Ed Rocha. Angels—God’s Supernatural Agents: Biblical Insights and True Stories of Angelic Encounters. Minneapolis: Chosen, 2017. See here to purchase the book.
The “About the Author” section on Amazon states:”Ed Rocha has a theology degree from International Bible Institute of London and is currently pursuing his M.A. in theology. His healing ministry takes him all over the world to speak and teach. Ed and his wife, Dani, have a daughter and split their time between the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they are planting a church with the Global Awakening network.”
The book is entitled Angels—God’s Supernatural Agents: Biblical Insights and True Stories of Angelic Encounters. That is essentially what the book is: a collection of anecdotes about encounters with angels, combined with appeals to Scripture to answer questions about angels.
The anecdotes include experiences of the author and people he knows. They include angels finding people’s lost items and retrieving them, healing people, fixing people’s cars, replacing people’s mercury fillings with gold fillings, leaving feathers and golden dust in churches, and healing a person of addiction in response to someone else’s prayer. Perhaps realizing that some of this sounds rather carnivalesque, Rocha attempts to explain why angels would do such things. Rocha refers to Hebrews 1:14, which calls angels ministering spirits to those who will inherit salvation. In light of that, he wonders, why wouldn’t angels help Christians find their missing items? Rocha also believes that angels do such things as signs to people, as Jesus did miracles to demonstrate to people who he was. And benevolence is also a factor, for Rocha: Why wouldn’t angels replace people’s toxic fillings with sturdy golden fillings? (I read that part of the book the day before I got a filling, by the way!)
On whether or not I find Rocha’s stories to be believable, I don’t know. If there are angels, maybe they do things like that. Of course, there are problem-of-evil questions: Why don’t angels do these things all of the time? Why do Christians endure tragedies or even die from them, if angels intervene to help people? And can I truly expect God to send angels to turn my fillings into gold? Rocha does not really engage such questions. The closest he gets is when he talks about a charismatic pastor who has a deformed face, and a renowned preacher in the Azusa Street revival who was blind in one of his eyes. God was physically healing people around these preachers, but not them, and they actually viewed that as an asset to their ministry. Rocha also explores the question of how people can come to have angelic encounters: for Rocha, it is not a matter of being moral, for God used imperfect people in the Bible. Rather, it is a matter of having a thirst for God. Rocha raises considerations that may be relevant to problem-of-evil questions, but he does not directly engage such questions.
I should add that Rocha links to a video in which an angel swoops down from heaven in a mall and picks something up: see https://vimeo.com/147844409. Is that real, or special effects? Draw your own conclusions there! I guess that, if I have a policy, it is to ask God for what I want, and the ball is in God’s court: If God wants to send me an angel, fine, but, if not, then God must have a reason.
As far as Rocha’s biblical interpretation is concerned, it was good, overall. Rocha addresses such questions as when God created angels, whether angels have wings, and what angels do. Rocha’s methodology is not historical-critical, so he does not interpret the Bible in light of ancient Near Eastern stories about gods’ retinues. His overall approach is to ask a question and to cite biblical passages that are relevant to that question. Occasionally, he does more. In addressing the question of when God created angels, for example, Rocha’s methodology is rather rabbinic, as he brings together different biblical passages and draws his conclusions. That may be controversial to historical critics of the Bible, particularly those who believe that the Bible contains different creation stories and thus would be reluctant, say, to interpret Genesis 1 in light of Job 38:7. Still, Rocha does cite relevant biblical passages in addressing questions about angels, showing that he cares about what the Bible says, not just religious experience.
Rocha’s sensitivity to nuances in Scripture is evident in his interesting observation that Jesus himself could not summon angels, for Jesus in Matthew 26:53 says that he could ask the Father to send angels. While one may think that a book such as this wrongly focuses on angels more that God, my conclusion after reading it is different: Rocha focuses on God, and he depicts angels as beings who are God’s servants.
Rocha says that God sits on a literal throne, in a literal heaven, and that may be controversial. To his credit, though, Rocha demonstrates awareness as to why such a proposition may be controversial, and he says that God, in sitting on a throne, condescends to our level of understanding. There were areas, like here, in which Rocha was willing to get into unconventional territory, but there were also areas in which I wished that he would wrestle with difficult issues. For example, on the basis of Matthew 22:30, he states that angels are “asexual.” What about the sons of God who have sex with the daughters of men in Genesis 6? Rocha does not address that.
In terms of areas of disagreement, Rocha discusses angelic hierarchies, drawing from the fifth century Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Thomas Aquinas, who based their angelic hierarchies on Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16. In the second sphere are dominions or lordships and powers or authorities, and in the third sphere are principalities or rulers. My quibble is not so much with what Rocha says, as it is with what he does not say. There are places in the New Testament in which the principalities and powers are depicted negatively (Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15; perhaps I Corinthians 2:7-8). Are these angels? Renegade angels? Are there different kinds of principalities and rulers—-good and evil? The book would have been better had Rocha explored such questions.
Rocha is a compelling storyteller, and his tone is conversational and winsome. I especially liked his discussions of the charismatic pastor he knows: Rocha respects this pastor, yet disagrees with him, in areas.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews and Netgalley. My review is honest!