The Gift Of The Celts

Why has Celtic Christianity sparked such wild enthusiasm in our day?

Many reasons it seems, from its comparitive lack of Roman influence, to its love of all things elemental and primal, to its artistry of faith, to its strong endorsement of the imago Dei in humankind. Below are a few thoughts from one of our profs, Gregg Finley, mingled with some writers on Celtic Christianity (I won’t be able to quote them all), that define some of the lessons the emerging Church must learn today from the Celtic believers:

1. Celtic Christianity was all about community.

It was essentially monastic. It was not necessarily celibate. It embraced married folk, single folk and children within its communities. Dietrick Bonhoeffer writes, “The renewal of the Church will come from a new type of Monasticism, which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this.” They recognized the spiritual authority of women. They invited women and men to hold leadership positions in the communities. The priests were all men, but many of the abbeys were run by women. [Hilda and Whitby. Belong, behave, believe.]

2 Worship and mission go together: they are not opposites.

The Celts would go to solitary cells to contemplate on the mystery of God. They would also preach the Good News to whoever they met. They affected the wider culture. They were much more concerned with the transformation of the wider society than with focusing their effort on the local church. They had no ghetto mentality. Cuthbert was a most reluctant evangelist, but he preached with tremendous power when he went on mission.

3. The outworking of their strong belief in the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit in relationship saw the Celts place a priority on hospitality.

They believed in relationships more than reputation. Cuthbert made two beehive huts; one for living a solitary life and one to receive guests.

4. All of life was sacred.

There was no sacred-secular divide; no distinction between regular people and religious people. They has a big vision of God and he was Lord of all. He was as real in discussions around the fire as he was in the Eucharist. This kind of faith was accessible to all people, ordinary people. It was a life that was lived rather than a doctrine that was declared.

5. The Celts took risks for God.

They lived in abandonment to God. Life was a gift from God, therefore it could be freely lived in abandonment before the Creator. Because of this they could take great risks in the area of mission and evangelism. They could live as radicals. They could dare to discern God’s will within the context of their living and learning in community. This process often resulted in personal risk and various radical behaviours to live out their understanding of Gospel of Christ. Thomas Merton once described a contemplative person as an outlaw. In this sense the Celts were outlaws.