- Guardian angels
- Role of angels in daily life
- Angel names in the Bible
- Hierarchy of Angels
- Role of angels in church services
- Praying to angels
- Overall attitude toward angels
What is the difference between what Protestants believe about angels and what Roman Catholics believe?
How do Catholics and Protestants differ in their beliefs about angels? Surprisingly, this is not an easy question to answer. Both Protestants and Catholics agree on basic beliefs about angels, but there is no “official”list of beliefs about angels. Both believe what the Bible says, but there is still a difference between the Bible used by Catholics and Protestants. The Catholic Bible includes apocryphal books not included in the Protestant Bible. Apocryphal books include the Book of Tobit which mentions the Archangel Raphael. While Protestants accept only what is found in the Bible, the Catholic Church also accepts church traditions and teachings about angels.
The following is what I understand to be the generally accepted Catholic and Protestant views on angels.
The term "guardian angel" is not found anywhere in the Bible, but the popular belief for both Protestants and Catholics is that each person has a guardian angel to lead, guard, and guide. Generally, Catholics believe that guardian angels are given at conception, but most Protestants give little thought as to when guardian angels are assigned. Because the Bible gives so few details, some Protestant and Catholic theologians believe that, instead of God assigning one angel to a person for life, God assigns different angels to a person at different times. There may even be times when a person has more than one angel.
Role of Angels in Daily Life
During childhood, Catholics are encouraged to recognize the unseen presence of angels in their lives. A common prayer recited by Catholic children is, “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.” In some parochial schools, children save a place on their chairs for their angels.
While Protestants agree that angels are always with us, many place little emphasis on being aware of their presence. Recognized or not, angels are always present and active, although those who take angels for granted are less likely to be aware of the ministry of angels in their lives.
Angel Names in the Bible
Even though only Michael, Gabriel, and the fallen angel Satan (Lucifer) are mentioned by name in the Bible, the Catholic Apocrypha also mentions Raphael. In addition, the Catholic Church has recognized several other angels by name.
Protestants note only Michael, Gabriel, and the fallen angel Satan (Lucifer) are the angels with names in the Bible. Some Protestants also believe Michael is the only archangel mentioned by name (Jude 9).
More Info: Read about archangels.
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.
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.