Science, Analogies and St. Patrick’s Day

English: Saint Patrick stained glass window fr...Have you noticed how the 17th of March has become a celebration of the color green (with a side of beer for the adults)? Why have a holiday just for green? or is there something more to this “St. Patrick” than you normally hear about?

My family has a copy of the book on Patrick from Voice of the Martyrs. It doesn’t talk about snakes or shamrocks, but does a great job of showing his known life with vivid pictures.

Looking around online, I’ve found a couple of pages to give you the basics of this real man’s life.

There is no question Patrick and many other early Irish believers were true followers of Jesus. If you know an Irish lass (or any girl for that matter), she can learn a lot of amazing history from a reprinted nineteenth century book about The Princess Adelina by Julie Sutter.  She was an Irish young lady whose family moved to Germany in the 700s to tell people on the mainland about Jesus. Not only did Patrick help the Irish turn to Jesus, their Kinsman Redeemer, he helped them desire to share the truth with all the people they could find!

Today, I want to focus on how St. Patrick used natural things to help people understand complex things about God.

Oxalis acetosellaThe story goes that Patrick was trying to explain the Trinity and plucked a shamrock leaf with its three lobes. He explained how there were three parts, but only one leaf and compared it to God’s three persons in one Godhead.

Turns out, the earliest writing we have talking about Patrick using a shamrock is less than 300 years old! So, like many other things, we can only guess if Patrick used this analogy or not.

What we do know is the world is full of things we can use for analogies to help understand God. The Bible uses things in nature all the time. For example:

  • Sin is like dirt and red dye: Isaiah 1
  • Jesus’ relationship with His church is like marriage: Ephesians 5
  • Longing for God is like a deer’s thirst: Psalm 42
  • Coming judgment is like the Flood of Noah’s day: Matthew 24
  • Believers are like harmless doves, but wise as snakes: Matthew 10:16
  • People are like wandering, but beloved sheep: Isaiah 53; Matthew 18

Jesus was especially fond of using the natural world to describe unseen things; we call them parables. He used so many there’s no way to fit them all into one post!

Throughout the years, Jesus’ followers have used their own analogies.

Poof! Monarch butterfly:

  • The Christmas tree is an analogy of eternal life
  • The dogwood tree reminds us of Jesus’ death
  • The butterfly is often used to describe what happens to our minds as we learn God’s ways (Romans 12:2) and can picture the difference between our mortal bodies and our eternal ones.

In the Bible, Paul, a tent maker, used the analogy of a tent compared to a house to describe our new bodies (II Corinthians 5:1)

The fish was a very early symbol for Jesus’ followers. Jesus started it by telling His disciples they would switch from fishing the real ones to fishing for men (Mark 1:17). Later, when believers needed a secret mark to identify themselves only to other believers, they used the fish.

WMenorah-Fish-Pothy? Not only had Jesus said His followers would be people-fishers, it also makes an anagram of Jesus’ title in Greek. Plus, it’s so simple even I can draw one!

My favorite use of the fish was found a few years ago in Jerusalem. Early believers had combined the Jewish menorah with a fish forming a Star of David between them. All of Jesus’ followers have been grafted in to the blessings of Abraham!

Know this therefore that they which are of faith, they are the children of Abraham.
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the peoples through faith, preached the gospel to Abraham before, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed.
So then they which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Galatians 3:7-9

For more analogies, see Answers in Genesis: A Biblical Analogy of the Four Fundamental Entities

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