Dear Fr. Fortea, why did God put demons to the test?
The real question is, why did God not grant all the angels the Beatific Vision from the first moment of their creation? Why did He take the chance that some of them would rebel against Him and become demons? God could have created angelic spirits and immediately given them the grace of the Beatific Vision. This was perfectly possible for His omnipotence, and it would have been perfectly just to do so. But there were some powerful reasons for testing the angels before granting them the Beatific Vision.
First, God had to give to each rational being a degree of happiness. Everyone in heaven sees God, but no one can enjoy Him to an infinite degree; this is impossible for a finite being. Each finite creature enjoys to the fullest degree possible without wanting more. A common analogy used to understand this metaphysical concept is that of a glass: God fills each glass (i.e., soul) to the rim but each glass is a specific size based on its degree of glory.
God, in His wisdom, decided that each angel would determine its degree of glory for eternity by its response to a divine test. Each angel determined its degree of happiness by the degree of generosity, love, constancy, and other virtues it displayed in the test. A spirit can grow in its faith and in its generosity toward God before it sees Him. But once admitted to the Beatific Vision, no further growth is possible–there can no longer be growth in faith where there is vision. Above all, the period of testing offered the angels the opportunity to grow in the theological virtues, and some angels would grow more in the virtue of perseverance, others in humility, others in petition, etc.
Offering a being the possibility of faith also supposes the risk that in this same being evil may flourish instead of faith. God, by giving free will to the angels and human beings, knew that freedom, once bestowed, could be used for good or evil. Of course, God could have created the cosmos in any way he liked, without any restrictions or limits. But a saint is not created; one becomes a saint through the action of grace. The gift of freedom allows for a Hitler as well as a [Saint] Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Once the gift of freedom has been given, consequences–good or evil–flow from every act of the will. In the material cosmos there is no spiritual good; the good of the cosmos is purely physical. Spiritual (or moral) good is qualitatively superior but necessarily requires a free choice. Thus, the appearance of moral evil in no way upset God’s plan. The possibility of evil was already part of the divine plan before the creation of thinking beings.
Finally, the most important and powerful reason for God’s granting angels the gift of freedom was for them to love. God loves His creation, and He desires to be loved in return. But love requires receptivity–it must be received freely (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1828). The same God who can create the cosmos with only an act of His will cannot create that love that is born and proven in the suffering of the faith. The love of God is not created; it must be freely given by a created being.
To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.
Art for this post “Why did God Put the Demons to the Test?”: Statue en marbre de Lucifer (par Guillaume Geefs) à la cathédrale Saint-Paul de Liège (Belgique) [Marble Statue of Lucifer in Saint Paul Cathedral Liège, Belgium], Guillaume Geefs (1805-1883), 19th century, photographed by Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be, 2008, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Detail of Padre José Antonio Fortea 2017, photographed by Elgatoconbotaselgatoconbotas, 5 May 2017 own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International; both Wikimedia Commons. Cover of “Interview with an Exorcist” used with permission, all rights reserved.