This paper is an assignment for the Angelology, Anthropology, and Hamartiology Course at DTS which is part of my Unschooled Master’s of Theology Program. The assignment is to write a doctrinal statement covering the major subject matter of the course, with details outlined in the syllabus.
You can read all of my uThM assignments here.
Let’s get started….
The interplay between creation, angelic beings, humanity, and the sin in which we are guilty of is a fascinating narrative, but, unfortunately, much of the story itself, as well as its impact on the ultimate destiny of all involved has been shrouded in mystery, in cryptic messaging, and centuries of misinformation and tradition.
Creation is, by its very nature, that which constitutes the beginning. But, which beginning we have in question is open to debate. It certainly is not the beginning of God, nor is it the beginning of the supernatural realms, neither is it the creation of the hosts of heaven, those confounding and mysterious spirit beings that inhabit an entirely different dimensionality. It is the beginning of man and also marks the beginning of the physical reality, certainly the earth and probably the entire universe and the stars and moon and sun and the milky way and all the multitude of planets and galaxies that we are not even aware of within the universe.
This creation is captured stereophonically from two perspectives. In Genesis 1-2:3 we see God apparently speaking to the audience “let us” and focuses on the initial creation while in Genesis 2:4-25, there is no audience present and the subject is the creation of the first man, the subsequent wanton behavior that motivated the creation of the Woman, and their assignment to the Garden of Eden.
There are differences in the two accounts. There are distinct differences in the order of the creation process between the two accounts and it is clear that they are not simply a repeat.
It was here that we are introduced first to peculiar and baffling creatures other than the humans created on the sixth day. In Job 38, we see a rhetorical discussion between God and Job, where he inquires of the man where he was when God made the foundations of the earth, established its measurements, laid its cornerstones (v 1-6). Certainly, Job did not exist at this primordial moment, yet, in verse 7 we are told these orphic creatures, the “morning stars” or “sons of God” sang out together and “shouted for joy” at the founding of the physical world we now inhabit.
Who these creatures are exactly, where they came from, and what their exact purposes are remain a mystery. All we know from the biblical text is that they exist, they inquire of us (1 Pe 1:12), and serve in God’s great and mysterious purpose.
Humans, on the other hand, much more is revealed, and more so than our modern naturalistic materialism will allow. These creatures were created and placed in the garden as “male and female” and were told to multiple and fill the earth. They subsequently fell from their state of existence and a curse was placed upon the entire physical creation, condemning all living creatures on earth to death.
Though this is typically the orthodoxical view in modern protestant evangelicalism, it actually makes little to no room for the supernatural reality of the biblical message, nor does it seriously take into account the greater spiritual realms surrounding our physical one, nor does it attempt to address or even explore the ramifications of those angelic beings so cryptically described in the text.
What was the origin of angels? How do we know? What are “sons of God?” Why will humans become “like” them? How? What will come after the “revealing,” when everything is made new and the saved take their place among the council? Will there be another creation event subsequent to the one on earth, in a different location? In a different dimensionality altogether? Did angels have a redemption narrative similar to humanities’?
The Greek translation of the Old Testament renders Genesis 1:1 as “εν αρχη εποιησεν ο θεος τον ουρανον και την γην” – in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Most specifically, this may or may not have been the moment in which the “supernatural realms” were created, or the “ουρανον” referred to here is not the same as the “επουρανιοις” of Ephesians 1:3. If referring to this bizarre, extra-terrestrial, non-physical dimension, then this point would reference it as a creating “thing.” It does not, though, in any way reference here the creation of the spirit beings that populate the spiritual realms and only by way of inference can we ascertain any information on their origins.
In fact, Angels had a direct hand in the accomplishments of Genesis 1-2, at least as witnesses of not only the founding of the earth (Job 38:6-7) but also in the bringing to life the first man (Ge 1:26). It is often rather orthodox to conclude this verse refer to the trinity, but, as Heiser points out this was an, “announcement by God to the members of his council and not an oblique reference to the Trinity…” (2018). During my Master’s program, I was chastised by a professor on one of my papers for this very assertion, as he claimed it was not in my perview to challenge the orthodoxy of established Christian faith.
If being completely honest, there is little to no information about the supernatural realms or their spiritual inhabitants. We know this dimension in which we exist is but a shadow or a copy of what subsumes it (He 9:23). Likewise, Jesus reminds us that the cares and concerns, the ideas, the customs of this world are overshadowed by the weightier things of the heavenly realm (John 3:12). This will be our residence once resurrected and it is the natural dwelling place of powers beyond our capacity to accurately describe (Eph 2:6; 3:10; 6:12).
There is no clear picture before the fall, spatially or spiritually, as to the relation and interconnection between heaven and earth. We know through the one man, Adam, sin entered not only humanity (as in infecting the human race), but all of creation (Ro 5:12; 8:20). This infection is more than a genetic issue. It is fundamentally substantive, dealing with the very molecular, atomic, quantal level of all matter, of all created. It is possible that it extends even into the heavens (though this is purely speculative) since at the end of all things both heaven and earth are destroyed by fervent heat and remade in their former glories (Re 21:1).
It was this sin that marred both the nature of the human being as well as the relationship between the human being and his Creator. It was for this purpose that Christ came to earth as a man and submitted himself to death on the cross, that he might bridge that gulf between man and himself.
There are primarily two worldviews: naturalistic and supernatural. All other beliefs concerning origins and the fundamental reality that underlies existence fall into one of these two camps. From a biblical perspective, there is the God of the Bible and then there are all other deities – false gods that generate the false beliefs that frame all the belief systems in the world. These different religions include polytheism, pantheism, panentheism, and atheistic materialism. Paul argued people worshiped the deities in these religions, but were actually venerating demons (1 Co. 10:20, 21. 1 Ti. 4:1). All remove God from the unmoved mover role, positing instead two or more first causes of creation, which again, brings us back to Romans 1:23, “changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.”
There is also the Eastern view found in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism where both God and man are part of the same substance, a universal consciousness that expands and contracts given the right stimuli. This idea argues that there is no distinction between creator and created, and derails the faith of many.
The pantheist idea states there are many levels in reality, each resulting from lower and lower creative acts, yet retaining in each level some element of the divine.
All of these ideas have infected Christian belief to varying degrees since the invention of liberalism. The results have been modern day conclusion that God neither created the world nor rules over it, which is, of course, the entire point. Man desires to throw off the judgment to come, desperate to justify himself in his sin and wickedness.
Materialism has infected the thinking of modern man. It has rendered many if not most to conclude that both matter and energy have always existed, that there was never a time before Genesis 1:1, when the physical universe, the planets, stars, galaxies, the Earth were not in the configuration they are in today or existed at all. It is a form of Epicureanism, where the random collisions of individual atoms over time produce everything we can see or measure.
This would replace God as the driving force behind the universe, and such ideas received a revival during the Renaissance, despite being opposed by the Reformers. Today, this materialism has been hijacked further by atheism, in which there is simply no God but matter and no providence, just accidental, random occurrence.
Darwin furthered this view with his proposal of evolution as a means of explaining the origin of all living things by way of natural selection. This was changed into neo-Darwinism later on, describing gradual change prompted by random genetic mutation. Such, of course, requires immense time frames.
In modern times, scientism has become a new secularized religion, espousing no unmoved mover, but only cause and effect, randomness, and uniformitarianism to guide our way. This, of course, is so that man can be the final authority over his own behaviors, as it was written, “woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isa 5:21; Pro 3:7; 26:12, 16; John 9:41; 1 Co 3:18-21).
Practical Implications and Reflection
There are great and intriguing mysteries remaining to be revealed from a biblical standpoint. Whether or not the beginning was actually the impetus for all things, on earth as well as in heaven, or the Genesis account merely documents one of a number of pre “us” redemptive narratives that included the elohim in similar situations as ours. Was the dimensional space described as the “heavenly places” or the “supernatural realms” preexistent or was it created a moment before our physical reality? When the angels sang at the founding of the earth, was it their first choral arrangement or had they already been together for a millennia past?
The same can be said of the stain that has marred human existence. What was it like for Adam and then Eve before the fall? How long had they existed? In what way? In what geocentric location? Did they have access to the spiritual realms? Obviously the Sons of God (as well God himself) had access to the earthly domains. Is the end a restoration or a new birth for the planet and the dimension that subsumes it?
More importantly, from my perspective and the perspective of my own research, what occurs beyond the heavenly places once all is said and done at the great white throne, after the wicked and Satan and all his fallen angels and those in Tartarus are tossed into the Lake of Fire forever? If our creation and the creation of our dimentionality is utterly unique, will it stand as the only work of God for eternity? If our world is but one of many redemptive narratives, surely after we have joined the ranks of the Sons of God on the Divine Council, we will plunge head long into a new story somewhere else (or maybe even on earth again), where a new race of beings are in need of the redemptive power of Christ.
Once salvation has been complete and the gathering in of the gentiles is full, will heaven be limited to a single orb in the night sky? Will I be allowed extended travel throughout the galaxies to witness and record the wonders of God’s limitless creation or was all this simply window dressing for the main show on earth?
What of these libraries? The collection of books in heaven that are frequently referred to. Who cares for these books? Who writes in them and keeps them updated? Once heaven is populated with the saved, will there no longer be a need for the written record, or will there be those tasked as librarians to care for, research, and bear witness to all the things written in them? If the supernatural beings we call angels likewise had a redemption narrative, is that recorded somewhere for inquisitive mines to explore?
My hope is for a ministry in heaven of a lowly librarian, maybe tasked to a small repository planet in a distant galaxy, serving my post alone for eternity or maybe in a community of brothers, tasked to explore the knowledge of existence, of past societies, of past creative acts, and to record that which occurs going forward.
What else could God be preparing for the future of reality?
Until my next assignment…..
Heiser, Michael. Angels. Lexham Press. 2018.
Smalley, Paul M. Reformed Systematic Theology (Vol 2). Crossway. 2019.
Orr, James, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, and Morris O. Evans, eds. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915.
Barry, John D., David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder, eds. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!