Initial impressions of Scott Hahn work on Ratzinger

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johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
There's a thread here that's garnered some 2000 views, about a disagreement between two of the theologians that I most admire in this world. There is no end to the admiration that I have for these men, and I pray that they are able to resolve what I would consider to be a not unimportant, but not critical difference, in a civil way. I believe they will.

But this is about an issue that I believe is far more urgent, and has the potential to do far more damage to the cause of the Reformation in our world today.

A copy of the Scott Hahn book, "Covenant and Communion" arrived yesterday. Now. I don't want to leave any doubt but that Joseph Ratzinger is a leading scholar and thinker, and his work needs to be dealt with by the best Protestant biblical scholars.

But Scott Hahn is the worst kind of hacker. He is a leech: he sucks his reputation from a number of things, none of which involves his own personal integrity or his own personal intelligence. Not only is Scott Hahn NOT a leading theologian, (though he plays one on TV) but he is heavily tainted by the worst kinds of "Catholic Apologetics" that are available today -- a field at which he is a leader and a master.

Hahn gets his reputation from a couple of things. Because he knows some little bit of Protestant theology, and because he converted to Catholicism, some Catholics revere him as a great thinker. And of course, he is adding to his own "reputation" merely by associating with someone like Benedict.

If you think I'm being harsh here in my characterization of Hahn, I intend to support what I've said with some quotes both from the book, and from Benedict, to show you the kind of thing that is going on here, not only with Hahn, but with a whole legion of "Catholic Apologists" who revere him.

Hahn's is not a scholarly review of Benedict's work, as this book is portrayed. Rather, it is an admixture of some of Benedict's work with Hahn's partisan portrayal of things.

But first, consider that his book has received glowing endorsements from Protestant thinkers. Here are a few:

Scott Hahn here renders an important service in so clearly setting forth the hermeneutical principles, biblical framework, and doctrinal positions of Pope Benedict XVI, arguably the world’s most important contemporary theologian. (VanHoozer)

As a Protestant biblical scholar, I found Scott Hahn’s exposition of Pope Benedict’s biblical theology both informative and inspiring. ... Through Hahn, I have a new appreciation for the mind and heart of Pope Benedict.” (Longman)

In this remarkable book, Scott Hahn has drawn out the central themes of Benedict’s teaching in a highly readable summary that includes not only the pope’s published works but also his less-accessible homilies and addresses. This is an eminently useful guide for introducing the thought of an important theologian of our time. (Horton)

Michael Horton | Scott Hahn | valid interpretation | Endorsement

One of the primary arguments that I've seen against this work is that it is NOT "a scholarly introduction to Benedict's thought." Something like that would be genuinely useful. But that's not what this work is. What this IS is Scott Hahn's gloss some of the things Benedict has said in the area of Biblical Scholarship.

(What this says about these Protestant scholars is another thing. But if this is what counts for scholarship, we need to rethink our priorities. But that is the subject of a different discussion.)


I'm 40 pages into the book, and I'll give you two examples of what I'm saying.

Hahn is discussing Benedict's views on the "Historical Critical Hermeneutic." Thanks to a number of statements from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, there is a school of thought among Catholic Biblical Scholarship that has gone "all in" with the Historical Critical hermeneutic. And in fact, names like Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Luke Timothy Johnson have produced leading works and commentaries.

Brown, for example, has done a great deal of work which confirmed that (a) "Monarchical Bishops," the kind that Rome has today, weren't an office that existed in the early church, they were a "development," and (b), the early ordained ministry wasn't a "priesthood" but that too developed.

Fitzmyer's commentary on Romans is a very strong confirmation of the Protestant doctrine of "justification by faith alone."

LT Johnson has done some important work contra the "Jesus Seminar" writers. (He also is among those who find justification for homosexuality in the Scriptures).

Such things have done genuine damage to Catholicism's high view of itself (a good thing in my view). They have done so much damage to Catholicism, that it is likely that these things are at the heart of Benedict's "concern" for the Historical Critical method.

But Hahn does not give any of that background.

He cites Benedict talking only in general terms about "the limits" of the historical-critical method, and the primary reasons, "its isolation of the biblical text from the Church" and "its rigid separation of reason and faith--have sharply limited this method's usefulness."

That's well and good. He then cites a long, three-paragraph statement on this from Benedict, suggesting that the HCM "is a marvelous instrument for reading historical sources," but that it has various assumptions and underlying philosophies, and that these limit its usefulness. But then Hahn goes off this way:

This, for Benedict, is the most obvious limitation of the historical-critical method -- of its nature it can only yield hypotheses about the past, about what might have been the case.

The overarching error of the historical-critical method, as he sees it, is the removal of the Bible from its natural "habitat" in the Church. (35)

"Church," of course, is defined by Pope and Bishops as successors in church government to Peter and the Apostles, from that time down to this.

Now, I called Hahn a leech, and I say so, for he has no problem saying things like "Benedict thinks this," and "For Benedict, this means..." etc. Hahn really hasn't produced anything of its own value, however. He just wants people to think he has.

But now Hahn launches into a standard line that every Protestant knows who has ever interacted with a Catholic:

The faith of the Church is what gives the Bible its continued relevance, its unity, and its quality as revelatory speech.

This is all something that Catholicism officially believes (and probably Benedict by extension). From a Protestant point of view, nevermind that what gives the Bible its "relevance, its unity," is the fact that it is God's word, spoken, breathed, "theopneustos" to the church as a whole, with an order of its own that exists outside of whatever meaning "the Church" gives to it.

He continues with Benedict's characterization (and we do need to understand that Benedict says this):

The method can certainly help us understand the contexts of events and ideas found in the Scriptures and what the words might have meant to their original audiences. But without reference to the meaning these texts possess in the Church's life and liturgy, the Scriptures become a kind of dead letter, an artifact fro a long-extinct exotic culture. Biblical exegesis becomes an exercise in "antiquarianism" or "archaeology" or perhaps "necrophilia." (citing Ratzinger, "Truth and Tolerance, 132-33)

But one step further, Hahn makes these comments. This is NOT something that Benedict said. This is merely piling on with his own (oft-repeated) thoughts:

The Church makes the various individual texts into a single book or "Bible." Without the Church we have only a jumble of unconnected texts. As a result, the study of the Scriptural texts ... moves to hypotheses about questions related to the production of the text: who wrote it, who it was originally intended for, what were the various stages in the writing and editing of the text. (35)

This is what we've heard from Hahn for years, and this low view of Scripture is probably the number one thing that's repeated most often by Catholics.

We need to hear from the above-mentioned scholars on why this simply is not the case. But it is not Benedict's stated view. It is Hahn's view on something that the Catholic Church really doesn't teach.


Further along in the chapter, Benedict suggests that the historical-critical method could be "purified" by "removing those assumptions and prior understandings that limit its usefulness. He is looking at "the de-hellenization of Christianity" as being a problem, and the need for "a thoroughgoing reevaluation of the modern relationship between faith and reason."

That's fair enough. Now, I'll let those more competent than I am explain how Protestant exegetes have addressed this very issue, and how the historical-grammatical method has enabled some of the same Protestant scholars who endorsed this book to gain acceptance to places like Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale (and even Princeton again).

In discussing the issue of "the de-hellenization of Christianity," Hahn begins to describe a talk that Benedict gave, "Faith, Reason, and the University," at Regensburg University in 2006. He doesn't quote from Benedict here.

Here is what Benedict actually said. Forgive me if this is long. Hahn DOES NOT CITE THIS:

Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. <b>The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. [/b] Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this programme forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.

The liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative...

Meeting with the representatives of science at the University of Regensburg

I'll let you decide if you want to read more of that. In fact, it is well known that "sola Scriptura" was not the cause of such things as the enlightenment and romanticism, but Hahn makes that direct connection. He even "leeches" some of the words that Benedict used, while changing the meaning completely:

This process ("de-hellenization) began in the Middle Ages and reached its full flower in the Reformation with Martin Luther's efforts to remove the influences of Catholic philosophy and dogma and return to what he believed to be the original purity of Scripture alone. In different forms, the sola Scriptura principle became a key premise of the liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In seeking the unadulterated message and person of Jesus, liberal theology treated the biblical Word as a historical record to be read without reference to philosophical and theological formulations made using Greek language and Greek philosophical tools. This meant returning to a kind of literalism uninformed by such products of philosophical reasoning as the doctrines concerning the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.(37)

Now, what Hahn is saying here absolutely is NOT what Benedict is saying. One has to wonder if these fine Protestant theologians who lent their name to this work bothered reading the fine print.

Yet again, it's typical of the kinds of rubbish that's shoveled out there in the hope of damaging Protestant principles in the minds of their hearers, and urging unthinking Protestants to "return home to Rome."


There's a line from an old Keith Green song about the Devil's methodology: "I put some truth in every lie, to tickle itching ears."

We've seen this methodology from the beginning: "Has God indeed said...?"

Benedict is bad enough in this regard. It will be enough of a challenge to read his work and to address the issues he is dealing with.

But Hahn is a liar and a leech, and it is a travesty that individuals such as VanHoozer, Longman and Horton have recommended this trash that’s full of mis-statements and misrepresentations.
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
John,

I have not bothered to read any of Hahn's works. Frankly, I am negatively disposed towards his work since he was instrumental in getting a successor of mine to leave the pastorate and convert to RC, hurting some people I love in my former parish. However, is he really as unaccomplished as you suggest?

With a triple-major in Theology, Philosophy and Economics from the highly respected Grove City College, his MDiv from Gordon-Conwell, and his Ph.D. in Biblical Theology from Marquette University, I would think that he is a fairly sharp guy with first rate credentials.

As a former ordained Presbyterian minister turned RC apologist, he occupies a spot on my Judas, Benedict Arnold, Frank Schaeffer list. However, is he as bad as you suggest? As noted, I have not read him. Please say more.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
I read "Rome Sweet Home" a long time ago -- the one thing I remember is his endless stories about "Where is Sola Scriptura found in the Bible? I went to Professor A and Professor B and etc., and no one could show it to me. Therefore it must not be true! (yuk yuk!)"

Steve Hays has done some scathing reviews, most notably this one:

Triablogue: Snappy answers

If there’s one word to summarize his method, it’s “equivocation.” He often engages in prooftexting, but the actual meaning of the text always falls short of what he needs it to mean, which is why he then takes refuge in the church fathers—which is not to say that his use of the church fathers is necessarily any better. It reminds me of some Mormon flyers I’ve read, which have verses from both the Bible and the Mormon apocrypha to prove their point. Needless to say, it’s only the Mormon prooftexts which really assert Mormon dogma.

In a way, he's worse than the Mormons, because, if you note the one instance that I posted, (and I've seen others that I hope to look at in this work), he gives his own impressions of Scripture, and they are neither in alignment with "official" Catholic dogma. Nor does he paraphrase Ratzinger in any adequate way.

Yes, he's got a PhD, but that's not from a Protestant seminary. Since his conversion, he's been the darling of the "Catholic Convert" industry, and he has been very careful to manage his image. (I've seen him on EWTN, and heard some of his tapes, and honestly, he just turns my stomach).

But when you see work like this, and the kinds of "liberties" he takes in defense of his cause, it's hard to see him as a real scholar.

-----Added 11/28/2009 at 11:35:09 EST-----

I should say, the one reason I'm going through this particular exercise is because, while everyone's rushing to Michael Horton's defense for having endorsed this book, I do think it's important to show just wat it is that's being endorsed. Enough Protestants of enough stature have been sucked into such nonsense through ECT and other efforts like that. We need to draw the line somewhere. And sunshine is the best medicine.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
As a former ordained Presbyterian minister turned RC apologist...

This mantra is somehow perpetuated with a life of its own. Ordained by who? Just because ordination is claimed doesn't make it so. It was one time suggested he was ordained as a PCA minister, but there is no record of this in the office of the stated clerk of the PCA.

DTK
 

Hebrew Student

Puritan Board Freshman
I had a professor here who was a colleague of Scott Hahn when he was at Marquette. His memories of Scott Hahn were interesting. He told the class that there was only one way to describe Scott Hahn. He asked us if we had ever heard the phrase, "There are basketball players, and then there is Michael Jordan." We nodded. He then went on to say, "There are theologians, and then there is Scott Hahn." He said that liberal professors would be scared out of their whits to have Scott Hahn as a student. He remembered one instance where the professor got tired of Hahn quoting this scholar and that scholar, and she just said, "Okay Scott, it is time to move on now."

I think that, for me, hearing that story was a real humbling experience. Here is someone who had all of the ability in the world, and yet, for some reason, got sidetracked into all kinds of silly platonic typological interpretations of scripture based upon Roman Catholic dogma, mostly because, according to Rome Sweet Home, he could not defend Sola Scriptura. It taught me an important lesson, namely that, no matter how much you end up learning about Biblical Hebrew or theology, and no matter how many natural gifts you have, if you are not on your guard against false teaching, you can become just like Scott Hahn. In my mind, that should scare the living daylights out of all of us here on this board.

God Bless,
Adam
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
As a former ordained Presbyterian minister

Dennis:

Please allow me to take every opportunity to set the matter straight, and perhaps at the same time affirm one aspect of John's assessment.

Scott claims to be an ordained Presbyterian pastor, but the truth of the matter is that he was part of a small theonomic congregation and was "ordained" by two of the ruling elders in that congregation. Details are back in my office. A school that was attached to the church continues, but I'm pretty sure the church has dissolved. The Thoburn family, long associated with R.J. Rushdoony, was a key part of both the church and the school. [The latter fact however does not besmirch them with any taint of Hahn's defection, but rather simply serves to identify the congregation.]

I will state categorically that Mr. Scott Hahn was never an ordained pastor in the OPC or the PCA, nor do I think he was ordained in any of the so-called micro-denominations. It was just within that one congregation where he was thus recognized as ordained. The ordination is suspect in the extreme.

-----Added 11/28/2009 at 01:17:16 EST-----

It taught me an important lesson, namely that, no matter how much you end up learning about Biblical Hebrew or theology, and no matter how many natural gifts you have, if you are not on your guard against false teaching, you can become just like Scott Hahn. In my mind, that should scare the living daylights out of all of us here on this board.

OFF-TOPIC (slightly)

Adam:

Excellent point!, and may you hang onto that thought real tight, especially if you go off to Chicago. (I would strongly advise against going there, but that's a separate thread.)
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
Thanks DTK and Wayne. I had no way to verify the oft repeated claims made by Hahn. It is no less grievous, but slightly less embarrassing.

I'm interested in your comments about his having a theonomic connection. My successor in one pastorate who went RC was a devotee of Bahnsen and Rushdoony as well. Interesting.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Dennis:

Just to be clear, I was not arguing for or observing a connection between theonomy and anyone moving to the RCC.
 

Jason J. Stellman

Puritan Board Freshman
Have any of you read his PhD dissertation Kinship By Covenant? There's some profound and challenging exegesis in there to be sure. Just because we disagree with the claims of Rome doesn't mean Hahn isn't a first-rate scholar.

That was Horton's point in endorsing his book in the first place.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
I had a professor here who was a colleague of Scott Hahn when he was at Marquette. His memories of Scott Hahn were interesting. He told the class that there was only one way to describe Scott Hahn. He asked us if we had ever heard the phrase, "There are basketball players, and then there is Michael Jordan." We nodded. He then went on to say, "There are theologians, and then there is Scott Hahn." He said that liberal professors would be scared out of their whits to have Scott Hahn as a student. He remembered one instance where the professor got tired of Hahn quoting this scholar and that scholar, and she just said, "Okay Scott, it is time to move on now."

I think that, for me, hearing that story was a real humbling experience. Here is someone who had all of the ability in the world, and yet, for some reason, got sidetracked into all kinds of silly platonic typological interpretations of scripture based upon Roman Catholic dogma, mostly because, according to Rome Sweet Home, he could not defend Sola Scriptura. It taught me an important lesson, namely that, no matter how much you end up learning about Biblical Hebrew or theology, and no matter how many natural gifts you have, if you are not on your guard against false teaching, you can become just like Scott Hahn. In my mind, that should scare the living daylights out of all of us here on this board.

God Bless,
Adam

It does scare me. Not only because of what happened to Scott Hahn, but because he is another instance of something I first saw years before he came on the scene which conclusively proved to me that intellectual comprehension of Christian doctrine is no substititute for a continuing walk with Christ through his word.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Have any of you read his PhD dissertation Kinship By Covenant? There's some profound and challenging exegesis in there to be sure. Just because we disagree with the claims of Rome doesn't mean Hahn isn't a first-rate scholar.

No, I haven't read his PhD dissertation, but I have read some of his popular little books like Hail, Holy Queen, The Mother of God in the Word of God. I'll offer you one of the examples of his "scholarship" in this book. In it, Scott Hahn claimed that Augustine said that the woman of the Apocalypse (quote) “signifies Mary, who, being spotless, brought forth our spotless head. Who herself also showed forth in herself a figure of holy Church, so that as she in bringing forth a Son remained a virgin, so the Church also should during the whole of time be bringing forth His members, and yet not lose her virgin estate.” Dr. Hahn takes this quote (word for word) directly from Thomas Livius’s book, The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries (London: Burns and Oates, 1893), p. 269 in Scott Hahn, Hail, Holy Queen (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 66. Hahn never bothers to investigate the quote as to its authenticity.

David. Le Frois, an RC scholar who has written the most exhaustive treatment of the patristic views of the Marian interpretation of Rev 12, does not even offer a quotation from Augustine, and the reason being is because Hahn cited a secondary source in the above mentioned book by Thomas Livius as his reference. The truth of the matter is that Livius (on whom Hahn relied) is citing a pseudo-Augustine work. Hahn offers this pseudo-Augustine quote on p. 66 of his book, Hail, Holy Queen (New York: Doubleday, 2001).

Moreover, when I ran down Livius’ book, (which btw the way can be downloaded from the internet in .pdf format here, Internet Archive: Free Download: Mary in the Epistles, or : The implicit teaching of the apostles concerning the Blessed Virgin contained in their writings , I discovered that Livius, in his book, Mary in the Epistles, or The Implicit Teaching of the Apostles concerning the Blessed Virgin (London: Burns & Oates, LD., 1891), p. 268 is quoting from a work falsely ascribed to Augustine, titled, De traditione Symboli ad catechemenos. Hahn did not bother to find a primary reference for this alleged quote from Augustine; he simply used a citation from Livius’ book as though it was genuinely Augustine’s words. The quote attributed to Augustine by Hahn, which he cited from the book by Livius is not authentic. The Benedictine editors of Migne (where the Latin for this quote can be found, PL 40:661,) confess themselves that the quote is not authentic, and attribute it instead to Quodvultdeus. Even the Roman author, Jurgens, indicates in vol. 3 of his, The Faith of the Early Fathers (p. 34) that the source is not genuinely Augustine’s.

Personally, I find it disgusting and deporable that people who call themselves "Reformed" want to bolster and affirm the "scholarship" of people who are apostate, and who have to revise history to make it fit the papist scheme.

DTK
 

Jason J. Stellman

Puritan Board Freshman
Personally, I find it disgusting and deporable that people who call themselves "Reformed" want to bolster and affirm the "scholarship" of people who are apostate, and who have to revise history to make it fit the papist scheme.

Tell us how you really feel....

So I assume that you are among those who question Horton's Reformed credibility? And are you saying that people who call themselves "Reformed" cannot recognize true scholarship among those with whom they disagree?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Tell us how you really feel....

So I assume that you are among those who question Horton's Reformed credibility? And are you saying that people who call themselves "Reformed" cannot recognize true scholarship among those with whom they disagree?

I think my comments were crystal clear. There is no need for clarification.

DTK
 

Jason J. Stellman

Puritan Board Freshman
Tell us how you really feel....

So I assume that you are among those who question Horton's Reformed credibility? And are you saying that people who call themselves "Reformed" cannot recognize true scholarship among those with whom they disagree?

I think my comments were crystal clear. There is no need for clarification.

DTK

Gotcha: Catholics are apostate and have to revise history to make it fit the papist scheme, and therefore anyone who recognizes them as displaying scholarship has no right to call himself Reformed.

Therefore Michael Horton has no right to call himself Reformed.

Silly me, I can't believe I asked for clarification!
 

uberkermit

Puritan Board Freshman
Let us assume that Hahn has done a wonderful job of representing Ratzinger's thought & theology. Any good reader will always ask, what of it? What of Ratzinger's theology? Is there anything there worth thinking about? Ratzinger (and Scott Hahn as well) is no teacher in Christ's church. He is a lying prophet who ran, yet our Lord did not send him (c.f. Jeremiah 23). The same goes for Scott Hahn. If teachers in the church are to be judged with greater strictness, what will happen to men such as Ratzinger & Hahn who are not even genuine teachers, but counterfeits? And what of those elders in Christ's church who, instead of openly rebuking these blind guides, instead essentially commend them for their so called important and scholarly work?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Gotcha: Catholics are apostate and have to revise history to make it fit the papist scheme, and therefore anyone who recognizes them as displaying scholarship has no right to call himself Reformed.

Correcting your assumptionn - I do not regard Romanists as "Catholic." I do not know anything more anti-catholic than Romanists who claim that they alone are members of the one true church of Jesus Christ. Moreover, I stand with the Puritans and the Westminster divines who confessed that the papacy is the usurpation of the crown prerogatives of Jesus Christ as the only head and king of His church. Given these exclusive claims of the members of the Roman communion, I simply do not know how they could be more anti-catholic.

And those who occupy platforms today as "voices" for the Reformed community need to be held accountable. If that happens to rub you the wrong way, then so be it. There is no need for us to jump on the bandwagon of anyone's scholarship that is diametrically opposed to the gospel of God's grace in Jesus Christ.

DTK
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
As with another thread today we are going to take a "time out" until after the Lord's day. The moderators will reopen this thread unless they decide otherwise on Monday.
 
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