Sunday, May 1

A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture (1998) and The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth (1999)

By Scott Hahn

With a great deal of presumption, I have taken to calling Scott Hahn my spiritual brother, since a couple of years ago I discovered that we, both raised Protestant, were received into the Holy Roman Catholic Church on the same evening, during the Easter Vigil of 1986 – half a continent apart, of course. I’ve been aware of him as Catholic scholar and apologist supreme for a great deal of the intervening time, at least since the mid 1990s. I hadn’t actually read any of his books until the last couple of years, however. But then our parish distributed free copies of his and his wife, Kimberly’s conversion story, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism (1993), which I read and blogged about as part of my Lenten reading for 2014 [LINK]. At some point subsequent to that, I acquired and listened to an audio talk based upon The Lamb’s Supper, giving more detail to the story of his conversion and how it came through intense study of the Book of Revelation, interpreting it through the lens of the Mass; the book fleshes that interpretive scheme out even further. Then, for my Lenten reading 2015 I undertook A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

For a long time – since 2008 – I have led a small-group Bible study in our parish, which has gone through several different shifts in focus. Beginning during the Year of St. Paul, we first focused on the Apostle by following a short study course by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, then basically followed the three-year cycle of Sunday Mass readings through two cycles under the guidance of one Vince Contreras’ site, Sunday Scripture Study for Catholics [LINK], which provides weekly one-sheet study guides which are perfect for an hour-length weekly meeting. Twice through the cycle was, however, enough for our group, and we then wanted to dig more deeply into some kind of overview of the Bible, from beginning to end. For a time we attempted to use the Agape Bible Study [LINK] by Michal Hunt, specifically her Salvation History course [LINK], but although I find that course and the site in general a wonderful resource, we did not find it terribly well suited to our needs. It is far too detailed and geared far more toward a classroom lecture format than toward small-group discussion that we wanted. So, after a detour last spring and summer during which we followed the Sunday-night airings of the NBC miniseries A.D.: The Bible Continues with discussion on Monday evening [LINK], I spent the rest of the summer searching for some other alternative, a more manageable overview of the Bible more suited to our needs. I found it in an old – 1990s – EWTN mini-series, Our Father’s Plan, starring Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn. (I’ve nicknamed it “The Cavins and Hahn Show,” which often – and not at all unintentionally – comes out as “The Calvin and Hobbes Show.” Cheap humor is the best humor.) Quite primitively done, basically being a couple of talking heads with Cavins having a white board behind him to illustrate his scheme of Biblical history, it is in one sense an interesting historical artifact. The essence of a comprehensive Catholic Covenant Theology is evident and would serve as the foundation for both men’s later work. A typical episode has Cavins lead off by giving an historical overview – which he would later flesh out into a full-blown Catholic scripture study media conglomerate, The Great Adventure Bible Study [LINK]. I had looked into this, and frankly it’s just too expensive for us. In any case, after Cavins' survey, Hahn would dominate a one-on-one theological discussion between the two of them as the rest of the OFP episode. He would go on to develop the ideas he propounded here in A Father Who Keeps His Promises – which I had read by the time I found Our Father’s Plan. So I was well primed to jump into it. With the aid of a study guide I also found, prepared back in the later 1990s by a parish in Oregon, I’ve found it fairly easy to prep our weekly hour-long Bible study sessions, which typically run on a rhythm of watching an episode of OFP one week, then spending the next two to three weeks discussing the corresponding sections of scripture. Both the DVD  and Study Guide (facilitator’s and student’s) for OFP [LINK] are available from Ignatius Press [LINK]. I would be remiss not to mention as well Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins’ book, Walking with God: A Journey through the Bible, which is basically Cavins’ own exposition of the story of salvation and which I have also found immensely helpful in prepping each week [LINK]. I have not read it from cover to cover, however … yet.

As regards A Father Who Keeps his Promises, Hahn sees the whole of salvation history as in essence a series of covenants between God and Man aimed at repairing the original covenantal relationship broken by Original Sin, best expressed in terms of family and marriage. Of course, sinful beings that we are, there are plenty of shortfalls along the way, but there is also the promise that will ultimately be fulfilled in the heavenly wedding feast of the Lamb that is envisioned in the Book of Revelation and experienced every time we go to Mass. Marred only by Hahn's regrettable tendency to employ very bad puns as his chapter and section titles, this is a wonderful overview of (with all due respect to Fulton Oursler's great book and the movie based upon it) the Greatest Story Ever Told. Ultimately, my high regard for this book had me purchasing copies for all the members of my own and my wife's families for Christmas. Whether they read them or not, I cannot say, but I believe it could well be life-changing if they do.

Cheers, and Thanks for Reading.

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