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Q&A: How Could The Angels Have Rebelled?

Hello Mr. Minton

I want to ask about a certain topic that’s been on my mind. A friend of mine who is an agnostic shared to me that one reason she is hesitant with Christianity is due to fallen angels. She thinks it is what makes our belief system fishy. If angels are the workers of God and encounter Him more directly and are much more powerful and intelligent than humans, surely they know much clearly the consequences of rebelling. They would know they stand no chance against an all-powerful God and meet eternal punishment. And yet in our religion, we have fallen angels who did rebel against God. My friend thinks this is unlikely to happen, and so fishy. And she also says it makes it seem instead that the Christian God might just be some powerful (but imperfect) being who might be making up lies and used a sloppy excuse for explaining “fallen angels.”

This is my first time hearing someone having this reason for being agnostic. Most skeptics I know have the usual philosophical problems/arguments which I have grown used to. I did not expect this so I don’t really know what I should have said. I don’t believe her of course but what she said has been on my mind. It bothers me a lot how I keep thinking about it and I’m afraid it might lead me to doubts. I suffer from scrupulosity Mr. Minton, so I’ve been very stressed and emotional about it. I can’t stop thinking about it and I am plagued with thoughts that I might end up doubting God, and I’m scared it might lead to blasphemy. Maybe your words on what my friend said may help me.

Thank you Mr. Minton. I’ve been following your blog for months and I really like your posts. Your articles helped me believe in free will and molinism. Thank you for everything.

Your reader, Ruth

I agree that it seems odd to think that the angels, who both know God and know about God far better than we do, would be so stupid as to try to overthrow him or defeat His purposes. But it also seems stupid to me to think that criminals can escape police officers during high speed pursuits. Not only is there a long record of all of them ending with the police officers catching the bad guy (because of some spike trap, or the guy drove down a dead end road and had to get out of his vehicle), but they are also surely aware that there’s no where they can hide with a police helicopter overhead. Yet people still try to evade the police. The point here is that bad persons do stupid things when they should know better.  

It’s also not firmly established from the biblical text that the angels knew EVERYTHING about God. It is possible that they didn’t know he was omnipotent. Powerful, yes, but not omnipotent. If that’s the case, then the objection collapses. We don’t know whether they did or didn’t, but I can’t think of anything in scripture that would preclude that possibility. 
You might say “But surely they would have learned later on.” Yes, and perhaps at that point, knowing that there was no turning back, their attempts were no longer to kill God and take his place, but to obstruct His desires to have a human family. If you’ve read my divine council stuff (or any of Heiser or Godawa’s work on it), you’ll know that the fallen angels were appointed over the 70 nations after God came down and confused their tongues. They became the gods of the nations such as Molech, Baal, Asherah, etc. (Genesis 11, Deuteronomy 4:19, Deuteronomy 32:8). God disinherited the nations to these gods as a punishment on them. But as we read in Psalm 82, these gods ruled the people corruptly and ergo would eventually be judged by Yahweh to “die like men, and fall like any prince”. The purpose of the Messiah was to die to atone for our sins, but it wasn’t just that. It was to disinherit the gods of the nations. To reclaim the nations. The powers of darkness knew that dethroning them would be the Messiah’s goal. This is why the prophecies about the Messiah’s death are subtle, obscure, and not as clear cut as others. As 1 Corinthians 2:8 says, if the powers of darkness really knew that Jesus’ death was exactly how disinheriting them would have happened, they would have instigated it. Satan wouldn’t have entered Judas to get him to hand Jesus over to the Sanhedrin, for example (Luke 22:3). 
At this stage of history, I think the fallen angels know they can’t have ultimate victory. As Michael Heiser said in a podcast episode I listened to a couple of months ago, I think what they’re doing now is just trying to keep the gospel from being universalized. I think they’re just trying to push the eschaton as far back as they can. We do have this sense of the devil just trying to do as much as he can before his defeat in Revelation 12:12, for example. Whether you interpret this historically as a preterist like I do, or as still future, it doesn’t matter. The point is that the devil seems to know that he can’t ultimately be victorious over God. So He just wants to essentially make as big of a mess that he can, while he can. So whose to say the other fallen angels aren’t of a similar mindset? This is beautifully depicted, by the way, in Brian Godawa’s novel series The Chronicles Of The Nephiim and The Chronicles Of The Apocalypse. 
Finally there is something to be said about considering the evidential case for Christianity as a whole. Your agnostic friend should consider arguments for God’s existence like The Kalam Cosmological Argument, The Fine-Tuning Argument, The Moral Argument, and The Ontological Argument. She should consider the historical case for the divine self understanding of Jesus, and the historical case for the death and resurrection of Jesus. There’s the case for the reliability of The New Testament, the case for the reliability of The Old Testament, and so on. As you probably know, I’ve got a whole bunch of resources on this stuff in the form of blog posts, podcast episodes, books (The Case For The One True God” and “My Redeemer Lives”) and most recently, YouTube videos. So I’d recommend sending these to your agnostic friend. After doing so, you can ask her where she thinks the evidence is leading. If she thinks it overwhelmingly points in favor of Christianity, like I do, then you can ask “How does the oddity of rebelling angels challenge this case I’ve made?” Some questions don’t challenge a conclusion and others do. If she thinks the case for The Christian God or the case for the resurrection is solid enough, she ought to be able to be content with her angel question being left unanswered. 
As J. Warner Wallace says 

“Well, a lot of it comes down to what I call, ‘evidential insufficiency’. Every criminal trial illustrates answers an important question: At what point does a jury think it has enough to make a decision? We have to remind every jury that they’ll always have unanswered questions; in every case. I’ve never had a case where there wasn’t a series of unanswered (and even unanswerable) questions, because you’re never going to be able to answer every question; I don’t care how long you look at the case.

“We ask jurors to make a decision in spite of those unanswered questions. As a matter of fact, that’s why the standard of proof in criminal trials is not ‘beyond a possible doubt’; it’s ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. If the standard of proof was “beyond a possible doubt,” we’d never convict anyone. There are lots of things we believe, even though we don’t have every possible piece of evidence to justify my belief. How can I be certain my car won’t explode when I turn the key? It’s happened to others, and it’s certainly possible it could happen to me. But is it reasonable? If you lived on the basis of your possible doubts, you’d be immobilized by fear and uncertainty. That’s why the standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ is good for us, even as Christian believers.

We need enough evidence to infer the most reasonable inference, but no more. We can’t answer every question about God. Do you really think, as a mere mortal, you can know everything there is to know about the nature of God? I doubt we’re ever going to have complete, robust answers on this side of Heaven. But we can still move, we can still act, we can still make a decision for Christ, even though we don’t have every possible answer, because guess what? No one has every possible answer, regardless of worldview.”

I hope I was able to help.


1: “Rapid Response: “I Can’t Believe In God Because I Have Too Many Unanswered Questions” October 5, 2016 — 

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