It's rare that a historian will lay aside partisan, deeply held beliefs to render an accurate picture of early Christianity. Hardinge succeeds, inasmuch as the scant information on the Celtic church in Britain allows. One comment that struck me as particularly insightful was Hardinge's quote of a twelfth century Catholic biographer of an earlier Celtic saint. The biographer lamented that the "life of so priceless a prelate" should be tinged with heresy. So, he rewrote the story, seasoning "the barbarous composition with Roman salt." Even if this biographer was sincere (and it appears he was), he, like many others, clouded and obscured the little historical information that we do have access to.
Unfortunately, Hardinge does not spend any time researching some of the earlier records of Christian missionary work in Celtic Britain. "Christianity crept quietly into Britain," he says. Nothing could be further from the truth, as any reading of even Catholic historians such as Baronius will attest. Even if the records of Joseph of Arimathea's mission to Britain in 37 AD is considered legendary, Hardinge could have at least mentioned it. In fact, there's more evidence that Joseph of Arimathea went to Britain than that Columbus discovered America in 1492. Nevertheless, other books (such as "Drama of the Lost Disciples" by Jowett and "St. Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury" by Smithett-Lewis) more than make up for this lack. Hardinge definitely has his place among those who tirelessly searched out the dusty records of Christianity's passage through time. And, definitive or not, we owe him a debt of gratitude for his pioneering work in the early Medieval British Isles.
Through painstaking research, Mr. Hardinge has captured the ancient aspects of true Celtic Christianity. Much has been recently written about Celtic Christians and about the British Isles in general, but Mr. Hardinge's meticulous devotion to original sources and quotations from the ancient enemy of Celtic Christianity (Roman Catholicism) have served to give a highly accurate and engaging outline of how ancient Celtic Christians must have evangelized, preached, lived their lives, showed their devotion to God and generally defied Catholic authority during their time.
If its implications are understood correctly, this book will throw much of what goes as "church history" on its ear. Patrick a seventh-day Sabbath keeper? The ancient Celts defiant toward Augustine? True historians will take note of this book.