We all know that the scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages had a great interest in angels. How many of them can dance on the head of a pin? they asked. Modern Christians regard the question as trivial and ridiculous, and certainly, thus stated, it may seem so. But perhaps a medieval theologian would be forgiven for asking, “Why, then, do you moderns have to push past so many angel and cherub trinkets and cards in the local Christian store in order to find a book about the eternal God?”
In fact, this question about heads of pins and dancing angels contains a whole series of other questions: Do angels dance, and if so, why? For dancing (at least in Scripture) is normally a sign of joy. Why would they be so joyful? And what about the head of a pin? Well, it raises intriguing questions about what kind of creatures angels are. Do they take up space the way we do? How do they move through space as they seem to do in Scripture? So—if we really believe in a supernatural universe, and a God who has myriads of heavenly creatures as His servants—these questions about the heavenly branch of the family of God are inherently interesting even if Scripture does not give us all the answers in its three hundred-plus references to angels. Think of this as you struggle past the trinkets: Have we become so short-sighted in our perspective on reality that we have little interest in the way God governs the cosmos?
In fact, the medieval theologians believed that the angels are also theologians. There is a theologia angelorum, a theology of the angels. If we “do theology,” why wouldn’t angels do it as well? Perhaps there is something we can learn from them (after all, we sing “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven” with its line “Angels help us to adore him”). So, with apologies to C.S. Lewis and Wormwood, imagine a young student writing home from the Gabriel Theological Seminary after his first few days as a freshangel:
“Professor Michael has now given us three brilliant lectures in T.S.A. (Theologia Systematica Angelorum) 101. I thought my notes would interest you! Here they are:
Come to 3rd topic. Refer again to human philosopher Aristotle: Final end in view must be the first thing considered in order to use means that will lead to that end. So, always begin with “end.”
Today: 3rd lecture. Third question: “What is the chief end of man?” Cf. Angelic reports of seventeenth-century earthly Westminster Assembly: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
This answer parallels yesterday’s topic: “What is the chief end of angels?” Saw answer is: “Angels’ chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
Reasons for this drawn from (a) the character of God, (b) the nature of creation in general, and (c) the nature and function of angels in particular.
This set us up for the consideration of the angels’ chief end in its earthly dimension in relationship to man’s identical chief end.
But Professor Michael stresses again: remember conclusion reached in first lecture when we asked ultimate question (i.e. the undiluted theological question)—a daring question. “What is the chief end of God?” and the answer? “The chief end of God is to glorify God, and to enjoy Himself forever.”
N.B. Divine glory and joy is the foundation for human joy, angelic joy. Both find their center and source in the Great I Am, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Human theology, angelic theology, divine theology—all have in view the “enjoy” that comes from the glory and glorifying of God.
Cf. the human poet Charles Wesley (eighteenth human century). We angels can also sing:
“Let earth and Heaven combine,
Angels and men agree.”
Professor Michael said tons more—but must rush for dinner: dessert tonight is angel food cake!
Learning so much! Lots of love, Septimus.”
Fanciful, of course, but it helps to make the point. Theology is a joyful and glorious activity because it is ultimately about the glory and joy of our God. Its goal is that of the angels, indeed, of God Himself: this combination of glorifying and enjoying God, which is to the unbeliever the ultimate contradiction but for Christians the discovery of our destiny.