St. Patrick: Miracle Worker or Benevolent Deceiver?

I chose a read-aloud for St. Patrick’s Day that came highly recommended by sources that I trust called Flame Over Tara. I started reading it to the kids, and we were getting involved in the story and enjoying it well enough. But I started noticing that the author seemed to be suggesting that St. Patrick didn’t really work any miracles but just took advantage of his knowledge of natural phenomenon to trick the people into believing that God was with him instead of with the Druids. She said through her characters that they accepted what he preached because he was a good man, not because of any power he had or miracles that he did. It seems that she believes that Christians don’t need to do signs and wonders because the false prophets can do lying signs and wonders, too. She seems to have bought into the lie that cessationists have perpetrated that signs and wonders ended with the first church era.

I put that book down after skimming ahead and seeing that she followed that same line of reasoning throughout the book. She explained away all of the miracles that I knew St. Patrick really did perform. I had read a book by Kathie Walters that told the true story of St. Patrick and other early saints of the Church. I’m not Catholic and neither is Kathie Walters, but she and I both know that we need to read original sources to find the truth about the miracles that occurred in the lives of the Church fathers. Kathie’s book is called Celtic Flames available here. I picked up Kathie’s book and read her account of Patrick’s life to my children instead of finishing Flame Over Tara. These are some of the miracles she found recorded in those original sources:

1. At Tara, one of the king’s favorite druids attacked Patrick with contention and shouting and even blaspheming. Patrick called on God to let him be “lifted up and let him die.” No sooner had Patrick finished speaking than a supernatural force raised the wizard in the air. He fell heavily down, his head striking a stone. And so he died in the presence of those assembled.

2. The king was furious at Patrick for killing his druid, so he called on his men to kill him. Patrick cried out, “Let God arise and His enemies be scattered.” Then the sky darkened and an earthquake shook the ground and the swords and spears of the guards and even moved the chariots.

3. The king then invited Patrick to his castle, planning to kill him on the way, but the men laying in wait for him never saw him. All they saw were deer walking through the forest. God had disguised Patrick and his friends and caused the enemy to be blinded to them.

4. The king’s other druid poisoned Patrick’s cup, but Patrick blessed all that he ate and drank and the poison had no ill-effect.

5. In a competition between Patrick and the druids, Patrick was able to reverse things the druids did even though they couldn’t do it themselves. Then he and one of the druids were each placed in a hut and each hut was set on fire. Patrick, like the children in the fiery furnace, was unharmed, but the druid died in the flames.

6. In Dublin, Patrick had a reputation for being “Patrick, the potent reviver of many dead persons.” The king of Dublin had just lost his two children, one to sickness, the other to drowning when Patrick arrived in the city. The king asked him to come and promised that if God restored his children to life, he and all the citizens would become Christians. Patrick did raise them from the dead, and the king and all his subjects turned away form the worship of idols and they were baptized.

My children’s faith in God and their openness to anything that God wants to do through them is very important to me. I don’t want to undermine their faith through any book or author that doesn’t believe in the whole word of God. I want my children to pray for all of the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t want them to believe that all of those things have been done away with. We are believing for the power to heal, to set the captives free, to cast out demons and to raise the dead. We don’t need to expose ourselves to words of doubt or skepticism.

I learned about the purging of the miracles and signs and wonders from Church history through a book called Surprised By the Voice of God by Jack Deere available here several years ago. He exposes the fact that historians during the 1800’s rewrote the history of the early Church fathers and took out all of the accounts of the miracles that these powerful men and women of God worked because they didn’t think that anybody would believe them. They thought that the people of the time only believed that the things these saints did were miracles because the people were superstitious and didn’t understand natural phenomenon. They assumed that science would be able to disprove the miracles and such things as superstition and that there is always a natural explanation for everything that happened. That’s a lot of arrogance and assumption. They can’t prove that they’ve got the story right. They weren’t there, and they are just assuming things based on their own theological bias.

They changed phrases found in the original texts and substituted phrases that they liked better. For example, John Howie wrote a biography of a Scottish Reformer, George Wishart, in 1775. He said that Wishart “possessed the spirit of prophecy in an extraordinary degree.” In a revised and expanded edition written in 1846, the editor changed Howie’s original sentence to read, “He possessed an extraordinary degree of sagacious foresight.” That’s not the same thing as the spirit of prophecy! Sagacious foresight means that Wishart’s predictive powers came from his own wisdom instead of God’s supernatural revelation. He assumed, because of his theological views, that the Scottish Reformers were mistaken about the nature of prophecy. So he felt free to actually change an original text in order to conform it to his own theology. He also attacked the credibility of the biographers who wrote about the prophetic gifts of the Scottish Reformers. Historical writers often ignore supernatural events when they retell the stories from the original sources. They just leave them out because they don’t believe them or aren’t interested in them. The result of this selective writing is that ordinary modern readers remain ignorant of the supernatural elements of the lives of godly people in earlier history.

Our family sees and hears about miracles that happen every day. Skeptics constantly try to prove that there’s always a natural explanation, but they cannot disprove the miracles I’ve experienced in my own life. Our God is a miracle-working God, and He is just waiting for us to believe Him enough to pray for them and to be conformed to His image so that He can trust us with His power.

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