Discussion of Hahn's Dissertation on Covenant Theology

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johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
At Jason Stellman's Blog, De Regnis Duobus, Jason is hosting a review and discussion of the published version of Scott Hahn's PhD dissertation, Kinship and Covenant, (recently published by Yale University Press). Jason is a WSC grad, pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church (PCA), and has been over the last year been exploring Roman Catholicism from a variety of perspectives.

So far there are three installments: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. It seems as if more will follow.

Scott Hahn himself has shown up on the blog to make some clarifications.

My hope in posting this here is that some individuals who are familiar with the Covenant issues being discussed will (a) provide some clarifications on the Reformed side, and (b) possibly even participate in the discussions over there. As you all know, Hahn is one of the leading proponents of having Reformed believers convert to Catholicism.

It seems that this work needs to be addressed at a very sophisticated level, by individuals who are very familiar with Covenant Theology (which I am not).
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
Amen! My successor in one pastorate left the church because he went from Calvin and Edwards to Rome via Scott Hahn.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
Amen! My successor in one pastorate left the church because he went from Calvin and Edwards to Rome via Scott Hahn.
I'm so sorry to hear this. Hahn has sort of remained "above the fray" from all the other riff raff of Catholic apologists (see this link from James White) -- he is a professor at a leading conservative Catholic university, he has a lot of official sanction for his positions.

This incursion of his into "covenant theology" seems to be a direct challenge on Reformed positions.

I don't know enough about covenant theology to address this.
 

Jason J. Stellman

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks, John, for the shout-out.

Couple things....

First, I always find it difficult trying to present and articulate fairly a view that I am not completely familiar with, which is the case here. Hahn's covenant theology, though it is rooted in the fathers, is different in some respects from what I learned at WSC. So if there are men here who have thought through the issues he raises, please feel free to chime in.

Second, Hahn's book is primarily exegetical in nature, not polemical or even "Catholic," strictly speaking. So it's not like you get to the end and feel this overwhelming desire to worship statues or reschedule your Friday barbeque. So if anyone does stop by and comment/disagree, please do so in response to Hahn's actual exegesis, and not in reaction to any presumed theological axe-grinding that hides between the lines of his book.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
Jason, I appreciate your efforts to understand Catholicism. I definitely think that sunshine is the best medicine.

Hahn's book is primarily exegetical in nature, not polemical or even "Catholic," strictly speaking. So it's not like you get to the end and feel this overwhelming desire to worship statues or reschedule your Friday barbeque.
Even though it is exegetical, ideas have consequences, and although covenant theology and Catholic doctrine are antithetical in nature, and while Hahn's approach is not currently being well received in Catholicism, this does seem to be an attempt to co-opt something that is uniquely "reformed". In that sense, I think it needs to be addressed immediately, and thoroughly, by folks who know what they're talking about.
 

Spinningplates2

Puritan Board Freshman
Amen! My successor in one pastorate left the church because he went from Calvin and Edwards to Rome via Scott Hahn.
I'm so sorry to hear this. Hahn has sort of remained "above the fray" from all the other riff raff of Catholic apologists (see this link from James White) -- he is a professor at a leading conservative Catholic university, he has a lot of official sanction for his positions.

This incursion of his into "covenant theology" seems to be a direct challenge on Reformed positions.

I don't know enough about covenant theology to address this.
I could not disagree more. No one has done more work for the Pope in the last 25 years the Scott Hahn. He is the leader of the riff raff, In my humble opinion. This man has done so much damage I am instanly suspicious of any one who does not warn others about him.:2cents:
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
I could not disagree more. No one has done more work for the Pope in the last 25 years the Scott Hahn. He is the leader of the riff raff, In my humble opinion. This man has done so much damage I am instanly suspicious of any one who does not warn others about him.:2cents:
By suggesting that Hahn is "not one of the riff raff," I specifically meant he's stayed above the crowd of Catholic apologists that James White specifically was referring to.

I agree, he has done a huge amount of damage, and through his current efforts, continues to do a great deal more. My reason for calling everyone's attention to this is so that some knowledgeable Reformed person(s) can analyze his arguments right away, in public, before a lot of people get confused.
 
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Spinningplates2

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank for the update. I know people that went to Grove City and were in his first bible studies. Many were left damaged and confused when the Hahn's showed their true intentions. (The road to Rome)
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
There is another posting, a 4th entry in this series. Here was one question:

So, Hahn asks, what does Paul mean in (Gal 3) v. 19 by “law”? Is it all law, or an additional body of laws that were added later?

Hahn insists that it must be the latter for a couple reasons that are suggested in the text itself. First, it makes more sense to think of the Deuteronomic covenant as being something that was “added” to something that came earlier (such as the Decalogue). Secondly, if “the law was added because of transgressions,” how does this comport with the view that sees the law as being the Sinaitic covenant? Nothing in the narrative of the giving of the Ten Commandments suggests that some set of transgressions occasioned the giving of the Decalogue. Plus, Paul says explicitly in Romans 4:13 that “where there is no law, there is no transgression,” meaning that whatever “law” the apostle intends in Galatians 3:19 must be given over and above some law already in existence.

The “book of the law” from whose curses Jesus redeems his people, therefore, is the Deuteronomic covenant in particular.
Here is how I responded to that:

Waltke ("Old Testament Theology" 497-498) refers to Deuteronomy as a "Covenant Renewal Document" which "supplements, not abrogates, the original. The original is housed in the ark; the supplement is laid up along side it."

Citing R.E. Clements, "Its own status as a supplementary document is not intended to lead to the replacing of the original law tablets, but to its being set along side them. Deuteronomy is in effect a supplement to the original covenant law tablets, showing their significance for a wider area of life."

Quoting Manley: "The real fact is that these 31 laws ... are all alike ancient and belong to the same category; they are supplementary not successive; parts of a larger whole, as is proved by their collection together in Hammurabi's code."

Citing Koehler, "In Deuteronomy the laws are summarized and interpreted, and adjusted to the new specific situation Israel would face in Canaan. Thus, Deuteronomy is, in essence, a covenant renewal [and updating] document."

So it would seem here that Hahn is straining at a gnat.

With regard to Paul, Schreiner (New Testament Theology) says that he "clearly teaches that the Mosaic covenant has come to an end, and believers are no longer under it as a covenantal structure." (646) I would take this to mean "all law."

"The law was intended to be in force only until the seed, Jesus Christ, arrived (Gal. 3:19). The problem is not the content of the law but rather that human beings were unable to obey what the law demanded and found themselves imprisoned under the power of sin (Gal. 3:21-22)."

Regarding the notion that Paul's view of the law somehow "developed," he says, "This view should be rejected. Because Paul was trained as a Pharisee, it is almost certain that he began to think through his view of the law from the time of his conversion."
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Interesting to see a Roman Catholic using Kline's approach to the Covenants to fit his own theology.

I've seen this done by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Roman Catholics.

Just a general observation but it seems to point to the general malleability of the whole approach to Covenant Theology when the user of the approach gets to decide which section of the Scriptures he's going to cast into the Suzerain form.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
Interesting to see a Roman Catholic using Kline's approach to the Covenants to fit his own theology.
I've heard that Hahn's approach is not well appreciated by some of his fellow RCs. But I haven't really followed it at all. But it fits the pattern of these Roman Catholic apologists each going their own way once they get into the "big tent."
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Yeah, I agree. The irony is that they argue that Sola Scriptura causes all sorts of doctrinal confusion but it seems no better from within. Why would any Apologist for the RCC sound any different from the next Apologist as they have the benefit of the Church to teach them these things?

As it stands, criticisms work only one way for an RCC apologist. If it's a good apologetic to get somebody to doubt a Protestant tradition then it serves its full purpose. One thing you ought never do is turn it back on the system of doctrine they're defending and insist on consistency of argument.

I guess my main observation is to question whether or not it is sufficiently established that the introduction of an extra-Biblical treaties as a grid for understanding the Covenants is part of the problem with Reformed folk being attracted by these arguments. I realize the toothpaste is already outside the tube because it is now practically assumed throughout the Reformed Church that the way to understand the Covenants is according to the Hittite forms and I think we might want to question that basic premise.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
I guess my main observation is to question whether or not it is sufficiently established that the introduction of an extra-Biblical treaties as a grid for understanding the Covenants is part of the problem with Reformed folk being attracted by these arguments. I realize the toothpaste is already outside the tube because it is now practically assumed throughout the Reformed Church that the way to understand the Covenants is according to the Hittite forms and I think we might want to question that basic premise.
Thanks Rich. I'm really just learning in this area and so my hope in posting this was that someone with a much better understanding of things could comment on it.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Thanks for making us aware of it John. I think a good book for Covenant Theology is this one:

Amazon.com: The Christ of the Covenants (9780875524184): O. Palmer Robertson: Books

Palmer does an excellent job of demonstrating the progressive unfolding of the Covenant of Grace contra any idea that Hahn is proposing here as if the accent in Deuteronomy is on the Curses to demonstrate that the Covenant is a Suzerain treaty.

In fact, the theme of a curse for violating the Covenant is foreshadowed in Gen 15 where the birds try to come down and eat the flesh of the torn animals. The theme of being food for birds and wild animals is a repeated theme throughout the OT and NT for Covenant breaking. I was just reading Jeremiah yesterday and he repeats this Curse. Deuteronomy might unpack some of those curses, consistent with unfolding revelation, but it certainly does not introduce it.
 

discipulo

Puritan Board Junior
I guess my main observation is to question whether or not it is sufficiently established that the introduction of an extra-Biblical treaties as a grid for understanding the Covenants is part of the problem with Reformed folk being attracted by these arguments. I realize the toothpaste is already outside the tube because it is now practically assumed throughout the Reformed Church that the way to understand the Covenants is according to the Hittite forms and I think we might want to question that basic premise.
This is from Mark Karlberg (yes also a Klinean like Horton et al, but not less focused on Historical Theology)

Covenant Thelogy in Reformed Perspective, page 358.

I think it is a good way to adress the problem you underline, even Circumcision and Baptism were ancient rites "before becoming" Signs of the Covenant.

Kline’s work builds upon the thinking of three giants in the Reformed tradition
- John Calvin, Geerhardus Vos, and Cornelius Van Til. His skillful employment of extra-biblical material for the interpretation of Scripture, notably the ancient Near Eastern treaty documents, and his keen perception of the compatibility
between general and special revelation (i.e., nature and Scripture) reflect something of Kline’s debt to Van Til. Both of these theologians have emphasized the covenantal nature of all God’s revelation and in so doing have demonstrated
the fruitful interaction of general and special revelation.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I guess my main observation is to question whether or not it is sufficiently established that the introduction of an extra-Biblical treaties as a grid for understanding the Covenants is part of the problem with Reformed folk being attracted by these arguments. I realize the toothpaste is already outside the tube because it is now practically assumed throughout the Reformed Church that the way to understand the Covenants is according to the Hittite forms and I think we might want to question that basic premise.
This is from Mark Karlberg (yes also a Klinean like Horton et al, but not less focused on Historical Theology)

Covenant Thelogy in Reformed Perspective, page 358.

I think it is a good way to adress the problem you underline, even Circumcision and Baptism were ancient rites "before becoming" Signs of the Covenant.
It's never been my concern that certain rites or forms couldn't find their similarities in other pagan nations. The issue is who is imitating who.

I believe the reason the Hittite forms resemble the Covenants in Scripture is due to the light of nature in men. That said, though, it was a pagan society and I think it is perilous to look at how a pagan nation cut covenants in its society and lay that over the Scriptures as a blueprint for understanding the Scriptures.

We could even, perhaps, agree that Kline wasn't going as far as his disciples have. Yet, my point is that look how many different groups take the same treaty forms of the Hittites and then decide which pieces of the Scripture fall into which "bins". Theologians as diverse as Roman Catholics, Baptists, and NAPARC ministers are all using the same structure to come to drastically different conclusions about how to interpret the Scriptures. They're simply organizing the Biblical data into different cells in the "Hittite Covenant grid" to come to those conclusions.

It actually supports my larger point that maybe a pagan nation's understanding of Covenant is improperly being used as a starting point to say: "Yes, that is what the Scriptures look like so let's see what the Hittites thought a Covenant was and that will shed light on how to understand the Scriptures...."
 

Osage Bluestem

Puritan Board Junior
Scott Hahn has a passion for converting people to Rome. I have read many of his books, listened to his lectures and watched his videos. I haven't read this one but I imagine it will be similar to his book "A Father who keeps His promises, God's Covenant Love in Scripture" I have studied that book in detail.

Hahn makes some tragic typological and errors in his exegesis, which really turns out to be eisegesis for the most part. He lacks any real understanding of grace and is very levitical in his understanding of the word, which is why his conclusions are sacramental and works based which obviously support the Roman position.

The principle exegetical error he made that ultimatly led him to Rome is recorded in his book "Rome Sweet Home" of all titles, where he explains how he believes 2 Timothy 3:16-17 does not teach the sufficiency of scripture. He leans heavily on the word profitable and brings to attention that the word sufficient isn't used. He misses the fact that the word sufficient isn't needed because the other words used by the Holy Spirit and the apostle Paul in the passage teach sufficiency!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

All scriptures is inspired by God - It is God's word and therefore true.

It is profitable for..etc - Useful for relevant for....i.e. FOR...etc. Here is where he gets stuck. He thinks that since suffficient isn't used here that the passage doesn't teach sufficiency that it only teaches profitability and he has swayed many with this argument, even himself.

However!... :detective:

That the man of God - not atheists, not just anyone... the man of God

May be competent and equipped for EVERY good work - this is the coup de grace for any notion that this passage does not teach sufficiency.

Only God is good:

Mark 10:18 ESV
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

All good works are Godly works. If the scriptures prepare the man of God for all Godly works that he can possibly do then they are by nature SUFFICIENT! If there is any work that the scriptures do not prepare man for then that work is not good. If there was a good work that scripture did not prepare you for then this passage would not be true. But we know it is true based on the testimony of Jesus Christ.

John 10:35 ESV
35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—

The hermeneutic is correct because it is the same as used by Christ here:

Matthew 22:29-33 ESV
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

And Jesus Christ is the primary authority on scripture:

John 1:1-2 ESV
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
 
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