Angels & Demons: A Patristic Perspective — Book Review

Angels & Demons: A Patristic Perspective — Book Review

Angels-and-Demons1Angels & Demons, written by Dr. Harry Boosalis and published by Saint TIkhon’s Monastery Press, is a short, one-hundred page introductory-level piece to the spiritual realm of angels and demons. Based on lectures in Dr. Harry’s first year dogmatics course, the book is divided into three chapters, Angels, Demons, and The Enigma of Evil, and covers an array of interesting queries. The book’s byline, A Patristic Perspectives, holds true, as each page prominently displays footnotes featuring expanded quotes and citations from Scripture and Fathers of the Church. In spite of being a thin, easy read, this piece packs a powerful (and patristic) punch.

Beginning with Angels, Dr. Harry talks about angelic time, appearances, bodies, nature, freedom, and their role in Orthodox Liturgical Worship. In addition, he covers guardian angels and their importance, ending with a full page of patristic prayers and hymns to one’s guardian angels. Angels appear to be without bodies or materiality when compared to humans, Dr. Harry notes in the tradition of St. John of Damascus, but compared to God, their spiritual bodies have a sort of heaviness and materiality. In this way, we understand that angels are created and material (in a sense) just like we are, though they are without a physical material body. Angelic freedom, of particular interest when speaking of the fall, is a result of a near instantaneous choice, upon their creation, from which all their other actions follow. In other words, once an angel chooses, he cannot unchoose, as his being is forever oriented in the direction of his choice. And there are only two directions: toward or away from God. Finally, before moving on to the chapter on demons, Dr. Harry reminds us that there are more angels than demons, as scripture attests that around one-third of the angels fell.

Chapter two, on demons, begins with a section on satan’s pride, followed by his envy of man. Dr. Harry comments that because of satan’s choice, he is forever unable to be grateful. And this is why ungratefulness, like that of the Israelites, is a grave sin, and why we must learn to be grateful for all things and in all situations. Next, Dr. Harry survey’s demonic power by looking at the accounts of their activity in scripture. Intrusive thoughts are a prime way that demonic activity is manifest today—and as the Fathers say, one cannot sin in deed if he has not first sinned in thought. Another danger is spiritual delusion. It is particularly dangerous to look for spiritual signs or ask for spiritual contact—the demons will gladly give these to you. But, as scripture tells us, it their signs may not look demonic, as some can manifest as angels of light. Dr. Harry offers some practical advice about dealing with intrusive thoughts and demonic delusion, including the Jesus Prayer, before concluding with a short treatise on Christ the conqueror.

The last chapter covers a topic close to the heart of man: evil. Why does evil exist? How can a good God and evil exist at the same time? Dr. Harry begins by citing the Fathers in the fact that evil does not actually exist, per se. Even, “demons are not evil according to their nature, but on account of their abandonment of pursuing the angelic virtues, which are, in fact, natural to them. Paradoxically, demons are evil not because of something in their nature, but rather something which is not” (80). God did not create evil; evil is the outcome of freedom used wrongly. Whenever we are given the choice to choose, or not choose, God, then the alternative of God, who is life and fullness, is always there. And this alternative is death, emptiness.

If any of these topics interest you, I would highly recommend getting the book. The short section (maybe two pages) on time and eternity alone is worth it. The book is approachable and worth reading. It could also serve as a quick reference for what the Fathers have to say about these topics. I highly recommend it.
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About The Author

Ben Cabe
Ben Cabe is an artist, writer, and visual communicator. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian he aspires to learn from, and write within the framework of, the teachings of the Church Fathers. He is a husband and father of two children. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, roasting coffee, reading, writing, and composing music.

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