St Patrick the (almost) Protestant Missionary

I am a servant of Christ to a foreign nation for the unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. – Patrick

Aside from being more Protestant* than Catholic, and being British, not Irish, Patty was also a bit of a maverick when it came to methodology and practice – according to Mark Driscoll. I wonder how those that have a slightly pietistic view of St Patrick would receive his like today? I think I, and you, already know the answer.

Saint Patrick is not even a saint, as he was never canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, Patrick was not even Irish. Rather, he was a Roman-Britain who spoke Latin and a bit of Welsh.

Patrick’s unorthodox ministry methods, which had brought so much fruit among the Irish, also brought much opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Because Patrick was so far removed from Roman civilization and church polity he was seen by some as an instigator of unwelcome changes. This led to great conflicts between the Roman and Celtic Christians. The Celtic Christians had their own calendar and celebrated Easter a week earlier than their Roman counterparts. Additionally, the Roman monks shaved only the hair on the top of their head, whereas the Celtic monks shaved all of their hair except their long locks which began around the bottom of their head as a funky monk mullet. The Romans considered these and other variations by the Celtic Christian leaders to be acts of insubordination. In the end, the Roman Church should have learned from Patrick, who is one of the greatest missionaries who has ever lived. Though Patrick’s pastors and churches looked different in method, they were very orthodox in their theology and radically committed to such things as Scripture and the Trinity.

Thanks to Mark and The Resurgence team for putting together this post and others in their Vintage Saints series.

NB: post edit: In the interests of fairness and accuracy. Driscoll doesn’t say Patrick is a Protestant. I use this term in it’s purest sense, not in the sense that he was a child of the Protestant Reformation. He was, rather orthodox, bible & gospel focused in his message, methods and ministry – which for all intended purposes makes him more “protestant” than many today who are not part of Roman Catholicism.

I had originally titled the post as “St Patrick the Protestant Missionary” – while Patrick was a proto-type of the later protestants, to call him such is anachronistic and, well, wrong. As picked up on by Rich in the comments below.


8 thoughts on “St Patrick the (almost) Protestant Missionary

  1. the statement: “Aside from being Protestant, not Catholic,” I don’t know how you come to that conclusion. Protestism as we know it did not start until the late 15 and early 16th centuries. I have looked relentlessly for facts stating that Patrick was NOT part of the Roman Church but my efforts have failed. I have found were he was a Bishop, but no mentioning of anything else. Your thoughts?

    1. You’ll note I said, “according to Mark Driscoll”.

      However, protestantism has its roots further back than Martin Luther. Consider the likes of Wycliff, Huss etc. All abandoning Romanish/Papal Catholocism. But how a protestant is defined is open to debate I guess.

      See if you can get hold of “Movements that Change the World” by Steve Addison, published by Missional Press.
      He has a chapter on Patrick that uses several sources, one of which is Patrick’s own writing in his letter to Coroticus.

      1. hi albert it is great to have you on line here and i trust that you are having a good day, this is alan coote here from northern ireland i have did some reading about the life of st patrick and read that he believed that gods salvation came through grace which is recieved when put our faith in jesus christ. there are millions of people through the centies who have put thier faith in christ patrick also put his faith in christ and discovered the real love and security and inner peace that can only be found in him when we know him as lord and saviour i have did this also. i trust you have also i trust that he is your best friend in life and your saviour and foundation for heaven. if not then then the message of the gospel is that jesus loves you and paid for your sins to be forgiven on the cross once and for all so that you can have that broken relationship with a holy and loving god can be restored. it is when you are willing to allow jesus christ to come in and take charge in your life that you can know this peace as a reality in your life. this is how you become a sinner saved by grace.not a protestant nor a catholic but a real christian a child of the living god. in his eyes we are the same.

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