There are those who maintain that angels are a unique creation and are distinct from the human race. This needs to be given further thought, not just from what our faith teaches, but pondered with some scientific reasoning thrown in.
An interesting new science that is moving into the forefront of research deals with complexity—the emergence of complicated systems in nature. Complexity finds its ultimate expression in the structure of the human brain.
It is a big mystery to science why nature shows an incessant striving towards self-organization and complexity. Naturalism, which does not believe in a divine author, sees complexity as coming into existence from simple molecules, which in turn came from more simple fundamental particles, like atoms and quarks. This is called scientific reductionism.
Physicist David Bohm was one of the first to challenge the idea that things get simpler the deeper you probe nature. His version of quantum physics theorizes that elementary particles become increasingly more complex, and contain subtle inner structure. This would suggest that large systems acquire their complexity from prior or implicate orders of reality.
I find Bohm’s position suitable for theology. If God existed before the creation of the physical world, it would mean that infinite complexity was already established and functioning in a pre-space condition. Since God is infinitely alive, bio-structure started from infinite perfection and always existed.
It is easier to envision God as Infinite Love and Infinite Wisdom than equating these divine attributes to a corresponding level of bio-complexity. Furthermore, how does God’s ineffable organic structure exist abstracted from space, time, and matter?
Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg has offered the best explanation I have yet to come across. He claimed that fundamental substance was non-physical. Even more startling, this primal formative substance was LOVE, the causal agent and first principle of the universe. Love was God’s living substance and Wisdom was the Divine embodiment, or form love takes in all its expressions.
Therefore, complexity in the physical world emerged out of complexity from a non-physical world. That LOVE is the key to agency in the universe is evidenced by nature’s ongoing endeavor towards self-organization. With organization comes unity through utility. Unity through structure is an analog of love, because the very essence of love is to unite. Everything finds coherence by mutually serving some unifying purpose. This is unity through utility. Utility is also a derivative of love. It is a physical analog of goodness.
So what does all this have to do with angels? Angels are finite beings. Therefore, in spite of all their good will, their ideas are finite as well. Finite ideas cannot be formed outside of time and space (which is a problem in heaven).
All finite reasoning must come from ideas formed from living in a world of time and space. Living in a physical world allows a finite mind to detect distances and ratios between things and distinguish the past from the present. This is why Swedenborg maintained that all angelic beings were once a part of the human race.
God’s purpose in creation was to form a heaven from the human race. Of all earth’s creatures, humans have carved out a niche as an information-gatherer. We each take this information and internalize it. That is, we take ideas from the physical world and turn it into “us” through our subjective preferences and dispositions. If love is primal creative substance, then the values we choose in life will self-organize into the bio-complexity that reflects our true spirit or innermost life.
Without living in a physical world first, where there is time and space, angels would have had no lawful means for forming mental relationships and making distinctions. From learning physical relationships, the mind can then form ideas about non-physical relationships. For instance, a person who shares different values and opinions from ours becomes psychologically viewed as being “far” from us (no matter how physically close he or she may be). It is this change from physical standards of measurement to psycho-spiritual measurement that is needed for angels to discern relationships in the non-physical realm of heaven.
So, in God’s providential and ultimate scheme, when we depart from our physical bodies at the time of death, we will still retain our spiritual bio-complexity. This provides us with the proper organic vehicle to take our acquired ability to discern non-spatial and non-physical relationships with us into the other world.
I have left out many things that relate to this subject. Not everyone’s spiritual bio-complexity is properly formed for eternal life in heaven. I will touch on some of these additional topics in other posts and more completely in my next book, Proving God. I will announce on this blog when the book will be available.