Not every supernatural being claiming to be an angel really is.
C.S. Lewis’ most familiar discussion of fallen angels (also refered to as demons) appears in The Screwtape Letters. In the preface, he describes the equally disastrous errors people can fall into when pondering the occult.
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
In a separate discussion, Lewis acknowledges the different opinions Christians can have on the subject, and he notes that it is not a salvific concern.
No reference to the Devil or devils is included in any Christian Creeds, and it is quite possible to be a Christian without believing in them. I do believe such beings exist, but that is my own affair. Supposing there to be such beings, the degree to which humans were conscious of their presence would presumably vary very much.
I mean, the more a man was in the Devil’s power, the less he would be aware of it, on the principle that a man is still fairly sober as long as he knows he’s drunk. It is the people who are fully awake and trying hard to be good who would be most aware of the Devil . . .
Of course, they don’t want you to believe in the Devil. If devils exist, their first aim is to give you an anaesthetic—to put you off your guard. Only if that fails, do you become aware of them. (“Answers to Questions on Christianity”)
I have mentioned in the past one of my seminary professors who served in Madagascar as a medical missionary. He had since become a successful psychiatrist. When he left for Africa, he did not believe in the existence of demons.
A final observation about demons, or devils as he typically refers to them: they act in a manner opposite to God. In That Hideous Strength, he includes the observation that, “In fighting those who serve devils one always has this on one’s side; their Masters hate them as much as they hate us.”
This echoes a truthful dialectic.
God loves everyone, even those who hate him. While Lucifer hates everyone, even those who love him.
An Ancient Illustration
I’ve been reading recently wisdom from the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They left ancient Roman cities to pursue spiritual growth as hermits and monks beginning in the middle of the third century.
The history of Christian monasticism is fascinating. All the way up to our own day, male and female monastics of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions have pursued holiness by this particular path.
A common occurrence for desert monks involved waging spiritual warfare of a more intense nature than most of us ever experience. I particularly enjoyed the following encounter (which reminded me of Martin Luther’s advice about ridiculing Satan and his minions). The following episode comes from an ancient collection of Desert sayings.
“The devil appeared to a monk disguised as an angel of light, and said to him, ‘I am the angel Gabriel, and I have been sent to you.’ But the monk said, ‘Are you sure you weren’t sent to someone else? I am not worthy to have an angel sent to me.’ At that the devil vanished.”
Good riddance, C.S. Lewis and I would agree.
The image above is of a tattoo whose “wearer” will one day experience great remorse.