If the recent rash of books on the subject is any indication, Americans are hungry for knowledge about angels, but the information available is less than satisfying, says Prof. Peter Kreeft (Philosophy).
"There is a huge hunger out there, as we are naturally fascinated by intelligence in non-human form, but it's being fed with fast food," he said. Angels are "formidable creatures," not the "warm, fuzzy creatures with wings" often depicted in art, and unlike ghosts - with which they are commonly confused - angels never had human bodies.
To help set the record straight, Kreeft wrote Angel Wars: Facts vs. Fantasies About Angels and Demons . The book, Kreeft said, strikes a balance between the popular, yet frivolous, books and those which are more scholarly, yet dull. Kreeft describes the book as a collection of simple, direct, "no baloney" answers to the 100 most common questions about angels and demons, and bases many of his answers on the Bible and the writings of Thomas Aquinas and other great theologians.
"I think society is changing from faith in science to faith in something else," Kreeft said, "and angels fit into the category of something else, allowing people to talk about them more freely."
Kreeft does not believe the interest in angels is a passing fad. The rash of angel books on the market is a symptom of fundamental changes that are happening to our world, he said, noting that in the Bible, angels usually appear just before world-changing and life-changing events.
"People are feeling a need for comfort in a hard and increasingly violent, scary world," he said, "and the changes in our culture - both psychological and sociological - are allowing people to believe in angels again."
Kreeft has experienced the interest in angels first-hand. He teaches "Angels, Devils, Ghosts and Miracles," a course that attracts many students and media inquiries. In fact, many of the subjects he covers in Angel Wars arose from students' questions, as well as from his own curiosity and desire to clarify ambiguities found in other readings.
"Whenever I talk about angels and demons in class, the students get suddenly silent and they stay past the bell," he said. "The first time it happened, I knew it was a hot topic. They are starved for information on angels and wonder why no one ever talked to them about angels before. I tell them in all my life I've never heard a sermon on angels, although they are a big part of the Bible, so they are not alone."
While he is dissatisfied with the books on the popular market, Kreeft feels they have done more good than harm. "A diet of McDonald's is a good alternative to starving. If you can eat better, however, then you should," he said.
Kreeft starts his book by assuring the reader that angels really exist, "not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They're as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity."
Recounting stories of people who say they have met an angel, Kreeft suggests that the reader may have, too. Kreeft believes he himself may have encountered an angel in a traffic accident once, when his car seemed to pass through a truck coming towards him. Very often angels stop traffic accidents or help people in snowstorms or in deserts, he said, "and all of us have our own guardian angel who is always with us."
To the question, "do I become an angel after I die?" Kreeft answers, "we don't become angels any more than we become apes." Angels are a different species, he explains, "they are supernatural."
The Bible and other sources reveal that evil angels - demons - are less numerous, but do exist, Kreeft maintains. Demons tempt us, he said, by arousing our selfish passions for false gods and by placing before our imagination false pictures of happiness that supposedly come our way by worshipping and serving ourselves or something in our world.
Luckily, he said, the army of the loyal angels is greater than the army of rebel angels, and humans can help fight this spiritual war through belief and prayer.
"As we see the forces of darkness increasingly settle on America like a cloud, we must also see God's fiery angel army surrounding them, so that we will fight with confidence and with victory," he said.
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