The Celtic Revival: Celtic Christian Worldview (1)
The exalted Creator, Ancient of Days, and Unbegotten One
was without a first beginning, or a foundation;
He is, and He will be for unending ages.
- Colum Cille, Altus Prosator (6th century)
“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.”
- Proverbs 8.22, 23
We have seen that the leaders of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) were men and women of sound learning. They steeped themselves in Scripture and in as much literature from the Fathers of the Church as they could secure. They were careful observers and grateful partakers of the created world around them. And their insights to the workings of the soul and operations of the life of faith remain instructive for us today.
So it should not surprise us to find that a particular worldview was present throughout these years, a framework of beliefs and understandings that outlined the demands of faith and motivated great and varied undertakings for the Lord.
We turn now to consider certain aspects of that worldview. A worldview is simply an attempt to make sense of the world, to put observations and experience together into a meaningful and coherent explanation of how and why we live the way we do. As we shall see in the installments that follow, the Celtic Christian worldview has much to offer us, living as we do in this age of increasing paganism, to encourage and guide us in seeking revival, renewal, and awakening in our own times.
We begin with Colum, that great missionary/monk, who embodied, perhaps more than any other of the Celtic Christian leaders, the life of scholarship, piety, and mission. In his poem, Altus Prosator (“First High-Sower”), Colum provides a Biblical framework for understanding life in the world of his day. The poem itself is highly structured, thus suggesting that the world is orderly and knowable, and can be shaped for beauty and glory. In 23 stanzas, Colum instructs us to see the world from the vantage point of God. He alone is eternal. He is the Creator of all that exists. He is the Wisdom from “before there was ever an earth” by Whom we must be guided if we would know full and abundant life.
The Christian worldview begins in God, Who “disposes all movements without movement of His own, Who sees the past, present and future ages of His creatures equally, for Whom nothing is past, nothing remains to come, but all things are present. Nothing that is good offends Him, nothing that is evil gives Him pleasure, by Whom nothing was created by nature evil which in itself is only the corruption of created good” (Liber de Ordine Creaturarum 1.2). God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each equally God, but each having His unique role to play in realizing the economy of glory and blessing God is unfolding in the world.
God’s purpose in creating all things was “so that He might reveal through created things all the vast goodness and power and benevolence which beforehand He had possessed within Himself alone…” (Augustine Hibernicus, On the Miracles of the Holy Scripture). This He chose freely to do, to bless His creatures with fullness of life and joy, and to realize from them the recognition of His glory and goodness, not to add anything to Himself, but to increase the joy of His creatures.
We are in danger of losing this perspective in our day. The tendency among Christians today is to think of worldview – when we think of it at all – in terms of our own interests, needs, culture, institutions, history, and longings. Rather than seek first the Lord and His Kingdom and righteousness, we seek first to identify our interests and needs, then set about to see how the Lord might be enlisted to fulfill these. We begin our worldview from the wrong starting-point, and thus we cannot fail to articulate a worldview that neither satisfies nor performs.
A proper Christian worldview begins and ends in God alone. “Know the LORD!” was the great cry of all the prophets, the promise of eternal life which Jesus achieved, and the quest and mission of the apostles and saints who followed in their footsteps. We can learn from our Celtic Christian forebears how to get in step with the worldview of Scripture, so that we, like they did before, may realize true revival, renewal, and awakening in our day.
1. What do you understand by the term “worldview”? Why does “worldview” matter?
2. What would you say are some of the crucial points of your worldview?
Psalm 42.1-5 (Nettleton: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing)
As the deer pants for fresh water let my soul, Lord, pant for You!
Let my soul thirst as it ought to for the Savior, ever true!
Tears by day have been my portion, tears by night have been my food,
While my foes add to my sorrow, saying, “Where now is your God?”
Now I pour my soul out in me as these thoughts come to my mind.
And I long to once again be where true worship I might find.
Oh my soul, be not despairing! Hope in God, and praise His Name!
For the Lord, your burden bearing, will restore your peace again.
In all I do, O Lord, and in all the time of my life, be Thou my vision, so that I…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
 Carey, p. 33.