As a young man, I was intrigued by television and movie accounts of extra-terrestrial life. I was a huge Star Wars, Star Trek and E.T. fan. I’m not the only one interested in the possibility of non-human, intelligent, conscious beings in the universe. In fact, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (S.E.T.I.) Institute (at www.seti.org) continues to search the cosmos for signs of alien intelligence. As it turns out, the Bible confirms the existence of extra-terrestrial life in the universe. They’re not aliens, however; they’re called Angelic Beings. According to the Bible, God created other, non-human creatures and gave them the ability to reason, make choices and live alongside the created order of planet earth, without being bound or limited to our planet. We commonly call these creatures “angels” and “demons”.
You might be surprised to find how many people believe in immaterial beings. In fact, a recent Harris poll revealed that while belief in God is dropping over the past eight years, belief in ghosts and UFO’s is climbing. In spite of this, I bet many of your non-Christian friends would still find the Christian notion of angels and demons a bit “primitive”. After all, Christians try to attribute all kinds of things to the activity of either angels or demons, don’t they? Is there really any physical evidence angels and demons exist in the first place? In this post I’d like to start an investigation of angels and demons by simply reviewing what three great thinkers from history said about the reasonable existence of angels and demons:
Thomas Aquinas (13th Century Italian philosopher and theologian)
Thomas Aquinas devoted fifteen questions in Part I of his “Summa Theologica” to arguments for the existence of non-material angelic beings. I will take great liberty with his argument here for the sake of brevity:
1. A good God creates beings in his image
2. God is an immaterial conscience being, and has created humans as material conscience beings
3. Consciousness is not a function of the material body
4. Therefore, humans are both material and immaterial beings (we have immaterial, conscious souls)
5. In the continuum of beings it is reasonable to assume some sort of immaterial conscious being exists in between the categories of God and Man:
“…Incorporeal substances rank between God and corporeal creatures. Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold; and thus it is said that angels, compared to God, are material and corporeal, not, however, as if anything corporeal existed in them.”
Johannes Quenstedt (17th century Lutheran professor and theologian)
Quenstedt also made a case for angelic beings in a way somewhat similar to Aquinas. He argued there are no “gaps” in nature, and reasoned purely spiritual beings such as angels must exist in the continuum of corporeal to spiritual beings:
1. There are purely corporeal beings (stones)
2. Partly corporeal and partly spiritual beings (ie. Humans)
3. Purely spiritual beings (ie. Angels)
Charles Hodge (19th century Princeton theologian)
Hodge made a case for angelic beings based on the varied existence of “irrational beings”. He argued if irrational beings exist in multiplicity, it is reasonable to assume “rational” beings must also exist in multiplicity:
1. There are more than one kind of irrational beings (ie. Insects and animals)
2. There should be more than one kind of rational being (ie. Humans and angelic beings)
“There is every reason to presume that the scale of being among rational creatures is as extensive as that in the animal world.”
Now none of these arguments proves the existence of angelic beings from a naturalistic perspective, but the arguments offer a reasonable way of thinking about such beings. These arguments presume the truth of dualism, however, so it would be wise to review the philosophical case for the existence of the immaterial soul before engaging these historic thinkers. As Christians, we know we can only learn so much from observing the world around us and using our God-given reasoning powers (natural revelation). Ultimately, we must rely on God’s Word (special revelation) to make clear the existence and nature of angelic beings.
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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