Monday, July 8, 2013

Angel or Monster?

In today's paper, Billy Graham is posed with another seriously pressing question that could change the very direction of human history... What do angels look like? 
 Angels should remind us of God's love 

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: What do angels look like? My aunt likes to collect figures of angels (she has dozens of them around her house), but how do we know if angels actually look like them? — Mrs. R.E. 

DEAR R.E.: The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what angels look like; in fact, they often are invisible to us, because they are spiritual beings who seldom take on any physical appearance. 

At times, however, they do become visible. When the prophet Isaiah was given a vision of God’s majesty and glory, his throne was surrounded by angels. They were similar in appearance to humans, with faces and feet, but they also had wings and could fly (see Isaiah 6:1-3). When the angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, the Bible says that “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9). On the other hand, angels sometimes took the appearance of ordinary men, and were only recognized as angels later (see, for example, Genesis 19). 

 God created the angels before the beginning of time, and they had one purpose: to be God’s servants. Today, angels watch continually over God’s people, to deliver them from evil and safeguard their entrance into heaven. We may not even think about them very much or realize their importance, but they still watch over us — and we should thank God for them. The Bible says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). 

The angels’ work on our behalf should remind us of God’s love for us. At the same time, we are not to worship the angels or give undue attention to them. Christ alone is our savior, and he alone is the one to whom we should look for our salvation. Have you put your faith and trust in him? 
Angel statues?! Whatever you do, don't blink! Now that I have my obligatory Doctor Who joke out of the way, lets' get on to business...

First off, I must take issue with the title of this story. Angels should remind us of God's love? Really? When do we see angels in the Bible? We see angels when God is ready to lay waste to Sodom and Gomorrah. Revelations also speaks of an arm on angels coming at the 'end times'. So while angels do 'bless' and warn people in the Bible, they are also harbingers of destruction. So if you see an angel, I feel that your thought shouldn't be 'Aw, how magnificent!' but rather 'Oh shit! What's about to go down?'.

But back to the question that was asked... Billy, could you at least to answer the question honestly? You reference Isaiah 6:1-3 as an example of angels looking like people but with wings. The problem is that you are making quite the stretch with the claim that they 'look like people'.
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
-Isaiah 6: 1-3
 Okay, they have a face, feet and six wings. Every angel painting I see only includes two wings, so it seems all the paintings and statues are wrong already. But read that verse again and point out where they look like people. Go on, I'll wait... What's that? It doesn't say that!? You would be correct. All it says is that they have a face, feet, wings and can fly. Does a face and feet make something look human? My cats have faces. My dog does, my fish does, and so do all the animals I see in my yard.
With the exception of the fish, they all have feet as well. Somehow I don't mistake them for human beings. But Billy's getting up there in age, so maybe I should cut him some slack. I hear that confusion can sometimes come with age.

But this is far from the only description of angels in the Bible. Our six-winged friend is a kind of angel called a Seraphim (or burning ones). The extra wings are meant to keep anyone from seeing their face. Why? Because if you see it you are said to either become blinded or incinerated. Quaint.

Another 'race' of angel looked very odd indeed. This is how the Bible describes them:
This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.
As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went.
Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.
-Ezekiel 1:16-18
Um... Was someone on acid when they imagined that one? Shining, interlocking wheels, covered in
eyes. And oh yeah, they could fly too! Why do you think Mr. Graham left this one out? Could it be that it smashes the status quoe of what angels are supposed to look like? Or is it because a flying gyroscope with eyes is a lot harder to swallow than a normal looking guy with wings?

On to the next description of angels!
I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north--an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal,
and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human,
but each of them had four faces and four wings.
Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze.
Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings,
and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle.
Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body.
Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.
The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it.
The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.
-Ezekiel 1:4-14
 So let's build up our angel checklist for this one...

• Human body
• Human hands
• Four wings
• Head with four faces
     -Human face
     -Eagle face
     -Lion face
     -Ox face
• Calf feet/legs (with bronze finish)
• Travels in fire
• Moves like lightning

Somehow that doesn't sound like a man with wings or a little baby with wings to me... But you know what it does sound like? Pegasus, the Griffin, the Hippogriff, the Snallygaster, the Minotaur, the Centar, the Satyr, the Sphinx, and even the Mermaid. All mythical creatures that are made up of the combination of various beasts and animals. Heck, It even sounds more like the Egyptian gods, than it does an angel. In my opinion, the exclusion of this verse was somewhat dishonest. Was Graham worried that an honest description would give people doubts? These angels are described like other creatures we all regard as mythical. And there is probably a good reason that their descriptions are so similar... Angels probably aren't real either. Instead of trying to hide to verses that play havoc with the picture you want to paint, why not embrace reality instead.

Angels probably aren't real. They are as equally evidenced as faeries, trolls (not the internet kind), goblins, and gnomes. So chances are, they are just as imaginary as well. So RE, don't worry about what angels look like. The Bible certainly describes them quite different than artwork depicts them, and how Billy Graham wants you to picture them. But that's okay, because there are no angels to complain about us getting their painting and sculptures all wrong.

-Brain Hulk

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