Arblaster OCeltic Monasticism:

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Book Review: Celtic Christianity Yesterday, Today, and for the Future by Paul D. J. Arblaster

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."Photo: Columbia Icefields.  Photo Copyright 2006 S.G.P.  All Rights Reserved.

By Paul D. J. Arblaster (Brother Paul)

Excerpted from the book: Celtic Christianity Yesterday, Today, and for the Future: Gleaning Wisdom From the Primitive Protestants, by Paul D. J. Arblaster.  2002 Paul D. J. Arblaster.  All Rights Reserved.  Reprinted by Permission.                 __________________________________________________

"The renewal of the Church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount.  It is high time men and women banded together to do this."            

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

A New, Active Monasticism

     Of course, just adding Celtic flavouring to spice up stale formulas is not enough to reach the world for Christ or transform lives captive to cultural affections.  We should employ the Celtic approach to living the Christian life, for it is closer to the Biblical pattern.  If we admit it, we tend to view the Biblical community model as idealistic and even radical.  We should ask ourselves though, "Is our secular contemporary model really working?"  We have all heard the admonition to be not of the world whilst in it.  We have also seen how difficult this is to accomplish with the pervasive and powerful cultural influence that besets us and our children daily.  When we read about the 1st Century Church we are very aware that we live so very differently today.  Our sense of community is virtually extinct.  Lawlessness and decline of "civilization" seems to be the pattern when Christianity is either institutionalized or marginalized.  Some once safe neighborhoods have become war zones and few people trust leaving their homes or vehicles unlocked.  Gated communities are becoming more common, but it does not mean the people living in them live a less fragmented existence than those in more vulnerable parts of Suburbia.  

Rather than simply retreating from the world, Celtic monastic communities made a difference in it.

     As persecution increases we may not be surprised to see more affluent believers feeling they need to enter their own gated complexes, but this is a sad way to create Christianized community (as by default) and not very scriptural when we should be reaching the lost world.  A balanced approach might be in the ancient Celtic Christian monastic model.  Rather than simply retreating from the world, Celtic monastic communities made a difference in it.  They were active communities that built fellow Christians up in the faith.  As iron sharpens iron they facilitated the soul-friend option as practical.  They were also open to host a non-believer that could be specially ministered to.  Christians, outnumbering the non-Christian in this context, could thus exert a more concentrated (though gentle) effect upon the stranger temporarily in the Christian "culture."  Instead of the world having more of an effect upon us, as things now sadly stand, we simply reverse the tables on the world.

The concept would be Celtic Christian rather than based on the cloistered Medieval model.  

     Although one might label this function and aspect today a "retreat," I prefer the term "oasis."  Imagine a place, like an old farm down a country lane near the outskirts of a small town or village.  A small holding could be purchased by a few families with converted outbuildings made into living quarters.  There Christians could live semi-independently, some holding outside jobs locally, but all one in purpose.  There would be a shared rule of order (or constitution) agreed upon by all at the outset, scripturally based, but without overtones of cultic authoritarianism.  People would retain their personal domestic space, but living in proximity of each other they would agree to share ownership and responsibility of certain things, like rotation of one commonly shared lawn mower, tiller, barrow, etc.  There would be a commons area for functions of ministry and worship, such as part of the converted barn.  The concept would be Celtic Christian rather than based on the cloistered Medieval model.  

An atmosphere of harmony, love, and availability would be the goal of all resident members of the ministry...

     The outer walls and farm yard entrance (not kept locked) would mark the outer-termon, a demarcation point as between an embassy's grounds and the outer world.  Some brother would always be available, day or night, on a rotating basis in the office of porter to perform introductory hospitality and admit to the hospitorium (cottage/chalet guest quarters) whomsoever the Lord should lead there for temporary accommodation.  This might be a visitor from afar or a member of the surrounding villages or towns needing conversation, prayer, and perhaps a "breather" from the corruptions and stress out in the world.  An atmosphere of harmony, love, and availability would be the goal of all resident members of the ministry where the activities of normal living take place.  All resident families could maintain their own private flower gardens or allotments, but there might also be a larger communal vegetable garden,  Chickens, perhaps a milk cow, might be kept.  Excess produce could either be sold at market, or given away to the local poor.  It is entirely probable that the more Biblically the community endeavors to structure itself, the more suspicion it might arouse at first, but local suspicion would quickly give way when trust is won through Godly living.  

Biblical Celtic Evangelical Christianity

    Celtic monastic centres, of course, also sent many Christian workers out into the adjacent pagan community and beyond to minister.  One can imagine setting up an informational booth about Celtic Christianity with Gospel literature at some neo-pagan or other event in or around districts, like Glastonbury, which draw thousands of seekers and others every year.  If each model Christian community began to attract interest, more Christians might be led to open a sister active-monastic oasis on the Celtic theme.  I have a vision for the future where, possibly through Biblical Celtic Evangelical Christianity, we may begin to live in the fullness and unity of faith.

     If God has personally convicted you in any way about cultural defilement and you feel a call to pursue a more committed walk with the Lord through the Celtic Christian approach, pray He will give you the courage to begin taking whatever steps necessary.  Christianity is an active faith, and though there may be times when temporary isolation may be beneficial, the faith should never be lived in isolation.  Thus the desires of our hearts will be God's desires as Jesus prayed, "That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." John 17:21 (KJV). ____________________________________________________________

 Image: of the front cover of the CD, "Brendan Soul: A Celtic Companion" by Carol Arblaster.Carol Arblaster's Celtic Christian Music CDs available through:

Image: "Holy Thorn" CD by Carol Arblaster.

Image: Celtic music CD, "Celtic Harp Offering" by Carol Arblaster.    ____________________________________________________________

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Note: since authoring Celtic Christianity Yesterday, Today and for the Future, Paul D. J. Arblaster has also become Brother Paul, a Lay Monk of the Knights of Prayer Monastic Order.


Text: 2002 Paul D. J. Arblaster.  All Rights Reserved.  Reprinted by Permission.

Logo and Layout: Copyright 2002 S.G.P  All Rights Reserved.

Skellig Michael Photo: Copyright Irish Tourist Board.

Next  Celtic Pages  FEATURES

Photo: of author Paul D. J. Arblaster. Paul D. J. Arblaster

Paul D. J. Arblaster was born in Bloxwich, England, in 1951.  A graduate of the London Film School, he also holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon.  

  Besides being involved in the international antiques trade and teaching for many years, he has produced numerous documentaries throughout his career.  

  In the early 1980's, he founded an international Christian motorcycle group and directed Steve McQueen: Full Throttle to Glory, which was voted among the top ten documentaries on Public Access Television.  

  Apart from classic motorcycles, antique hunting and Celtic Christianity, his interests include maritime lore, history and walking ancient pathways with his American wife, Carol.  They have three children.


Image: Front Cover of the book, "Celtic Christianity Yesterday, Today, and for the Future"  Copyright 2002 Paul D. J. Arblaster.  All Rights Reserved.

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