John Carey explains the role of creation for Celtic Christians.
In his fine little book, A Single Ray of the Sun, John Carey examines aspects of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) for what we can learn from them about engaging the world around us from a Kingdom perspective.
The title of the book comes from a comment made by 7th-century abbot of Iona Adomnàn about Colum Cille, the founder of the Iona community. Colum was so acutely aware of the presence of God around him at all times, Adomnàn explained, that he could see the whole world “in a single ray of the sun.” Celtic Christians were open to the world – its past, creatures, culture, and aspirations – and they looked for elements of divine goodness and grace in the stories and artifacts of their fore-bears and contemporaries. They sought ways to incorporate the manifestations of common grace into the community and movement of God’s redeeming grace, both to enjoy the blessings of God wherever they were to be found, and to discover means of identifying and communicating with the people around them.
Celtic Christians were not original scholars, but they worked hard to maintain and disseminate Scripture and sound theological traditions. In addition, Mr. Carey explains, “in Ireland scholars and bishops were also busy with the old traditions, seeking to create a hybrid, composite culture which would be both wholly Irish and wholly Christian.” The evidence of their poetry, art, and community-building is that they were in many ways quite successful.
Mr. Carey offers a challenge to us today, to learn from these ancient believers how to realize more of the presence, promise, and power of God’s Kingdom in our own day and time: “But if no earthly society can hope to embody more than a fragment of the kingdom of heaven, that fragment may contain things which no one else has found. Each people, in each phase of its history, explores new possibilities of thought and experience; the wider and more sympathetic our gaze, the more our own sense of possibility may be enriched.”
By His common grace, God has sown beauty, goodness, and truth into the world. It is planted and grows there, waiting for the liberating work of the sons and daughters of God, to bring forth that which now lies concealed to the eyes of men, and to declare the glory of God in it (Rom. 8.19-22; Prov. 25.2). The common grace of God means that we are never far from being able to remark the goodness, beauty, and truth of God to people who are ignorant or indifferent to it, and therefore ignorant or indifferent to God.