Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact. By Michael A.G. Haykin. Fearn, Tain: Christian Focus Publications, 2014, $12.00.
Patrick of Ireland can be purchased through our Affiliate Link at the top of the page through Christian Book Distributors.
Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact was an inspirational book about a young man who was born into a well to do family in Britain. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates in a raid, which took thousands of people back to Ireland or who were sold as slaves. It was in his captivity that Patrick came to Christ and was ultimately released to return to Britain. The author’s theme of the book described Patrick’s life before and after conversion and how Patrick ultimately went back to Ireland and ministered to not only his captors, but the northern half of the country. The purpose of this book review is to illustrate how God can use a man or woman in ministry who may not be formally educated, but is willing to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them in their quest to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the utmost parts of the world. Patrick’s impact was profound, not only in Ireland, but the global church.
In the Series Preface, Haykin describes a revised history of early church fathers leading up to Patrick. Haykin wrote, “One final word about the Fathers recommended in this small series of essays. The Fathers are not Scripture. They are just senior conversation partners about Scripture and its meaning” (p. 11). This writer is stating that Scripture is truth and whatever the early church fathers were attempting to communicate, there could be a margin of human error. But whatever they have written cannot be compared or taken as the Word of God.
In Chapter One, Haykin describes the Roman Era and the Romans had been in Britain for roughly 350 years. The Romans had a great influence on Britain, but there was a stiff resistance in three regions; Celtic tribes which would become Wales; Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni; and inhabitants of the present day East Anglia (p. 21). The rebellion almost led to the end of Roman rule in Britain. According to Haykin, “Roman rule led to lavish villas dotting the countryside, built by the Romano-British upper class” (p. 22). The British Church was established sometime in the A.D. 190’s. Haykin writes, “Archaeological evidence from third and fourth century Britain also confirms a growing acceptance of Christianity by the upper classes, a movement that was parallel to what was happening with the rest of the Empire” (p. 26). Patrick of Ireland was born around A.D. 390 of wealthy parents. Haykin states, “His father, Calpornius, was a deacon and his grandfather Potitus was a presbyter. Therefore, Patrick was raised in the church” (p. 30). Although Patrick’s father was a deacon in the church, he was also a Decurion, who was a member of the local town council (p. 31). Therefore, Patrick was born into wealth as opposed to being an everyday citizen. As compared to much of the population, he was heir to wealth. It was when Patrick was sixteen years old, he was abducted by pirates and taken into Ireland. Patrick wrote in his book, Confession, that although he was raised in the church and had heard the gospel from the presbyters as well as his father, he never accepted Christ. He concluded that God was punishing him for his lack of faith and had allowed him to be abducted to go through the trials and tribulations that he faced. As a slave in Ireland, he converted to Christianity and really meant it. Haykin writes, “…Patrick became convicted of his sinfulness—his living in ‘death and unbelief’—and he ‘earnestly sought’ God. The result was his whole-hearted conversion and life-long practice of piety and self-discipline” (p. 36). Patrick had a dream that indicated that he would be leaving his slave master. Somehow, Patrick escaped from Ireland and went back to Britain as a devout Christian. It is estimated for about twenty years, Patrick received theological training. Although he may have received training, he was not well versed in Greek but he did know Latin. He became very astute with the Latin Bible.
Chapter Two is titled, ‘One God in the Trinity of the Holy Name’- The Divine Foundation of Patrick’s Theology. Haykin mainly discussed the Trinity and the relationship of the Father and the Son. Haykin wrote, “The one true God is also a Triune being: the Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Here Patrick broaches one of the most profound truths of the Christian faith. …The Trinity is a revealed truth that surpasses the ability of human reason to fully comprehend it, but nonetheless must be articulated as far as we are able by rational discourse” (p. 46). Haykin states that Patrick was thankful for Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and the help that he has been able to overcome temptation. “Today I can confidently offer him my soul as a living sacrifice—to Christ my Lord who saved me out of my troubles” (p. 50). This last sentence refers to his captivity as a slave. Haykin writes towards the end of the chapter, “At the heart of the Gospel that Patrick preached in Ireland was the Trinity: The Father who planned the work of salvation, The Son who became man and died for the salvation of sinners, and The Spirit who brings home the Father’s plan and Son’s work to sinful human beings and makes them, as the confession has stated, ‘sons of God and co-heirs with Christ’” (p. 58).
In Chapter Three, I Am Bound by the Spirit, Celtic paganism was discussed and how Patrick overcame those rituals by preaching and teaching against them. Patrick had mentioned in his Confession that the paganism was even practiced by the sailors. When he was on the ship sailing back to Britain, the sailors wanted him to do dirty and vile things such as suck the breast of a sailor because according to Celtic tradition, it was a sign of friendship. Patrick refrained from that. Patrick also had no standing in Ireland like he had in Britain, the son of a Decurion (63). The Holy Spirit ministered to Patrick. Patrick had given up his all to be in Ireland as a missionary and Bishop to the lost. Ireland was Patrick’s utmost part of the earth.
Chapter Four, God Has Spoken, discussed how Patrick viewed Scripture. He viewed it as the spoken Word of God. There was no other book that had more authority than the Bible. Patrick linked his life of prayer to that of the Holy Spirit. He prayed several times a day. At one point, he confessed to praying at least a hundred times a day while tending sheep in Ireland. Because he devoted himself to prayer, the harsh living conditions were overcome. Every roadblock that occurred, Patrick turned to prayer to overcome the obstacle (p. 85). Haykin states, “Patrick was not a trained theologian. He was unclear in his speech. He had a lack of education, mainly because of his abduction and early captivity. He had a strong sense of inadequacy and inferiority. But God used him even with all his short comings. God called him to minister to the pagan Irish and it was through the Holy Spirit that he could overcome these adversities” (88-89).
In Chapter Five, An Evangelical Reflects on Patrick, Haykin states that he was fascinated with Patrick. He writes that Patrick was not an Evangelical. Patrick’s devotion was to the Trinity and he had a zeal for missions to the lost. He was obsessed with sharing the Gospel to people who were lost without a savior and who were headed for a devil’s hell. Patrick’s mission was all for the right reasons and not for profit or gain. Patrick’s Latin Bible was the authority and he preached from it. Haykin wrote, “Most importantly, in this regard, because of his own weaknesses, Patrick knew that the Spirit’s work in us is humbling work, showing us that all in the Christian life is of pure grace: a truly Evangelical note—‘if I have achieved or shown any small success according to God’s pleasure, it was the gift of God’” (p. 98).
What impressed this student the most was that Patrick was not a well-educated person. He had a few deficits such as speaking slowly, not being able to write in a manner that is clear, and a lack of education. Therefore, he was not what one would expect to be as a Bishop of the British Church. One other thing this student liked was that Patrick was devoted, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through and in his life. He preached the Trinity and the Gospel of Christ as a slow speaking, uneducated, man of God, who was guided by the Holy Spirit. This goes to prove that God can use anyone who has a heart to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. God can work through anyone who allows His Holy Spirit to dwell in him. The author thoroughly supported his thesis. This student does not see that his thesis has any weaknesses. Certainly, not everything was known about Patrick because he was born in 390 and died around 460 A.D. Based on what the author knew, this student feels that the author’s thesis stands.
Joseph T. Lee
Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia
This Book Critique/Review may not be reproduced or copied without the author’s express permission.
Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © February 25, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.