A strange title for an article, indeed, but they told us in high school to make your opening line catchy, so hopefully that will bring sweat to the brow of some Calvinist. It’s quite surprising to see that many biblical theologians refuse to admit the existence of the angelic realm, given that it’s so prominent in Sacred Scripture, both in the New and Old Testaments. But this is to be expected since higher criticism is the norm. We will examine below the prominence in Scripture of both sides of the angelic: the holy and the demonic, and see from many scholars of various Christian traditions that the correct biblical and historical view of the hierarchies is quite a diverse realm.
I hope for this to be eye opening to many Protestants who for whatever reasons have failed to understand the biblical and historical case for this legitimate area of theology. I know from my own experience that Calvinist circles tend to be completely unaware in practice, at least, of the influence and action of secondary angelic agents, such as angels or demons. This is because Calvinism thrusts all of its theological focus on the divine will, and usually upon the immediate causality of the divine will, even if mediate, secondary causes are professed intellectually. For proof of this, I challenge the reader to name one Calvinistic exorcist. Case closed. Thus we find this to be an area of radical difference in both Orthodoxy and traditional Catholic teaching when compared with Protestant theology, even of its more conservative stripes. It’s also very telling to me that it’s generally the Churches with Apostolic Succession that actually do exorcisms.
Upon exploring Liturgical worship in the Eastern and the Latin Rites, one very prominent is that of the angelic participation in the Liturgy. This arises from the St. Paul’s conception of the Church on earth as one with the Church in heaven (Col. 1:13-20, Eph. 1: 21-23, 2:6, 3:10, Heb. 12:22-23). Protestantism rarely places these key texts in their proper liturgical context, and thereby loses sight of the fact that the worship on earth should be quite colorful and engage the entire man, both mentally and bodily, as St. John describes the liturgical worship in heaven in the Apocalypse.
St. Paul makes this connection clear when he charges St. Timothy before the “elect angels” (1 Tim. 5:21) to do nothing with partiality, all within the context of a liturgically-focused section. This is because, as Fr. Casmir Kucharek writes in his The Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom:
Phrases like…”that I may stand blamelessly before your dread altar” are not verbalisms, but authentic Byzantine tradition, to be taken quite literally. Even angelic purity is demanded of one offering the sacrifice:
When the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit and offers the tremendous sacrifice, tell me what rank should we place Him? What purity shall we require of him, what reverence? Then reflect how those hands should be constituted which perform such services! What should that tongue be that pronounces such words…? At this moment the very angels encompass the priest, and the whole choir of heavenly powers lend their presence, and take up the entire space around the holy altar, to honor Him who lies thereon in sacrifice…(St. John Chrysostom, De Sacerdot. 6:4).
The same truth is also evident in the Byzantine Liturgy’s Great Entrance prayer, where the Lord is escorted by the angelic powers. In the traditional Latin Mass, the same truth is taught in the Incensing of the Offering, where the faithful pray “Through the intercession of blessed St. Michael the Archangel who stands at the right hand of the altar of incense…” and later in the Sanctus, which corresponds to the Eastern Trisagion, where the believer says:
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God, through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions worship it, the powers stand in awe. The heavens, and the heavenly hosts and the blessed seraphim join together in celebrating their joy. With whom we pray Thee join our voices also, while we say with lowly praise, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest…” (New Saint Andrew Missal, pg. 969-70)
As Fr. Kucharek notes:
To define this presence [of the icons in the Liturgy] would be as difficult as explaining the Shekinah or the mysterious presence of Christ amid two or three gathered together in His name (Mt. 18:20). Yet such as presence was no less true. The mystical teaching concerning icons stems from the master idea of all Eastern typology, the idea of the church building as “heaven on earth.” St. Gregory of Nyssa was probably the first to set out the ideas of such teaching [in his Life of Moses]. His doctrine was taken up and developed by others. The author of the Eighth century Rerum ecclesiaticarum contemplation, for example, expresses it boldly: “The heaven wherein the Triune God lives and moves on earth is the Christian Holy Place, the church…” The presence of heaven passed easily from church to icon.” (ibid., 229)
The same truths are repeated and emphasized several times in the ancient Liturgy of St. Mark. Also good reading on this matter is St. Germanus of Constantinople’s On the Divine Liturgy. And so we see the preeminence of the angelic participation with us in the liturgy.
But since Scripture and Tradition are quite clear that there are also fallen angelic beings that come from the original hierarchy, we can deduce that the ranks mentioned several times by St. Paul also have their “regional” powers. We learn this from St. Daniel, where St. Gabriel the Archangel visits in answer to prayer with news concerning the “princes” of Greece and Persia (9:21, 10:13-20) with whom Gabriel battled, needing the assistance of St. Michael (verse 20). Clearly no mere human being could withstand the might of an Archangel, but we mustn’t exclude the notion of a human factor to the appellation “prince.” Furthermore, St. Michael is called “prince” with the same Hebrew word (sar) as the “princes” of Greece and Persia, and undoubtedly Michael is no mere human prince.
What we find is what we find elsewhere in Scripture and Tradition, that both are being spoken of: the angelic entity, along with the human being under its relative dominion. This is evidenced elsewhere in Scripture, for example, in the lengthy description of Lucifer’s fall from Eden and the fall of the King of Tyre and Sidon (Ez. 28). There we see some texts applying primarily to Lucifer and others to the King of Tyre. We are also told in Daniel 4:17 that the sentence against Nebuchadneezer’s pride was by the “decree of the watchers,” who are clearly identified in chapter 10 as the Archangels, showing us that they rule human affairs as secondary agents under God and by His sovereign decree. So says David in Ps. 103:20-22, where the idea is the same as in Daniel. What’s the point? All of this is still true today, literally true, and modern, doubtful “scholars” are flat out wrong. In this they echo Nebuchadneezer in thinking they rule, and not God and His hosts.
But back to the principalities and powers. In St. Paul, we read that Christ is seated in His human nature above all “principality and power and dominion” (Eph. 1:21). Protestant commentator Albert Barnes explains:
Thus, we see that there is often more than meets the eye in Scripture and often the best and brightest of the Protestants are forced to admit many of the elements they castigate in both Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Scripture lays out many more examples of liturgical patterns (especially the Apocalypse) which I have not touched on. We know that angels relate directly to these liturgical actions and participate in them. We know that they exist in a graded hierarchy, and that the same grading occurs in their fallen opposites. We see, then, from this cursory examination, that Protestantism, and especially Calvinism, is quite devoid of a proper understanding of the interaction of the angelic world with the human, though E.J. Young admits it. So, why aren’t those bible-believing Calvinistic exorcists talking about liturgy and Lillith? They’re in the Bible. Perhaps it’s because Calvinism is problematic.