Between Heaven and Charing Cross image

Between Heaven and Charing Cross

A great many Christians don't really believe in angels. Formally we do: we affirm that there are spiritual beings, and that we are not modernist sceptics about these things, and that we believe the Bible. But in practice, we give angels no thought at all. The only time the word gets mentioned in church, let alone in everyday life, is when we cannot escape it in a biblical text we are reading; otherwise, silence. So how beautiful to read this, in an (excellent, but I've sung that song before) academic commentary, from Peter Leithart. The passage in question concerns the servant of Elisha, and Elisha's prayer, "Open his eyes, that he may see":

Unlike premodern Christians, modern Christians are often functional empiricists, who instinctively believe that only visible things are real. At best, we are deists: of course, there is God up there somewhere, but he is a long way off. We do not think that we have to press through a crowd of angels every time we move; we do not think that a small angelic deployment runs ahead of us into danger; we do not think, as the poet Francis Thompson does, that we disturb an angel every time we turn a stone; we do not think, to quote Thompson again, that Jacob’s ladder is pitched between heaven and Charing Cross. But the Bible and Christian tradition are united in the insistence that angels are real and active. The Lord Jesus appears to his people in the Old Testament as the “angel of Yahweh”, and the psalmist promises that God sets his angels as guardians around us, lest we dash our foot against a stone (Ps 91:11-13). Angels are mediators of the law (Gal 3:19), join in our worship on a heavenly Zion and are observers of our witness (1 Cor 11:10), minister to Jesus after his temptation in the wilderness (Matt 4:11), and serve as God’s ministers (Ps 103:20). Humans are made for a while lower than angels, but we are destined to judge angels (1 Cor 6:3). Yet, they are servants of God and humans, constantly active in God’s world.

We are, in short, Elisha’s servants.

“Don’t be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.”

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