Origen’s origens of Angels.

I have been reading J. N. D Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines (Fith Edition), and have come accross a rather interesting piece that comes from the writing of Origen, as he explains the mystical beginnings of the world.

Before the ages they were all pure intelligences, whether demons or souls or angels. One of them, the Devil, since he possessed free will, chose to resist God, and God rejected him. All the other powers fell away with him, becoming demons, angels and archangels according as their misdeeds were more, or less, or still less, heinous. Each obtained a lot proportionate to his sin. There remained the souls; these had not sinned so grievously as to become demons or so venially as to become angels. God therefore made the present world, binding the soul to the body as punishment… Plainly He chastises each to suit his sin, making one a demon, another a soul, another an archangel.’

p 181. Kelly, J. N. D. Early Christian Doctrines (Fifth Edition) Continuum, London, 2008.

In the chapter, Kelly is addressing Origen’s views on the Sin of man, and the reason for it’s seeming prevailance in the world. However, the interesting note I felt here was that of the plight of Angels. While it is generally understood that the Devil, in one way or another rose up, and through pride, or choice, stood against God, and was cast down from heaven, either because he waged war, or because he insisted that worship was due to the devil himself, rather than God, or any one of the hundreds of reasons that the Devil is meant to have been thrown out, but the Angels are often thought of as created servants of God.

While the sympathy for the Devil has grown in modern times, there has not necessarily been the same exploration of the “plight” of Angels. Eternal Servants of God, it has not been explored whether or not this position was chosen by the Angels, or whether or not it was thrust upon them by the nature of their very being. Modern theology has even gone so far as to explore the possibility of redemtion for the Devil, if he would only chose to renounce evil and accept Christ, though most theologians agree that is something that he would never do, his pride and shame not allowing it, prefering rather his own destruction, and this of course, being the theological message of the Devil-figure.

The Angels, however, bound in eternal and perfect servitude to God have never really had their sacrosanct position examined. Modern morality attests that slavery in all forms is wrong, and yet the Angels, in all but name, do indeed seem to be slaves of God. They are never attributed with having chosen to be Angels, and are often depicted as having no, or limited, willpower, and nothing approaching what would be understood as free will.

Even if we accept in some nominal way Origen’s suggestion that the plight of Angels is some-how justified, we need to step further away from the Biblical Canon, and popular tradition to ensure that the Angels can seek redemption, for the traditional understanding was that the Angels needed none, and therefore there is no speak of an Angel seeking or finding redemption therein.

This seems to imply that the Angels’ lot is one of eternal servitude. While it may be a happy servitude, one of endless bliss and fulfillment, it is still one of servitude. Even if, as Origen would have us believe, it is justified. There are examples of modern stories strewn with the notion of individual angels falling to earth for love. The modern-day Nephlim are not very often chastised in the story, as true love of a mortal, and renunciation of their former power and glory to become truly mortal, to live and die like a mortal for the sake of love, often with some notion of self-sacrifice often carries the day. While the central message of these films is that mortal love, and the love of the eternal and the divine for mortals (as seen by the love of God for the world, and the the love of Angels shown in the myths of the Archangel Micheal being the first to bow his knee before Adam) is one that is applauded, it seems that the only hope of these divine beings, weather demon or angel is to renounce that power and to live a mortal life. In the case of the angel, this involves searching for true love, or risk becoming Nephlim, and in the process disobeying God (again?) by leaving their heavenly post for the mortal.

It should, of course, be said that this is not an exhaustive look at the lot of the Angel in theology, and it has only really looked at the proposition that Origen has put forward. Most theologians have assumed (though I have no source that I can cite) that Angels are created beings who are able to make their own choice. This can be seen by the existence of the Nephlim. In order for an angel to choose to fall, or to disobey God, that option must be available to them. This, then, give an angel some ability to make decisions that go against the will of God, and ultimately, to choose to follow God.

The Angel, in the end, answers that ultimate of questions as to whether or not having proof positive of the existence of God would ruin one’s ability to belive, for if an Angel did not belive, would they be able to be saved?