pointed out: The existence of angels is a dogma of the faith; it was defined at the 4th Lateran Council. They are not an optional addition to the faith, they are part and parcel of the faith. This is why I originally asked you the question, "why would you not believe in something that exists?"