Do Angels Sin or are they lacking Free Will?


#1

Our sinfulness (and the related consequences) seems to be attributed to human free will. When we get to heaven there will be no sin and suffering–does this mean there is no free will in heaven? Or…that the angels of heaven do not have free will?

I ask this because…it seems peculiar that God can create a world (heaven) without sin and suffering but didn’t put that in his earthly plans…either I am misunderstanding the reason for sin or free will is not necessary for heavenly happiness and full communion with God.

Thank you for your help.


#2

For an angel to sin is much more serious than for a human to sin, because they always have full will and knowledge of what they do. However the other side of this is that, generally, angels don’t sin. However the bad angels did. Whether it would be possible for good angels to join them, or if some sort of irrevocable commitment to good is made in the eternity - no time - that they live in, I think only God and the angels themselves know.


#3

I’m also confused on this issue. Last week on one of the call in apologetics programs on EWTN radio, someone asked if Satan could change his mind and make a decision for God.

The man answering questions that day (sorry, i don’t recall who) said no, that the angels decisions are already “set”, that only creatures with bodies are still in the plastic stage where they can change thier minds about belief, etc.

This confused me, because I thought that according to tradition, Satan was once a “good” angel…if angels are “set” how could he have gone bad? And if he could go “bad”, why couldn’t he see the error of his ways and change again?

So…apparently this is an issue in many minds!


#4

cheddar,

That is an insightful question.

The likely answer is that before the “fall” of the angels, they were not yet enjoying the Beatific Vision, and so not yet “in Heaven” as we commonly use that phrase. Thus although we often say “the angels fell from heaven” what we really mean is that the angels fell from grace.

In other words, the angelic beings had to undergo a test (just as we do) before they enjoyed the Beatific Vision. Once one “posseses” the Beatific Vision there can be no sin or disordered exercise of the will. But, up until that time the angels were “on probation” (as we are now).

After the testing,the exact nature of which is not revealed to us, some angels rejected God and fell, others remained with Him and merited (not in the strict sense, of course, but rather in fittingness) the Beatific Vision.

Although not participants in the Beatific Vision, the fallen angels also are unable to “change their minds” and repent. Being entirely spiritual their knowledge does not come to them piecemeal like it does for us (i.e through our senses). They therefore have no new data upon which to base a new decision. Furthermore they do not exist, as we do now, in successive moments. They had knowledge, and they chose the outcome.

Of course much of this is seen darkly and indistinctly. But there is some light to be had, given what little we do know.

What do you think?

VC


#5

verbumcaro’s right on the money…

people usually think that free will is the ability to choose between good and evil; not so. free will is simply the ability to make a choice where nothing determines the choice but the choosing itself. which means, of course, that i can make a free choice not only between, say, stealing a magazine i want to read but for which i lack the money, and walking out of the store, but i can also choose freely between staying home and reading a book to learn more about quantum mechanics, and going out with friends to enjoy a meal.

however, as verbumcaro says, once a being is in the presence of god in heaven, nothing will ever seem appealing about wrong (i.e. disordered) choices, so evil acts will never present themselves as legitimate alternatives for acts of the will. which means one will never choose badly when one is in possession of the beatific vision. and, since angels after the fall are all in the presence of god, they never choose badly.

as for satan and the damned, the opposite might be said: once one has been forever removed from the beatific vision, one will never choose rightly again…


#6

In my studies about Angels, they were given a test by God. They had to make a choice the divine plan of God, which include His incarnation as Man. One rebellious angel choice not to follow, and rebel against God. Satan and his angels rebel, Archangel Michael and His angels fought the devil.

Those who followed Satan were cast into hell. They are there forever, and they are also on earth seeking the ruin of souls.

The Angels in heaven already accepted God, and can no longer sin.

Right now, humanity is being tested, the same way the angels were when they were created by God. In the End, the righteous men will be taken up to God, and those who are unrighteous will be cast into the eternal fires of hell.


#7

Angels are a fascinating topic. I read once somewhere that the battles in heaven were intellectual battles and that kinda blew my mind and gave me a whole new perspective on life in general.

Sorry I have nothing to contribute to the topic at hand but just thought id throw that in there.:smiley:


#8

Fr. Robert Altier explained it this way.

Angels live outside of time, right? We would presume so, since they all were in heaven. So when an angel makes a choice, such as the one presented earlier in this thread, they make that choice with full knowledge of the ramifications of their choice. In other words, they made the choice knowing the result of that choice.

Hence, they can’t change their minds. They have to assume full responsibility for their actions since they know the results and still made the decision.

OK, back to my opinion - You’ve heard of people preferring to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond. I guess Satan would rather rule in hell than to serve in heaven.


#9

That’s pretty much how I understand it. The angels know everything there is to know about their own natures. Everything! There is not a single idea that can “enlighten” them to the error of their ways since all has been considered through their intellect. The difference between the heavenly angels and demons is humility and pride, respectively.


#10

Thank you for your thoughts on this everyone. So-it seems we are saying that God created an environment for Angels in which they have free will…but don’t have the desire to commit sinful acts.

This is a concept I can somewhat grasp and leave to mystery…it still leaves open the question of sin and suffering for us. If God was able to create an environment where free will is compatible with a life in which there is little desire to sin (and suffer the effects of sin), why then is it not this way on earth. Why chose to create a world where sin and suffering are pervasive?

Thanks again.


#11

If God was able to create an environment where free will is compatible with a life in which there is little desire to sin (and suffer the effects of sin), why then is it not this way on earth. Why chose to create a world where sin and suffering are pervasive?

He didn’t create a world where sin and suffering are pervasive. He created a perfect garden and placed man in it to guard and let flourish. The desire to sin did not exist until the serpent (cast down from heaven to earth after the battle with St. Michael) tempted man. God allowed the temptation as a test of Adam and Eve’s love for Him. Their failure mirrored the failured of the devils who let pride come between them and their Maker. The only difference is, as finite, temporal beings, we have the hope of receiving Wisdom and understanding to help us see the error of our ways and choose heaven before it’s too late.


#12

How can you appreciate the good life if you haven’t struggled through the hard life.

Compare this to a man who has worked his tail off as a poor man to make himself a million-aire. This man is going to appreciate how hard he worked for the money, and is not going to go out and squander it.

Now consider the man dies and leaves all his money to his son, who never had to worry about where the next meal is going to come from. This money is not going to mean much to him, just a means to an end, and he’s not going to appreciate what he has.

Maybe, just maybe, our struggles here in this life will help us to fully appreciate the joy we’ll experience in the next life!


#13

Thanks for the explanations. I had not heard about the angels being tested before this.

cheddar


#14

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