Our God is full of surprises!
A reflection by Prof. Michael Jones, Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy.
Some of the biggest surprises I receive daily are things my children do that I never taught them. At one year old, Dominic took my socks, ran to the other side of the room, and turned back to watch me chase him. At about two years old, Edward sang his ABCs more in key than his older brother. At 18 months old, Edith can get me to do almost anything with just her eyes.
Who taught them these things? No one, but God put in each of them a mind that, in an environment of structure and play, can create new understandings.
This summer I received the surprise that I was assigned a course I’ve never taught in the Cambridge curriculum. What a delight this has been! In an ordinary week, this class, Theology, meets 3 days, and another class I teach meets the other 2 days with the same students. Before this year, I had never realized how well the subjects mesh. They are like matching gears.
This week in Theology, we heard arguments from students on this question: Are angels male and female?
All of a sudden, the students’ lessons from other subjects unexpectedly become pertinent!
From biology, what is the function of sexual differences? Do angels reproduce? Do angels even have bodies?
Here comes English! We use masculine pronouns like “he” and “him” for angels. Aren’t angels like God? Is God male?
There comes history! Masculine pronouns used to be considered the default gender. Do they always signify a male being?
Then, theology! The human authors of the bible don’t say “they” for the Holy Spirit, so they wouldn’t say “they” for an angel, would they? Should we use the neuter pronoun “it” if an angel is a person?
How the students surprised me! They took intense interest in the issue and created arguments I hadn’t taught them. I only structured the environment to foster in them a love of learning with a passion for Jesus Christ. I allowed them to play with the possibilities.
The last word on the issue today was from a female student. She says there is an error in the comments I made to the class. I said that angels have no bodies and therefore do not reproduce and therefore are not male or female. But is reproduction the only reason for male and female? Don’t masculinity and femininity make for more complete communities? What would friendships be if none of us were male or female?
Good questions that deserve good answers. We will talk about these things when we meet again for Theology. We’ll talk about marriage, the image of God (Genesis 1), and the mystery of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5).
But I want to reflect on one more surprise. The topic of angels may seem to some readers to matter very little for salvation and daily life. But how these students were able to deepen their understanding of their faith when they were challenged to say something that would stand up about angels!
The course I referred to that meets 2 days a week is Logic. What a surprise it is that God created us, that he let us sin, that he sent a savior, and that we may live by faith in him. But what a surprise, too, that God allows us to use the minds he gave us to think logically about his Word. Not to fall into unbelief but to create new depths of understanding of his authority