Scott Hahn and "Prima Scriptura"?

I was at a friend’s for lunch today, and I made the mistake of mentioning Dr. Scott Hahn’s name… To our collective surprise, my friend reacted both violently and vocally (?!). He is a graduate of Steubenville (both BA and Masters in Theology), and apparently had Dr. Hahn as a professor in the early 90s. He has some very harsh things to say about him, both personally and “professionally”…! :nope:

One of his most vehement claims is that Dr. Hahn teaches “prima scriptura”, explaining this to us as a belief that Scripture is a “higher” authority than Tradition. My friend says that because of this, Dr. Hahn is heretical and goes against the teachings of the Church, and that when he called Dr. Hahn on it in class, he was ignored.

:confused: My question is, does anyone here actually know whether or not Dr. Hahn really teaches this currently (or even whether he ever taught this?)?

I have read and enjoyed everything I have ever read by Dr. Hahn, and have never gotten the impression from what I have read that he was trying to teach me that Scripture is primary over all else–rather, I always thought he reenforced for me my understanding of the equal importance of living Tradition, in that Tradition is what was passed down to us before the written canon of Scripture was established–Tradition is also the teaching of God, and Scripture is the unchaning revelation of the word to be used in conjunction with it. Tradition explains Scripture, and Scripture explains Tradition.

I have never taken Dr. Hahn’s classes, yet my friend did and claims to “know Dr. Hahn very well”. Even so, I will not accept what my friend has said to me against Dr. Hahn unconditionally–the fruits of Dr. Hahn’s work seem clear to me, and I myself have seen no problems in his writing. On top of this, my friend seems to have other “issues” with Dr. Hahn personally, and I fear that this is clouding his judgement… :frowning:

Can anyone else shed any light on this or point me towards anything that addresses this concern of “prima scriptura”??

Thanks :slight_smile:

+veritas+

Veritas,

Just for fun! Would you ask you friend what grade he got in Dr. Hahn’s class?

John

i don’t know either way what dr. hahn teaches (personally, i know relatives of his and they are wonderful people who say the same for him and kim) but “prima scriptura” is not heretical. sola scriptura is. prima scriptura basically says that tradition and scripture must line up together. there can be no “tradition” which contradicts scripture (i think we would all agree with this). and since scripture is unchangeable, it is a primary source (i’m not saying tradition is “changeable” just interpreted from scripture and history and therefore must have something to be tested against to figure out if it’s tradition or Tradition). scripture is what every tradition is tested against ultimately. you can argue that it is history but the historical figures (jerome, ignatius, augustine, etc.) used scripture to back up any argument. this is the tenet of “prima scriptura”.

Well, my understanding is that Scripture must be “prima scriptura” because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. How can this not be so??

there can be no “tradition” which contradicts scripture (i think we would all agree with this). and since scripture is unchangeable, it is a primary source (i’m not saying tradition is “changeable” just interpreted from scripture and history and therefore must have something to be tested against to figure out if it’s tradition or Tradition). scripture is what every tradition is tested against ultimately.

I agree with most of what bengal_fan says except I would not say that traditions don’t change. Some traditions do in fact change along a timeline and this is the reason for measuring tradition with scripture. If there is a contradiction between the two, scripture is right.

Tom

[quote=john654]Veritas,

Just for fun! Would you ask you friend what grade he got in Dr. Hahn’s class?

John
[/quote]

That was the first question that popped into my mind, also. Does the person have a bone to pick with Dr. Hahn? Maybe they had a heated discussion about somehting completely unrelated, and the friend then takes everything about Dr. Hahn as being wrong. Or maybe He recieved a comment on a paper and didn’t like it. As a teacher, I find many students react that way. And as a recent student (finished my last degree in 2002) I know that many of my classmates (and I, too) tended to exaggerate the faults of many of our professors.

John

[quote=+veritas+]I was at a friend’s for lunch today…
Thanks :slight_smile:

+veritas+
[/quote]

I couldn’t tell about your friend from your post and know nothing about the school, so here goes…

Is he Catholic?

It is worth noting that Dr Hahn, and all theologians at Steubenville, have taken an oath of loyalty to Church teaching, and have been certified by their Bishop as approved theologians.

Dr. Hahn brought me into the church. (not personally, but his books, tapes, and teachings). I highly doubt he’s heretical, and if he held any view which was heretical, I’m sure he would quickly recant.

I’m sorry your friend has such a bitter heart. It’s crazy when you think what the devil will do to turn people away from those who preach the truth.

I’m thinking also of the home schooling incedent also involving the Hahns. I’m ignorent of the matter but it does seem like silly arguing and bickering.

As I understand it, there can be no primacy per se… Both Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition are ‘from’ the Holy Spirit.

From my moderate exposure to Hahn, I can see some tendancy to cite Scripture first, but for a Bible scholar like Hahn, that doesn’t suprise me much.

My opinion is that Hahn proceeds from an apologetic perspective - and sees Scripture as the primary arena of action with our separated brothers.

For the last twenty years my focus has been similiar - my in-laws are strong anti-Catholics, and citing Holy Tradition will get me nowhere. But if I point out that Holy Tradition is overwhelmingly directly related to Scripture (or at least never contradicts it) I have kept the channel open, so-to-speak.

Clint

“Inspiration” of the Holy Scriptures is unique, not even Sacred Tradition can claim to be “inspired”. I am no theologian, but I see no problem in stating that Scripture should have primacy over Tradition. Prima Scriptura does not pit one against the other, it only recognizes the unique character of the Scriptures as being authored by God Himself. The Holy Spirit certainly guides (towards the truth) and preserves (againt error) Tradition but the Holy Spirit is not the author of Tradition.

I know someone who had him for a couple of classes at Stubenville. She never mentioned that he was anything but orthodox, intellegent, and difficult.

[quote=RCEllis]As I understand it, there can be no primacy per se… Both Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition are ‘from’ the Holy Spirit.

Clint
[/quote]

Clint,

Where are we finding that Holy Tradition is from the Holy Spirit??

Tom

In describing prima Scriptura, Jimmy Akin writes,"Apostolic Scripture does have primacy over Apostolic Tradition (and the Church as well; see Vatican II, Dei Verbum 11). We look to it first and foremost because it is inspired, giving us God’s ipsisima verba. But we also look to Apostolic Tradition to help us understand Apostolic Scripture, since it conveys God’s ipsisima vox."As Akin explains, the words of Apostolic Scripture are inspired, but “while the original giving of Apostolic Tradition was inspired, the words in which it has been passed down to us are not inspired.”

This is from Catholic Answers website at:

catholic.com/library/scripture_and_tradition.asp

In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: “The Word of God”), the relationship between Tradition and Scripture is explained: "Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.

“Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence.”

Sounds to me like the Church does not put the “prima” in “prima scriptura”, but I would like to hear others that can find documentation to the opposite.

Other than that, I don’t have too much problem with Hahn. I’m sure it is a primary method of going after sola scriptura Protestants and getting them to convert! :smiley:

-JohnDeP

If you want to better understand what Hahn means by "prima Scriptura, " read his article, “Prima Scriptura: Magisterial Perspectives on the Primacy of Scripture,” in A.J. Mastroeni (ed.), The Church and the Universal Catechism (Steubenville, OH: Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, 1993), pp. 83-116. You can probably get it via interlibrary loan from your public library.

In the meantime… I’m pretty sure that he only means given primacy to Scripture in doing theology. You’re more likely to make an impression on him if you come up with an interesting exegesis of a passage in Scripture than if you wax eloquently about your favorite theologian’s understanding of Catholicism.

Hello,

How about this? The Catholic Church is the Pillar and Foundation of truth. Scripture is Catholic Tradition!?

John

Thanks everyone for the great insights and references on this!

For the record, my friend is a strongly orthodox Catholic as far as I am aware–this is why it shocked all of us to hear him talk like this about Scott Hahn. He studied at Steubenville and then in Rome for 7 years, he is currently going for his doctorate in theology.

I have no idea what grade he got in Dr. Hahn’s class, he didn’t mention it :rolleyes: but I highly suspect that it may not have been an ‘A’…

He had many personal comments about Dr. Hahn as well, bordering on slander in my opinion (therefore I will not share them here…).

On the theological side, he also disliked Dr. Hahn’s use of non-Christian texts, namely Jewish books. (He did not tell us the titles of these “bad” books however) According to my friend, the use of these books is not allowed for professors who had sought mandatums and official declarations that they would only teach the Catholic faith. He then said that when he confronted Dr. Hahn with the Code of Canon Law about this, Dr. Hahn went and got a dispensation from the bishop and showed it to him… this didn’t seem to appease my friend though, since he still brought it up as being a black mark against Dr. Hahn.

It does not seem like the mere use of Jewish books is a horrible sin against the Church (granted, depending on what they are and in what course they are being used in). I don’t see that it was inherently wrong for Dr. Hahn to use non-Christian books, at least Jewish ones (and the Jews are the fathers of our faith after all!!) :confused:

Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue? Can anyone give me any Church documents referencing the use of non-Christian books in teaching religion?

In any case, it seems to me that this is just one person’s unfair black-balling of a person’s professional status based primarily on their personal relationship with them… very sad. :frowning:

+veritas+

From my moderate exposure to Hahn, I can see some tendancy to cite Scripture first, but for a Bible scholar like Hahn, that doesn’t suprise me much.

My opinion is that Hahn proceeds from an apologetic perspective - and sees Scripture as the primary arena of action with our separated brothers.

I agree.

I have read some Hahn and if I didn’t already know he was a convert from the evangelical tradition I would have guessed it from his writing style. But I think he is a wonderful Catholic and love to read anything he has written.

The Spirit and Forms of Protetstantism by Fr. Louis Bouyer, a French priest and Professor, 1st English edition in 1956 and currently in print from Scepter Press, has a preface written by Fr. G. De Broglie, S.J. and an appendix article also by De Broglietitled On the Primacy of Argument from Scripture in Theology.

Allow me to quote the opening paragraphs.

"This brief note is far from being a complete tretment of the complex problem of the relationship between Scripture and Tradion. Still less does it question the fact that the argument from Tradition has a certain logical priority to the argument from Scripture–insofar as our belief in the inspiration of the Scripture rests on the authority of the Church. Nor does it maintain that every dogma can be proved by argument from Scripture, without recourse to Tradition. It does not call into question the infallibility of the Magesterium or its indeispensable role in the interpretation of Scripture.

Neither does it ignore the fact that the theological argument drawn from ecclesiastical documents is, in a number of cases the *most clear and cogent *that could be imagined. All it aims at is to emphasize the classic recognition of the argument from Scripture as holding an inalienable primacy of importance and value among all the arguments used in theology.

The reason for this is easy to understand. Even in cases where in the catholic view the teaching of the Magesterium satisfies all the conditions for infallibility, the Church is obliged by her own teaching to acknowledge that an eccelsiastical document of the sort is an entirely different thing from a text of the Scripture. True, the Church’s teaching is divinely guarenteed to be free from error; nonetheless, it remains, in the various acts that constitute it, an aggregate of testimonies that are merely human, bearing on past revelation made by God to men; whereas the sacred text presents us with a formal and direct testimony from God himself, in the very form in which it originally appeared.

Consequently, Scripture has always had a place apart in the teaching of the Church. "

Italics in the original.

He goes on to quote The Encyclical Providentissimus Deus, by Leo XII which states about the doctrines of all the Church Fathers:

“They set out to establish and confirm, primarily by the sacred books, all the truths of the faith as well as those which flow from them.”

I highy recommend this book. But it is not light reading. Scott Hahn mentions it in his conversion tape as one of the books that lead him into the Catholic Faith. You might also ant to recommend it to your unhappy friend.

The Catechism clearly states that Scripture and Tradition are equal. That being said, stating that Scripture has primacy does not necessarily mean that it is greater than Tradition. One only needs to look to the Orthodox use of primacy, referring to the Bishop of Rome as the one who has primacy – among equals. Something can be first without being greater.

As someone else has observed, Scripture, being in a written form, is far more resistant to any change or evolution than oral tradition. As well, short of a magisterial pronouncement on some subject, it is much harder to determine what is a part of Sacred Tradition.

In reference to the use of non-Christian texts, I suppose that that the way in which they are used would greatly matter. Knowing that a certain knowledge of God exists in the hearts of all men, it is not surprising to find that even non-Christians may have some record of the truth in their writings. In particular, when studying Scripture, it becomes very important to understand the traditions of the writers of Scripture in order to understand the literal sense of their words. Since most of the Scripture authors were Jewish, it makes a lot of sense to use Jewish sources, at least for reference.

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