Angels, demons and aliens

Hi everyone,

I’ve put up a post over at The Skeptical Zone on the topic of angels, demons and aliens, and the difficulties they pose for Christianity. Some readers have suggested that I put it up here, as well. So here goes:

Angels, demons and aliens.

Please don’t forget to read my postscript. And if you feel moved to comment about angels, I’d like you to address the question: how is belief in angels different from belief in magic?

Enjoy!

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I believe that the bible is the Word of God. The bible discusses angels, demons and magic. They are all clearly different. Angels are heavenly and do the will of God. Demons are earthly and do the will of the devil. Magic is what humans use to deceive other humans, and would also be considered a work of the devil as he is considered the “father of lies”.

The bible is clear that we are involved in spiritual warfare all the time, I believe that is true, but I also believe that the spiritual war does not manifest in clearly understood ways.

As far as this goes, I don’t see any difficulties for Christians. I have faith in Christ. Jesus taught on angels, controlled demons, disregarded magic but performed “miracles” (I would argue that these were not miracles in Jesus’ eyes, just part of being God and he purposely tried to avoid recognition)…Jesus even teaches on aliens if you interpret Gentiles to mean any intelligent being that is not a Jew (see John 10:16). Anyway, those that have faith in Jesus would not find any of these things difficult, just not important in terms of continuing in their faith (or at least that’s how I see it).

If you’re looking for some mind-blowing epiphany, this is probably not the right site. This site tends to ignore fantasy/spirit world stuff and focus on science (theology sways toward atheism, but not always). I say that not to be rude, but realistic. I can see that you put a lot of effort into it, I wish I could be more encouraging. Good luck.

What do you understand by the term “belief in magic”? If you are talking about magic as understood by traditional indigenous people (as opposed to a cartoon version of it); then magic involves Spiritual beings: Demons, Djinns etc… So, some kinds of magic involve belief in beings that the bible would categorize as fallen angels, Demons etc.

What is your objection to belief in magic?

Your postscript says the below :

I do not believe that angels are mind and will and nothing else, as Scholastic philosophers have maintained; rather, I am much more inclined to believe that they are in some way embodied (even if they are invisible to us), which is why they are able to act on our behalf. If I had to choose from among the four possibilities I canvassed in part (d) of section 1 above, I would be inclined to opt for possibility (iii): angels are embodied agents living in the multiverse, but outside our universe

My comments are as below :
I don’t know where anyone who reads the bible would get the idea that Angels are will and volition alone.
Even, Jesus himself talks about the bodies of Angels in heaven… and there are instances of Angels taking human form and doing God’s work on earth. (For example The judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah).

Hi @Ashwin_s,

Thank you for your responses. By belief in magic, I mean the ability of any finite agent (e.g. a human being or a spiritual being) to bring about changes by an act of will. My definition is thus very similar to that of English occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), who defined magic in his book Magick (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 31) as “the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will. ” (I quoted this definition in my OP.)

My objections to belief in magic are as follows:

(i) it would require material objects to additionally possess the spiritual property of being responsive to the wishes of the agent who is doing magic;

(ii) more precisely, it would require material bodies to possess semantic properties – for instance, that when magician X wishes that P, body B will move this way, but when magician X wishes that Q, body B will move that way;

(iii) it would destroy the metaphysical unity of a body’s properties, by adding extra ad hoc spiritual properties which are in no way related to its material properties, thereby preventing us from ever being able to grasp all of its properties by virtue of a single, unifying concept (as sodium’s properties are said to flow from its atoms’ having 11 protons in their nuclei);

(iv) it involves the absurd and childish belief that agents can bring about changes in the world simply by wishing for them - which is ridiculous, because wishing for something doesn’t make it happen.

Re the Bible: I agree that it doesn’t say that angels are thought and volition alone, but virtually every Christian theologian who has ever written about angels took this view (Origen is the sole exception that I know of), and argued that angelic appearances to human beings involved them assuming a body which was not really theirs.

Cheers.

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The kind of magic you describe would require the world to be effected by our wishes in some way.
I dont see why you think thought or will is spiritual.

Strangely enough, there are some aspects to quantum physics that point to such a possibility. (Depending upon how one interprets the results of experiments).

If the mind is foundational to creation, then there must be some fundamental way in which logos interacts with matter. Perhaps this is not accessible to us and only to God… or perhaps we have limited access to it…

I still dont see your objection… is it axiomatic?

As to Angel’s, I agree with you.

Hi @Ashwin_s,

I’m glad to hear we are in agreement about angels.

Re quantum physics: the results of certain experiments do indeed depend on the choices of the observer, but these choices are manifested as concrete, physical actions (e.g. the choice to use one slit or two, for a light wave to pass through).

Re the difficulties I raised with acts of will changing reality:

(a) it is a commonplace observation that merely wishing for X doesn’t make X happen (for if it did, there’d be no such thing as paralysis: a paralytic could make their arm go up simply by wishing for it);

(b) I was operating on the assumption (shared by Platonists, Aristotelians and virtually all Christian philosophers from the fourth century until the twentieth century) that the human faculties of intellect and will are immaterial faculties, and that thinking and willing are immaterial acts;

© I agree with you that God is able to make things happen in the cosmos by willing them to be, but that’s because he’s the Author of nature. Angels are creatures, not authors, so they cannot possess the same power;

(d) if inanimate objects were able to respond to the semantic content of a finite agent’s wishes (e.g. a magician’s wishes or an angel’s), this would raise the obvious question: how do these objects know what the agent wants? Being inanimate objects, they can’t. That strikes me as pretty axiomatic.

Cheers.

Hi @vjtorley,

Thanks for taking time out to reply. I would like to make some points vis a vis your commments on “Acts of will” changing reality.

Agreed. However, this only tells us that human beings don’t have any power to effect matter through their will without the help of material interactions (Cos healthy people can will to lift their hands) . It doesn’t say anything about Angels, Demons and such.

I would say that we don’t know whether God has given angels the same power.

If God can make things happen in the cosmos by willing them, then there must be some means by which the cosmos responds to will. So, why would it be impossible for God to empower Angels and give them the “passkeys” to effect the cosmos according to their will (at least in a limited way)?
Then, there is the option of effecting the cosmos vicariously through God. When our Wills are applied to prayer, intercession and such, i would assume God is moved, and hence the cosmos with Him,

Why would they need to know anything. They could be working in line with commands given by God.Just like computers and the internet don’t know what they are doing and yet software systems allow us to transfer money from one account to another.

Why is this impossible?

This thread intrigues me so I will have to comment on that later because I don’t have time to read through the whole thread and your article right now. I just wanted to make a few quick comments first; I’ll come back to it later.

I also think angels have bodies - but that makes me wonder what they are made of…are they higher dimensional beings, or are they made out of something that’s not baryonic matter or both. I realized recently I was holding to the view that they are both illusions and embodied. That isn’t consistent. Instead they are described similarly to humans but not exactly - and they can appear and disappear like Jesus did after being raised. Interesting stuff…

@vjtorley why do you think inflation leads to a multiverse?