Evangelicals Redeeming St. Patrick from Rome

Maybe it is just me, but I don’t remember a year where Saint Patty’s Day has elicited such a response by evangelicals.

Previous years have collected a few blog posts.  See Russell Moore’s “What evangelicals can learn from Saint Patrick” and Kevin DeYoung’s “Who was Saint Patrick?”  But this year evangelicals have sought to deliver Patrick from the clutches of the Catholic Church, and have produced dozens of blog posts. (Okay, maybe not dozens, but in the spirit of exaggerated legends, like those of St. Patrick, we’ll say dozens).

Why?  Maybe it is the coordination of St. Patrick’s Day and the Lord’s Day; maybe it is the recent election of Pope Francis I; or maybe it is the fact that the paganization of America and (Western Europe) has stimulated evangelicals to find a new hero.  For all those reasons, Patrick is worthy of our consideration and imitation.  The following posts will give you a good introduction to Patrick and will spur you on to tell the lost about Christ.

David Mathis, “The Mission of Saint Patrick

Mark Driscoll, “Get to Know Saint Patrick

John Downey, “Get to know the REAL ‘Saint’ Patrick

Philip Jenson, “Saint Patrick the Irish Evangelist

Timothy Paul Jones, Church History Made Easy DVD

If you know of other evangelical blogs highlighting Patrick, let me know and I will update.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, dss

Saint Patrick: Separating Missionary Fact from Fictitious Malarkey

What comes to mind when you think of St. Patrick’s Day? 

Leprechauns.  Ireland.  Wearing green.  Or drinking green beer.  If that is it, you may want to re-read the record books.  

A few years back, Russell Moore gave a brief history lesson on the real Patrick that should make every missionally-minded Christian sit up and take notice.  Drawing on the Philip Freeman’s 2007 book, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, Moore summarizes Freeman’s work:

Freeman helpfully retells Patrick’s conversion story, one of a mocking young hedonist to a repentant evangelist. The story sounds remarkably similar to that of Augustine—and, in the most significant of ways, both mirror the first-century conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Freeman helpfully reconstructs the context of local religion as a “business relationship” in which sacrifice to pagan gods was seen as a transaction for the material prosperity of the worshippers. Against this, Patrick’s conversion to Christianity was noticed quickly, when his prayers of devotion—then almost always articulated out loud—were overheard by his neighbors.

The rest of the narrative demonstrates the ways in which Patrick carried the Christian mission into the frontiers of the British Isles—confronting a hostile culture and institutionalized heresy along the way. With this the case, the life of Patrick is a testimony to Great Commission fervor, not to the Irish nationalism most often associated with the saint. As a matter of fact, Freeman points out that Patrick’s love for the Irish was an act of obedience to Jesus’ command to love enemies and to pray for persecutors.

Likewise, Kevin DeYoung, also from the archives (ca. 2011), provides a brief missionary biography of Patrick.  He says,

Here’s what most scholars agree on: Patrick–whose adult life falls in the fifth century–was actually British, not Irish. He was born into a Christian family with priests and deacons for relatives, but by his own admission, he was not a good Christian growing up. As a teenager he was carried by Irish raiders into slavery in Ireland. His faith deepened during this six year ordeal. Upon escaping Ireland he went back home to Britain. While with his family he received a dream in which God called him to go back to Ireland to convert the Irish pagans to Christianity.

In his Confessio Patrick writes movingly about his burden to evangelize the Irish. He explicitly links his vocation to the commands of Scripture. Biblical allusions like “the nations will come to you from the ends of the earth” and “I have put you as a light among the nations” and “I shall make you fishers of men” flow from his pen. Seeing his life’s work through the lens of Matthew 28 and Acts 1, Patrick prayed that God would “never allow me to be separated from His people whom He has won in the end of the earth.”  For Patrick, the ends of the earth was Ireland.

According to one historian (again I am citing DeYoung’s research) “[Patrick] was the first person in Christian history to take the scriptural injunctions literally” (Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity86)  meaning that he was the first person to take the Great Commission as a command.  Rightly, Patrick read Matthew 28:19 as a calling for him, and so he left home to take the gospel to pagans of Ireland. 

This literal and personal reading of disciple-making needs to be reissued today, because some still think Jesus’ words are for someone else. Tragically, they relegate Jesus’ missionary imperative to a bygone era or for some special class of people.  Yet, as Patrick’s life and labors show, when men take seriously the call to be a disciple-making disciple, God will bring great blessings.  Fifteen centuries later we have much to learn from Patrick.

I encourage you to read the rest of Moore’s blogpost (What evangelicals can learn from Saint Patrick) and DeYoung’s foray into history (Who was Saint Patrick?).  Together these two brief posts will help you determine fact from fiction.  They will give you many reasons to thank God for the missions-minded Brit who brought the light of the gospel to the whole nation of Ireland.

May Patrick’s brave example spur us on to share the gospel with our own pagan nation and hostile neighbors. 

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Happy St. Patrick’s Day :: Green Means Go!

What comes to mind when you think of St. Patrick’s Day? 

Leprechauns.  Ireland.  A pot of gold.  Wearing green or drinking green beer.  If that is it, your understanding of this celebrated day is divorced from history and the real Patrick of Ireland.

Today on Moore to the Point, Dr. Russell Moore gives a brief history lesson on the real St Patrick that should make every missionally-minded Christian sit up and take notice.  Drawing on the Philip Freeman’s 2007 book, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, Moore summarizes:

Any evangelical seeking to kindle a love for missions among the people of God will benefit from this volume’s demonstration that the Great Commission did not lie dormant between the apostle Paul and William Carey. Patrick’s love and zeal for the Irish may also inspire American evangelicals to repent of our hopelessness for the conversion of, say, the radical Islamic world—which is, after all, no more “hopeless” than the Irish barbarians of Patrick’s era.

I encourage you to read the rest of Moore’s blogpostWhat evangelicals can learn from Saint Patrick, and to give thanks for this obedient servant of Christ.  May his brave example spur us on to share the gospel with our own pagan nation and hostile neighbors. 

Sola Deo Gloria, dss