By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
The best agents of warfare are not those never seen, but those never acknowledged.
It’s time to step on some toes. I hope that you’re wearing sandals.
As a Christian, having conversations about anything with other Christians can get pretty awkward really fast. Especially when angels come up.
-“Hey Ms. Clara, how’s it going?”
-“Oh, it’s been a mighty day in the Lord!”
-“True, true, so…have you fixed the pie for the church bake sale yet?”
-“Why no, I haven’t. You see, I was talking to my guardian angel the other day, and he told me it’d be best if I make an angel cake for the bake sale instead of one of my fruit pies! He also told me when to buy my ticket for the Powerball lottery!”
-“Okaaay…I’ll see you on Sunday Ms. Clara!”
And slightly different conversations can also get awkward for the very same reason: angels. Except, in these cases, the awkwardness comes up for reasons other than bake sales and lottery numbers.
-“Hey man, did you hear what happened on the news? Another war has started in the Middle East and religious conflicts are stirring people in Europe to try and ban religious speech from all public places. At the same time Planned Parenthood just got off scot-free for selling baby organs, but the guy who did the sting videos just got indicted. Even more, the Federal Board of Education is publishing a list of the private schools who requested exemptions from the new sexual-orientation legislation caused by the revised Title IX statute, an act that ostracizes any school that does not want to endorse LGBT lifestyles. At the same time, hatred of Christians and Israel is spreading across my social media community like wildfire so that I can’t even make a simple status update unless its about dancing kittens! Stuff is really getting shaky, man.”
-“Yeah bruh, you’re right. Man, I guess that the forces of darkness sure are busy, huh? Our society’s getting more comfortable with our own evil, and the demons are exploiting us for it like crazy. We really need to pray to our Father about this.”
-“The devil? Demons? What does any of that have to do with international politics, cultural apostasy, or Facebook? I don’t see why you’d bring demon-speak into this. Realistically, what should be our focus is convincing people to start thinking logically and to start voting again.”
I noticed for a while that many of the spiritual welfare sermons I’ve listened to almost never referred to angels or demons aside from speaking about Jesus’ exorcisms or a sermon that happened to be quoting verses from Revelation. And even then, I actually remember a pastor trying to explain one of Jesus’ exorcisms for really being a bout of epilepsy that the ancient world did not know about, and that Jesus allowed them to think that way because the truth would have been too hard on them.
Wow, with pastors like that, who needs atheism?
Though it is true that the ancient world did not have general knowledge of the beneficial mental health science that we currently possess, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Jesus aka the Incarnate Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe couldn’t tell the difference between the diabolical intrusion of His rebellious angelic creations in the life of a human being and a physical defect in a person’s brain.
Worse, sometimes when pastoral sermons did refer to angels they often were so horribly written and delivered with such paranoia that I believe the preachers were doing the demons a favor.
I’m usually very careful to bring up “angel-speak” in conversations with believers– not because I don’t believe in angels, but because angels often provide convenient scapegoats for anything and everything. Don’t even get me started with speaking to recent converts. Too many times have my conversations ended with one of them saying something like: “I would have not done that if the devil hadn’t tempted me.” And this form of blame-shifting sometimes never goes away as the Christian matures. It’s as if we fundamentally don’t know what temptation essentially is and that fact that demons sometimes present us with opportunities or suggestions that they know we will be willing to jump at.
I’ve also had a couple of conversations go south when I mentioned angels even talking with mature Christians. It’s like certain mature Christians and even Christian apologists defend the existence of the human soul; they defend the existence of an all powerful Deity from seven different philosophical angles against any competing philosophy; they can historically and biblically defend that same Creator being one in being but three in persons; and they can logically expand upon the Christian claim of that Creator being born as a Jewish man in Judea while simultaneously sitting on His throne in celestial heights. But, when it comes to believing in spirit-beings capable of the same personal volition that human beings possess, the metal pin dropping on carpet makes a sound louder than anyone in the room. Stunning…just stunning.
I mean, as Christians we believe the Bible is 100% true. Since when did Paul’s words about our fight being against principalities, angelic powers of darkness, and spiritual beings in the heavens turn into our fight being about political parties, philosophical debates, and psychological disorders?
Immature believers of the faith blaming demons for their every sin easily points to spiritual immaturity, plain and simple. But what of mature believers of the faith habitually denying spiritual reality?
My answer to the phenomenon: humanist philosophy.
Humanism is the leading philosophic ideology of our scientific and political era. In humanism, humanity is the sole agent of causation for humanity’s destiny. Humanists believed that acknowledging the absence of or even nonexistence of any agency outside of the will of humans would catapult civilization to new technological and ethical heights towards a kind of philosophical utopia. But with the turmoil of the 19th century and the brutal violence of the 20th century, humanism began to turn upon itself in seeing humanity as its own savior. This led to the rise of secular humanism, a philosophy that allowed for a more pessimistic approach to rectifying the sins of humanity. According to secular humanism, human cultures were invented to explain the natural phenomenon that humans have not quite come to terms with, such as death and moral evil. Secular humanism holds Darwinian evolution as its main ontology, thus making all spiritual beliefs the inevitable products of mankind trying to fill in existential blanks.
No doubt secular humanism intrudes into the Church, especially in the minds of many high-minded Christians who tend to come from a secular humanist worldview. Old habits die fast, and as our modern culture continually spews out humanism, it becomes hard for Christians to consider there being any other agents in the universe besides themselves and God, God being the necessary Being.
And humanism shows up perpetually in modern Christianity. Angels are often depicted as male children, golden-haired men and women, or basically humans with wings. Very rarely when we think of angels do we picture Biblical descriptions (see Isaiah and Ezekiel) of our heavenly neighbors. At Christian funerals, embarrassment abounds when a loved one speaks about the deceased “now being an angel sitting next to Jesus, singing all day long and strumming a harp.” See, humanism has inundated the Church so much that humans have substituted angels for being angels themselves! What a loop.
It’s time for us to stop kidding ourselves in the Church. Either the whole Bible is real, or it’s totally ridiculous. Either God is speaking the truth when He testifies that He created angelic beings capable of promoting good or evil, or God is a liar and we need to chunk the belief in angels into the same garbage disposal system that we should chunk our Bibles.
Angels have real consequential dealings in our affairs in more ways than one (just ask Daniel). Believers needn’t be fearful, for we serve a God who promises us victory ahead of all of our doubts and misgivings.
But think about it for a second. If the Christian fight is against spiritual beings, but Christians deny the existence of those beings, doesn’t that open up Christians to every sort of persecution and spiritual disaster? The secular world has been reaping the fruits of ignoring the essential problem of human wickedness for centuries. Christians everyday witness the brutal consequences for refusing to see the world as it really is.
Do Christians really need to learn the same lesson when it comes to trusting the testimony of God?