...As we watch the annual drunken parades and pop-culture consumerism of the March holiday, no one could seem more removed from biblical Christianity than Patrick. And yet, Patrick’s life was closer to a revival meeting than to a shamrock-decorated drinking party named in his honor.
In his volume, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, Philip Freeman, a professor of classics at Washington University in St. Louis, lays out a compelling portrait of Patrick, the theologian-evangelist. In accomplishing this, Freeman attempts to reconstruct Patrick’s cultural milieu—that of a world that had “ended” with the fall of Rome in 410 A.D. This collapse of Roman power had unleashed savagery in the British Isles, as thieves and slave-traders were unhinged from the restraining power of Caesar’s sword. Patrick’s ministry was shaped by this new world, not least of which by Patrick’s capture and escape from slavery....
...The rest of the narrative demonstrates the ways in which Patrick carried the Christian mission into the frontiers of the British Isles—confronting a hostile culture and institutionalized heresy along the way. With this the case, the life of Patrick is a testimony to Great Commission fervor, not to the Irish nationalism most often associated with the saint. As a matter of fact, Freeman points out that Patrick’s love for the Irish was an act of obedience to Jesus’ command to love enemies and to pray for persecutors.
This biography gives contemporary evangelicals more than a pious evangelist to emulate. It also reconstructs a Christian engagement with a pagan culture, in ways that are strikingly contemporary to evangelicals seeking to engage a post-Christian America.
Also: Driscoll on Patrick