A few years ago, when I first attempted to teach on the DNA of a Biblical church, I read in William Downing’s A Biblical and Ecclesiastical Chronology that Christianity was already present in Ireland way before Roman Catholicism came. This is why St. Patrick was “ignored by Columba and by the Roman Catholic writers” until only [at the earliest] the eighth century.
The church historian Philip Schaff adds that, “The Roman tradition that St. Patrick was sent by Pope Caelestine [ca. 431] is too late to have any claim upon our acceptance, and is set aside by the entire silence of St. Patrick himself in his genuine works.” Moreover, Geisler and Nix write that, “by the time Gregory’s missionary force arrived in England, a variety of Christianity was certainly known to the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.” The Gregorian missionary movement took place in the 6th century! Furthermore, St. Patrick’s Confession never invoked Mary and the so-called saints “such as we might expect from the Patrick of tradition.”
So what do we know of St. Patrick? He lived between 389 and 461 AD. He was British. Captured by Irish pirates. Became a slave herdsman for six years. During his captivity, he “turned earnestly to God, and eventually received a Divine message that he was to escape.” He made it back to England, but was convinced he needed to return to Ireland to preach Christ. So he did. And he did so to preach the gospel, baptize believers and plant churches in Ireland. The historian Philip Schaff quoted Patrick’s description of the people of Ireland, that they “never had the knowledge of God and worshipped only idols and unclean things.” Through the gospel ministry of St. Patrick, many were converted, thousands of believers were baptized and many churches formed in the islands. Evangelism. Baptism. Church-planting. St. Patrick did that! Sounds like what an independent Baptist church-planter of today.
Let me leave you with a snippet of one of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons mentioning St. Patrick (as it summarizes my sentiment for what March 17th should be about). The Prince of Preacher exclaimed: “As St. Patrick is said to have driven out all the venomous creatures from Ireland, so let Jesus Christ come, and all the serpent’s seed fly before him—they cannot bear the great truth of the atoning death of the Son of God. Lift up the cross, young man, when you stand in the corners of the streets; whatever you do not know, know the doctrine of the atonement; whatever you cannot tell the people, tell them about Jesus Christ, who hung upon the tree for sinners, and make him the main theme of all your conversation.”
Thank you for reading my blog. Please feel free to write a reply or comment. I try to do my best to respond. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Yours truly, Christian Torres, Preaching Christ Today.
1 Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 4 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 51.
2 Ibid, 45.
3 Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Rev. and expanded. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 542–543.
4 Schaff and Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 4, 49.
5 F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1240.
6 Schaff and Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 4, 46.
7 C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 21 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1875), 323.