Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Angels, Theology, and Gilligan's Island

I'm pretty sure that nobody's going to watch "Gilligan's Island," and think they've learned how to survive a shipwreck.

I'm not sure how many folks take television theology seriously.

On the other hand, real-life analogues to my imaginary 'Bombastic Bob, Preacher of the First Hallelulia Church of Snort-and-Stomp' attract followers, so maybe some folks accept the good-enough-for-a-story assumptions behind these shows:
  1. "Teen Angel"
    (TV Series 1997–1998)
    • "After eating a six month old hamburger, Marty DePolo dies and God's Cousin Rod appoints him as his best friend's guardian angel."
  2. "Touched by an Angel"
    (TV Series 1994–2003)
    • "Monica, Tess, and Andrew are a trio of angels sent to earth to tell depressed and troubled people that God loves them and God hasn't forgotten them."
  3. "Highway to Heaven"
    (TV Series 1984–1989)
    • "A probationary angel sent back to earth teams with an ex-cop to help people."
  4. "Charlie's Angels"
    (TV Series 1976–1981)
    • "The adventures of three sexy female private eyes."
One of those series got it seriously wrong, when it comes to what angels are. And it's not number four.


The '70s television series was, in a way, more accurate than some more earnestly 'uplifting' and 'spiritual' programming. The decidedly flesh-and-blood trio in "Charlie's Angels" were, in a way, angels. They served as agents for the unseen Charlie.

Angels, like Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, are servants and messengers of God. "Angel" is a sort of job title:
"St. Augustine says: ' "Angel" is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is "spirit"; if you seek the name of their office, it is "angel": from what they are, "spirit," from what they do, "angel." '188 With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they 'always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven' they are the 'mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word.'189"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 329)

I'm No Angel

Although I try to let God work through me, I'm no angel. Not like the guardian angels, or the rest of the host of Heaven.

I'm a human being: created with a physical body and a soul.

Angels are created along different lines:
"The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition."

"As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.190"
(Catechism, 328, 330)
I don't hear the word "corporeal" used all that much. Maybe a definition is in order. If not, skip to the next heading.

  • Having material or physical form or substance
  • Affecting or characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit
    (Princeton's WordNet)

I'm Human: Soul and Body

I can't be an angel because I'm another sort of creature. Angels are people created as pure spirit: no body. I'm a person created as a living being who is spiritual and corporeal/physical:
" The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic LANGUAGE when it affirms that 'then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.'229 Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

"In Sacred Scripture the term 'soul' often refers to human life or the entire human person.230 But 'soul' also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,231 that by which he is most especially in God's image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man."
(Catechism, 362-363)
A human being is designed and created as a spiritual/physical person. We don't 'become angels' when we die. We become dead. Our bodies stop living; we experience our particular judgment; and will later be raised from the dead. And that's another topic. Topics.

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