Friday, February 8, 2013

"When the Angels Sing"

It's the Friday before Lent. We start Lent by calling to mind our mortality, a communal momento mori. In light of this our Friday tradito is Social Distortion's "When the Angels Sing."

Life, love, suffering, death, what significance do they have, what does any of it mean? This is why we need stories, like the kind C.S. Lewis wrote, or Walker Percy's late modern tales of life, love, faith, and death. These rely on a true story, the greatest story ever told.

During Christmas Dan DeWitt wrote about why Lewis politely declined to write for Christianity Today at the invitation of the magazine's founding editor, Carl F.H. Henry, back in 1955. On the power of fiction to set forth truth Lewis wrote, "But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?" DeWitt is correct to note that "Lewis thought so." After about 1947, Lewis' "writing career focused on smuggling theology behind enemy lines. The enemies Lewis now faced were comfort and post-war apathy. To battle both, he would engage his readers' imagination." DeWitt points to something Lewis told his biographer, George Sayer, namely that after writing his book Miracles, "he would never again write another 'book of that sort.' And he didn't. From that point forward, he published primarily fictional, devotional, and biographical material."

Along these lines, let's never forget that we evangelize, we catechize, we don't indoctrinate. Indoctrination is what ideologues seek to do. Indoctrination is done by those who, according Lewis, "dream of systems so perfect that no one needs to be good." Nothing is more antithetical to Christianity than such schemes.

As Christians we believe in angels. Yet angels occupy a weird space in creation and in our individual and collective imaginations. Looking at a most interesting article, Angels in Modern Theology, I came across this:
Modern approaches to angels have included many who would like to eliminate angels from consideration because of the excesses like that of Pseudo-Dionysius. Karl Rahner, perhaps the foremost Catholic theologian of the twentieth century, had little room for angels. On the other hand, John Macquarrie sees angels as a limitation on humanity's creaturehood. For him, angels opens the possibility of life on other planets and assures us that God is involved in creation and guidance of all races everywhere (Principles of Christian Theology; New York: Scribners, 1977; 237). Billy Graham wrote his excellent, popular book Angels: God's Secret Agents (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1975) for the purpose of comfort. He believes that there are angels at work in the world today to help Christians
Macquarrie wrote a later article on angels too.

When the angel of death comes to looking for me
Hear the angels sing
I hope I was everything I was supposed to be
When the angels sing
There's gotta be a heaven
Cause I've already done
My time in hell
And a little baby's born
when it all comes down
Hear the angels sing

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