Catholics vs. Protestants: What Do They Believe About Angels?

Do all Christians agree on the same ideas and beliefs regarding God's messengers?

BY: William D. Webber


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Hierarchy of Angels

Most Catholics know, and accept without question, the nine choirs of angel hierarchy. Though the Catholic Church has never issued an official declaration on the organization of heavenly hosts, there is a long tradition that recognizes a celestial hierarchy of angels. The nine choirs are: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels. Though the doctrine regarding the choirs of angels has been received in the Catholic Church with extraordinary unanimity, the Catholic Encyclopedia reports “no proposition touching angel hierarchies is binding on our faith.”

Most Protestants have never heard of the hierarchy of angels and have given little thought to how the heavenly hosts may be organized, especially since the idea is not directly stated in the Bible. Protestants believe the nine choirs are descriptions of the tasks assigned to the different angels, not ranks in a hierarchy.  Generally, Protestants reject the idea of nine choirs and divide the angelic order only into angels and archangels.

More Info: Read about the angel hierarchy.

Role of Angels in Church Services

Angels are more prominent in Catholic worship, reminding the faithful that they worship with the angels, archangels, and hosts of heaven. The Roman Catholic Church observes the Feast of the Archangels on September 29 and the Feast of Guardian Angels on October 2.

There is nothing comparable in the Protestant churches. In many Protestant churches, angels are seldom mentioned except at Christmas and Easter or in the Scripture reading of the day.

Praying to Angels

Although Catholic prayers are mainly to God, church doctrine affirms that prayers can be made to angels asking for intercession. Catholic Answers Forums, the largest Catholic community on the internet writes, “The Church teaches us that we should pray not only directly to God, but also to those who are close to God, those who have the power to intercede upon our behalf. Indeed, we pray to the angels to help and watch over us..." The Catholic Encyclopedia also explains that it is biblical to pray to angels for intercession. In the apocryphal Book of Tobit 12:1, “The angel Raphael says: ‘I offered thy prayer to the Lord.’” It is common for a Catholic to ask an angel for help directly. Some Catholics ask a specific archangel to come to their aid.

Protestants only pray directly to God (1 Timothy 2:5). Protestants have difficulty with prayers to angels and archangels because doing so give attributes to angels that belong only to God. For example, omnipresence and omniscience are attributes only God have. God is able to “hear” the prayers of millions at one time. The Bible does not indicate that angels have this capacity. Can angels hear prayers from more than one person at a time in different places of the world? While angels are wiser than humans, they do not know everything. Are they able to give the counsel and direction that God can? It is common for a Protestant to ask God to send angels to help while. However, with millions of Christians praying, Protestants think it’s presumptuous to think one specific angel (like Archangel Michael) can drop whatever he is doing to help one person whenever he is asked, especially since God has created innumerable angels to minister to us.

Overall Attitude Toward Angels

Both Protestants and Catholics agree that angels are never to be worshipped, but Catholics also believe angels are to be venerated. To venerate is to regard someone with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference. For Catholics, it is wrong to speak of angels with derision or to ridicule them because the Bible states that angels are part of God's plan and worthy of the highest respect. Angels are to be honored (regarded with respect) without being worshipped.

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