Defending Scott Hahn
YOU OWE HIM AN APOLOGY
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 O’Neill’s critique of Dr. Scott Hahn (“Scott Hahn’s Novelties,” NOR, June 2004). The contrast is striking. Our Holy Father is not afraid of novelties, but O’Neill 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, Hahn’s books have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. For us “ordinary Catholics,” that’s 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 O’Neill 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, “O’Neill 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! O’Neill 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 Church’s] 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 God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (#128). O’Neill needs to see that if Hahn’s background focused on the O.T., that’s 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 Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper, Hail Holy Queen, and Our Father’s Plan (with Jeff Cavins) — and was about to study First Comes Love — before I read O’Neill’s article. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone near our parish Bible studies for fear of being contaminated with “novelties” that are “proximate to heresy.”
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