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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Theological question of the day

This thought had never occurred to me until just now:

If demons can influence people from within - at the extreme end of the scale we might speak of 'possession' - then can good angels do the same thing?

I credit Jonathan Macy for prompting this question.

12 comments:

pchurcher87 said...

Would that not negate thier goodness in so doing?

Anonymous said...

Good question!

While I chew that over, I'll share this:

Some say that sin against the everlasting God must be punished with everlasting punishment. But shouldn't sin against the God of love be punished with loving punishment?

James Goetz said...

Well, I suppose that if a good angel tried to enter into a human, then the angel would no longer be good. It would cross a boundary that it shouldn't cross. Likewise, it may have the supernatural ability to do it but I don't believe that a "good" angel "may" do it.

And the English teacher said, "Mother may I."

Robin Parry said...

I probably was not clear enough. I don't imagine good angels would possess someone. Such an act would probably be inconsistent (in most cases, at least) with being good.

But might they influence from within?

Christians have no qualms about speaking of the Holy Spirit 'filling' and influencing from within and this is consistent with goodness.

Could angels?

And yet ... we never find such teaching in the Bible. The Holy Spirit seems to be the divine 'equivalent' of the possessing demon. Never an angel.

Which makes me wonder (for the zillionth time) whether it is right to think of demons as fallen angels. I have long been suspicious about such an idea. They are not just the inverse image of angels (e.g., they don't do good possessions). Perhaps, instead of being broken angels, they are a different type of 'thing' altogether.

(The fallen angel hypothesis is not without a theological basis but its claimed biblical foundations are fragile to say the least. I am not anti the hypothesis but I am sceptical)

Josh said...

Given the Holy Spirit's work, it would be redundant for angels to do so.

James Goetz said...

I understand the problems related to speculations based on the Vulgate translation of Isaiah 14. Nonetheless, the devil and his forces are referred to as "the devil and his angels" in both Matthew and Revelation while Paul referred to them as "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". From this alone, they are fallen heavenly beings, regardless if they fell from grace in the first act of their will or after serving God for a while.

Concerning the original question, I suppose a good angel might assist God in healing that might involve a temporary godly invasion as a physician. And I suppose that any touch by a holy angel would penetrate us. But I don't believe that permanent or temporarily enslavement from evil heavenly forces has a counterpart from good heavenly forces.

Anonymous said...

Me again.

Good and helpful clarification from you all.

James said:
But I don't believe that permanent or temporarily enslavement from evil heavenly forces has a counterpart from good heavenly forces.

I feel the same thing to be true, but now I wonder if there's an a-symmetry here: that what is true of the forces of evil is not true of the forces of good. And if not, why not?

James Goetz said...

Anonymous said... "I feel the same thing to be true, but now I wonder if there's an a-symmetry here: that what is true of the forces of evil is not true of the forces of good. And if not, why not?"

It goes along with what I said earlier. I believe that a good created spirit has the ability to abide inside a human, but good angels don't do it to respect moral boundaries.

James Goetz said...

Robin Parry said... "Christians have no qualms about speaking of the Holy Spirit 'filling' and influencing from within and this is consistent with goodness.

Could angels?

And yet ... we never find such teaching in the Bible. The Holy Spirit seems to be the divine 'equivalent' of the possessing demon. Never an angel.

Which makes me wonder (for the zillionth time) whether it is right to think of demons as fallen angels. I have long been suspicious about such an idea. They are not just the inverse image of angels (e.g., they don't do good possessions). Perhaps, instead of being broken angels, they are a different type of 'thing' altogether."

I'm sorry that I'll repeat most of my ideas, but I want to tailor this to Robin's clarification. First, only the Spirit of God "should" infill a human. No other spirit should do that while evil spirits do it in rebellion. And I suppose that the evil spirits gain some type of comfort indwelling a human or even a pig compared to spiritually arid places or the abyss. And mostly, demons do it because they hate humans and want to ruin them.

Could angels indwell a human? I suppose that angels have the supernatural maneuverability to indwell humans. But as I stated earlier, good angels don't do it for moral reasons. And I don't see that no record of angels doing it is any slight suggestion that they had a different origin than the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms or that the good angels are incapable of doing it.

And among humans, exceptions to the typical boundaries reserved only for God include marriage and surgery.

And as a former warlock who got saved, I cringe when I hear of New Agers talk about discovering the angel within.

As I said earlier, I suppose good angels sometimes assist God by temporarily invading a human to bring healing while I feel the need for many caveats in light of occult beliefs about angels.

Anonymous said...

"Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" Heb 1:14

Their mission is often (or maybe always) to help humans. If they serve AS spirits, it follows they could help us IN our spirit. If possession is possible with some spirits, then maybe help and service could occur that is "in" us, but less than "possession."
Ben

Anonymous said...

Nice thread. Bit scary though.

How about this:

At one end of the scale we have humans indulging in evil and allowing evil to possess them.

At the other end of the scale we have humans indulging in good and allowing good to possess them.

In neither case does the good spirit or evil spirit have power to invade the human soul. It is only by the human's indulgence that the good or evil spirit gains entry.

Or is this not true to life?

I know that we don't live our lives in a vacuum. Each person has a different variety of pressures pulling them in good or bad directions.

Chris Donato said...

I've always just gone with Lewis' depiction in Screwtape—you know, that image of a nasty, gnarled fellow riding on the shoulders of an unsuspecting person.

So, I might take issue with the very concept of "influence from within." Our hearts do the trick on their own (the major difference being: with or without grace?).