Friday, October 3, 2014

Is Saint Michael Really Jesus in Disguise and Other Interesting Questions About Angels.

Dr. Taylor Marshall, whose blog and institute I highly recommended, recently posted an interesting video on St. Michael the Archangel's battle with Satan, as understood by the great St. Augustine of Hippo (a saint who, incidentally, played a big role in my conversion). The whole video (it's rather short) is well worth watching,

In comment section on Dr. Marshall's blog I had an interesting conversation with a fellow we'll call "Joe." I thought I'd post my half of the conversation here (in the style of Lewis' Screwtape Letters or Kreeft's Letters to an Atheist - both of which you should immediately purchase and read if you haven't read them already):

Without further ado, and in honor of both Michaelmas and the Feast of the Guarding Angels occurring this week, here it is (I've numbered and titled my responses to provide easier reading):

1) How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?
Joe, who are the people who will tell us its important to know exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Did you know there is no evidence that any theologian has ever debated the this question? It was an insult developed to attack Scholasticism centuries after the height of the Scholastics. Although, if you think about it, it is a good question, isn't it? It basically asks "what is the relationship between non-material beings and the material world?" That is something very relevant to any discussion on the angels, even if it is a bit philosophical.

2) This Topic is Unimportant, Jesus Never Even Discussed it!
Joe, that Jesus didn't spend "ONE SECOND" on this topic is itself "highly speculative." We know many things Jesus did spend time on, but we don't know which topics He didn't.
But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25)

3) How Do Angels, Who Lack Bodies, Battle One Another? 
Facetiousness ill becomes you, Joe. How do non-material angels battle one another? With their minds. And no, this wasn't an "angel class warfare," we haven't fallen into some kind of Marxist Angelology, angels from all nine "choirs" defected to side with Satan, as did angels from all nine orders side with God.

4) St. Michael is Really Jesus According to 1 Thess 4:16.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; (1 Thess 4:16)
Joe, do you happen to be a Jehovahs Witness? 1 Thess 4:16 is only saying that the Second Coming will be heralded by an Archangel's cry and trumpet blast. In no sense does the text require Jesus to either be an archangel (or have the voice of an archangel) or to be playing a trumpet Himself. As a matter of fact, it would be rather odd for a Lord to be heralding himself. If you think back to the ancient world lords and kings would enter cities not themselves playing trumpets and crying out, but with their servants doing so. Such is the context assumed in 1 Thess. We can also look at the "First Coming" (aka The Nativity) to shed light on what we might expect of the Second Coming. If we look at the Gospel of Luke (2:8-14) we read,
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;  for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
Who heralds the coming of Jesus? Not His own voice, but that of angels. So to, as we learn in 1 Thess 4:16, angels will herald the Second Coming.

Besides, where do you make the leap from "an ARCH-ANGEL" to "Michael"? Do you believe Michael is the only archangel? If so, what do you make of Gabriel and Raphael? It would seem that even granting your interpretation of 1 Thess 4:16 still doesn't get us to your conclusion, that Jesus = Michael.

5) St. Michael is Really Jesus Because Only Jesus Can Raise the Dead.Joe, You'll note, I never said the voice of an archangel will raise the dead. 1 Thess 4:16 says that Christ's return will be accompanied by the cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God. It goes on to say the dead will rise, but that doesn't mean the archangel's voice is the cause of the rising of the dead any more than the trumpet of God is. 

You didn't answer how you make the leap from "the voice of an archangel" to "the voice of Michael." "AN archangel" would suggest that there are others. If there was only one archangel wouldn't the text say with "THE archangel's voice?" If the only archangel was Jesus, why even bother mentioning "an archangel's voice?" Why not just say "with the voice of God?" Angels are clearly created spiritual beings, you are not a JW, are you an Arian? Do you think Jesus is created not begotten of the Father?

6) You are like the highly educated Nicodemus, I'm like the humble Woman at the Well.
Joe, I know you are happily comparing yourself to a faithful person from the Bible (who witnesses to Christ) and me to someone who couldn't grasp Jesus' meaning when speaking to him, but that is just begging the question - assuming your right. If your interpretation of 1 Thess 4:16 is wrong, then you are like "Nic" and I like the woman at the well. In other words, your comparison is nothing more than saying "I'm right and you're wrong." Shall we just leave that aside, then? Or do you want to continue to explore the comparison?
7) I'm Prefer the "Plain and Simple" meaning of Scripture.
Joe, do you think a "simple and plain" understanding of Scripture would be one that only a tiny percentage of Christians have ever understood? The overwhelming majority of Christians (including the great minds of the Church and the humble) do not share your understanding of that passage. In fact, very few Christians have ever equated Michael with Jesus except for the JWs (who aren't actually even Christian at all). You didn't answer my question above, is my interpretation (the one held by almost all Christians for the last 2000 yrs) not at least as plausible as yours? If so, 1 Thess 4:16 doesn't prove your case.

8) Michael doesn't mean "Who is Like God" it means "I am Who is Like God."
Joe, As far as the meaning of "Michael" it isn't just I that disagrees with you, it (again) is pretty much everyone, including translators of the OT. For example, on New Advent, the article on St Michael begins with mentioning that Michael means "who is like God."Do you have any source anywhere that backs up your novel translation of "Michael"?
Even if we assume your translation is correct, it still doesn't show an equivalence between Jesus and Michael, does it? Jesus isn't "like God" Jesus is God. What sense would it make for God to carry the name "like God?" Do you not believe that Jesus is "true God from true God, consubstantial with the Father?" Do you instead believe He is merely "like God?" If so, how can His death have bridged the gap between sinful man and sinless God? It would seem that only if Jesus is both God and man can our sins be forgiven through His crucifixion. Are we then "still in our sins?"
You mentioned before how you are like the humble woman at the well, while I am the educated, but confused Nicodemus. Do you really think it is humble to say basically everyone who has ever studied this, including those who translate Hebrew into English for a living, are all wrong while Joe alone is right? That doesn't sound much like the woman at the well and "plain reading of Scripture" to me. Does it to you?

9) The end.
Joe, I'm sorry to hear personal business will keep you occupied for the next couple of months and that we can't continue our discussion. I hope it is nothing serious. God bless and thanks for the delightful time.

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