I’ve recently come back to The Church and have an agnostic wife and step-daughter. We’ve been having a lot of religious discussions lately and I constantly pray for their conversion. PLEASE PRAY FOR US! Although it’s not a pivotal question for her, she can’t understand why Satan or other fallen angels couldn’t repent if they know they are going to lose in the end.
All I could do was quote the catechism but that wasn’t good enough. Does anyone have further insight?
392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: "You will be like God."270 The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is "a liar and the father of lies."271
393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death."272
“For it is IMPOSSIBLE [practically speaking] for those who have once been enlightened, and tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.”
While the text in this instance is most likely specifically addressing Jewish Converts who apostatized and went back to Judaism, the connotation would seem to address apostasy in general, that is, once a person fully tastes of the truth and grace of God, if they abandon it, it will be essentially [although not absolutely] impossible for the person to repent.
Hence, there is a sense in which God can only give you so much truth and grace and love before there is nothing left to give, short only of the Beatific Vision itself. Hence, in a sense, if the being fully understands God (that is, Catholicism and all doctrinal development) and tastes of sanctifying grace, if they even reject God after all that, there is essentially nothing that can bring them back.
Also, it becomes, as it were, a type of unforgivable sin, the situation that will exist at the end of the world, in that, after humanity experiences the fullness of the Gentiles, and receives all Catholic teaching and development, once they rebel, there is nothing more God can do for them. In effect, they will be insulting God completely because they will have understood Him to the fullest possible degree (again, short of the Beatific Vision) and received His Love, hence, when, after all that, they tell him to take a hike, it will be an irrevocable rebellion, ultimately insulting to God, and hence, unforgivable.
So, in other words, herein is the key difference between man and the angels. When man fell the first time, he did not have anything close to the full understanding of God. Not that he was not guilty of sin in the proper sense, but that since his knowledge was not nearly full and only primitive, it is a fall that can be healed and forgiven. Hence, as salvation history progresses, even though there are repeated manifestations of this fallen nature, none of them (except the last one) are unforgivable nor unhealable, because God has not yet given them the fullness of His truth and grace. But again, once man experiences the fullness of the Gentiles, man will have fully understood and tasted of everything, so then they will be both irredeemable and unforgivable at the very end.
But, with the angels, it’s a once and done deal. The angels are pure spirits, unimpeded by physical steps and stages that humans must go through, hence, in a sense, the angel comes to understand very quickly, if not even all at once, and hence, it utterly considers all angles, fully comprehends, so that once it makes up its mind, there is no turning back. So then, it seems it would have been intrinsically impossible for the angels not to come to full knowledge once the revelation is given and to be mutable after their total irrevocable choice.
Hence, the angels understanding the entire Plan for the future Creation and its spiritual stages and dogmas, their first choice is their last, irrevocable, and, if they fall, unforgivable.
Beautiful explanation from SPauline above, by the way…!!
I have little to add, other than to add (!?) that an Angel must never contradict himself, just as doctrinal development (exposition/decision) must never contradict past doctrine.
Angels, as “messengers” of God, exhibit that characteristic of “divine things” which precludes them from contradicting themselves,… thus, once they’ve “willed a decision” it is made and irrevocable.
My personal view on the subject of why some Angels “fell” in the first place was because it annoyed some of them no end (literally!) that these “newbie human critters” could make decisions and then change their minds, and they couldn’t.
“Imagine…!”, they thought, “…God granted THOSE things powers ‘superior’ to OURS…!”
…which instantly messed them up for eternity.
Mahalo ke Akua…!
E pili mau na pomaikai iaoe. Aloha nui.
spauline please forgive me if I restate some of what you’ve said.
I would say that a fall of an angel is the unforgivable sin, a denial of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore this is done with full knowledge, staring God in the Face and denying Him.
 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
 And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Plus, I believe that an angel does not have the benefit of time that we have to come to repent.
May all who are not yet of Gods people have my prayers that they will, in time, come to the realization of His Love and especially today for the wife and step daughter of my brother in Christ, ryanoneil
We human beings have bodies. We are a composite of matter and spirit. Our knowledge comes first through sensory input, which is integrated by the brain and nervous system and then abstracted by the intellect (spirit) to form ideas and thoughts.
Because we constantly have sensory input coming in, as well as emotions and new experiences, we often change our minds.
Angels don’t work like that. They have no bodies. Their knowledge is “intuitive.” When making a decision, they have all the information they will ever have. There will be no new input, no emotions, no new experiences occuring over time.
Thus, when they make a decision, it is firm. An act of the angelic will is a steel trap springing shut, a decision which will never change.
Repentance involves a change of mind, a change of heart.
Angels, once having made a decision, do not change their minds.
[quote=Keikolo]Beautiful explanation from SPauline above, by the way…!!
and thank you too, Keikolo!
no problem! However, I would caution about, “they saw God face to face.” I think most theologians would say they were in heaven but did not see the Beatific Vision in the test. Reason being is, this is the foundational reason why sin is not possible in the heaven of Beatific Vision. For to see and possess the Unseen, Immeasurably Loving and Glorious, Uncreated God is so indescribable, one “cannot look away” (and hence sin.). Hence, theologians in general would say, the angels were in “heaven” prior to the test, and as they “grew in knowledge” (whatever that entailed), but they had to “merit” the Beatific Vision by making a free choice. Those that passed were admitted. Those that did not immediately went into eternal fire. They never saw God face to face, then. At least presumably.
Time is an earthly thing. In the Beatific Vision, there is not time… it is just NOW. Almost too much to grasp.
The angels who fell made a decision in the NOW - a rejection that there is no time limit or span on… it is NOT 5 minutes later in heaven… 5 min ago, like 5 years from when I write this, like 500 years ago, like 15 yeaars from when I write this, it is still the same time in heaven: NOW.
Since this is the Apologetics section I hope that a dissenting voice is allowed.
Is it time to once again bring out my beloved story from an old patericon?
It is the common opinion of run-of-the-mill theologians that the fallen angels have had their eternal fate decided and are in hell forever, and have irrevocably chosen against God. While the theologians certainly have their opinions the Saints, always much better theologians, may be at odds with them.
For example, Saint Isaac the Syrian (7th century) wrote:
“What is a merciful heart? It is a heart that burns with love for the whole creation — for men, for birds, for beasts, for demons and for every creature.”
Saint Isaac is not only wonderful and holy. He is also disturbing. I have no answers to this puzzle, but I do cherish the suspicion that our Lord expects us to mull it over a bit. Perhaps He has left us this Saint as a kind of gentle question mark placed over some of our certainties. Not over the essential ones, for Isaac himself is proof of those, but perhaps over others that we - not God - have declared certain.
And the story I mentioned from an ancient Patericon:
Don’t swoop on me, or lash me, or call me a heretic!
I know the theological pitfalls in
this story – but I still like this story!
It resonates in my old Irish heart.
…With the Sign of the Cross, the old monk Abba
Joseph trapped in his cell a dark and miserable demon
who had come to tempt him. “Release me, Father, and let
me go,” pleaded the demon, “I will not come to tempt you
again”. "I will gladly do that, but on one condition,"
replied the monk. “You must sing for me the song that
you sang before God’s Throne on high, before your fall.”
The demon responded, “You know I cannot do that; it will
cause me cruel torture and suffering. And besides, Father,
no human ear can hear its ineffable sweetness and live,
for you will surely die.” “Then you will have to remain
here in my cell,” said the monk, “and bear with me the
full struggle of repentance.” “Let me go, do not force me
to suffer,” pleaded the demon." "Ah, but then you must
sing to me the song you sang on high before your fall with Satan."
So the dark and miserable demon, seeing that there was
no way out, began to sing, haltingly, barely audible
at first, groping for words long forgotten. As he sang,
the darkness which penetrated and surrounded him began
slowly to dissipate. The song grew ever louder and
increasingly stronger, and soon the demon was caught
up in its sweetness, his voice fully lifted up in worship
and praise. Boldly he sang of the power and the honour
and the glory of the Triune God on High, Creator of the
Universe, Master of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible
and invisible. As the song sung on high before all ages
resounded in the fullness of its might, a wondrous and
glorious light penetrated the venerable Abba’s humble cell,
and the walls which had enclosed it were no more. Ineffable
love and joy surged into the very depths of the being
of the radiant and glorious angel, as he ever so gently
stooped down and covered with his wings the lifeless body
of the old hermit who had liberated him from the abyss of hell.