Category Archives: Angels

The scattered traces of his being

Have you ever wondered why we are here? Many of us have asked this question at one point or another. As Augustine hits his stride in this first book (XI) of Part 2 of The City of God he asks a number of incisive questions: why do we exist at this moment in time? Why here in this part of space? What is the origin of the two cities? When did time start?

As this book pivots away from ancient discussions on the spiritual realm to the very real existence of planet earth, Augustine is diving head first into deep waters. He is unafraid to tackle the biggest issues head on – the origin of humans, angels, demons, goodness, evil, and philosophy. Through it all he keeps his Rule of Faith to guide him in what is truthful, helpful and appropriate.

Two discussions in particular are worthy of highlighting: his treatment of the origin of pure & fallen angels and his masterful handling of God’s creative purpose (ie the who, how & why of creation).

It fascinating to read how Augustine builds his case using the creation account in Genesis 1. He proposes that time began with creation and that “the world was not created in time, but with time” – hypothesising that there is no time without change and motion, which both started with the act of creation.

Augustine refers to Job 38.7 as evidence that angels existed before stars were made. As the sun wasn’t made until Day 4 he proposes that the “Let their be light” of Day 1 refers to the creation of angelic beings, with the separation to greater and lesser light being the division of the obedient and fallen angels.

“Thus the angels, illuminated by that light by which they were created, themselves became lights, and are called “day”, by participation in the changeless light and day, which is the Word of God, through whom they themselves and all other things were made.”

XI.9

Building on his consideration of creation, Augustine reflects on God’s verdict on his work – declaring it is good. Like an expert surgeon he unpacks this divine declaration, on multiple levels. He recognises that “it is not that God discovered that it was good, after he had made it. Far from it… he is not discovering that fact but communicating it”.

Augustine goes on to say how God experiences things is totally different to us. He is not time bound like us mortals, no rather “he sees in some other manner, utterly remote from anything we experience or could imagine”. He says

“God comprehends all these (ie past, present & future) in a stable and eternal present. And with him there is no difference between seeing with the eyes and “seeing” with the mind, for he does not consist of mind and body”.

XI.21

So, says Augustine “he saw that what he had made was good when he saw that it was good that he should make it”. And why was it good that God should make such things? We find the answer by asking: “who made it, how he made it, and why he made it”. So for the statement Let their be light, the answer to these questions are: God / He said “let it be” / it was good!

“There can be no better author than God, no more effective skill than his word, no better cause than that a good product should be created by God, who is good.”

XI.21

This has tremendous implications as we consider our own existence: “We resemble the divine Trinity in that we exist; we know we exist, and we are glad of this existence and this knowledge” XI.26.

In a world that has lost its grip on the divine intent and pleasure behind our existence it is no surprise that we are also losing our sense of purpose, inherent self-worth and the preciousness of existence.

If we take one thing away from Book XI it should be that each and every one of us is crafted by the heart of a God of love who is delighted at his good handiwork. We are his prized possession – one he was willing to rescue by sacrificing his only Son. May we discovery this afresh this Easter Sunday.

No one believes in me anymore

Book I Chapter XIV Section 1-22

In the preface to his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes “there are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Our society has fallen into the former error and as Keith Green had the Devil saying in one of his songs – “no one believes in me anymore“!

It is the subject of angels and demons that Calvin addresses in Chapter 14, inbetween chapters on the nature of God (Chapter 13) and the nature of man (Chapter 15). He splits the chapter according to the nature of elect angels and fallen angels (demons).

Although we are not told everything we would like to know about angels in the bible, we are told a number of important facts about angelic beings:

  • They are not self-existant, but were created
  • They were created good and the depravity of demons comes “not from nature but corruption of nature”
  • They are heavenly spirits who are messengers, or intermediates for God
  • They are employed in our protection
  • Although they know some element of the future, they have limited knowledge
  • They are not to be worshipped
  • They are not indispensible – sometimes God by-passes them to speak and act directly in human affairs
  • We do not know their nature, rank or number and it is vain to speculate beyond what the sciptures tell us

In terms of demons we are also told a number of facts:

  • There are a great host of them
  • They are led by Satan or the Devil
  • They were created good but become corrupt
  • They therefore have the same attributes as angels
  • They are bound by the will of God
  • They are allowed to wage war against the elect angels and believers
  • They are real spirits

Response:

As I read this chapter I’m reminded that there is a real and violent war happening right now in the heavenly realms between these powerful beings. How it is conducted is a mystery to me, but the bible teaches that “our war is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the heavenly realms”. How do our prayers affect this battle? I do not know, but what I do know is that from the moment that Daniel set his heart to steadfastly pray and seek God and an angel was immediately dispatched in response (Daniel 10.12).

How is it that the vast majority of the (Western) world is unaware of this battle? Do we just not want to see the evidence of the war, or is it that we can only see the results of the war and not the war itself.  What is the war for? Is the war related to issues of social policy, national security, cultural values, church unity, or the souls of individual people?

I think the answer is yes for all. As the kingdom of God is established on this world through the work of the Spirit in the believer, then the forces of evil respond at the individual level (our struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil), the fellowship of believers (destroying church unity, purity and effectiveness), society’s values (eroding historic Christian values) and national (anti-Christian laws and destructive leadership).

But before we become paralysed with hopelessness, let us remember that the victory is already won and that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. Let us also remember the example of Daniel as how the godly can live holy and righteous lives in a depraved gentile society. How we need those like Daniel today who will not comprimise their Christian beliefs while faithfully serving a gentile king with distinction.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the heavenly forces of evil in the heavenly realms…With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6.12+18

Father, you know how our prayers influence the spiritual battle. We ask for faith to have confidence that You hear us and that our prayers are effective. Help us to recognise it is on our knees that we can do the most damage. For Your glory, Amen.