Celtic spirituality: What’s real, and what’s usable?


Christine Sine, over at her blog, has offered the following list of some distinctives of Celtic spirituality that lead her to embrace it.

  1. Central to Celtic spirituality is incarnation and an intense sense of the presence of God.
  2. A belief in the thinness of the veil between this world and the next.
  3. Importance of little things – no task is too trivial to be sanctified by prayer and blessing
  4. All of life flows to a rhythm of ebb and flow reflected in the natural world.
  5. A strong sense of sin and of the presence of evil forces in the world resulted in a strong recognition of the need for penitence which often led to austerely ascetic lives.
  6. Celtic Christians adapted well to the culture in which they operated

For explanations, expansions, and examples under the individual points, see the full post.

While I think these are wonderful values, I wonder (as with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s article posted on earlier) on what historical grounds we can conclude that these traits (and the sub-traits noted by Sine) were in fact true of Celtic spirituality. Robert Webber pointed out in his The Younger Evangelicals that the whole movement to appropriate Celtic spirituality has been on shaky ground historically (I don’t have the book handy, so I can’t look up the reference).

Again, I am not dismissing Sine’s list (though some of the qualities listed seem true of many other Christian traditions besides the Celtic), just as I appreciate and support many of the values expressed by Wilson-Hartgrove. What I am asking is that before we re-appropriate supposed facets of past Christian movements, we do our historical homework.

Also, this is not an area of expertise for me, so I’d be interested to hear comments from readers on this one.

3 responses to “Celtic spirituality: What’s real, and what’s usable?

  1. Will do, Edwin. I guess when in doubt about Celtic Christianity, talk to an Irishman. Gary IS Irish, isn’t he? Strikes me that way, in any case.

  2. Chris,

    You should talk to Gary Crites about this. He really does know something about Celtic Christianity!

  3. I’m in the same camp with you on Celtic spirituality. It sounds so refreshing, and makes Christianity as a nature-based religion very appealing. BUT…the research seems derivative, and when I read what I could find from the old Irish boys, they came across to me as quarrelsome, overly ascetic (as in life-threateningly so), and misogynist.

    I’m not suggesting anyone made things up, but of thre seems to be over-interpreting what they find, which isn’t much. I would appreciate a bibliography that cites original sources and not just the modern interpreters.

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