/ Gentle Reformation

Of Angels and Men

The question of Satan’s fall into sin has been an issue of considerable intrigue throughout the centuries. Theologians have burnt oil long into the night pondering the subject, trying to thread together the various strands of biblical data.

Here recently, I self-published a book on the subject. A fresh theory is presented and defended in detail. The book is entitled, Satan’s Awful Idea: A Biblical Theology of Satan’s Fall and Its Implications on the Unfolding Human Drama. If you’re willing to download the book as a PDF file, you can get it for free here: Satan's Awful Idea PDF Version. Otherwise, it is available at Amazon.

As with any work of theology, questions and challenges will naturally arise. Mine is no different. One such question that has surfaced inquires into the relationship between the thinking of angels and men. In a recent interview with Barry York and Jared Olivetti (Podcast link) this came up. Another fine gentleman pursued the same issue in another context.

Since the theory I develop in the book hinges on angels, as rational creatures, closely resembling humans in their thinking, it could be asked why or upon what basis should this be the case? Why think that angels think like we do?

Up until more recently, my answer has essentially run along two currents:

  • While there may be an element of accommodation, the Scriptures do not portray angels as conversing or reasoning in a way that suggests that their thought life is fundamentally different than that of our own.

  • Since the seed of the serpent are children of the devil, they necessarily reflect their father, Satan (John 8). This correlation entails mirroring or reflection, which is to say that unbelievers reflect Satan in both their thoughts and behavior. Such a correlation surely presupposes a link at the level of their thinking.
    After further reflection, however, I am prepared to offer a third point, one centering on the nature of sin itself. One might state it like this: There has to be significant overlap between the thinking of angels and men, because the nature of sin demands it.

If God is the foundation of morality/holiness (which He is), then it follows that sin relates to God, insofar as sin always misses the mark of God’s perfect standard. Now if sin is always defined in relation to God, and if sin always falls short of who He is, then sin will necessarily exhibit objective characteristics. It will function on the level of antithesis. For example, God is life. Therefore, sin results in death. That’s the opposite. God is good. Therefore, sin is evil. God is wise. Therefore, sin is foolishness. He is holy. Sin is unholy. And on it goes.

What this means is that when angels sin, they fundamentally sin in the same way as humans.

In this respect, it isn’t like autonomy, or rebellion, or pride, or ungodly hatred will be essentially different. Sin has a singular referent. It is a falling short of the glory of God. It is all the same kind of antithesis. And since sin plays out at the level of one’s thinking, there must be a fairly tight correlation between the thinking of angels and men. It is hard to imagine how this wouldn’t be the case with any rational creature.

Now this isn’t to say that there is an exact correlation. A man living in a distant country may think differently about life. His culture and customs will color his outlook and behavior. His sin, therefore, may take on a different hue. The essence will no doubt prove to be the same, but it will very likely not look the same. How much more so a creature from another realm?

In the end, I think it is reasonable to recognize the similarities, even connection, that exists between angels and men, so far as their thinking is concerned. Along these lines, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to examine unbelief in our world, to consider the fundamental tenets of the kingdom of darkness as witnessed throughout human history, and draw inferences back to the principalities and authorities, and even Satan himself.

Indeed, one might even be able to draw a line back to the primordial past, to the very idea Satan first promulgated to the angelic hosts.