Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fallen Angels and Risk/Benefit Ratios

I've posted about angels before. (February 20, 2011) Angels are people, but not human. They're "purely spiritual creatures" with intelligence and free will, but without a physical body. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 329-331)
"ANGEL: A spiritual, personal, and immortal creature, with intelligence and free will, who glorifies God without ceasing and who serves God as a messenger of his saving plan (329-331). See Guardian Angels."

"GUARDIAN ANGELS: Angels assigned to protect and intercede for each person (336). See Angel."
(Catechism, Glossary)
Since they don't have any bodies, angels can't sin, right?


An Offense Against Reason, Truth, and Right Conscience

Here's some of what the Church says about sin:
"Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as 'an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.'121"
(Catechism, 1869)
I have trouble imagining an angel tempted to sin by indulging in, say, gluttony: or any other distraction that involves physical senses. But angels have intelligence and free will, so they could certainly decide to disobey God.

Some angels made that lifestyle choice:
"DEVIL/DEMON: A fallen angel, who sinned against God by refusing to accept his reign. Satan or the devil, the Evil One, and the other demons were at first good angels, created naturally good, who became evil by their own doing (391, 1707; cf. 2851)."
(Catechism, Glossary)
I've opined about the notion that "spiritual" means "good" before. (June 3, 2012, December 18, 2009)

The Fall of the Angels

Satan's radical change of allegiance and subsequent eviction from Heaven has inspired a stories, silly and otherwise, from "Paradise Lost" (1667) to Doctor Who and "The Satan Pit" (2006). Tales like Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus" can be entertaining. My opinion.

I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to take Satan seriously: but not too seriously. (Catechism, 391-395) I've broken out some main points, but remember: I've got the teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." I recommend following the links and learning what the Catechism says.

About Satan and other fallen angels:
  • Satan
    • Was created good
    • Decided to become evil
    (Catechism, 391)
  • Some angels "radically and irrevocably rejected"
    • God
    • God's reign
    (Catechism, 392)
  • The fallen angels cannot repent
    (Catechism, 393)
  • Satan
    • Led our first parents to disobey God
    • Tried to divert Jesus from His mission
      (Catechism, 394)
  • Is
    • A creature
    • Very powerful
      • "but still a creature"
    • Can cause great harm
    • Cannot prevent the building of God's reign
      (Catechism, 395)

Angels, Choice, and Mercy

'How can God be good, and still put people in Hell? It's a nifty-sounding question, but misses the point.

When I face my Lord, I'll be judged on my faith and works. (Catechism, 1021) That puts the 'go/no go' decision in my hands. 'No pressure,' and that's another topic.

About the fallen angels: they're the ones who decided to say 'no' to God. Being the sort of creatures they are, they can't 'change their minds:'
"It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. 'There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.'272"
(Catechism, 393)

Satan: Evil, Powerful, and That's All

"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."
- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, via Esther Lombardi,
That's one of my favorite quotes about Satan and company.

Here's a less catchy, but more official, statement:
"The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but 'we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.'275"
(Catechism, 395)
I've posted about Providence before. (September 24, 2010) It isn't as silly or spiteful as some folks made it seem. More topics.

(Not) Dealing With the Devil

Like I said earlier in this post, I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to take Satan seriously: but not too seriously.

I'm not about to try 'matching wits with the Devil.' Stories like "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "Damn Yankees" are entertaining: but they're fiction.

The Church's rules about going to Satan or demons for help boil down to "don't." (Catechism, 2116-2117) That makes sense to me, since the risk/benefit ratio is way out of whack. It's that Matthew 10:28 thing.

Taking Sides

I follow the Man:
  • Who said
    • "...take courage, I have conquered the world."
      (John 16:33)
    • "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM."
      (John 8:58)
    • And made it stick
  • Who was killed
  • Who gave his followers orders
    • Which we are still carrying out
      • Two millennia later
    (June 3, 2012)
Knowing what I do, and having read 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, why would I want to take sides with another creature, against God? That just doesn't make sense.

Related posts:

Background, angels:
"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

"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

"Christ 'with all his angels'

"Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels: 'When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . .'191 They belong to him because they were created through and for him: 'for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.'192 They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: 'Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?'193"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 329-331)

"From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.202 '"Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.'203 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God."
(Catechism, 336)

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.