Review: Christ of the Celts, by J. Philip Newell

[2] In his concern to see all of creation as centered in God, Newell is convinced that Celtic Christianity can serve as a corrective in a number of areas to traditional teachings.  For example, he argues against the notion of original sin because it “teaches that what is deepest in us is opposed to God rather than of God.” (19) He would say rather that “at the core off the gospel is the truth that we are most deeply divine precisely when we are most deeply human.” (27)

[3] Against the doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo,” his conviction is that “creation does not come out of nothing; it comes out of God.” (53)  And against the notion of substitutionary atonement, he affirms that there is real suffering in the cross, but it is “not a payment to God; [but rather] a disclosure of God.  Not a purchasing of love; [rather] the manifestation of love.” (90)

[4] Finally, in his postlude, Newell sums up his understanding of Celtic Christianity in the following way.  “Christ comes from the heart of creation rather than from beyond creation; reconnects us to our true nature instead of saving us from our nature.” (127)

[5] As the many quotes above indicate, this short book provides more than enough material to provoke and challenge and to encourage a consideration of how the Celtic tradition can inform and potentially reform both the dominant Christian tradition and our faith.

Randy Nelson

Randy Nelson is retired Professor of Contextual Education at Luther Seminary, MN