The Celtic Revival: Celtic Christian Worldview (3)
For indeed we believe as historical truth apart from any allegories, that the firmament, the sea, the earth, the luminaries and stars and even the animals of land and sea and man himself were created just as the Scripture of Genesis outlines.
- Liber de Ordine Creaturarum, Irish, 7th century
“For insix days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that isin them, and rested the seventh day.”
- Exodus 20.11
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
- Psalm 33.8, 9
I am persuaded that the simple faith of those ancient Celts – taking God at His Word for all His Word – is a large part of the reason God honored them with such an expansive season of revival (ca. 430-800 AD). Their worldview was grounded in His Word, which they took at face value, without any sense of needing to adjust the Word to suit the temper of their times.
They were solid Biblical scholars, and God honored their worldview and their labors accordingly.
A fundamental protocol of Biblical exegesis goes by the rather impressive name of the analogy of Scripture. If you want to understand the Bible, you have to know how to use this protocol, for by this means the Holy Spirit leads us to compare Scriptures in order to discern truth (1 Cor. 2.12, 13).
The analogy of Scripture involves, as The Westminster Confession of Faith points out in chapter 1, trying to understand obscure or difficult passages of the Bible, by turning to other passages that shed light on those more difficult or obscure passages.
Scripture, in other words, must be its own best commentary. Every good student of Scripture understands that. The anonymous writer of the Liber de Ordine Creaturarum certainly did.
Today the issue of how to interpret Genesis 1 and 2 is heating up again among the followers of Christ. In many Christian circles, those who believe the account of Genesis 1 and the creation week precisely as it is written are harrumphed and dismissed as obstacles to an intelligent faith. A true understanding of the Bible, we are told, needs to submit to what is reasonable and scientific, which, according to them, a six-24-hour-days creation is not.
James Turner argued in his book, Without God, Without Creed, that that kind of reasoning – faith in submission to reason – is what has turned America from a nation under God to a nation that believes anything at all. Defaulting to science and reason and the temper of the times, rather than following the plain teaching of Scripture, is a form of Scripture twisting, and of employing a hermeneutic of conveniencerather than the analogy of Scripture.
If we apply the analogy of Scripture to Genesis 1, what do we find? Look: In Exodus 20.8-11 the writer is reflecting on the subject at hand. He seems to have been of the opinion that the six-days-working/one-day-of-rest pattern of the Ten Commandments reflects the actual events of Genesis 1, precisely as written.
And here is a psalmist, who not only confirms the teaching of Genesis and Exodus, but who attaches believing the Scripture as it is written to fearing the Lord. Do we wonder why the fear of God is in such sharp decline in our day? Or why church leaders are so quick to accommodate whatever worldly breeze tries to force its way into our worship or ethics?
We could cite many more similar examples from the Word of God. The Writer in all these texts is not the anonymous Irish scribe from the 7thcentury, whom we might look down on as “medieval”, but God Himself, speaking through His servants. God Himself instructs us how to think about Genesis 1. The Irish scribe understood that well. How about us?
Shall we say to God, “Ha ha ha, Lord, very amusing, and how quaint that you should persist in encouraging us to believe what science and reason tell us is utterly impossible”? Celtic Christians had enough faith to trust God’s Word just as it is written. Trusting in God’s Word as God’s Word, they launched a revival that saved civilization (according to Thomas Cahill).
How’s that compare with where we stand at present?
While we may think we “know better” than they, we have a long way to go before our way of understanding Scripture results in the kind of vibrancy and transforming power demonstrated by those quaint, naïve, backward, unreasonable, souls-saving, world-changing missionary/monks.
Ours may be a faith that accommodates the intellectual tensions of our age in flight from God. But theirs was a faith that empowerd them for revival, renewal, and awakening.
Psalm 33.6-9 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
God spoke and heaven came to be, and all its hosts His Spirit wrought.
He heaps the waters of the sea; the deeps their dwelling place are taught.
Let all below now fear the Lord; let all in awe of Him abide!
The worlds exist by Jesus’ Word; let all on earth in Him confide.
Ground me in Your Word, O God, that I may hear and believe and obey Your Word only, lest I…
Introduction to Christian Worldview
For many of us, the subject of Christian worldview is a matter of interest, but also a mountain too big to climb. If only we had some easy handles with which to grip this subject; then we could begin making some progress in understanding it. At The Ailbe Seminary we’re pleased to offer the course, One in Twelve, a self-paced introduction to Christian worldview using 12 diagrams and a variety of related study materials. In 12 brief videos I’ll show you how to organize your thinking and daily life for seeking Christ and His Kingdom according to a Christian worldview. The course materials will help you take this thinking into your walk with and work for the Lord. Study online and at your own pace. The course and all the materials are free. Simply click herefor more information and to register.
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Liber, J. A. Davies, trans., p. 17.