The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (8)
I entreat Thee by all those that had intelligence in the law of nature...
I entreat Thee by all those that had intelligence in the written law...
in the prophetic law...
in the law of the New Testament...
- Anonymous, Litany of Jesus I, Irish, 15th century, from an earlier ms.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge…
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
- Psalm 19.1, 2, 7-9
We sense in these litanies from the period just after the Celtic Revival a sincere longing for the Lord. The writers were seeking that acute sense of God’s presence that seemed in many ways to be everywhere present in previous generations, but was now less evident. Here our writer appeals to the Lord to make Himself known by two paths of “intelligence” – the law of nature and the Word of God. Our writer was obviously acquainted with both paths, and with those who had intelligence in each.
Eternal life consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ, Whom He has sent (Jn. 17.3). We don’t have to cast about in the darkness, seeking this way and that to gain the intelligence we need for knowing God. He is pleased to reveal Himself and His will along two paths – Scripture and creation.
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the primary path to the knowledge of God. These 66 books contain widely-different themes, structures, and genre, yet all contribute to the same story of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
The lesser path to the knowledge of God is found in creation, including works of culture by human beings as the image-bearers of God. God reveals Himself in such works to all who delight in them and seek Him earnestly there.
As we have seen, Christians during the period of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) traveled both these paths faithfully.
Traveling these paths is like driving Interstate 81 through Virginia. Nearly every exit on that highway provides access to state route 11, because the two roads weave around and over or under one another for the entire length of the state. I-81 is the main path, along which you get the clearest views of the beauties of the state, but route 11 will get you to the same places, only more slowly and with a more limited scope of intelligence about the state.
Scripture and creation work together like this. It behooves us, who desire to knowthe Lord, to travel both these intersecting and overlapping paths. We understand this when it comes to the Scriptures. Reading, meditating, and studying God’s Word is an important part of knowing the Lord and growing in Him.
But the same is true of the revelation of God in His world. Creation, culture, and human beings also reveal the purposes of God and the conditions of beauty, goodness, and truth. Of course, we must understand the revelation of God in creation through the lens of Scripture, which is the light in which all other light from God is made intelligible (Ps. 36.9).
We must travel both paths if we would know the Lord truly and more completely. Our ancient writer understood this, and he pled with God to make Himself known by each path of intelligence. With the Scriptures as our foundational source of understanding, we walk the path of creation and discover dramatic illustrations of the precepts and principles revealed in the Bible. God has set His glory in the works of creation, and He calls us, His royal children, to search out His glory there, and know Him better by it (Prov. 25.2).
The truth of God is plain in Scripture; the truth of God in His world gives clarity and substance to the teaching of the Bible, so that we understand the Word better and are thus better able to understand the world better as well.
Many Celtic Christians walked both these paths. Today it’s becoming increasingly common to find Christians who do not read consistently from the Scriptures. And almost no one puts any stock in the creation as a source of true theological insight. We read the Scriptures but a little, and we pay little heed to the revelation of God in creation.
We are called to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12). Let us work to improve our knowledge of our God and King by gaining intelligence of Him along both the paths He has provided.
Psalm 19.1-4, 7, 8 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The heav’ns declare God’s glory, the skies His work proclaim!
From day to day and night by night they shout His glorious Name!
No speech, no words, no voice is heard, yet all across the earth
The lines of His all-present Word make known His holy worth.
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.
Give me grace, Lord, to seek You in both books where You are making Your glory known. Help me to walk both paths of divine revelation today, so that I…
God in His World
The discipline of learning about God from creation is called creational theology. For a concise introduction to this important subject, order a copy of our book, Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology (click here).
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All psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Plummer, Litanies, p. 33.