Defending Scott Hahn
November 2004By Abraham L. Heck
Abraham L. Heck, SFO, is a long-time subscriber and writes from Needham, Massachusetts.
In his article in First Things (June/July 2004), Peter Simpson has this to say with regard to our Holy Father, This is the phenomenology, particularly practiced by Max Scheler, of which Wojtyla became a student, and which would in time lead him [our Holy Father, that is] into novel, but orthodox, expositions of sexual ethics (Love and Responsibility), and into even more novel, though no less orthodox expositions of the human person as the self-possessed locus of action and thought (The Acting Person).
I read that about the same time I read Edward ONeills critique of Dr. Scott Hahn (Scott Hahns Novelties, NOR, June 2004). The contrast is striking. Our Holy Father is not afraid of novelties, but ONeill comes across with a lot of fear of the activity of exploring (with Hahn) through sacred Scripture and finding meanings which are novel but orthodox (that is, not condemned by the Church). In fact, Hahns books have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. For us ordinary Catholics, thats enough to let us know that we can go ahead without any doctrinal fears and enjoy the deeper meanings which, in fact, are deepening our faith. In addition, we find complimentary affirmations of Hahn by no less than Archbishop Chaput (of Denver), Archbishop Myers (of Newark, N.J.), Fr. Michael Scanlon (Chancellor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville), John Boyle (professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas), Peter Kreeft (professor of philosophy at Boston College), and many others, all of whom have read the book (First Comes Love, in this case) before giving their endorsements. In fact, Archbishop Chaput says, Hahn reflects profoundly in the context of the bedrock doctrines of Christian Faith. His retelling of the story of our salvation in Jesus Christ opens up the truth of our origin and destiny in the one God, a Trinity of divine Persons who abide in a communion of love a love stronger than sin and death.
What is ONeill afraid of? He warns us frequently that there is cause for concern, that one must proceed with caution. Who is that one? Better if he wrote, ONeill must proceed with caution.
We pick up more fear as we read how Hahn is from an unusual theological wing or school within Presbyterianism: theonomy . That does sound secretive and dangerous! ONeill points out that the school places much greater emphasis on the Old Testament, but fails to say or see that Hahn has found fulfillment in Catholic Tradition, which as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her [the Churchs] Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments (Catechism, #128). Hahn has opened up the full Bible for many of us and has expertly taught how typology works, which discerns in Gods works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son (#128). ONeill needs to see that if Hahns background focused on the O.T., thats okay, because Church Tradition blesses that as she calls us to embrace the unity of the two Testaments.
Thank God my parish Bible study had worked through Hahns The Lambs Supper, Hail Holy Queen, and Our Fathers Plan (with Jeff Cavins) and was about to study First Comes Love before I read ONeills article. Otherwise, I wouldnt have gone near our parish Bible studies for fear of being contaminated with novelties that are proximate to heresy.
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