What Is Celtic Christianity?
Specifically, Celtic Christianity refers to the branch of Christianity which was unique to the peoples of the Britannia, Scotland & Ireland.Originally, during the first generations of Christianity, all local churches were independent and there was no central governing organization. These local communities were ministered to by what we would today call Bishops and Deacons. The rank of Priest only began to emerge and be differentiated from that of Bishop later, during the mid-second century, as the Church expanded from the cities to the rural areas.
Beginning in the second Century, with the spread of Christianity into the rural areas outside of the cities, and particularly after the devolution of the presbyter (i.e. priest) from the Order of Bishop, local churches began to be grouped together to permit better organization and supervision of orthodoxy. Parishes began to be led by priests. Bishops became heads of regions called diocese and bishops of cities, called a Metropolitan. An Archbishop supervised, but did not rule over or govern the nearby rural diocese. Diocesan Bishops were completely autonomous in their own diocese as long as they remained true to the Faith.
Although there is some debate over exactly when and how Christianity got to the British Isles, Whether it was 37 Ad or 67 Ad, there is no doubt that it was firmly established by the 2nd Century, because Ireneaus, the Bishop of Lyon, had significant interaction with them. Click here to learn how Christianity got to England. The first, great Celtic son was Morien, also known as Pelagius. Pelagius was a spokesman for Celtic theology. Pelagius has been labeled as a heretic by traditional theologians because The Roman system favored a Latin version of Christianity. Pelagius' opponent, Augustine, succeeded in expelling the Pelagians out of the Roman Empire during the 5th Century. Augustine became the father of Latin Christianity. Celtic Christianity holds to a balanced view of the Biblical doctrines of free-will and predestination. Ostensibly, these doctrines were the focus of controversy between Augustine and Pelagius. Through the centuries, Pelagian Celts have emphasized the individual's responsibility to obey God's moral law. Latin Christianity has tended to rely upon the strong arm of the state.
Celtic Christianity does not have much interest in the grand worship of state religion. Celtic Christians are fond of the small group and a liturgy which is an expression of personal faith. From ancient times, they have had great interest in spiritual gifts, manifestations of the Divine presence, religious revivals, and world evangelism.
Celts love mysteries, story-telling, poetry, folk-music and dancing. They are not impressed by great cities and the arts which are abstract and separate from life.
Celtic theology does not agree with Augustine's view of Original Sin.
The Celtic Church has difficulties with what we consider to be the unbiblical Augustinian doctrine, which most 'mainstream' churches seem to follow in one form or another, that mankind is born inherently evil and deprived of God's Grace and further that only the 'elect' are saved. It sees Original Sin as the result of Adam's failure to be an adequate federal head of the human race. That failure produced a wounding in the nature of man which weakened his will but did not disable it. Because of Christ, all people are able to respond to the call of God's grace to salvation and virtue. We are not born guilty and cut off from God. What mother can look at her newborn and honestly believe "This child is damned to hell!"? We do however believe that there comes and age of accountability.
Celtic Christianity tends to produce a love for nature. Celtic Christianity does not see God as separate from His creation and finds the Incarnation of Christ as proof of that view. Celtic theology teaches that the universe is like a body. God is the head and the cosmos is His body. Being one with the creation does not erase the Creator/creature distinction, no more so than it is possible for the finger to do the work of the brain. What it means is that God shares in the joys and sufferings of His creation. And Jesus Christ is the symbol of that unity.
Celtic Christianity rejects cosmic dualism, whether pagan or Christian. It does not believe in two competing gods. Likewise, it views Satan as a fallen member of the angelic host and not as a rival god. It is solidly Trinitarian.
Celtic Christianity also teaches that the Godhead contains feminine attributes as well as masculine attributes. Because Augustinianism held a dim view of women, traditional Christianity sought to create an exclusively masculine God. The spiritual void left by that view of God drove the Church to Mary worship. Celtic theology teaches that the Holy Spirit is the representative of God's femininity. Celtic theology views Mary as a woman who had other children besides Jesus. And it teaches that Jesus was truly a man as well as God.
The Celtic Church developed differently from the Roman Catholic Church and was more like the Eastern Orthodox churches in its dating of the church calendar and its view of women’s place within the church hierarchy. In addition, Celtic monks wore a tonsure that was distinctively different from that of their Roman brethren. Celibacy was not part of Celtic teaching or tradition; therefore, men and women could marry and live in double houses or conhospitae in abbeys and monastic foundations to raise their children together and remain in Christ’s service. Most surprisingly, women were ordained priests and bishops in the Celtic Church.
Celtic Christians have always gravitated toward localism as a form of government. Historically, they dislike the modern notion of the nation-state. The tribe, clan, and kinship group, within the context of the village, are the forms of government which Celtic peoples prefer. Celtic Christianity recognizes the ethnic character of the Church. According to Bible prophecy (e.g. Psalms 2), the Messianic kingdom consists of ethnic churches which form the constituent members of the Body of Christ. It disagrees with the Latin and Byzantine versions of Christianity, inherited from the Roman Imperial model, which attempt to force everyone into the same mold. Many of the doctrinal and liturgical disputes in Church history have come because of the language barrier, which, of course, is ethnic in orientation and Divinely ordained (Genesis 11). These differences ought to be respected with a gracious spirit. Through the centuries, the Celts have instinctively resisted the Imperial model for Christianity. They have tended to be exuberant worshippers, free-thinkers, and dissenters. They are intensely loyal to beloved leaders and not to systems or institutions. For that reason, mainline churches have viewed Celtic Christians with suspicion and, sometimes, outright hostility. Celtic expressions of the faith have been persecuted throughout history but is now enjoying a renewal of faith and interest.
Celts and non-Celts are turning to the ancient Celtic Church for a fresh start. We invite you to investigate it for yourself