Saint Patrick has always fascinated me. It may be my family’s Irish roots, or simply my enjoyment of the Irish accent, combined with my love of both the church and history. Either way, I’ve always been intrigued by the man whose life we celebrate each year by wearing green, and pinching one another if we don’t, and dying our food green. So when Thomas Nelson introduced their Christian Encounters series and I saw this short biography of Patrick, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.
I’ll be honest. It was somewhat disappointing. The best part of the book is the fact that they included Patrick’s own writings at the end of the book. My problem with the 7 chapter biography written by Jonathan Rogers is two-fold.
First, he approaches the subject assuming everything the Catholic Church would like you to believe about Patrick, and church history in general, is true. He writes as though the Catholic church was then, what it is today, which it wasn’t. He presents Patrick’s conflicts with the churchmen in England, but acts as though Patrick was still part of, and under the authority of, the Roman Church. Other books I’ve read, including The Celtic Way of Evangelism, paint a different picture. Patrick probably acted on his own, without the Pope or anyone else being involved. In fact, Patrick’s story takes place well before the date some scholars give for the Pope’s ascendence to primacy in the Roman Church.
My second issue is based on the author’s lack of solid biblical theology. Or should I say, his endorsement of unbiblical Roman Catholic theology? For instance, he relates a story from Patrick’s writings where Patrick claims to have been under spiritual attack. While being physically pinned to the ground by this spiritual force, Patrick calls out “Helias, Helias.” Patrick relates the story this way.
…not one of my members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in the spirit, to call upon ‘Helias’? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in the sky, and while I was crying out ‘Helias, Helias’ with all my might, lo, the brilliance of the sun fell upon me and immediately shook me free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me… ¹
Rogers states that,
There is a complicated bit of wordplay here. Patrick called on Elijah by his Latin name, Helias. Having summoned Helias though, what he got was helios, the sun, rising and bringing relief from his tortured dream. ²
First problem: Helias isn’t Latin. It’s Greek. So is helios, for that matter. Complicated indeed.
Patrick believed that the Spirit of God helped him pray in this situation. Pray by calling “upon ‘Helias’.” It would appear that Patrick believes the Spirit led him to pray to Elijah for help, in Greek. Rogers concludes,
Christ prayed on Patrick’s behalf; Christ answered the prayer; Christ was the answer to the prayer. Christ is all in all. ³
This sounds good, and contains some truth. But I seriously question whether Christ would, by his Spirit, lead one of his children to pray to Elijah for help, in Greek, and then answer the prayer by causing the sun rise.
My conclusion is that the author is so thoroughly steeped in Roman doctrine that he believes every good prayer is in Latin, and that praying to people, be they saints or prophets, is so acceptable, that even Christ himself would do so. This is simply unbiblical teaching. Prayer should be offered to God alone, as Scripture clearly teaches.
Patrick wasn’t perfect. He’s a saint the same as any true believer is a saint. He was never “sainted” by the Roman Catholic Church. And this biography isn’t really worth the time it takes to read it. Fortunately, it didn’t take that long!
For those interested in the life and ministry of Saint Patrick, I would rather recommend a book I mentioned earlier in this review: The Celtic Way of Evangelism.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”