Christ of the Celts - Book Review

Do not read this book.  It will challenge you at such a deep level that you may not even consider yourself a follower of Jesus afterward.

I just finished it and I'm speechless (but yet I am trying to speak).  This book was written by J Philip Newell, the author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God. This is a small book, less than 150 pages.  But don't let the size full you.  It is extremely powerful.  As I have said before, 'Simple is better', to quote Mr Rogers.  That is what Newell does in this book.  He doesn't waste pages or time with complicated thoughts or words.  He is clear and straightfoward.  That in itself can be unnerving, especially for me.  I like big books that I have to ponder.  Well, let me tell you, there is plenty here to ponder!  Newell, an authority of the Celtic Christian tradition, calls us back to a time when Christ was embraced through various means, namely nature.  He refers to the sacredness of creation.  All creation.

At one point, close the end of the book, he talks about how the Celtic Christians met at the great high crosses scattered throughout the Celtic region.  Instead of coming together inside a 'church', the 'church' met outside at the place where, in Celtic tradition, heaven and earth met.  It was at this point, at the high cross, that we see Christ and earth together.  And they both came from the same center, from the Divine, the Sacred, the More.  It was at these places that people felt closest to the Source of Life.  It also illustrated that it is only within community that we are truly 'saved', 'healed', 'set free'.  To use a phrase from South Africa, at the high cross there was 'Ubuntu' - the 'I am because of who we are'.  Both see that it is together that we are made whole.  We do not find healing in isolation.  We find healing in the whole, in the heart of others, in the very core of all creation.

Newell tackles many 'sacred cows' within the Christian West and I'm sure he will upset many a person.  But, for me, he speaks of such truth that we can't deny it.  Time and again he points to the truth that we are all connected.  That all of creation is connected to humanity and we to all of creation.  Over and over he points to the truth that Christ did not come to give us a foreign humanity, a foreign creation, but a true humanity, one that is birthed from a true creation.

If you are feeling a struggle deep within regarding the way Western Christianity speaks to today's world, then I highly recommend this book.  Newell challenges us to hear the voice of God in nature and each other; to see how we address and respond and react to each other and the earth.

Peace be with you.



[...] with John Philip Newell.  As you recall, I have made some brief comments about his latest book, Christ of the Celts.  In one of the sessions, John Philip told a story about a 20th century Celtic teacher from France [...]

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