Re: St. Michael & All Angels

From: George Murphy (
Date: Mon Oct 14 2002 - 09:46:14 EDT

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    A couple of weeks ago under the above heading I proposed the following
    discussion topic:

    > If one believes that angelic beings in scripture are not
    > simply literary devices
    > or theological metaphors (though they are those things in some cases)
    > then it's natural
    > to ask how, as part of God's creation, their relationships with the
    > physical world are
    > to be understood. How would we talk about angels in the context of modern
    > science-theology dialogue?
            A couple of people suggested useful references but I'm not
    sure my point got
    through, perhaps because I was too brief. Let me elaborate.

            Whatever else Christians may say about angels, they must be
    seen as beings
    created by God. This point is obscured by the common practice of
    referring to God &
    angels together as part of "the supernatural." The fundamental
    biblical & theological
    distinction we have to make is not supernatural/natural but
    creator/creature, and angels
    must be put on the creature side of that divide.
            That being the case, an attempt to understand angels by the
    use of observation
    and reason - i.e., science - is NOT the same kind of thing as trying
    to investigate GOD
    scientifically. Whether or not science can in fact enable us to
    understand angels -
    especially in view of the extremely limited observational data! - is
    of course another
            The existence and actions of _all_ creatures rests ultimately
    upon the creator.
    While various theologies and models of divine action have been
    proposed (Barbour lists
    10), we cannot expect to understand the "causal joint" between God
    and creatures
    entirely in terms of the natural sciences. This is true whether the
    creatures we're
    talking about are cherubim, human beings, or quarks.
            But the "joint" between angels & the physical world (i.e.,
    the world that our
    normal science investigates) is a different matter. (Here I assume
    that, as in some of
    the biblical stories, angels do sometimes interact with the physical
    world - e.g., that
    Mary actually heard Gabriel speak to her.) Here we are talking about
    between creatures and I see no theological reason to say that science
    - perhaps of a
    quite speculative sort - couldn't make any headway in understanding
    it. (I should note
    that I'm a theorist, not an experimentalist!) The flip side of that
    is that it isn't
    clear that such scientific investigation would be of much theological value.
            I would suggest that if anyone wants to reflect on this topic
    it would be best -
    for several reasons - to bracket off the question of _evil_ angels,
    at least to begin


    George L. Murphy

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