The Doctrine of Creation (part 19)

January 03, 2009     Time: 00:45:28

This week I read an article that I wanted to share with you that I thought was really interesting. Someone in this class passed it along to me, but I am not sure who it was. I don’t remember anymore. But those of you who are scientists, I think, should find this particularly an interesting article.

It is by Forrest Mims, who is a writer (or has been a writer) for the Scientific American magazine, and who is a Christian and as such knows what it means to be discriminated against for his faith. But Mims is reporting on the 109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science which was held at Lamar University in March of this year. I’ll just read what he reports because I think it is intriguing. He says,

There was a gravely disturbing side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting. I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka, the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.

Something curious occurred a minute before Pianka began speaking. An official of the Academy approached a video camera operator at the front of the auditorium and engaged him in animated conversation. The camera operator did not look pleased as he pointed the lens of the big camera to the ceiling and slowly walked away.

This curious incident came to mind a few minutes later when Professor Pianka began his speech by explaining that the general public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us. [Dr. Craig: and so they didn’t want to have this on camera.]

Suddenly I forgot that I was a member of the Texas Academy of Science . . . . Instead, I grabbed a notepad so I could take on the role of science reporter.

One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, "What good are you?"

Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, "We're no better than bacteria!"

Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late.

Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.

He then showed solutions for reducing the world's population in the form of a slide depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved.

Pianka then displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets. [Dr. Craig: Remember, this is at a scientific convention.]

AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs. [Dr. Craig: So the person’s blood literally just gushes from every opening, every orifice, in the body as the inner organs just dissolve.[1]]

After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, "We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that."

. . .

After a dramatic pause, Pianka returned to politics and environmentalism. But he revisited his call for mass death when he reflected on the oil situation.

[Dr. Craig: He said, again, the oil reserves are running out. We’ve got to reduce the population.]

. . .

When Pianka finished his remarks, the audience applauded. It wasn't merely a smattering of polite clapping that audiences diplomatically reserve for poor or boring speakers. It was a loud, vigorous and enthusiastic applause.

Then came the question and answer session, in which Professor Pianka stated that other diseases are also efficient killers.

The audience laughed when he said, "You know, the bird flu's good, too." They laughed again when he proposed . . . that, "We need to sterilize everybody on the Earth."

. . .

He spoke glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy. [Dr. Craig: People are forced to abort any children if you already have one child in your family.] He said, "Smarter people have fewer kids." [Dr. Craig: that is why he thinks IQs are falling because people have more than one child and so there is a selective advantage for stupid people in the evolutionary process.]

With this, the questioning was over. Immediately almost every scientist, professor and college student present stood to their feet and vigorously applauded the man who had enthusiastically endorsed the elimination of 90 percent of the human population. Some even cheered. Dozens then mobbed the professor at the lectern to extend greetings and ask questions. It was necessary to wait a while before I could get close enough to take some photographs.

What is really sobering to me about that report is not what this professor said. You’ve always got your radical fringe – your kooks – that are in the academy. But what I find just terrifying is that at a scientific meeting like the Texas Academy of Science that hundreds of other professors and scientists and students would stand up and cheer and give a standing ovation for something like this. It really shows you what I’ve said in the past that the frontline of the culture wars in this country runs right through our universities. It is there that the battle for, I think, Christian world and life view really needs to be fought. You see what we are up against when you see the kind of attitudes that are prevalent in university departments that this story illustrates.

That was just something that really, really arrested me and I thought that you deserved to hear it as well.


Student: [Asks to get a copy of the article.]

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Isn’t it bizarre? Don’t these people in the audience realize that this means – you would think it would mean – 90% of them. But, of course, you see, this is the arrogance of the intellectual elite. They think of themselves as being the 10%. It is going to be the university professors and students and scientists who are among the 10%, and it will be the rest of the great unwashed that will be eliminated. It is so frightening because, again, it shows that ethical questions cannot be found in a test tube. You can be a brilliant scientist, but science is inherently incapable of speaking to issues of ethics because ethics aren’t a matter of empirical investigation. So these people can be scientifically brilliant but ethically midgets. It is really scary. So you don’t want them to get in power.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: He says there is a book out that is advocating the same thing. It might be by the same author. This man’s name again is Eric Pianka, an evolutionary ecologist.


[2][Opening prayer]

We come today to the last section of our portion of the course dealing with doctrine of creation.

This is dealing with angels and demons.

This is part of the doctrine of creation because it concerns a realm of creation in addition to the space-time universe that you and I inhabit. We began our study of creation by looking at creation out of nothing. We saw how God has created everything apart from himself out of nothing. He is the cause of everything that exists. This would include both spiritual realms as well as physical realms. We then began to focus on the physical universe. We talked about the origin of life. We talked about God’s conservation of the world in being. Then we turned to his providence over the world as he governs it through his sovereign direction. We talked about his concurrence with everything that happens in the world. We talked about not only his ordinary providence over the world but also his extraordinary providence – that is, his miraculous acts in history. Now finally we want to turn to this other dimension of creation which concerns these spiritual realms of reality populated by beings that we call angels and demons.

We want to turn first of all to a discussion of angelic beings. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew world for “angel” is mal’akh. In Greek, in the New Testament, the word is angelos. It looks just like the word “angel” but with “los” at the end. The meaning of both of these words is basically a messenger. An angel is a messenger. Indeed, sometimes the word angel will be used in the Bible not to refer to these spiritual beings but to human messengers. A human messenger can sometimes be referred to as an angel or an angelos as someone who is simply a messenger. But in general the word for angel is used to describe a higher order of being, a spiritual realm of beings which dwell in the very presence of God and which serve as mediators between God and our physical universe. So creation is not only composed of our physical spatio-temporal universe, but there is also a dimension of reality as it were – an aspect of reality – that consists of this spiritual, invisible, unseen realm populated by these spiritual beings that are endowed with powers and abilities that are far in excess of our human natural powers.

In addition to this, there is also a realm of evil spiritual beings – or evil angelic creatures. These are referred to in Matthew 25:41. If you have your Bible with you this morning, we are going to be looking up a lot of passages, so I would encourage you to pull it out and to look up these passages with me as I read them. Mathew 25:41.[3] There Jesus is speaking of the last judgment and how the King will judge the good and the evil at that day. He will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” There it refers to angels who are satanic messengers or servants of the devil. Normally we refer to these types of angels as demons. Demons are actually angels of a sort. They are members of this higher order of spiritual creatures which are evil and which serve Satan’s purposes rather than God’s.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: We will talk about that later on. He asks, “Is there much information about hierarchies or orders of angels?” There is a little. The Scripture is tantalizing in what it says about these higher beings, but it doesn’t focus very much on them. They are kind of presupposed in the background. We can make some inferences from certain stories and clues. We’ll say more about that later on. So hang on to that, and we’ll get to it in a little bit.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: We’ll talk about the origin of demons when we get to that. I avoided using the word “fallen” at this point because in the Matthew passage which I quoted it doesn’t actually say they are fallen angels. It just refers to “the Devil” and “his angels.” Whether or not these angels that serve the Devil, and indeed the Devil himself, were once angels who fell away through some kind of a cataclysmic lapse is a question we’ll need to take up later on. I don’t mean to be putting you off, but what I just want us to understand here is that an angel, for example, is not a dead Christian. It is not that when you go and die and you go to heaven God gives you your wings and your harp like in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Jimmy Stewart movie. That is not what angels are. Angels are powerful higher spiritual creatures that have intercourse with this world. They are not what you go to be when you die or other sort of myths of that sort in popular culture.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: He points out quite correctly that all the angels that are portrayed in Scripture are male. That is another difference with popular culture, isn’t it? You often have the pictures of these cute little cherubs with little wings or a little girl angel and so forth. Whereas, in Scripture at least, angels appear as these powerful warrior figures or mighty men as you say. But when you say “inter-dimensional” what did you mean? Did you mean gender?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I’ll talk about that later on. He is absolutely correct here. When we say that they appear as men or they are portrayed as men we shouldn’t think that they actually are men because these are spirit beings. They are incorporeal. They don’t have bodies. But they can take on bodily form as we’ll see, and do so at least in Scripture in the form of these great powerful male figures. But we shouldn’t think of them as literally creatures that normally have bodies. They are spiritual beings. In that sense they are like God himself who is pure spirit. God is not an embodied being, though sometimes in Scripture he might reveal himself as one sitting on a throne or there might be a vision or an image of God or something of that sort. But he is pure spirit. He is not a corporeal or physical being. In that sense angels are like God in being pure spirits.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Right. Good point. He points out that there is a passage in Scripture that we’ll look at later where it says some people have entertained angels unaware.[4] In that case the angelic person appeared sort of incognito as an ordinary human being and not as some sort of a dazzling glorious figure as you do have sometimes. That is certainly a good reminder.


Let’s talk about the reason for angels. Hebrews 1:14, I think, gives us an indication of why God created angels. In speaking of the angels it says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” There the reason for which God created angels is they serve him. They are his servants. It is for the sake of the salvation of humankind. So angels play the role of servants primarily. They are servants of God to execute his plans with a view toward human salvation. They are part of God’s salvific plan for humanity.

Secondly, angels also serve as God’s mediators in this world. They are mediators between God and the world in many cases. Bernard Ramm, who was a fine theologian, has written the following concerning angels. He says[5],

Angels are servants and have no reality or purpose in themselves. We can imagine people without servants, but we cannot conceive of servants without people. The rationale of servants is the rationale of people. There is no rationale for servants in themselves. We can imagine God as existing without angels, but it is meaningless to imagine a universe with angels but no God. The rationale for angels is that they are servants of God and man in the interest of the redemption provided by God.

Creation is that order, the space-time reality, which is created by God and is thereby different from God. His omnipotent word spoke it into existence. There is, therefore, an ineradicable difference between God and the creature. In the language of categories, it is the eternal contrasted with the temporal, the infinite with the finite, the uncreated with the created, and so on.

Here is the contrast. The eternal versus the temporal. The infinite versus the finite. The uncreated versus the created. He says,

The communication between this great God and finite, limited man must thus always be a mediated communication.

This is not a judgment about the “impurity” of the world, which would force God to communicate indirectly lest he contaminate himself with the world. It is based upon the transcendence of Creator over the creature. Therefore, when God comes to humanity in revelation, He comes through mediators. The prophetic word is a mediated word. The theophany is a mediated manifestation of God. The Incarnation is the glory of God, mediated through the human nature of Christ. Angels are part of the complex structure of the divine mediation.

I think that Ramm is correct in part of what he says there in thinking of angels as part of this whole complex structure of the way God mediates himself to his creation. He speaks through the human authors of Scripture. He manifests himself through the man Jesus of Nazareth. He speaks through the medium of prophets. But I think we have to be careful here in saying that angels are God’s mediators in the sense that God cannot do this directly because you run into what is called in philosophy a “third man argument.” Plato believed that you had to have something that would be a mediator between the eternal Forms (the sort of mathematical perfect Forms like “the perfect circle,” “the perfect square”) and then the physical squares and circles that are all imperfect that we have in this world.[6] Because he said there couldn’t be any direct sort of contact. There had to be some way to mediate between the two. But the problem then is what about what mediates between the mediator and the perfect thing? Then you’d have to have a mediator between the mediator and the perfect thing. Then wouldn’t you need a mediator between the mediator of the mediator and the perfect thing? Similarly here. Since angels are part of creation, if God can’t act immediately upon his creation but only through a mediator, there would have to be a mediator between God and angels, right? And it would lead to an infinite regress. So it is not true that God cannot simply act directly in the world.

I think that what Ramm is getting at is that God’s actions in the world always involves some kind of a physical manifestation of God. Since God himself is invisible and incorporeal and not apprehensible by the five senses, when he manifests himself in the world there is going to have to be some kind of physical manifestation of the invisible undetectable God. Angels are part of that structure whereby God manifests himself in the world through these angelic servants. It is not as though God cannot act directly in the world. He does, in fact, when he acts on angels. He is acting directly on the angelic being even if the angelic being mediates God’s revelation to us. But there will always be a kind of physical manifestation of the invisible incorporeal God in the physical world, and angels are part of this manifestation of God as they serve his purposes.

Finally, the third purpose served by angels is that they serve to glorify God. Very often you will find angels in the Scriptures portrayed as ascribing glory and worship to God. Again, from Bernard Ramm, he writes,

The third rationale for angels is to be seen in the manner in which they surround the throne of God. One of the names of God is the Lord of Hosts. [Dr. Craig: The hosts are these angelic myriads.] He is pictured in Scripture as surrounded by an innumerable company of angels. One of the primary means by which Scripture represents to us the glorious nature of God is always to surround Him with an endless host of powerful and majestic angels, particularly the seraphim who cry "holy, holy, holy" day and night. If the angelic hosts are deleted from our representation of God, then one of the strongest possible modes of representing the glory, the might, the majesty, and the holiness of God is lost.

So angels also serve to glorify God.

These would be the three roles played by angels that would be rationales for which God created them. They are his servants. They serve to mediate or manifest God’s presence in the world. And they serve to glorify God.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig:This is from a book called Basic Christian Doctrines edited by Carl Henry. I can’t give you the date on that but you can find it with that editor and that title. Ramm wrote the chapter on angels in that book.


Let’s talk about the nature of angels. First of all, it is important to understand that angels are created beings. Colossians 1:16 says, “in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” All of these angelic realms – all of these principalities and powers of this invisible realm – are equally creations of God just like the physical space-time universe.[7] That is important to understand. These are not gods with a small “g.” These are created beings. They are part of creation just like we are. But they are the invisible part of creation not detectable by the five senses where we are in the spatio-temporal physical part of creation. So they are created beings. They are creatures. They are not gods. They are not eternal in the past. They were brought into being.

Second, there are innumerable angels. They are incalculable there are so many of these creatures. Daniel 7:10. The context here is the vision that Daniel has of the Ancient of Days, of God sitting on his throne. He says in Daniel 7:10, “A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” Here he describes these angelic hordes surrounding the throne of God – thousands and thousands, ten thousand times ten thousand – more than Daniel can even count. Just myriads of myriads of them. Similarly, in Hebrews 12:22 we have a reference to their innumerable ability. Here the context is that the author is describing this heavenly Jerusalem to which we’ve been called. The heavenly realities. He says, “But you have come to Mount Zion [that is the spiritual heavenly Mount Zion] and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering.” Here are again this innumerable hordes of angelic beings surrounding God’s throne in the heavenly Jerusalem. So they are created beings which are innumerable in their quantity.

Moreover, thirdly, these angels appear to be of different orders and ranks. They are not all the same. There are orders and ranks of angels. Again, Daniel 10:13 is an intriguing story that seems to suggest this. Let me read the whole context here beginning with verse 10. Daniel has been praying and he has been praying for some days because his prayer has not been immediately answered. In verse 10 of chapter 10 we read:

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, give heed to the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is yet for days to come.

Here this angel unnamed is sent to Daniel in answer to his prayers to give him the vision of what is to come, but he says he couldn’t do it because for three weeks this prince of the kingdom of Persia, some kind of angelic being connected with the pagan nation of Persia, withstood him and prevented him from coming to Daniel until Michael (who is called here one of the chief princes – some higher more powerful angelic being) comes to the assistance of this unnamed angel so that he leaves Michael there to battle with the prince of Persia and he escapes to go to Daniel and to deliver the message and give the vision.[8] Here already we see different powers, different orders, of these angelic beings that some are more powerful and have more authority than others do. They are not all of the same rank and ability.

Also, Jude 9 in the New Testament, just before the book of Revelation, gives another one of these really interesting stories. What he is talking here about is the devil contending about the body of Moses. When Moses died, a dispute between the devil and the angels over the body of Moses arose. Whatever you make of this, in verse 9 he says, “But when the archangel Michael [remember who was just named in Daniel], contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” Here Michael, as powerful as he is – in fact he is called an archangel here, he is not just an ordinary angel but some kind of higher angel. We saw in Daniel he was so powerful that he could contend with this angelic prince of Persia while the lower angel escaped to deliver the message to Daniel. Here, disputing with the devil, it says Michael as powerful as he is didn’t dare to presume to rebuke the devil but instead said, “The Lord rebuke you” because he himself didn’t have the authority to do something like that. So as powerful as he is it shows that there is even greater powers such as possessed by the devil himself. So there are different orders and ranks of angels apparently.

Moreover, fourthly, these beings are incredibly powerful creatures. Just a couple of verses. 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Here Paul is talking about the second coming of Christ. He says, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire.” He is speaking here of the return of Christ, the second coming of Christ, and he specifically refers to the angels who will accompany Christ on his second return as mighty angels – powerful angels. We have some examples of this. For example, 2 Kings 19:35. This is the story of God’s judgment upon the enemies of Israel when they are fighting against the Assyrians. It says, “And that night the angel of the LORD went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.” So in one night this angel killed one hundred and eighty five thousand of these Assyrian soldiers that were opposing the nation of Israel. Finally, Psalm 103:20 says, “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word” So there again they are referred to as the mighty ones that do God’s word. So angels are incredibly powerful beings that serve God.

Fifth, we’ve already seen that they are spirit beings without material bodies. I’ve emphasized that already.[9] Just to give you some Scripture – Hebrews 1:14. We quoted that already. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve?” So they are of the same order as God. God is spirit. That is to say, he is unembodied mind. It would be like a soul without a body, if you will. For example, when you die you, as a Christian, go into a disembodied state where your conscious mind still continues to exist – your soul exists – but without its body until the resurrection at the last day. Well, angels are unembodied minds. They are pure spirits and are like God in that sense. Also, 2 Kings 6:8-17 – this is one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. If you ever feel yourself getting discouraged and down in the battle when the battle seems long and things don’t seem to be going so well then think of this story in 2 Kings 6:8-17. Here is what it says. This concerns the prophet Elisha when Syria was warring against Israel.

Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” And the king of Israel sent to the place of which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.

[So Elisha had this prophetic gift whereby he had clairvoyant knowledge, if you will, of the plans of the king of Syria and he would warn the king of Israel ‘Don’t do this or that.’ He saved his life more than once by this prophetic insight.]

And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?”

[Who is the one that is leaking information out to the enemy?]

And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber.”

[So he says it is the prophet of Israel who knows what is going on.]

And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army; and they came by night, and surrounded the city.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was round about the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

[You can imagine what the servant is thinking, “There’s nobody with us! Look at the army out there. Who is with us? Shouldn’t we be afraid?”]

Then Elisha prayed, and said, “O LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

And it goes on to describe how Elisha defeats the armies of Syria. The whole place was full of the hosts of the Lord. These angelic armies – chariots and soldiers – ready to do battle. So Elisha says, Don’t fear. You look visibly – the scene looks hopeless. There is more of them with us than there are with them. So, again, it illustrates that it is almost like a kind of a parallel dimension. We don’t know. It is kind of like right now in this room kind of like in a parallel dimension that we can’t see sort of at right angles with our three dimensions there is this angelic horde that is here with us protecting us against satanic attack, guiding us, doing battle on our behalf, ministering to us in unseen ways. It puts a whole different perspective on reality if you get the sense that Elisha had and that this young man suddenly had once his eyes were opened. They are there. We just don’t see them.

There is much more to be said, but I am out of time. We will conclude on that note. Next time we will finish talking about the nature of angels. Then we will look at their work and what they do. Finally, we’ll talk about the subject of fallen angels and the devil and demons.[10]

[1] 4:57

[2] 9:56

[3] 15:03

[4] 20:05

[5] Bernard Ramm, “Angels” in Basic Christian Doctrines, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Dallas, TX: Baker Books, 1971), pp. 66-67.

[6] 25:07

[7] 30:08

[8] 35:22

[9] 40:04

[10] Total Running Time: 45:28 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)