Second Post: Angels and Churches

My post got screwed up some way and wouldn’t allow comments. So I deleted it and here it it again. (I’ll try to reproduce the two comments)

John used this device to separate the church (a principality) from the angel (a spiritual force). We might well emulate that in our own thoughts and feelings. When the angel is remonstrated with, it may suggest that a foreign spirit has entered into and threatens to dominate the church. We all know of cases where this has happened, though not necessarily fatal.

We also all, at least I, go to the far country sometimes and need to “come to ourselves”. The letters to the Churches seem to be to a large degree toward that purpose.

I’ve been away, so for the whole morning I have interespersed comments on the posts of the last five days. Read if you get a chance.


3 responses

  1. Here are the two comments in the old post:2 Comments:At 4:17 PM, forrest said… I don’t know if it’s valid to distinguish “the angel” from “the principality”; my understanding is that these words refer to the same kind of “beings” (sentient or not, who knows?) I’m not sure it’s invalid; I just don’t see it that way. The problem with an angel is not that it’s less than ideal–but that it’s less than God, while human beings in search of security may subject it to worship. The “Rumplestiltskin Effect” can clarify an angel, but the “Reverse Rumplestiltskin Effect” implies that mislabeling tends to muddle its image. Because worshiping an ideal is inappropriate to its limited nature, doing so tends to render it more or less demonic. By this model, John writes to the angel of the church, not because the church has gone wrong while its angel was napping, but because the angel itself has been led astray. He does not write to the church itself, because the problem is not one which the organization or its members can “fix” by any “practical” measures. I don’t know if it’s a useful diagnosis, to say: “The angel of your church is suffering from too much rich praise and an excess of good habits.” But it directs the members’ attention to the level that needs to be addressed. How about this?: “Nothing that you can do will save your church. But if you remember the Spirit that brought forth your church, then you can do what is needed.” At 7:23 PM, Larry said… This is all poetry (only) as far as I’m concerned, Forrest, which can’t be subjected to standards of ‘validity’; only good or bad. Angels and principalities are metaphors that anyone is encouraged to use however he sees fit. The secret of course is to try to provide connotations and meanings that readers may find meaningful. I hope this one will allow further comments.

  2. Thanks for fixing this, Larry! I was starting to think I’d have to start a new post on “(only)” poetry:The Quaker Poets’ Hit Squad is only a metaphor, Larry, don’t worry. (Not until you see us lurking with the feathers and ice cream!)I was riding a bus a long time ago, and the woman beside me asked what did I do? I told her I didn’t do anything worth money; I just wrote poetry. She said, “Oh, you’re a poet! You tell the Truth!”It isn’t just a matter of defending my calling, which goes back to Adam naming the animals, making it as least as honorable as other contenders…The big truths are metaphors; that’s the only way we get our minds around them. I can say, “That’s only engineering,” but if anyone is encouraged to use engineering however he sees fit, we’re going to have buildings fall on us!Poetry isn’t like allegory, where everything necessarily corresponds to one fixed thing. We can be playful with it; we’d better be, because if we treat it like carpentry it’ll leave us with ungainly mental furniture.But poetry is intensely precise, when you do it right. (Even if some lines can only be rendered as poor approximations.) The Bible is poetry, so if you call it only poetry, why go mining it for things to “find meaningful”?Sure, so far as I’ve dismissed a meaning you did find, that was a mistake.The normal usage remains: “Powers and principalities” are “angels.” All of them metaphorical as an electron, and equally detectable when you (for example) walk into a bank to find that the spirit of the place refuses to cash their customer’s check because you don’t have an account there. All the while you’re standing there with a perfectly good check drawn on that bank, the woman behind the counter with a drawer full of real, tangible money “can’t” give you a cent of it.Keeping Larry’s distinction–but changing the language–When we see that an institution is out of whack, we can consider that the spirit it was meant to embody is part of God’s creation, having its good, intended purpose–Therefore we can hope for improvement if the institution somehow reconnects to the angel. This is a reasonable metaphor for the institution returning to its intended purpose–but I don’t think it adds to our understanding, or suggests a useful approach; we can’t use it to locate that angel, get it to lean on the institution, make it be good.I have to consider that the angel itself “goes bad.” That the institution’s “higher purpose” itself becomes corrupted, “fallen”, and hence demonic.This metaphor connects to others. And it brings the chain of causation back to human beings via a different route–not through our illusory control of “our” institutions, but through our human relation to God.The only way I can see, for an intrinsically good ideal to be corrupted–is by human misuse, by us projecting our hopes toward it and thereby putting it inappropriately in the place of God. If we all return to our right relationship to God, then, we should have “dominion over the angels” by simply allowing them to be no more (or less) than what God intends.But the purpose of a church (meeting?) is to restore that relationship. If the church is no longer in love, if its worship has been misdirected towards lessor goods, if we ourselves want to mold it to serve some other worthy end, we arrive at a frustration I think we’ve all experienced.How do we love God? How can we “do” that by our own efforts? It has to be a gift; our lives must be the way it’s given to us. We know God by the things and people we can–and must–love.

  3. Hi Larry :-)I just posted something on my blog about preaching and poetry … A Dominican priest, Timothy Radcliffe, said – the greatest preachers have always been poets. Poets live at the limits of what we can say, on the frontiers of language. The poet reaches out for a fullness of meaning and communion that is beyond literal statement. Seamus Heaney, the greatest living poet of the English language, says that poetry offers ‘a glimpsed alternative’, beyond the contradictions of experience.BTW, St. Ignatius thought angles are more real than metaphorical, though I’m not sure.

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