It Is Written

The Celtic Connection

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript



Series Code: IIW

Program Code: IIW017149A

01:29 ♪[Theme music]
01:40 ♪[Theme music]
01:48 >>John Bradshaw: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw.
01:51 Thanks for joining me.
01:53 He's one of the least-known well-known people
01:56 in all of history.
01:57 On a certain date every year,
01:59 people all around the world celebrate him,
02:01 without knowing much of anything about him.
02:05 Here in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is huge.
02:10 It's a national holiday in Ireland.
02:12 On St. Patrick's Day people wear green,
02:14 and there are often parades and other celebrations conducted.
02:18 It was in the 17th century that the Roman Catholic Church
02:21 set aside March 17 as a day of celebration and remembrance.
02:26 In recent decades, Ireland has been a land of religious
02:30 and political tension over the question
02:32 of who should control Northern Ireland:
02:36 the Irish or Great Britain.
02:38 The dispute goes back many hundreds of years.
02:41 ♪[Bagpipes]
02:48 In the 1960s, the Troubles began in Northern Ireland.
02:52 It was a period marked by violent clashes between
02:55 unionists and republicans--
02:58 basically, between Protestants and Catholics.
03:04 More than 3,200 people died
03:07 during the 30 years of the Troubles.
03:09 There were thousands of bombings
03:12 and tens of thousands of shootings.
03:14 Men like Bobby Sands are still revered by many
03:17 here in Ireland.
03:19 Sands died in the notorious Maze Prison
03:22 just outside Belfast,
03:24 following a 66-day-long hunger strike in 1981.
03:28 In all, 10 men died during that hunger strike,
03:32 men who were committed to the idea of a united Ireland
03:36 and wanted to see Northern Ireland
03:38 wrested out of the control of the British.
03:40 ♪[Music]
03:46 The tension began to ease following an agreement
03:49 that was signed in Belfast on Good Friday of 1998.
03:54 But religious tension goes back much further in Ireland.
03:58 And the man responsible for radical religious change
04:01 among the Irish,
04:03 the man responsible for the Christian evangelization
04:05 of the British Isles,
04:07 is celebrated all around the world today.
04:09 ♪[Music]
04:16 During his lifetime, Patrick was considered a troublemaker.
04:19 He was a disturber of the peace.
04:21 Today, you might call him a religious lightning rod.
04:25 And there's one thing Patrick wasn't.
04:27 He wasn't Irish.
04:30 He was born in the year 385 A.D. or thereabouts,
04:34 and he died around 461 A.D.
04:38 At that time, the British Isles were pagan.
04:41 They were dominated by the culture
04:43 and the religious practices of the druids,
04:46 an elite class that had a direct line to the occult.
04:50 By the time Patrick came onto the scene,
04:52 druidism was at the height of its powers.
04:56 Druid literature speaks of the magical
05:00 and spiritual training of the druid,
05:02 in which he is eaten by a goddess, enters into her belly,
05:07 and is reborn as the greatest poet in the land.
05:11 Mention of druidism evokes images of wizardry.
05:14 And the druids in Patrick's day were into magic
05:17 and charms and healing powers.
05:19 They foretold the future.
05:21 And they worshipped the forces of nature.
05:23 They've been referred to as magico-religious specialists,
05:28 and it's said that they could call up a storm
05:31 to ward off invaders.
05:34 Now, while most modern scholars would not agree with this,
05:38 no less a person than Julius Caesar
05:40 made the claim that the druids practiced human sacrifice,
05:44 burning their victims in a device known as a “wicker man.”
05:48 Caesar also said that they believed in reincarnation.
05:52 Modern scholars say that the druids
05:54 were essentially shaman, spiritualists.
05:58 >>Dr. David Trim: So the religious situation in Ireland
05:59 in the 5th century is that it is the last holdout of the druids,
06:03 the druids who had once been the predominant religious figures
06:07 right across the British Isles and, indeed,
06:09 the north part of what we now call France.
06:11 But they had been largely stamped out by the Romans,
06:14 who found their religious practices,
06:15 such as human sacrifice, objectionable.
06:18 Um, there's very little evidence of human sacrifice
06:21 being practiced by Patrick's day,
06:24 but the druids are there.
06:25 This is a religion that is really focused on,
06:28 on nature and on spirits.
06:31 Uh, but it is a fairly sophisticated religion as well.
06:33 They had education; they were well-educated men
06:37 by the standards of the time.
06:39 And they had reasonably well worked out cosmology
06:42 and a pantheon of gods.
06:44 Um, but the druid, druidic religion, as far as we can tell,
06:48 does seem to be in a little bit of decline by the 5th century.
06:51 It's past its heyday, and so, uh,
06:54 there is this emphasis on spirits.
06:57 Uh, and where therein might still be some human sacrifice
07:01 is that we know people are found in the bogs of Ireland,
07:04 in the peat.
07:05 Now, some of them clearly ended up there accidentally,
07:07 tripped and fell, oh, too bad.
07:09 But others we know, uh, are offered as sacrifices.
07:13 Because you're hoping that by doing that,
07:16 you can ensure you have good weather,
07:18 a good harvest,
07:20 because everything depends on the harvest,
07:21 and so you want to appease the natural deities.
07:26 >>John: It was this paganism that confronted St. Patrick
07:28 during his ministry to the Irish people.
07:31 Druid magicians hindered the work Patrick was trying to do.
07:35 The druids resented Patrick,
07:37 knowing that his ministry was the beginning of the end
07:40 for druidism.
07:42 Patrick was born in Britain,
07:44 which at the time was controlled by the Roman Empire.
07:48 Exactly where he was born no one really knows,
07:50 although it seems likely that he was born on or near
07:54 England's west coast.
07:56 His family evidently was reasonably well-off.
07:59 Both his father and his grandfather
08:01 worked in religious service.
08:02 But Patrick, as a young man,
08:05 didn't take matters of faith seriously.
08:08 When he was 16 years old,
08:10 he was captured by raiders sent or led by Ireland's King Niall.
08:15 He spent six years toiling as a shepherd,
08:18 and it was during this time that he found faith in God
08:23 for himself.
08:24 ♪[Music]
08:26 God spoke to Patrick and told him to flee to the Irish coast,
08:30 where he'd find a ship waiting to take him home.
08:33 So he left his master,
08:34 traveled many miles to a port, and he found the promised ship.
08:39 He traveled back to England and made his way back to his family.
08:43 And it was there and then that he dedicated his life
08:47 to serving God.
08:49 So how did Patrick, the runaway slave,
08:53 become St. Patrick, known and loved all the world over?
08:58 And what does Patrick have to do with the Protestant Reformation?
09:01 I'll tell you more in just a moment.
09:04 ♪[Music]
09:10 >>John: We look around the world and it appears this planet
09:13 is spinning out of control in many ways.
09:16 The world of today is a far cry from the world of yesterday.
09:19 Is there hope?
09:20 Yes, there is.
09:21 Our free offer today is "Hope for a Planet in Crisis."
09:25 Call us on (800) 253-3000,
09:28 or visit us online at
09:33 Or you can write to the address on your screen.
09:36 I'd like you to receive our free offer,
09:38 "Hope for a Planet in Crisis."
09:41 [Crickets chirping]
09:45 ♪[Music]
09:53 [Camera equipment rattling]
09:55 [Rustling in bushes]
09:58 [People talking]
10:00 [Wind blowing]
10:05 ♪[Music]
10:16 ♪[Music]
10:25 [Cheering]
10:35 ♪[Music]
10:48 ♪[Irish music]
10:55 >>John: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written.
10:58 He's known all around the world,
10:59 and he's celebrated every March the 17th.
11:02 But who was St. Patrick,
11:05 and what did he do that made him a global icon?
11:08 Well, to begin with, he wasn't Irish; he was English.
11:12 And he wasn't a Roman Catholic.
11:15 The principles that he lived by and shared with others
11:17 made him a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation,
11:20 which would occur many years after he died.
11:22 He was taken from his home in England
11:24 by Irish raiders when he was a boy,
11:27 and he was forced into slavery in Ireland.
11:30 He eventually escaped,
11:32 and he wrote that after studying in France
11:34 and returning to his home in England,
11:37 he had a vision,
11:38 not unlike a vision Paul had in the book of Acts.
11:42 “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland.
11:46 His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters,
11:50 and he gave me one of them.
11:52 I read the heading: 'The Voice of the Irish.'
11:56 As I began the letter,
11:58 I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice
12:00 of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut,
12:04 which is beside the western sea,
12:07 and they cried out, as with one voice,
12:09 'We appeal to you, holy servant boy,
12:12 to come and walk among us.'”
12:16 Eventually, Patrick acted on the vision he received
12:19 and returned to Ireland to work as a missionary.
12:22 He landed at the same port from which he had escaped Ireland,
12:26 and began his ministry in Tara, just north of Dublin,
12:30 in what today is the Republic of Ireland.
12:33 And before long, the son of a powerful chieftain
12:35 in the north of Ireland was converted
12:38 and joined Patrick's missionary team.
12:40 Thousands were baptized,
12:42 among them many who were wealthy and influential.
12:46 Patrick ordained pastors throughout the island
12:48 to shepherd these new Christian communities.
12:51 Here's what he said about the new Irish believers:
12:54 “Never before did they know of God
12:56 except to serve idols and unclean things.
13:00 But now, they've become the people of the Lord,
13:03 and are called children of God.
13:06 The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish
13:09 are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ.”
13:13 There's plenty said about Patrick's life
13:16 that's nothing more than legend.
13:18 No, he didn't chase all the snakes out of Ireland.
13:22 There'd never been any snakes in Ireland in the first place.
13:25 They certainly didn't attack him
13:27 after he had fasted for 40 days.
13:29 His walking stick did not grow into a tree.
13:33 And he never used the shamrock to teach the Irish
13:36 about the Trinity.
13:38 Patrick sailed from near Drogheda to just outside Belfast
13:43 where he began sharing the gospel with people,
13:45 who, for the most part, had zero working knowledge
13:48 of the plan of salvation.
13:50 Now, Patrick wasn't the first missionary to Ireland,
13:53 but he was the first to gain any real traction and establish
13:57 an effective, far-reaching work.
14:00 So what was it that drove
14:02 this Bible-believing missionary forward?
14:05 As the church lost its focus on the Bible,
14:08 its increasing popularity within the Roman Empire
14:11 caused it to compromise its faith and witness.
14:14 However, there were many Christians who put up
14:17 strong resistance to this new alliance of church and state.
14:22 During these centuries, the Celtic Christians set a pattern
14:26 of independence from the church of Rome.
14:29 Like the reformers which would follow them later,
14:32 they held to the Bible as their exclusive
14:35 and supreme spiritual authority.
14:38 Historians had this to say about Patrick:
14:41 “He never mentions either Rome or the pope
14:44 or hints that he was in any way connected
14:46 with the ecclesiastical capital of Italy.
14:49 He recognizes no other authority but that of the Word of God.
14:54 If he were sent by Celestine to the native Christians
14:57 to be their primate or archbishop,
14:59 no wonder that stout-hearted Patrick refused to bow his neck
15:03 to any such yoke of bondage.
15:07 There is strong evidence that Patrick had no
15:09 Roman commission in Ireland.
15:11 Patrick's churches in Ireland,
15:13 like their brethren in Britain,
15:15 repudiated the supremacy of the popes.
15:18 All knowledge of the conversion of Ireland through his ministry
15:21 must be suppressed.
15:23 There is not a written word from one of them
15:25 rejoicing over Patrick's additions to their church,
15:28 showing clearly that he was not a Roman missionary.”
15:32 >>Dr. Trim: In the 5th century there is only one church.
15:35 Uh, and there's still a connection between
15:37 Britain and Rome.
15:38 It's in the middle 5th century that that gets severed,
15:41 and the British Isles gets cut off from the Roman Empire.
15:44 Um, but at that point here is still one church,
15:46 and Patrick is a member of it,
15:48 from all the evidence we have, um,
15:51 and we know that that church actually sent,
15:53 sent Germanus to Britain in 429, and one of his colleagues,
15:57 Palladius, is believed to have gone to Ireland.
16:00 Um, but he seems to have minimal impact.
16:02 But that's the church that they're part of.
16:04 But it's really the inheritance of the primitive church
16:07 of Christ's day.
16:08 Um, if we say the Catholic Church,
16:11 then people think of St. Peter's,
16:13 and a whole series of things
16:16 which just don't exist in the 5th century.
16:19 So to, you know, the danger of saying that he's
16:23 a Roman Catholic missionary, it's true in one sense,
16:26 but it's not true in another,
16:28 because there--it's, it--there just isn't a church, like,
16:32 called the Roman Catholic Church.
16:33 There is the one church, which is called "Catholic"
16:37 at the time to distinguish it from Arians,
16:39 uh, who don't believe in the full divinity of Christ.
16:43 That's what "Catholic" means in the 5th century;
16:46 it means somebody who is an orthodox Christian
16:48 on the Trinity.
16:49 And Patrick is definitely that.
16:52 So what we know about Patrick comes largely from his writings.
16:59 There are stories,
17:00 but most of them were written down in the 7th century,
17:03 so, 200 years after he died.
17:05 So there's probably some grains of truth left in them,
17:09 but a lot of exaggeration.
17:11 To judge from his own writings, he's a relatively simple,
17:15 uh, Christian.
17:16 His theology is, is relatively simplistic.
17:19 And that's not a criticism--far from it.
17:22 Uh, he's definitely trinitarian; he believes very strongly,
17:26 uh, in God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
17:29 and he's very focused on Christ.
17:30 But he has a simple message,
17:32 and he has a burning passion for the people of Ireland,
17:35 who had enslaved him as a youth.
17:38 But even after he was free, he recognized,
17:40 these people are lost in superstition
17:43 and I have good news for them.
17:44 ♪[Music]
17:46 A century after Patrick,
17:47 the church of Rome launched an attack
17:49 on the Celtic communities of Western Europe,
17:53 because the Irish customs of the Celtic church were at odds
17:56 with the customs sanctioned by the Bishop of Rome,
17:59 who by now had become a very powerful figure.
18:02 But Patrick wasn't the only one
18:04 who was reaching the world with the gospel.
18:06 After Patrick, there was Aidan,
18:09 who as a missionary went to England
18:11 and reached not only the high nobility,
18:14 but also children and slaves.
18:16 And he traveled extensively.
18:18 Like Patrick,
18:19 he wasn't affiliated with the Roman church.
18:22 Aidan established a cathedral
18:24 off the northeastern coast of England
18:26 on the island of Lindisfarne,
18:28 and from there he was greatly influential in reaching
18:31 great numbers of people for Christ,
18:33 especially in the region of Northumbria.
18:37 And there was another who reached
18:39 not only the British Isles,
18:41 but who impacted the world with the message of the gospel.
18:45 He was from this island of Ireland,
18:48 and I'll tell you who he was in just a moment.
18:51 ♪[Music]
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20:26 ♪[Irish music]
20:35 >>John: Thanks for joining me on It Is Written.
20:38 Right here on this very spot in Belfast, Ireland,
20:41 there was a hive of activity a little over 100 years ago.
20:45 Right here is where the Titanic was built.
20:48 Not only the Titanic, but its sister ships,
20:50 the Olympic and the Britannic.
20:52 Thousands of workers labored on this very spot.
20:55 What happened here then dominated not only this city,
20:59 but went on to impact the world.
21:02 Somebody else labored here in Ireland
21:04 whose work impacted the world,
21:06 and that was Patrick.
21:08 Patrick was a dynamic Christian missionary,
21:11 and from Ireland his influence spread to impact Christians
21:15 and Christianity all around the world.
21:18 In the time of Patrick, the church was dominated
21:21 by the popes of Rome,
21:23 and they were not too keen with what Patrick was doing.
21:26 They saw it as a direct threat against their authority,
21:29 and they were committed to getting rid
21:30 of the distinctive Irish religious practices.
21:34 But it wasn't only Patrick that impacted the world
21:37 in those days.
21:38 Aidan was an Irish missionary who traveled to England
21:42 and won many there to faith in Christ.
21:46 He was sent from the remote Scottish island of Iona,
21:50 where a missionary training center
21:51 had been established by another Irish evangelist,
21:55 a man by the name of Columba.
21:58 Today, Columba is remembered
22:00 as one of the three chief saints of Ireland,
22:03 along with Patrick and Brigid of Kildare.
22:07 He was born in Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland,
22:10 in the year 521.
22:12 When he was about 40 years old,
22:14 he set off with several others to evangelize the Picts.
22:18 He traveled 100 miles to Iona and built a monastery,
22:23 not as a retreat, but as a missionary training center.
22:27 The Venerable Bede, the influential writer and scholar,
22:30 said that Columba “converted the nation to the faith of Christ,
22:34 by preaching and example.”
22:37 As well as being an evangelist and a missionary,
22:39 there was something else that set Columba apart.
22:42 In contrast with the church of Rome,
22:45 he observed the Sabbath on Saturday,
22:48 the seventh day of the week.
22:50 There's no evidence he ever kept Sunday as the Sabbath.
22:54 Dr. Leslie Hardinge examined every primary source connected
22:57 with the Celtic church,
22:59 and confirmed this Celtic Sabbath connection.
23:03 Just before he died, Columba said,
23:05 “This day is called in the sacred books 'Sabbath,'
23:10 which is interpreted 'rest.'
23:11 And truly this day is for me a Sabbath,
23:16 because it is my last day of this present laborious life.
23:20 In it after my toilsome labors I keep Sabbath.
23:25 One historian wrote,
23:27 “We find traces in the early monastic churches of Ireland
23:30 that they held Saturday to be the Sabbath
23:33 on which they rested from all their labors.”
23:37 Later, in the 11th century, Queen Margaret of Scotland
23:41 said this about Scottish Christians.
23:43 She said, “They work on Sunday,
23:45 but they keep Saturday after a sabbatical manner.”
23:49 But Queen Margaret,
23:50 later Saint Margaret in the Catholic Church,
23:53 was committed to eradicating Sabbath worship
23:56 and replacing it instead with worship on Sunday.
24:00 The Roman emperor Constantine,
24:02 who was a pagan sun worshipper
24:04 before his nominal conversion to Christianity,
24:08 was the first to decree Sunday worship,
24:11 and he did it before Patrick's time.
24:13 But the Irish Christians were not bound by Roman decrees.
24:19 One thousand years before the beginning
24:21 of the Protestant Reformation, Patrick was a nonconformist.
24:26 Before there was a reformation,
24:27 Patrick was a Protestant.
24:31 In this way, the Celtic church formed part
24:34 of what the Bible refers to as the “church in the wilderness”
24:37 during the Middle Ages.
24:39 John wrote about this time of exile for Christian believers.
24:42 He said in Revelation 12 and verse 6,
24:45 “And the woman”-- that's the church--
24:47 “fled into the wilderness,
24:49 where she has a place prepared by God.”
24:52 The Albigenses of southern France,
24:54 the Waldenses of Italy and the Alps,
24:56 and others like them,
24:57 chose to base their faith on the Bible,
25:00 rather than lining up behind a church that was placing
25:02 such a strong emphasis on tradition.
25:05 They kept the torch of Christian faith shining brightly in an era
25:09 of what was some pretty considerable spiritual darkness.
25:12 ♪[Music]
25:16 Unfortunately, the Christians of Ireland and Scotland
25:20 didn't maintain their religious freedom indefinitely.
25:23 In time, new rulers came to power in both countries
25:27 who submitted the practices of both church and state
25:30 to the rule of the Catholic Church.
25:33 But the legacy of the Celtic church,
25:35 and Patrick in particular, was destined to live on.
25:40 The spirit of independence from Rome
25:42 was nurtured by the original British church.
25:46 Submission to rules of any sort on the European continent,
25:49 ecclesiastical or political,
25:51 didn't come easy to the British or the Irish.
25:53 ♪[bagpipes]
25:54 When King Henry VIII
25:55 declared England free from the Roman church
25:58 and established the Church of England, or the Anglican Church,
26:02 he was simply enshrining in law what in millions of English
26:06 minds had been true for centuries.
26:09 Speaking prophetically of this time, the prophet Daniel wrote
26:11 in Daniel 11:32 and 33,
26:14 “The people who know their God shall be strong
26:17 and carry out great exploits.
26:19 And those of the people that understand shall instruct many”"
26:23 This is the true legacy of Patrick,
26:25 and of the Celtic church,
26:27 and those heroes of faith who held the true gospel
26:31 in the centuries prior to the Reformation.
26:34 Without this gospel seed having been sown
26:37 and scattered by Patrick and others,
26:40 the Reformation might never have happened.
26:44 It's said that Patrick died on March the 17th
26:47 in the year 461 A.D.,
26:49 and that he's buried right here outside Down Cathedral in
26:55 Downpatrick in northern Ireland,
26:58 alongside Brigid and Columba,
27:01 two other giants of Irish history.
27:04 The legend of Patrick lives on here.
27:07 The truth of his life is even more impressive than the legend.
27:11 ♪[Music]
27:16 >>John: I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written,
27:19 inviting you to join me for "500,"
27:22 nine programs produced by It Is Written
27:24 taking you deep into the Reformation.
27:28 This is the 500th anniversary of the beginning
27:31 of the Reformation,
27:32 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door
27:35 of the Castle church in Wittenburg, Germany.
27:37 We'll take you to Wittenburg, and to Belgium,
27:39 to England, to Ireland,
27:42 to Rome, to the Vatican City,
27:44 and introduce you to the people who created the Reformation,
27:47 who pushed the Reformation forward.
27:49 We'll take you to sites all throughout Europe
27:51 where the reformers lived and, in some cases, died.
27:54 We'll bring you back to the United States
27:55 and take you to a little farm in upstate New York,
27:58 and show you how God spread the Reformation here.
28:01 Don't miss "500."
28:03 You can own the "500" series on DVD.
28:06 Call us on 888-664-5573
28:11 Or visit us online at
28:17 >>John: Let's pray together.
28:19 Our Father in heaven,
28:20 I thank You today for giant figures of history
28:23 who changed the world for Your glory.
28:26 People like Patrick and Aiden and Columba,
28:30 who shared the Bible with people,
28:32 and urged them to know Jesus as their personal Savior.
28:36 I pray today for us here, now,
28:39 I pray that we, too, would hear the voice of Jesus.
28:42 I pray for that one who is joining me in prayer right now
28:46 who knows that she or he must give
28:48 her or his heart to Jesus Christ now.
28:51 Friend, would you do that?
28:52 Would you reach out to Jesus,
28:54 knowing that He's reaching out to you,
28:56 and claim Him as your righteousness
28:58 and as your Lord and Savior?
29:01 Father, we thank You today for the Scriptures,
29:03 we thank You for Your Word and for Jesus the "Word made flesh."
29:08 And we pray with faith and thanks,
29:11 In Jesus's name,
29:13 Amen.
29:15 Thanks so much for joining me.
29:16 I'm looking forward to seeing you again next time.
29:19 Until then, remember:
29:21 "It is written,
29:22 'Man shall not live by bread alone,
29:25 but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
29:28 ♪[Theme music]


Revised 2018-10-16