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Do Angels Really Exist?

Posted February 21, 2024
Spiritual Warfare

When the topic of angels comes up, particularly in western countries, it’s not uncommon to hear others express skepticism. Even Christians may doubt their existence. The modern scientific understanding of the world doesn’t have a place for things that are not seen, felt, and heard. Spiritual beings, like angels, fall into the same category as goblins, ghouls, and the Greek gods: fantasy.

Are angels a myth? Should we take them literally, or are they metaphors and symbols? While skepticism may seem common, it appears that belief in angels isn’t all that rare. In fact, a 2016 Gallup Poll found that 72% of Americans believe in angels. Around the world, belief in angels is quite common, especially amongst Muslims in Asia and North Africa. These statistics show that there is a global interest in angels, and not just from Christians. Angelology, the study of angels, existed throughout history and is today a real area of theological and philosophical study. From Plato to Augustine, John Calvin to John Locke, Friedrich Schleiermacher to Karl Barth, many important philosophers and theologians have recorded their thoughts and beliefs about angels.

While there are many approaches to the study of angels, this article operates based on two assumptions. First, the Bible is God’s Word and it teaches that angels exist. Second, as God’s Word, the Bible reliably teaches us the truth about angels.

There is undoubtedly a “mythic” element to angelology. Like the Greek pantheon, angels are beings who are higher—both literally and in terms of power—than humanity. They exist above and beyond everyday experience. The angels of the Bible bear resemblance to the divine councils of other ancient myths and religions. This, however, does not mean they are not real. Stephen Noll writes, “Myth and metaphor are real ways of describing beings who are hidden from us above the firmament of heaven.” In other words, while mythic elements are used to describe angels to humans, that does not mean that the angels themselves are myth. There is something real behind stories of spirits and pagan religious beliefs. Angels are that reality, thus they can be thought of as “true myth.” We learn the truth about these beings through God’s inspired Word.

We can know both that angels exist and something of what they are like through the Bible. While experience should not be outright discredited, God’s inspired Word is infallible and inerrant and has the final say. The Bible affirms the existence of angels as real, personal beings. On the one hand, Christians should seek to understand and articulate everything the Bible teaches about angels. However, on the other hand, Christians must be careful to not go beyond the things God has chosen to reveal. The topic of angels and demons seems to invite speculation. Christians, on the contrary, are called to be content that “the secret things belong to the Lord” and not delve into that which God has chosen to keep hidden (Deut. 29:29). In other words, the goal of angelology should be to say as much as the Bible does about angels, no more and no less.

Before we move on to more questions about angels and demons, we should address why it is important to study angels. Is it really worth time, energy, and focus? Aren’t angels a secondary (or even tertiary) issue when compared to the gospel or Christian discipleship? These are good questions, and they show that a careful balance must be struck in the study of angels. One theologian put it this way, “We must avoid both the over-estimation of angels on the one side and their under-estimation on the other. We contend for the sole lordship and glory of God, but we contend for the lordship and glory of God through the ministry of angels.” The study of angels, if rightly done, should lead us past the angels to their creator. It should inspire us to love and worship God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If done correctly, angelology will lead to a deeper understanding of God and his plan of salvation for humanity.


Footnotes

  • https://news.gallup.com/poll/193271/americans-believe-god.aspx

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Staff

This content was created by our Core Christianity staff.