The Celtic Revival: Celtic Christian Worldview (6)
The Most High, foreseeing the mechanism and harmony of the world,
had made heaven and earth, established sea and waters,
and the seeds of plants, and the bushes in thickets,
sun, moon, and stars, fire and [all] needful things,
birds, fish, and cattle, beasts and animals –
and last of all the first man, to rule them through foreknowledge.
- Colum Cille, Altus Prosator (6thcentury)
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying:
“What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus…
- Hebrews 2.5-9
God created all things good. That is, the creation originally reflected the very character of God. It was whole, harmonious, orderly, diverse, holy, and, insofar as non-sentient creatures can be, brimming with love. Just like God Who made it.
God’s last pronouncement on His creation was that it was “very good” (Gen. 1.31). Why this added emphasis – very good – at the end of the six days? Because on day six God created man – male and female created He them – in His own image and likeness, and He tasked them with cultivating and guarding the creation (Gen. 2.15) so that it could continue to reflect the goodness of God in all its aspects. He also tasked them with filling the earth with offspring, who would have continued extending God’s goodness, like their parents, until the entire earth became an Eden garden.
The writer of Hebrews, citing Psalm 8, recalled the original purpose of human beings. We are made for creation. That is, we are made to understand, enjoy, and employ all aspects of the world we inhabit to bring out and enlarge the goodness of God. From the homes we inhabit to the workplaces where we labor, in all our diversions and avocations, every relationship, role, and responsibility, we are called to understand, enjoy, and use the stuff of this world to display and celebrate the goodness of God.
Celtic Christians like Colum Cille understood this. They also understood that God had made the world and everything in it, so that the world could onlyrealize His purpose as people made in His image and likeness applied themselves diligently to working and guarding the creation according to God’s Word and plan.
In our excerpt, the word foreseeing indicates the eternal counsel and plan of God. He made the world and everything in it, and He upholds it by the mechanisms of the properties, laws, and operations we observe around us all day long. These properties, laws, and operations are merely descriptions of how God – Who is faithful and unchanging – upholds the universe at all times by His Word of power (Heb. 1.3). Colum put it this way a bit later on in Altus Prosator:
By the divine powers of the great God
the globe of the earth is suspended, and the circle of the great abyss set,
held up by God, by the mighty hand of the Omnipotent.
Columns support it like bars,
promontories and cliffs, firm foundations,
like pillars planted and immovable.
Colum was not saying that the earth or the cosmos was suspended on pillars. God’s hand and Word serve like supporting bars and like pillars to uphold and keep all that He has made.
Our work is to be a mirror image of God’s work. We must apply ourselves to the stuff of creation so that we “rule through foreknowledge,” that is, through the Word of God revealed to us. The mandate to order, develop, and manage creation so that it continuously and increasingly reflects the goodness of God is upon us still. God so loved the world – the entire cosmos – that He gave His only begotten Son for the salvation of human beings, so that we might then apply ourselves to the salvation – the restoration of goodness – of all creation and culture, all our institutions and traditions, everything we are, do, enjoy, and use.
Like the writer of Hebrews, we don’t see this happening much in our day. This is a failure on our part to understand our salvation, and our calling in the world, as the writer of Hebrews did, and as Celtic Christian thinkers like Colum, Augustine, Eriugena, and others did. But if we see Jesus – truly see Him, not just as the Savior of our souls but the King of creation – then we will realize that our great salvation (Heb. 2.3) is more expansive, exciting, and fraught with adventure than merely the prospect of going to heaven when we die and being assured of forgiveness while we remain here.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Ps. 24.1). And we are stewards, tasked with ruling all aspects of the creation that come within our grasp, according to the good purposes and glorious plans of God, which He reveals to us in His Word.
Psalm 8.1-9 (Aurelia: The Church’s One Foundation)
O Savior, how majestic, Your Name in all the earth!
The heav’ns display Your glory, and tell Your wondrous worth!
From babes and nursing infants, Lord, let Your strength increase,
Till all Your foes surrender, and all their boasting cease.
When I regard Your heavens, Your handiwork above,
Ordained by Your good pleasure, according to Your love,
Then what am I, O Savior, that You take thought of me?
Or I should know Your favor and thus delivered be?
Yet we in Your own image with glory have been crowned,
To worship and to serve You throughout creation ‘round.
These works that sing Your glory in our poor hands are placed,
That we may rule before You to magnify Your grace.
Let every beast and creature, in sky or sea or field,
In our hands bring You glory as we Your favor wield.
Let all things sing Your praises, let all declare Your worth!
O Savior, how majestic, Your Name in all the earth!
Lord, show me Your great salvation, and help me to…
The glory of kings
We can learn from other believers how to appreciate God’s handiwork. One of the best at this was the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Read some of his verse and learn from him how to enjoy God in His creation by downloading our free ReVisionstudy, “Docents of Glory: Gerard Manley Hopkins” (click here).
Please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe. Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore, Principal
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.
Carey, p. 36