I know this is a little late with posting on this topic. But I thought "oh well!" Today was kind of a busy day. Actually a busy week. Better late then never right?
Dr. Phil Stringer was one of my college professors. His wife and He are also personal friends of mine and my husband. He is the type of guy where you can call him up and ask for advice or counsel. He truly cares for other people, and truly loves his brothers and sisters in Christ. He is a "genuine" person. :)
He also *LOVES* history. This comes from his book Called "The Real Story" which deals with the story of Pocahotas, Christopher Columbus, Nazi Germany, and The French Revolution as well as St. Patrick. You can probably order his book and get a list of other books by him, through his web-site:
"When people hear the name Celtic today, they immediately think of a very successful basketball team in Boston. Very few people know where the term "Celtic" came from or why it was chosen for a basketball team. The Celtics were the original tribal inhabitants of the British Isles. Later centuries brought Romans, Danes, Germanic Angles and Saxons, and French Normans to Britain.
All of these groups formed the rich background of the modern-day English people; however, the Celtics were the original inhabitants of England. They were known for their war-like ferocity (which is why a modern sports franchise was named for them). The Celtics demonstrated this ferocity when they resisted the attempts of the Roman Empire to conquer them (First Century B.C.), and again when the independent Celtic Christian churches resisted the armed aggression of Roman Roman Catholicism.
There was frequent trade between the British Isles and the rest of Europe during the First Century of Christianity. Christian teachings soon found their way to the British Isles, and they seemed to have flourished there. The spiritist Druid religion, which once dominated Celtic society, lost its hold on the British people. It still remained an important force, but by 200 A.D., it no longer controlled the British Isles. Tertullian wrote that Christianity had accomplished what the Roman Empire could not-the conquest of the Druids.
Because of their relative isolation from the rest of Europe, the British escaped being influenced by many of the events that controlled affairs in mainland Europe. Only one of the Roman persecutions of the Christian church extended to Britain (that of Diocletian). When other regions were deeply affected by the merger of church and state under Emperor Constantine, the Celtic churches remained independent. There was very little organization among the churches.
Because all British churches were independent, each developed its own doctrinal positions. While many viewpoints were represented what we call the baptist disticitves were very common among the British churches of the Second through Sixth Centuries. Separation of church and state, baptism by immersion of believers, and the concept of independent church congregations seem universal among the early British churches. There does not seem to be any concept of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, salvation by church membership, or an organized priesthood before their military conquest by Roman Catholicism.
One of the most famous and most touching stories of church history took place during this period. About 385 A.D., in the village of Bannavern, a boy was born. His father Calpurnius, was a deacon in the independent church there. The boy was named Succat, though he would be remembered in church history as Patrick. Though raised in a Christian home, as a teenager he became very rebellious toward Christian truth. At age 16 he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold as a slave to a pagan Irish chief. Patrick became the keeper of the swine for this chief. While alone, keeping the swine, he remembered the teaching of his parents and put his faith and trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At age 22 he escaped from his master who had been mistreating him. Following his escape, returned to his family.
After studying and training to become a preacher, Patrick became burdened for the Irish tribe with whom he had lived as a slave. His family and friends tried to dissuade him, but he determined to go back there as a missionary! He gathered the pagan tribes in fields near the village and preached the gospel them. Thousands were converted to Christ. He baptized all those converts by immersion, and then formed local churches for them. The son of a tribal chieftain, Benignus, was converted and Patrick trained him as a preacher. Benignus also baptized thousands of converts! Many more churches were formed through their ministries (over 300).
Patrick wrote and taught against slavery and he is sometimes given credit for being the first person ever to speak unequivocally against slavery.
Several of Patrick's writings and songs are available today. One of songs includes this stanza about his dependence on Christ.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
Sot that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise
Another stanza shows his personal focus on the Lord.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to up hold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
Patrick's preaching ministry lasted for thirty years. So many people were converted that pagan practices of immorality and human sacrifice were no longer carried out in the open. Thomas Calhill described the change this way, "Something new, something never seen before-a Christian culture, where slavery and human sacrifice became unthinkable, and warfare, though impossible for humans to eradicate, diminished markedly." (How the Irish Saved Civilization p.148). Cahill also wrote:
"Ireland is unique in religious history for being the only land into which Christianity was introduced without bloodshed. There are no Irish martyrs (at least not till Elizabeth I began to create them eleven centuries after Patrick)." (p. 151).
In the Sixth Century, in one of the independent Irish churches formed by Patrick, a young man named Columba decided to go as a missionary to Scotland. He was the grandson of a local Irish king. A church was built on a small island known as Iona., and from there missionaries traveled throughout Scotland. Many young men came to Iona to study. They were taught every one of the baptist distictives, and they spread these ideas throughout Scotland. Iona became a college for missionaries. Eventually missionaries traveled from Iona throughout Europe. Unfortunately, their attempts to take the gospel to the Saxon invaders of England constantly met with failure.
Winston Churchill described this period of time this way in The Birth of Britain, p. 72-73.
"It was therefore in Ireland and not in Wales or England that the light of Christianity now burned and gleamed through the darkness.
And it was from Ireland that the Gospel was carried to the North of Britain and for the first time cast its redeeming spell upon the Pictish invaders. Columba, born half a century after St. Patrick's death, but an offspring of his Church, and imbued with his grace and fire, proved a new champion of the faith. From the monastery which he established in the island of Iona his disciples went forth to the British kingdom of Strathclyde, to the Pictish tribes of the North, and to the Anglian kingdom of the Northumbria. He is the founder of the Scottish Christian Church.
Thus the message which St. Patrick carried to Ireland came back across the stormy waters and spread through wide regions."
Finally, the Roman pope, known as Gregory the Great, determined to bring the British Christians under the control of Rome. Consequently, representatives of Rome made treaties with the Angles and the Saxons accomplishing that result. A constant struggle then broke out between Roman Catholicism, backed by the Germanic tribes and the Celtics, for control of their previously independent churches. Three church councils were held, and at all three councils the independent churches refused the control of Rome. The swords of the Saxons accomplished what church councils could not.
The Roman Catholic Church found it expedient to claim the legacy of St. Patrick as their own. Myths and legends became attached to his name. A holiday declared in his name became an excuse for drunkenness.
Those who love the gospel of grace, the concept of the independent church and English-American Christian heritage can claim Patrick as their own. The mythology should be forgotten and Patrick's ministry as a gospel preacher and Christian teacher should be remembered. "