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The Doctrine of Angels as pure, celestial (unfallen) spirits,
attested by Holy Writ and accepted by the Church, lacks complete dogmatic verification; but it involves no contradiction in itself or to other doctrines.
1. Biblical and Ecclesiastical Doctrine. Here come in from the 0. T. the bino in Jacob's history, the sons of God in Job's, the angels in Daniel's and Isaiah's, whereas the 785 Min($ 28, 1) is not everywhere regarded under a personal aspect, but in a portion of the passages denotes Jehovah in His revealed character. According to the N. T., the angels are created beings forming one portion of the spiritkingdom, and living members of it in virtue of love and sympathy;they are immortal, and without reproduction and sexual distinction ;* they are wrapt in contemplation, in adoration of the divine counsels and celebration of God's praise. As concerns their occupation, they are called in general ministering spirits of God, and at the decisive epochs of God's kingdom their ministry comes out with special prominence, as at Christ's birth, resurrection, ascension, and second coming. Their numbers are depicted as immense, and, according to Paul especially, they are ranged in different orders. But however high they stand, Christ stands above them. Nor are they to be made objects of worship;s on the
Isa, vi. ;
1 Gen. xxxii. 2; Job i.; Dan. vii. 10;
Ps. lxviii. 18.
contrary, they themselves worship the Son of God.1 It forms an important modification of the 0. T. doctrine of angels, that in the N. T. they are gathered around Christ as around a centre. It is no supposition of the N. T. that angels are merely departed men, as Swedenborgians hold.” Nor from the fact of their being called ministering spirits, sent forth for man's good, does it follow that they are at all a lower class of beings than men." For the rest, Christ speaks of them as He could not have done on the supposition of His knowing that they have no existence. When Schleiermacher, while not alleging any accommodation in this matter on the part of Christ, thinks that Christ made use of the doctrine of angels, as any one may ingenuously, without sin, share in harmless popular notions, and that the knowledge of angels did not pertain to Christ's official knowledge, it is to be observed in reply, that Christ does not handle the doctrine in a mere traditional or proverbial way, but modifies it, and assigns to the angels a peculiar attitude in relation to His person."
Ecclesiastical doctrine maintains the Biblical doctrine of angels, although the Reformation at the same time made protest against its abuse to purposes of religious worship, and against the interposition of angelic mediation.
2. As concerns the objections to the Biblical doctrine of angels, it is to be conceded that many points in it remain obscure, e.g. the time of their creation, their relation to corporeity and development. Their relation to the world, too, is not more precisely defined. According to several · passages, they have also a relation to nature, a fact especially dwelt on by v. Hofmann among moderns; according to other passages, to the spiritual domain, whether to the kingdom of God in general or as guardian-spirits to indi
1 Heb. i. 4, 13; Phil. ii. 6.
2 John i. 52; Col. i. 20. 3 Heb. i. 14, xii. 22, 23.
4 Matt. xx. 26-28. • Matt. xxvi. 53. 6 Apology, 224 ; Art. Smalk. 311 ; Cat. 383.
7 Other obscurities lie in the passages Rev. iv. 5 (of the seven Spirits of God, a passage often made use of by Emanationism), v. 6, 11 (the Güze); Ezek. i. 5; Isa. vi. 3 (the Seraphim).
8 John v. 4 (but the words found here are probably spurious); and especially in Revelation, e.g. chaps. vii. and ix. DORNER.- CHRIST. Doct. II.
viduals. Some think that the doctrine had its origin among the Persians. It is true that in the last centuries before Christ we find in the 0. T. Apocrypha, e.g. the Book of Tobit, an extravagant angelology, nay even angel-worship, e.g. among the Essenes; but long before the contact with Parseeism, the notion of angels is found in the first book of Moses. Nor is Sabeanism to be thought of, despite the phrase “ Lord of hosts." To the Hebrews the stars are not angels. Schleiermacher attempts to deduce the doctrine psychologically from the felt need of assuming in the universe more of spirit than the earth exhibits. But to the popular mind in preChristian days the stars did not assume the vastness they do to us, and such a comprehensive view of the universe as the scene of the revelation of spirit is not pre-Christian. And by the heathen the stars were even regarded as living beings. The moral explanation of the origin of the doctrine suggested by C. Daub is ingenious :: “Seeing himself involved in the antithesis of good and evil, man sketches for himself archetypes of his ethical character under both aspects, and thus out of ethical necessity arises the idea of the angel as the glorious ideal of good (and the idea of the devil as the terrible extreme, to which man must of necessity attain in a course of evil).” But, on the contrary, the Hebrews are bold enough to make God their ideal, as is shown by the doctrine of the divine image, the doctrine of angels having rather grown out of the idea of God. They are a kind of revelation, God's host, His spirit-kingdom, wherein His glory is displayed. These explanations of the origin of the doctrine, supposing them to be established, would not prove its falsehood. Before it can be described as impossible, it must be shown to be in contradiction with the idea of God or the creature. This would be done, supposing the angels had to be conceived with the Cabbala as emanationist in character ; but this is not taught in Holy Scripture. They would be in contradiction with the idea of the living creature, supposing they were merely determined beings, without any power of self-determination and exertion. But even this is no part of their idea. They may possess the power, like nature itself, of self-reproduction. It might with more reason be said, that they are represented as endowed with innate perfection, wisdom, and holiness, and this would conflict with creaturely ethical existence. But no such doctrine is taught. That they stand in need of probation, is not denied; that they increase in knowledge, and therefore in wisdom and happiness, the New Testament seems to teach, and Christ's exaltation ministers to their perfection. But the form of gradual progress belonging to us, this external relativity of different elements to each other, need not be theirs. And even if originally they formed a pure world, not bound like us to space and time, but standing in the light of eternity, still through the creation of man—this temporal being—and through their knowledge of man's development and destination even temporality may be reflected in them, so that by means of man, or rather of their sympathy with man, they may even come to share in historical development.?
1 Matt. xviii. 10; Heb. i. 14; Ps. xci. 11, xxxiv. 8. 2 Followed by Binder in the Studien der württemb. Geistlichkeit, IX. 2, 1836. 3 Lev. xi. 44: “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy."
3. But if no contradiction is established in the idea of angels, can they be shown to be a necessary class of beings? Thomas Aquinas and Raymond of Sabunde derive them from the idea of a complete world, exhibiting without a break all possible forms of life. But the possibility must not be merely subjective. It must be shown that the world-idea contains a place for them, which they alone in a distinctive sense are able to fill up; but this is not done. Others have thought :
The angels serve to fill up the vast interval between God and the creature," as if the distinction between God and man were a merely quantitative one. And with this erroneous conception is connected the opposite one, that God is removed to a distance from the world by His lofty dignity. This may be implied in a physical or forensic conception of God, from which would next follow a doctrine of angelic mediators and intercessors, which the Reformation rightly condemned.Weisse understands by the angels the ideal world, whose
Col. i. 20; Eph. iii. 10 ; 1 Pet. i. 12. 2 Schelling, Philos. der Offenb. II. 279 f., represents them as volitionless potencies of an impersonal nature, forming the good ideal possibility of every one, and even after the Fall maintaining the bond of connection between God and man. He seems to view them as goodness working unconsciously in man, which the German language often calls “ his good angel.”
unity is the Logos; but in this case they are either mere unreal ideas, or, if real, men are mere shadowy repetitions of angels.
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As the Doctrine of Angels involves no contradiction in itself,
so, on the other hand, manifold importance is not to be denied to it, partly in the character of a doctrinal boundary, partly because of the wide outlooks which it opens up to the Christian spirit on more than one side.
1. The doctrine of angels forms a safeguard against a mistaken this-worldliness in regard to our race and its history, in the same way that the doctrine of immortality does in regard to the individual and his life. Humanity is only one part of the entire sum of rational beings. There is a twofold preponderance of world-consciousness over God-consciousness. In the first place, we are often inclined to make the universe shrink into the earth, to describe everything lying beyond the earth as insignificant, trifling, mistaken otherworldliness. Of this, in the second place, the plausible opposite is that, while enlarging our view to contemplate the mathematical immensity of the mechanical structure of the universe, we fall on this account into a disparagement of spirit in contrast with mere vastness, and for example deem it mathematically absurd and impossible for our earth, this atom in the great All, to be the theatre of divine revelations, such as Christianity describes. Against both errors, the former over-valuation of the earth, and the spirit-power living upon it, as against the latter timid under-valuation of the significance of spirit, in contrast with mere vastness, the doctrine of angels forms a safeguard. As concerns over-valuation, while the doctrine by itself is no security for the energy and purity of God-consciousness, it opens to the spirit an immense vista, forces it out of the limits of our planet, enlarges consciousness
1 Schelling, Philos. der Offenb. II. 292. Nothing but the consciousness of being a universal being, in whose weal and woe interest is taken even outside this world, elevates man above the earth, above nature, which is itself better understood as to its limits by having another world outside itself.