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Protestant Angels

FAQs | Summaries (and warnings) | Mainline voices | Some books and reviews | Resources for Kids


Christian Answers: What does the Bible teach about angels? has considered, Bible-focused answers, ably hyperlinked to relevant passages. Commenting on the painters' puti the author notes:

"Angels in the Bible never appear as cute, chubby infants! They are always full-grown adults. When people in the Bible saw an angel, their typical response was to fall on their faces in fear and awe, not to reach out and tickle an adorable baby."

Clarifying Christianity takes a minimalist, fundamentalist approach to angels. The author is also intent on damping down enthusiasm for angelic communication and intervention. Some highlights:

  1. The first answer pooh-poohs the notion that angels in dreams use telepathic communication.
  2. There are only two named angels in the Bible (the Protestant Bible does not include Tobit).
  3. Ps-Dionysius is unbiblical and probably erroneous.
This site is also responsible for a page asserting Christianity is Proven to Be True, an attitude that really gets my goat, but I'll be polite and put it in a footnote.[1]

Lisa Hutchinson's Bible-based FAQs about angels. This is a subpage to a fansite devoted to Christian Manga (Japanese animation).

Summaries (and warnings)

Angelmania: Has the media taken the holy out of angels? by William D. Webber. Reviews the 90s explosion nicely, but then veers into a disussion of scripture as against "Touched by an Angel."

"Close Encounters of the Celestial Kind: Evaluating Today's Angel Craze" by Ron Rhodes, "Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries." Lengthy analysis of the 90s angel craze. Begins with an attempt to classify and understand the "craze," then, using the Bible, questions its implicit assumptions and goals. If there is a flaw here, I think it is the author's implicit division of angel-ideas into Biblical and New Age. The 90s angel craze was not exclusively a New Age phenomenon. We cannot expect Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox angelology to please Protestants of Rhodes' stripe, but they must admit these traditions do not partake of all the tendencies he criticizes. There is, for example, nothing new or uniquely"New Age" about the veneration of angels. The notion that angels are there to "reprogram" our brains is another matter.… (also here.)

"Angels: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" by Sue Bohlin, Probe Ministries. Article relates a number of angel visitations ("the Good"), a warning about bad angels ("the Bad"), and advice on how to distinguish the good from the bad ("the Ugly"). One tip-off: a fancy name[2]. The page serves as a gateway to other Probe Ministry articles on angels. Highlights include "Can You Recommend Good Literature on Angels?" and "Bad Things Are Happening After I Talked to My Angel" where a young Christian writes that, prompted by her manager, she prayed to an angel in a New Age-y way. She subsequently had a bad dream, felt her bed shake and caught knocking noises in the wall behind her head. Bohlin is unequivocal in her reply: "it was an unholy angel who answered."[3]

Non-Christian Response: Lindsay O'Neill's very acid critique of Bohlin, for not being objective, and, basically, for being Christian. ("Sue Bohlin can keep her biased, Pro-Christian opinions to herself and let the rest of us decide on our own.") I'm not sure where O'Neill got the idea that Bohlin's essay was intended to be objective.

Angels, Demons and Satan. by Dan Corner, Evangelical Outreach. Passage-by-passage, point-by-point examination of scripture.

"New Dimensions in the Study of Angels and Demons" by Robert V. Rakestraw, published in New Dimensions in Evangelical Thought (1998). Lengthy, reasoned, footnoted study of angelology and recent angelography from a evangelical perspective.

See also Satan, Demonology and the Occult: An Annotated Bibliography of the Spirit World by Robert V. Rakestraw, Brian T. Johnson, Paul R. Eddy. This is a very selective bibliography. It's fine for the theology section to exclude theologies which don't mesh with the authors' own, but you can't cover witchcraft, magic and the occult without referencing the sociological and anthropological literature. (The exception, Murray's 1921 The Witch Cult of Western Europe, proves the rule.) Instead we have an echo chamber of evangelicals trading occult-practice laundry lists and counseling stories.

Jehovah's Witness: "The Truth About Angels" the Watchtower (November 1995) warns against contemporary angel thought.

"Touched By An Angel - But Which Kind?" Attack on the angel craze, particularly the TV show "Touched by an Angel." Author objects to television angel telling a father to love his gay son.

"What about Angels?" from the North American Mission Board, raises an idea I haven't seen elsewhere: that we are in a period of low angelic activity (between the Biblically-documented Old Testament times and Biblically-predicted End of Days).

"With the full revelation of God in Christ, with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, and with the complete written Word of God available to us now, we might reasonably expect less involvement of angels."
This resonates somewhat with the Rev. Mast's comment (below) about angels being virtually absent from his faith.

Luther's Table-Talk essay on angels. This paragraph leaps out:

"I believe that the angels are all up in arms, are putting on their harness, and girding their swords about them. For the last judgment draws nigh, and the angels prepare themselves for the combat, and to strike down Turk and pope into the bottomless pit."

Mainline voices

Letter of Michael J. Pryse, a Lutheran Bishop in Canada. Bishop Pryse writes on the occasion of the "festival of St. Michael and All Angels." You don't commonly read religious leaders deliver these sorts of qualms on the web:

"At the same time, I need to acknowledge that this festival also makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable by reminding me of aspects of our faith that I am less sure of than others. It's a feast day that starts me thinking about angel choirs and fire tongued seraphim, of burning bushes and whale bellies. It presses me to seriously reflect on the many and multitudinous ways that God chooses to be made known in the natural-and yes, supernatural worlds-that we inhabit."
Pryse also paraphrases an account from one of Sophie Burnham's books.

"Messengers of God" by Susan R. Garrett, Presbyterians Today (April 2000). This is a considered Presbyterian response to angels and the "angel craze." Two paragraphs stand out rather starkly against the general crush of internet angelology.

"The diversity of Biblical portrayals makes it hard to generalize about "the Biblical view of angels." But many modern authors who survey Biblical depictions of angels overlook the diversity. They often assume that all Scriptural teachings are consistent; what is said of angels in Genesis can be used to shed light on what is said in Hebrews, and so forth. Such an approach leads to an impoverished understanding of what the Bible actually says on this complex topic."
"Today some Christian authors imply that since angels were a part of "the worldview of the Bible," they must also be a part of our worldview. But a goal of duplicating "the Biblical worldview" (on this matter or any other) is unrealistic. Even those who claim to do so do not: for example, such persons do not share ancient views of the construction of the human body, of disease transmission, or of the nature and operation of the planets and stars. We must decide which elements of the Biblical texts are central for our faith and obedience. The creeds and confessions of the church, which serve as our best guides in this endeavor, center, not on the reality or purpose of angels and other spirit beings, but on God's reconciling work in Jesus Christ. We need not believe in angels in order to be a faithful and devoted Christian."

PDF: What about Angels by A. L. Barry, President of the The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Pamphlet providing "a Biblical perspective on angels." Fairly standard stuff.

Does the Reformed Church believe in angels? by Gregg Mast (1995).

"[I]n twenty years of ministry, angels have played a very insignificant role in the faith of those I have served. Folks talk often about God's presence. People search for God's will and strive to feel God's peace, but, quite frankly, seldom talk about angels."

Angel Books — Reviews anonymous reviewer (Fr. Fraser or Steven Olderr?) from St. Paul's Parish, a Episcopal/Anglican parish in Riverside, IL. Sit back and watch an episcopal divine go on a denominationally-uncharacteristic tear:

  • Charlene Atemose, What you should know about angels. — " Go forth in peace and waste paper no more."
  • Billy Graham, Angels: God's secret agents. — "Half the verbiage would have sufficed, but that wouldn't have been enough to publish as a book, or at least garner that sales that they did with this format."
  • Georges Huber, My angel will go before you.. — " Still, just when you're rolling your eyes and ready to put it down in exasperation, a provocative statement will lift itself off the page and give you cause for profitable reflection."
  • Peter Kreeft, Angels and demons: What do we really know about them?:
    "At other times, the devil grabs him like Turette's syndrome and makes him blurt out knee-jerk romanisms that will put your Anglican back up. After winning you over with reason, he may suddenly say that you don't have to buy his argument anyway since the Roman Catholic Church tells you that it is so, and you must accept it if you are to call yourself a [Roman] Catholic. Puh-leez! Worse, he sneaks in gratuitous comments about that great Roman Catholic bete noire, abortion."
    And this is his favorite book!
The author's humor is also on display on the (facts-about) Angels page ("There is, for example, no Littlest Angel, and there never will be."). But for all the flogging he inflicts on others for superficiality, failing to cite scripture, or citing it badly, his summary is thin, dogmatic and unsourced. It is demonstrably false that "Everybody has a guardian angel" is "something that the Church has always taught," unless you mean by "always taught" something like "we think so now, and since the Church's mind is unchanging, it has always been so." Rome-ish indeed!

Some books and reviews

Amazon. Angels by Billy Graham.

Amazon. Angels Among Us by Ron Rhodes. (publisher's blurb) The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah's Witness, The 10 … Mormon. and The 10 … Catholic.

Non-Protestant response: "Angel Popularity on the Rise" by John A. Hardon (a Jesuit) commenting on New Age, Protestant and Catholic angelology. This long article includes an interesting response to two Protestant angel books—Billy Graham's Angels and Ron Rhodes' Angels Among Us. Hardon characterizes Graham's book as "beautiful," but traces Graham's unwillingness to approve prayers to angels as stemming from the supposition of predestination. He dismisses Rhodes' belief that prayer to angels is "Celestial Quackery." Hardon is optimistic about the angel craze, and gives Catholicism some of the credit:

"It is heartening to see the popularity of the angels rising in countries like our own. No doubt one reason for this phenomenon is the influence of Catholic teaching on our separated brethren."

Amazon. What The Bible Says About Angels by David Jeremiah.

Amazon. The Angel of Eleventh Avenue by Roy Bates.

Review by Heather Hunt, This Christian Life, who identifies three errors: (1) angels are comforters, (2) there are guardian angels, (3) some angels are former people. Dickens' "Christmas Carol" is singled out as similarly unbiblical.

Resources for Kids

Coloring pages at bottom.


  1. I'm particularly irked by the pseudo-philological arguments and the misuse of ancient historians. The differences between NT texts are not restricted to "occasional" and "isolated" name changes or single missing or changed words. Although the NT is well-attested and quite stable from an early period, this is just hogwash as a glance at the aparatus criticus of any scholarly Bible will reveal. Onto history, Tacitus' brief and garbled account of a persecution of Christians at Rome (the best reading is "Chrestus"—Tacitus couldn't even get the name right) doesn't prove anything other than that there were Christians in first-century Rome. Julius Caesar mentioned Druids in Britain—does that mean Druidism is "proved to be true"? The use of the Jewish historian Josephus is particularly funny. As scholars recognize, pious Christian hands have been at that passage, probably more than once, either intending to change the text or annotating it such that subsequent recopying brought the annotation into it—subordinate clauses like "if he was a man" are exactly the sort of things that creep in from the margins of Medieval manuscripts. That aside, the opinions expressed in the passage come out of left field, and stay there. Nowhere else does Josephus show belief that Jesus was the Messiah or that the Messiah had come. As a pious Jew, that would be something to believe. It might, for example, cause Josephus to mention him more than twice in his voluminous writings! (back)
  2. Bohlin asserts that all only Michael and Gabriel are in the Bible, and Uriel and Raphael come from the "apocryphal First Book of Enoch." This is false, and, from an educator, rather surprising. Raphael is one of the main characters in the Book of Tobit, which is canonical to some Protestants, all Catholics, all Orthodox, and has been cited by Christian authors from Polycarp on down. (The Book of Enoch, by contrast, is canonical to no one, and was virtually lost until it showed up in Ethopia in the 19th century!) Ms. Bohlin and other such Protestants could read Tobit in an hour, and the rest of the "Apocypha" or "Deuterocanon" in a lazy weekend. These ancient texts ought to be at least interesting to them. Why the complete ignorance? (back)
  3. This is foolish and irresponsible. Belief in angels and devils does not require Christians to assert that every time someone thinks they might be afflicted by devils, they are, in fact, afflicted by devils. Bohlin has no independent evidence. The woman is clearly impressionable—demonstrated by her willingness to listen to her manager and now Ms. Bohlin—and as clearly terrified. What are we to make of Bohlin's eagerness to validate her fears? (back)
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If you enjoy this site you may like these other sites by me:

Noah's Ark on the Web/a>. Art, religion and culture about Noah and his famous ark; includes 200 pictures, from Antiquity to today.

Cleopatra on the Web. Everything about Cleopatra VII of Egypt, in history ad the Western imagination.