Of the Early Church Fathers perhaps none is so remembered in the secular world than (St) Patrick, and few so neglected by evangelical Christians! It is therefore a joy to discover anew this beacon of Celtic Christianity, reclaimed from outrageous legend and Romish gloss by Michael Haykin. Whilst it would be going too far to claim the true Patrick (died c. AD 460) as an evangelical - indeed anachronistic - yet his faith seems sound, and certainly orthodox.
Haykin treats as suspect almost all historical data apart from the two different documents definitely ascribed to Patrick - his 'confessions' and a letter to a British chief. From these we learn that although Ireland was the backdrop for the most significant features of Patrick's spiritual life, he was in fact from Britain. He was carried captive to Ireland by pirates while a youth, converted during this time, and then managed to escape back to his homeland. Later he made the momentous and courageous decision to go back to Ireland, now freely as a missionary to bring the gospel of Christ to those who had once been his captors.
Patrick was not some superstitious monk, but a humbly educated man with an intense devotion to his Old Latin Bible. Haykin provides an assessment of Patrick's belief in the inerrancy of scripture and of its place in the development of his thinking about ministry, mission and doctrine. Another chapter helpfully discusses Patrick's theology, particularly his Trinitarian creed. Today's evangelical, who perhaps assumes the Trinity and gives scant thought to it, would be shamed by the fervent commitment of Patrick to the correct understanding of God's nature and being. Celtic Christians like him were certainly not primitive or doctrinally flabby! This is recommended reading. One criticism would be that there is some repetition of material due to the way in which the book is arranged, with Patrick's life and times followed by more detailed specific studies of his thought.
This is the first in a new series edited by Michael A G Haykin called 'Early Church Fathers'.
'Patrick of Ireland. His Life and Impact' p/b £7.99. Christian Focus Publications.
NB. Also available in this series is 'Basil of Caesarea. His Life and Impact'.