The Bible mentions a wide variety of created spirits. One problem we have in knowing more about spiritual creatures is that the writers of Scripture had to use physical categories to describe spiritual realities. Another, more actual, problem is that we normally have little experience with spiritual creatures and so when we may think we are in the presence of angels of light they may actually be demons.
One defining characteristic of Satan and his minions is that they are liars. This is why it is so important in our thinking about spiritual creatures and events to seek only to know what is true because truth only comes from God.
There is a fundamental division between those created spirits who have chosen to serve God and those who choose to follow Satan. The lower ranks of those who follow Satan we call demons. The New Testament also tells us of powerful beings, apparently produced by Satan, that are described as frogs, dragons, two beasts, a false prophet, and a reigning prostitute.
On God’s side, in addition to angels, there are archangels, elders and seraphim. Angels act as God’s messengers. Archangels also act to bring God’s messages to people. They also have a role in the destiny of nations and wage war against the satanic spirits. The elders lead worship in heaven and may have other roles. The seraphim, with their multitude of eyes, appear to have the job of overseeing God’s physical creation.
On earth, I believe we are in the midst of a vast spiritual warfare. Satan’s intent is not just to cause problems for people but to bring physical and spiritual death to as many humans as he can. Were it not for the purpose of the Father, the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the obedience to God of the angels we all, without exception, would be doomed to eternal death.
One non-Christian view of God is that held, in different ways, by Unitarianism and Islam. This is the idea that God has a unity as one person and which denies the deity of Jesus and the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit.
Deism sees God as out there somewhere (transcendent) and having once acted as creator is not further active in earthly affairs (immanent).
Pantheism goes the other direction. It sees God in all that exists and all that exists in God.
Polytheism is any religious system than contains more than one god. Hinduism is an example. So are the various pagan religious ideas that occur all over the world.
Buddhism has at the center of its beliefs nothingness (Nirvana).
Other systems of thought that do not contain a God are Agnosticism which believes that God is either unknowable or unprovable, and Atheism and various secular ideologies which deny the existence of God.
There are belief systems that have their roots in Christianity but whose ideas are not orthodox. These beliefs are rejected by implication in the Nicene Creed.
These beliefs are not alternate paths to God as some people think. I believe they lead people away from the true knowledge of the triune God.
Providence is God working his will on what exists in the physical realm to accomplish his purposes. It is what we pray for when we say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” in the Lord’s Prayer. God uses the products of original creation and continuing creation to control all that exists for his purposes.
The secular mind is baffled by providence and even Christian believers often do not see God’s hand in what is happening around us. This is because providence can only be distinguished from nature by grace acting through faith. If we are to know providence then we must have faith that God is working and that by his grace he will give us a sufficient, but not all encompassing, understanding of what is going on. I believe we will not be left in ignorance if we seek understanding.
Providence is moving the world to the end God intends for it. There are various opinions as to what this is. However, we can be sure God’s control will take it to where it is he has in mind and to what he intended for it before the earth’s creation.
Let me put in here something more about the Trinity. This is not from my own thinking but from the Nicene Creed, a fifteen-hundred year old interpretation of Scripture accepted by most churches. The Trinity functions as three distinct persons though all share the full nature of God. Here is what the creed has to say about the character and roles of the three persons.
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.”
The triune God of Christianity is absolutely unique. Except for offshoots of Christianity, other religions have no god, one god, many gods or everything as god. The Trinity is one God existing in the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Bible adequately shows the truth of God in three persons and in one being. This mystery was revealed most fully in the person of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament. Jesus had authority to teach us about this because he was one of the persons. Thus, he was able to tell his disciples what they could understand about the Trinity and promised them another person, the Holy Spirit, would help them by providing further knowledge.
This knowledge of the Trinity has not given us the answer to “How can this be?” I believe it is meant to be this way so that we who believe can stand in awe and unbelievers will simply sound foolish when they claim the Trinity is a human invention. As written above, the only person once on earth who might lay claim to the invention of the reality of the Trinity was one of them.
Modern people think that they know how everything works and do not find God in any of it. Post-moderns do not care how anything works—as long as the battery is charged. Both philosophies discard any idea of general revelation, which is God showing his power and nature to humanity.
I believe that God’s reveals his existence and purposes in such things as physical reality, history, and human nature. Paul wrote that nobody had any excuse for not acknowledging the existence of God because of what was revealed to us in his creation of physical reality. The Old Testament shows God working in human history to show us what we are to do collectively as members of nations. God reveals his framework for human communities by providing everyone (with a few possible exceptions) a sense of right and wrong.
Any or all of these three aspects of general revelation can be denied or ignored by individuals and/or societies. Proverbs 1:20-33 describes this very situation. Wisdom (God’s voice) calls out in public places and is rejected by people given various derogatory names by the writer of Proverbs. These will suffer great harm because of their foolishness. At the end of the passage, a blessing is pronounced on those who listen.
Sometime time ago Time magazine had a cover which asked the question, “Is God Dead?” The April 3, 2017 issue asks “Is Truth Dead?” I believe there is an inevitable trajectory between those two issues. A society that pushes God away cannot maintain its hold on truth. After all Jesus told us that he is truth and people who reject him are not only turning against him but all the blessings that come with belief in him.
General revelation is a great blessing to humanity but it is not sufficient to bring people to righteousness. People are given the ability to blind themselves to any learning from general revelation and to make their selves deaf to the voice of God, which is one aspect of special revelation. The possession of these abilities does not excuse them for making use of them to refuse to seek and obey God.
With the Olympics coming in August it brought to my mind that we eChristians are citizens of the nation of God. (I prefer using nation rather than kingdom to enhance the present reality of our spiritual affiliation.) This status will not get us into the Olympics regardless of our athletic abilities; still I think a duality is something we should remember as we live out our Christian lives. Various athletes hold dual citizenship just as we do but their nations are worldly. Some of them may have difficulty at times deciding where to place their higher loyalty. We should not have that problem. Still we will need to decide how much allegiance and respect we should show to our earthly nation. To put the question in somewhat biblical terms: Each of us will have to decide how much we will give to Caesar and how much to the Lord. However, since we love most the nation of God and its ruler, we can be sure of having a way to arrive at the right overall allegiance and this will be demonstrated by our love for other Christians.
One outworking of our love in eChristianity will be to provide support with “likes,” and comments, and also in other ways encourage each other. And, thus we can help each other to a better understanding and expression of what we are thinking and writing. We should also be aware that God did not intend for us to all think alike. If he had we would not have anything to say to each other. Instead he made us each to have our own way of thinking while making it possible for us to be united in the nation of God.
There is another area in which we are all different. This is in how much we focus on the outward expression of our Christianity—whether in small acts of kindness or seeking to perfect the world—compared to the time and effort we put into our inward experience of the persons of the Trinity. Each of us should seek to find the balance of our commitments that God expects of us. And none of us will be exactly in the same place in regard to these things.
Perhaps, we should, like Mary, ponder these things in our hearts and hope to come to a fuller understanding of all that is involved in our choices of what we emphasize in our lives.