Dec 3, 2010


Happy Friday! I'm sitting in Bob Evans with my laptop. Isn't it cool how many places have free WiFi these days (well in America, anyway!)

Later today I'll be interviewing J. Philip Newell and that has prompted me to explore again his book Listening For The Heartbeat of God, A Celtic Spirituality. It's not his latest book but it's my favorite.

The book begins with an introduction that is not to be missed because it talks about the Synod of Whitby in 664. This was a turning point (and not a good one) for Celtic Christianity. I blogged about this event here. With that foundation Newell continues with a chapter on Goodness (referencing Pelagius).

Regarding goodness, where does it come from other than from God? Quoting Newell: "Thus the grace of salvation received through the Church is given not to replace our nature but to release what is most fundamental in all people, although bound by the oppression of sin and wrongdoing." He contrasts this belief of Pelagius with Augustine's (the characters involved in the debate at Whitby). What this is all referring to is the concept of original sin, something that was never part of the ancient Celtic Christian beliefs. However, Newell says, "Pelagius' emphasis on the essential goodness of humanity did not involve a denial of the presence of evil and of its power over the human."

Still referring to the Synod at Whitby, Newell discusses the Church's following of Peter and the Celtic Church's leaning toward John. John was the apostle who leaned toward Jesus at the Last Supper (as referenced in John 13:23-25.) He is the one listening for the heartbeat of God according to Newell. However, the Peter tradition is listening as well, in a different way. Peter, Jesus said, was the rock upon whom He built his church. In the concluding chapter in this book Newell says, "The Church would have been infinitely richer if it had embraced both Pelagius and Augustine, affirming the essential goodness in every life while remaining alert to the evils that can destroy us."

I think that is food for thought if ever there was any. I'll be sure to have something to say after I talk to Newell. Stay tuned!

The emphasis of the book is listening. Listening is a concept that is simple yet not fully practiced in my opinion.

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