Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world:
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hov’ring wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
Are these lyrics from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” by Edmund Sears sentimental treacle, or factual report?
The devil’s objective is to fix our attention on the visible stream of “ordinary” life, and to make us consider it “real life.” At a late evening dinner with your friends, the conversation winds its way to a lively discussion of angels and demons and their involvement our lives.
But come morning you are all a little embarrassed about that conversation, and back to thinking about “real life”—that is, the weather report, the No. 22 bus, the Today show, and Beyoncé’s new album. There is a bifurcation in your life, a set of incompatible beliefs in your head that you keep compartmentalized. Musings about angels—or the existence of the entire spiritual dimension—will not come out again until the next late night soiree.
Demons are glad at our embarrassment over the spiritual realm. “Our policy,” says Screwtape the chief Tempter in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, “for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. … when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics” Materialists and skeptics fancy themselves too intelligent and educated to believe in demons or angels. Therefore materialists sin casually, because they do not believe there are repercussions in the spiritual realm to things done in the visible realm. Though they may be Christians, in this area they have more in common with unbelievers. They consider concern with angels and demons to be impractical at best and fanatical at worst.
In True Spirituality, Francis Schaeffer wrote:
“The universe is not what our generation says it is, seeing only the naturalistic universe. … This supernatural universe is not a far-off universe. Quite the contrary: there is a perfect continuity, as in normal life. … [W]e find the supernatural world in relationship to the normal sequence and spatial relationships of this present world. … The ‘supernatural’ is really no more unusual in the universe, from the biblical viewpoint, than what we normally call the natural. The only reason we call it the supernatural part is that usually we cannot see it. That is all. From the biblical view … reality has two halves. … One part is normally seen, and the other is normally unseen.”
What does this mean practically? Schaeffer continued, “The true Bible-believing Christian is the one who lives in practice in this supernatural world.” We do this by recognizing a bad thought as demonic (James 3:15) and something to be resisted (James 4:7). We do this by recognizing that the angels actually learn things they didn’t know about the Kingdom by observing our doings (Ephesians 3:10). If you will receive it, I even wear a little mantilla on my head at worship services—“because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10).
Real angels hover constantly over real Babel sounds.