By the late 1980’s, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists in this country had cornered the market on the Bible—it was simply assumed by most people that Catholics didn’t really use the Bible. Being a “Bible Christian” meant being a Protestant of some sort. Catholic leaders of the time didn’t help. They were embarrassed to engage in apologetics, and addressing Catholics’ biblical illiteracy was not a priority.
Enter a young dynamic preacher named Scott Hahn, arguing that not only is the Bible consistent with Catholicism, the proper understanding of the Bible leads to Catholicism! It was a providential moment that engendered a wave of conversions and reversions.
I myself was one of those converts. A Catholic friend handed me a tape of The Scott Hahn Conversion Story in 1991 and two years later I was received into the Catholic Church. Yet what is remarkable about my own story is how unremarkable it is. Thousands of former Protestants cite Hahn’s conversion story and subsequent work as instrumental in their conversions, and he has impacted countless cradle Catholics who have reverted to or deepened their faith. It’s likely that no one living has had a greater positive impact on the Catholic Church in America than Scott Hahn.
Why? Clearly Hahn’s talent for explaining and defending the Catholic Faith is part of the answer. His ability to relate complex subjects in a way anyone can understand is legendary (I imagine more Catholics today understand what “covenant” means than at any time in Church history). But he also came to public attention at the right time, at a moment when there was a desperate need for Catholics to rediscover the riches of the Sacred Scriptures.
And after 30 years, Hahn is still going strong. He’s written more than 40 books, many journal articles, and gives presentations across the country and around the world. He founded the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology to further his mission (some would say obsession) of making the Bible accessible to Catholics.
Hahn has avoided scandal and controversy. He’s a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He keeps good relations with the hierarchy, and refrains from public criticism of Church leaders. His focus is singular.
Even with just this quick summary of Hahn’s work it becomes clear that only someone very small-minded would see Scott Hahn as a problem. Unfortunately, such a small-minded person exists: Sean Swain Martin, assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and author of the recently released American Pope: Scott Hahn and the Rise of Catholic Fundamentalism.
The basic thesis of American Pope is this: Scott Hahn claims the message of the Bible is simple and clear, and that the Bible itself is inerrant; American Fundamentalists make similar claims; therefore, Scott Hahn is an American Fundamentalist disguised as a Catholic. To make the Bible accessible to the masses, as Hahn does, is akin to fundamentalism, according to Martin….
The above comes from a Nov. 11 story in Crisis magazine.