Keith Hunt - Celtic Church in Britain #12   Restitution of All Things
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The Celtic Church in Britain #12

Conclusions


THE CLETIC CHURCH IN BRITAIN #12

by Leslie Hardinge (1972)

CONCLUSIONS


     And so the end of this investigation of the beliefs and
practices of the Celtic Church in Britain has been reached. A
group of Christian people has been considered, who emerge into
history without a pedigree and disappear without posterity. As a
desert stream, gushing from a secret spring, for a while
irrigates the wilderness, bringing life and fragrance into being,
and then disappears, so Celtic Christians for more than two
centuries nourished Europe with the evangel of God. Carried
forward with enthusiasm and devotion, seasoned with individuality
and good will, the salutary message of grace crossed England and
Scotland into Europe. And when the ravages of war, and the almost
equally devastating arguments of angry factions, threatened the
ruin of the Church on the European mainland, Celtic Christians in
the far west preserved and brought again into the current of
European life the vital principles of the gospel of the Lord
Jesus Christ.

(The truth of the matter is that Celtic Christianity had been in
Britain since the first few years after the death and
resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The author of this study
did not know that or did not research it or did not want to
believe it. For hundreds of years before the church of Rome came
to Britain about 500 AD, true Christianity reigned in those
special Isles of Great Britain. But as time went on like has so
often as happened pure truth became forgotten and corrupted. The
Celtic people were still hanging on to some truths when Rome
arrived, and called them Jewish heretics, and claimed they were
Judaizing. The truth of when the true Gospel came to Briatin is
on this website under this section of history - Keith Hunt)

     The seventh and eighth centuries were a time of transition
and conformity for Celtic Christians. During these years their
ancient usages gave place to those of Rome. Had there actually
been regular intercourse between believers in the Celtic west and
their fellows on the Continent before 600, it would hardly have
been possible for each to be ignorant of the beliefs and
practices of the other. 

(Britain was in many ways "cut off" from Europe - and so Celtic
Christianity did not go forth until centuries after the Gospel
came to Britain - Keith Hunt)

     But when, following the gospel commission, Irish Christians
set out on their missionary enterprises and encountered their
continental brethren, problems appear to have arisen.
     Co-operation finally resulted only when the Celts
surrendered their peculiar traditions. These are now to be
summarized.

SUMMARIZATION

     The first had to do with authority. The Scriptures were
supreme. Literally interpreted, rigidly obeyed, biblical
regulations lay at the foundation of Celtic Christian belief and
life. No differences were made between the ethics and morality,
the legal system and theology of the Old and New Testaments. The
individual exegete felt himself competent to explain and apply
the message of the Bible, and he used his own rules to interpret
its words literally. Whatever he considered usable he
incorporated into the life and organization of the people. Any
belief or practice which was thought to be at variance with the
Scriptures was rejected. Hence patristic or papal notions and
judgements held little weight with Celtic theologians. No appeal
was made to the Apocrypha. The sole use to which it was put was
to supply phrases and imagery for expressing any thoughts the
Celtic writers desired. Various interpretations and differing
points of view among the Celtic theologians themselves finally
led to the weakening of their position and eased the conformity
of Celtic with Catholic usages, and contributed to the ultimate
disappearance of Celtic Christianity as such.

     The rules of the Old Testament which shaped the theocracy of
Israel were followed by the Celts as a natural consequence of
their view of biblical authority. The role of the "Liber ex Lege
Moisi" was paramount. The laws defining clean and unclean animals
which might or might not be used as food, the methods of
slaughtering animals, the advice on hygiene applying to both men
and women, the Levirate marriage, the precepts modifying usury
and slavery, the treatment of widows and orphans, as well as the
payment of tithes and the offering of first-fruits, all were
thought necessary. Some Celtic teachers, including Columba
himself, went as far as to practise vegetarianism and teetotalism
on purely health grounds, regarding their bodies as temples of
the Holy Spirit. While fasting was extensively practised, it,
too, was carried out much more in the manner of the Old Testament
than in accordance with patristic traditions. Any time and any
manner was acceptable, provided the fasting was done with a
sincere desire to please God.

     This emphasis on obedience grew, not only from the Celtic
attitude which held the Scriptures in the greatest veneration,
but also from the concept that sin was disobedience, and that
man's free will was actually capable of rendering obedience to
the laws which had been broken. This theory might have developed
in consequence of the teaching of Pelagius the Celt. The
philosophy which later came to be known as Pelagianism from its
most famous advocate, might have been the articulate exposition
of this Celtic point of view. While grace was held to be vital to
salvation, man also had his part to play in obeying God's
commandments, so that the atonement procured by Christ might
become effective in the Christian's personal experience.


     The observance of the Sabbath of the Old Testament was a
natural outgrowth of this tenet. The seventh day was kept from
sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday, and even until dawn on
Sunday in some places. No work was done on it, as the laws in the
"Liber ex lege Moisi" stipulate. While Sunday was also held to
possess minor sanctity, and religious services were carried out
on it, the daily chores, the gathering of food, the washing of
hair and taking of baths, the going on journeys and carrying out
regular business transactions were all permitted upon the first
day. There was no Sabbatizing of Sunday during the Celtic period.
This eventually came about with the Romanizing of these
Christians of the far west. There are records that during the
transitional period in places, at least the period of devotion
commenced at sunset on Friday and continued until dawn on Monday.
     Besides the weekly observance of the Sabbath, with minor
religious celebrations on Sundays and other days of minor
devotions, the Celts also observed the annual Easter. The
divergence of the date they set from the seventh-century Catholic
timing of this festival and the grave troubles which this
difference caused are well known. The Celts cited apostolic
authority for their practice and felt that the invitation to
change was tantamount to a request to surrender their
independence. The issue was one of authority as well as of
principle. They believed they were right. When they eventually
stepped into line with Western usages, they accepted the
sovereignty of Rome in all things. The same was true of their
attitude towards the tonsure. The Celtic cleric evidently wore
the hair style of a pre-Christian teacher in his country, and
regarded the giving up of this as a surrender of a symbol of very
great value.

     The services conducted by the Celtic ministry were for
worship, but more especially for the instruction of each member.
To this end the preaching was probably conducted in the
vernacular. It was simple and practical. The Lord's Supper was
performed with the use of both bread and wine, partaken of by
all, as emblems of the body and blood of Christ. There is nothing
in the sources to suggest that anything of a mystical nature was
attached to them. Baptism of instructed and believing candidates
was carried out by triple immersion. This was followed by a
service of feet-washing and then of Communion, suggesting, from
the only records extant, that adult baptism was the practice
which was recognized. Pre-Communion feet-washing is also an
interesting Celtic usage.

(As I stated before, we see the simple truth being corrupted over
the centuries concerning baptism - Keith Hunt)

     The penitential discipline of the Celts sprang from their
veneration of the Scriptures. Sin was disobedience to law, and
therefore further rules were devised to aid and define obedience,
and hence to assist in virtuous living. Penalties, modelled on
those of the Old Testament, exacted what was regarded as justly
due, and ranged all the way from "cutting off from the people",
banishment or separation from fellowship for life, to going
without supper for failure to respect a superior. By taking the
substitutionary exactions of the Old Testament to a logical
conclusion, all kinds of penalties were concocted by which
something might be done or given to compensate for the injury or
delinquency or crime. This practice eventually degenerated into
great abuses. Confession might be public or private, as might
also be the service or act of reconciliation.

     The ministry of the early Celtic Christians grew out of New
Testament teachings. A bishop-presbyter ministered to each
congregation, and hence bishops are found in great numbers
scattered over Celtic lands. When a cleric ceased to minister to
a congregation, he was still known as a bishop, and hence bishops
turn up in the story of the Celtic Church in strange places doing
things which would be an outrage to a regularly enthroned
metropolitan of later centuries. The clergy were permitted to
marry - in fact, during the early Celtic period, marriage prior
to ordination was mandatory as it was in New Testament days, but
unmarried members of the ministry were tolerated. There is some
evidence that women exercised the highest ecclesiastical
functions and might even be consecrated as bishops.

(Again on the latter point a departure from the truth of the NT.
But so none misunderstand, the reader should study "The Role of
Women in the Church" by Dr.Samuele Bacchiocchi, on this website -
Keith Hunt)

     The monasticism of the Celts can also be better understood
from the standpoint of Old Testament usages. Modelled on the
cities of refuge, the monastery consisted of a walled village in
which the mixed society of a Christian community lived lives of
virtue and devotion separated from the evils of their heathen
neighbours. The sacred place was marked by a pillar, and later by
a cross, upon which might be depicted scenes from the Bible.
These would be used as illustrations for teaching Scripture
stories as required by the Mosaic regulations. Within the walls
asylum was granted to those in need and hospitality was
dispensed. Men, women, and children, single and in families,
lived under the guidance of a leader who might be a clergyman or
a layman, and was called an abbot. As was the case among the
Hebrews, these "cities" were part of the inheritance of the
different tribes, and remained as a tribal possession handed down
by hereditary laws. Occasionally, as with Hulda the prophetess in
Old Testament times, women might preside over such communities.
Bishop-presbyters, functioning in religious and ceremonial
affairs, would occupy positions inferior to that of the
abbotchieftain. Marriage was permitted to all classes, although
celibacy later came to be regarded as the mark of deeper
devotion. Poverty was not insisted upon. Individuals and families
might grow wealthy. The community consisted, on occasion, of many
persons who pooled their abilities and resources for the common
good.


(Some truth and some error in all of this type of living, but the
main point to be taken was that the Celtic community was the
welfare system of the peoples of Britain - Keith Hunt)

     Theologically Celtic Christians held ideas which were a
natural outgrowth of their view of the Scriptures. Theirs might
be called a biblical theology. It was essentially practical and
is characterized by a complete absence of discussion and
definition and speculation. The supreme authority was the Bible
as the revealed word of God. This revelation must be accepted and
obeyed in all its parts. God was held to be the supreme Creator
and Sustainer of the universe. The Godhead was made up of Three
Personages, the Father, his Son, and the Holy Spirit who was sent
forth by Christ. 

(The "trinity" was not defined as "three persons" per se, but as
three in the Godhead - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The understanding of the Holy Spirit must be defined as from the
totality of the Bible, which I have given you on this website in
other studies - Keith Hunt)

     Man was created by God and placed on probation on this earth
to live in obedience to the divine will. Endowed with freedom of
choice man was to exercise his will constantly on the side of
right. The fallen angel, Satan, had warred against God in heaven,
and continued his warfare against Christ through man whom he
seduced to his side. As an antidote God granted fallen man grace
through Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Third Person of the
Trinity, to help him to obey. The emphasis on the sovereignty of
the human will, and the pragmatic individuality to which it gave
rise in Celtic circles is a fact which must never be allowed to
become obscured. While man is left to choose what he should do in
all circumstances, he must remember that, should he prove
obdurate in sin, he will be punished in the lake of fire. The
righteous, on the other hand, witnessed by their life of
obedience, will be resurrected to dwell with Christ for ever.
There is no mention in Celtic sources of purgatory or any place
of intermediate reformation.

     The position of Christ as the substitutionary sacrifice for
sin was stressed. He took man's place and died in his stead,
meeting the demands of justice, and granting to the penitent hope
of eternal life. Adam's sin and fall apparently did not infect
mankind with original sin. Each individual himself sinned through
the example of Adam by the exercise of his own choice, and was
not condemned because of inherent guilt which he had inherited
from his parents. As he could accept Christ's gracious life as an
example, so he might choose to follow Adam's rebellion in his own
personal sinning day by day. Having once made the right choice on
behalf of Christ's programme of righteous living, the Christian
was freely justified by Christ's righteousness imputed and
sanctified by our Lord's righteousness imparted. Both these
transactions became operative through faith and obedience on the
part of the man, and mercy and grace on the part of God.
     Man had been created capable of death. Unending life was
conditional on his obedience. When man sinned he became subject
to death. This was a natural consequence of the fall, and had
nothing penal about it. But when the sinner was finally judged to
be guilty, he would be resurrected to receive his sentence and
punishment by the infliction of penal death, which would seem,
from the sources, to be annihilation. It was in the realm of his
body that man was to maintain virtue, for it was the temple of
the indwelling Christ. Hence he must guard it against sins and
weaknesses of all kinds by carefully disciplining everything he
did or thought. As sin resulted in death, so by the final
restoration through Christ, those who accepted him would be
privileged to live a life that had no end.

(It was indeed true that Celtic Christianity did not teach the
"immortal soul" doctrine; neither the error of eternal punishment
is a hell-fire, burning in pain forever - Keith Hunt)

     To help man Christ provided the ministry not only of the
Holy Spirit but also of holy angels. These had themselves
resisted the seduction of Satan, and so could succour the needy.
There is no mention in the sources of help in any form gained
through the mediation of men who had become saints.

     Celtic eschatological views were simple and concrete. The
Christian was commissioned by his Saviour to preach the gospel to
those who were ignorant of it. Then, all men having decided for
or against Christ, the Lord will descend to this earth in the
last days to judge all mankind. This second advent would be very
unlike the first, and might be paralleled with the spectacular
descent by God on Sinai to proclaim his law. Final sentence would
be given to both the righteous and sinners. The former would be
heirs of bliss with Christ, while the latter would be destroyed
with the devil and his evil angels. These final events were
believed to be near at hand.

(Some errors and just plain not fully understanding the whole
plan of God is here seen. The Celtic Christianity by 500 AD had
lost some truths, and corrupted other truths and was yet in need
of finding more truth, which it did not, as it became consumed by
the church of Rome - Keith Hunt)

     There appears to have been no attempt to formulate any sort
of doctrine of the Church. There was a concept of Christianity
forming God's tribes on earth in contradistinction to the secular
septs of the pagans. God's clans were regulated according to Old
Testament theocratic ordinances adapted to the tribal
organization of the Celtic peoples generally. Each group seems to
have been dependent upon the founder and his tribe, but
independent of all others. The records note that representatives
of various sections met, under the aegis of some venerable saint,
to discuss points of controversy, particularly relationships with
the Western Church. But in all these discussions democratic
freedom seems to have prevailed. No church leader among the Celts
was held to be the spokesman of all. Even Adamnan could not
persuade those who were directly under his jurisdiction to do
what they considered was not according to the Scripture. There
was little unity of purpose. Had they presented a united front,
the Celtic Church might have lasted for centuries, but they were
absorbed into Catholic Christianity piece by piece, and the
remnants which withstood, weakened and alone, finally
disappeared.

     And so passed the Celtic Christians in Britain. Here and
there marks of the old saints of these islands remain. Mouldering
and roofless shells, with ancient burying grounds hard by, tell
of a people who have gone. In some places there may be seen an
old stone cross, majestic in its indomitable thrust heavenward
even today. Books and artifacts which were beloved by Celtic
Christians, and on which they lavished all the skill of their
ardent souls are still cherished in museums. Each priceless
volume whispers of a culture sometime respected and of a faith
once victorious. Celtic bells no longer call the pious to pray,
their croziers have no flocks to guide into the the way of life.
Some Celtic saints are even now well known; most are records in
the annals of their people. Here and there a fountain or a
village recalls by its name, twisted by alien tongues, the Celtic
ecclesiastic whose memory it commemorates. But save to the
historian or antiquary, the Celtic Church has moved into the
shadowy legends of the ancient chroniclers. It awaits the loving
researches of investigators who will bring back to life the
Christian peoples and their ways and culture out of the welter of
tradition with which their story has become encrusted.
..........

NOTE:

WHAT  WE  CAN  SEE  FROM  CELTIC  HISTORY  BESIDES  THE  FULL 
HONOR  TO  THE  BIBLE  ONLY,  AND  NO  HEAD  APOSTLE,  AS  IN 
THE  CHURCH  OF  ROME,  IS  THE  OBSERVANCE  OF  THE  7TH  DAY 
OF  THE  WEEK  AND  THE  KEEPING  OF  THE  PASSOVER/DEATH  OF 
CHRIST  MEMORIAL  WITH  WHAT  ROME  CALLED  THE  QUARTODECIM 
PEOPLE  -  THE  14TH  OF  THE  FIRST  MONTH.  THESE  TWO  POINTS 
OF  PRACTICE  HAD  THE  CHURCH  OF  ROME  CALLING  CELTIC 
CHRISTIANS  HERETICS  AND  JEWDAIZING.  THEY  WERE  CORRECT  IN 
OBSERVING  THE  7TH  DAY  SABBATH  AND  KEEPING  THE  MEMORIAL 
OF  CHRIST'S  DEATH  ON  THE  EVENING  OF  THE  14TH  OF  THE 
FIRST  MONTH  IN  THE  JEWISH  CALENDAR.  THEY  HAD  OTHER 
CORRECT  TEACHINGS  FROM  THE  BIBLE,  BUT  ALSO  HAD  LOST 
TRUTH THROUGH  THE  CENTURIES.  AS  THE  WRITER  HAS  SAID, 
CELTIC  CHRISTIANITY  FINALLY  WAS  CRUSHED  OUT  BY  THE  CHURCH 
OF  ROME,  WHO  AS  IT  WAS  FORETOLD  IN  THE  BOOK  OF 
REVELATION, WAS  TO  MAKE  ***ALL  NATIONS***  DRUNK  ON  THE 
WINE  OF  HER  SPIRITUAL  FORNICATION.  AND  SO  IT  HAS  COME 
TO  PASS.  BUT  ROME  WILL  BE  DASHED  TO  PIECES  AND  ALL  OF 
HER  THEOLOGY  WITH  HER  WHEN  JESUS  RETURNS  TO  DESTROY 
MYSTERY  BABYLON  THE  GREAT, AND  TO  ESTABLISH  THE  KINGDOM 
OF  GOD  ON  EARTH.


Keith Hunt


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