Tag Archives: Celtic Christianity

Celtic spirituality: What’s real, and what’s usable?

Christine Sine, over at her blog, has offered the following list of some distinctives of Celtic spirituality that lead her to embrace it.

  1. Central to Celtic spirituality is incarnation and an intense sense of the presence of God.
  2. A belief in the thinness of the veil between this world and the next.
  3. Importance of little things – no task is too trivial to be sanctified by prayer and blessing
  4. All of life flows to a rhythm of ebb and flow reflected in the natural world.
  5. A strong sense of sin and of the presence of evil forces in the world resulted in a strong recognition of the need for penitence which often led to austerely ascetic lives.
  6. Celtic Christians adapted well to the culture in which they operated

For explanations, expansions, and examples under the individual points, see the full post.

While I think these are wonderful values, I wonder (as with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s article posted on earlier) on what historical grounds we can conclude that these traits (and the sub-traits noted by Sine) were in fact true of Celtic spirituality. Robert Webber pointed out in his The Younger Evangelicals that the whole movement to appropriate Celtic spirituality has been on shaky ground historically (I don’t have the book handy, so I can’t look up the reference).

Again, I am not dismissing Sine’s list (though some of the qualities listed seem true of many other Christian traditions besides the Celtic), just as I appreciate and support many of the values expressed by Wilson-Hartgrove. What I am asking is that before we re-appropriate supposed facets of past Christian movements, we do our historical homework.

Also, this is not an area of expertise for me, so I’d be interested to hear comments from readers on this one.

Department of oxymorons: Ten “hot issues” in Christian history today

Another re-post from Christianity Today’s history blog:

Department of Oxymorons: Ten “Hot Issues” in Christian History Today

by Chris Armstrong


We moderns (and even we postmoderns) love top-ten lists. David Letterman has even managed to prop up a wilting career by providing one daily.

This list reaches fearlessly into the land of the oxymoron – you know, those lovely self-contradictory statements: “jumbo shrimp,” “airline food,” “Microsoft Works™.” The oxymoron for today: “Hot issues in history.”

That was the topic put to me a couple of years ago when my seminary’s sister undergraduate institution, Bethel College, was looking to spiff up the Christian history content of its Western Civ curriculum. Would I come talk to the course’s cadre of professors about what’s “new and exciting” in this field of history? So I took my best shot.

I can’t say my colleagues in the guild of Christian historians are staying awake nights wrestling with any of the following 10 issues. But these are all matters that I’ve recently seen discussed – some of them with some heat – by historically conscious evangelicals. If there is a theme to the list, it is this: How does our history define us, and how should it?

So here goes: Continue reading

“St. Patrick’s Breastplate”–original poem and hymn

Though probably not from Patrick himself (it is more likely dated to the 8th than the 5th century), “St. Patrick’s Lorica” (breastplate) is a stirring piece of early Celtic devotion. I’ll give it here first in a translation printed in Christian History’s issue on Celtic Christianity. Then I’ve added the 1889 hymnic adaptation by Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of Anglican primate for Ireland William Alexander. You can hear the tune for that hymn here.

For some further information on Patrick and Celtic Christianity, see this post.

I Rise Today
The most famous Celtic prayer shows why the Celts are known for exalting both creation and the Creator.
“Patrick” | posted 10/01/1998 12:00AM

I rise today
in the power’s strength, invoking the Trinity
believing in threeness,
confessing the oneness,
of creation’s Creator. Continue reading