Review of Scott Hahn’s Book, “A Father Who Keeps His Promises”.

 

 

From the outset I must say, Mr. Hahn does an amazing job of showing the narrative context and understanding of God’s covenant love as revealed through Scripture. I am grateful that I have others around me whom encourage me to read all the more and continually grow in the “knowledge of the Lord”.

Gaining a proper understanding of “salvation history” or them host of other names given to the contextual Biblical gospel (i.e., redemptive history, the big picture,etc.) has been such an amazing journey in my life. I must admit I have not arrived at a full understanding nor appreciation yet, and to be quite frank I don’t believe I ever will. However, Mr. Hahn offers a great opportunity for the reader to gain a comprehensive understanding of the overall theme woven through Scripture.

In this blog, I aim to share some of the exciting details I read in Scott Hahn’s book (encouraging you to spend time absorbing the story of Scripture and/or reading Mr. Hahn’s book for yourself) and hopefully help you understand the gospel more thoroughly. As well as offer my thoughts and critiques on some of the details Mr. Hahn shares in his book.

To read a bit about Mr. Scott Hahn, follow this link:
 http://www.scotthahn.com/about-dr-hahn.html

Many Christians (and Catholics alike) have the presupposition that life on the terrestrial ball we call “Earth” is meant to be temporary. Now, if we are talking about the understanding of nature that all biological things must die- than I wholeheartedly agree. It is the sort of Gnostic view that we are prisoners here on Earth and one day after biological death, we will enjoy ‘eternal life’ in an otherworldly place called “Heaven”, that I have a contention with. In a nutshell, we have fostered a misunderstanding regarding the dimension of Heaven that we cannot be in ‘heavenly places” while biologically alive on Earth. We can! Read Ephesians 2:6. I have spoken many times about the fact that Heaven is a dimension incompatible with the physical world (I promise I am not trying to be “New Agey”).

I say all of that to point out a quote by Mr. Hahn:

“…the Old Testament shows that we were made to live like God by sharing love within the human family during our earthly stay;…the New Testament shows that we were remade to live in God by sharing the love of the blessed trinity for eternity in heaven”.

Mr. Hahn is referring to what is called the “Beatific Vision”. The ‘New Jerusalem’ wherein we spend eternity with God is not somewhere we arrive at physical death- instead when we are “in Christ” we are placed in “heavenly places” and live in the ‘New Jerusalem’ now. This is how we are ‘in the world, not of the world”. It is vital that Christians begin to understand the truth behind being in the consummated Kingdom of God NOW!!

Coming to an understanding of how God has chosen to interact with His creation through “covenants” is necessary to help us understand “God among us”. It was Iranaeus who saw biblical revelation as salvation history “structured according to the various covenants of God with man”. A great beginner study from the Catholic perspective is at the following link:
 http://www.salvationhistory.com/studies/lesson/covenant_the_master_key_that_unlocks_the_bible

I offered the Catholic perspective to help develop the thoughts that are given through Scott Hahn’s book, since he himself is a Catholic. However, don’t stop there! Continue to look into “Covenant Theology” and while your at it “Covenant Eschatology’- within “Protestantism” (if we will call it it that) there is a wealth of information already in place and currently being reformed. Please consider getting in touch with me personally for more information in these regards. My personal email is ChristianityGoneWild@yahoo.com

This past weekend I enjoyed fellowship and Bible discussion with brother Joe Daniels. We got to talking about the various covenants seen throughout Scripture and how we understand them. Joe readily admitted that he does not follow the “Covenant Creation” view of Genesis (whereas I in many respects do), however I believe we understand the ‘redemptive plan’ all the same. While we may not agree on the specifics of how it all “started” (consider reading Beyond Creation Science for an explanation of “Covenant Creation”), we agree on the “meat and potatoes” of covenant as found through Scripture. For example, we both agree that Israel was set apart as a example of the problem of mankind- sin! As we read in Galatians 3:19 & Romans 5:20, “the Law” (Torah) was added so sin would increase. Sin was already “alive and well” (that sure is an oxymoron) before the Law was given to Israel, however God would demonstrate His purpose through Israel and thus lead to the redemption of mankind in and through Jesus Christ. This is the foundational understanding of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The Old Covenant produced sin and death in Israel through the Law of Moses, whereas the New Covenant brought atonement and life to those who are found “in Christ”. That’s how covenants work- there are conditions!

Brother Joe Daniels shared with me a great analogy to explain this. When someone has an infection or disease they take a small part of the infected area to see if the vaccine works. When the small area is shown to be cured, then they apply the vaccine to the full area. That is exactly what God did with the Law and the Gospel- to the Jew first, then to the Gentile.

The etymology of the term ‘covenant’ is found in Latin wherein, convenire, means “to come together or to agree”. Combine this with the Hebrew term ‘hesed’ and we understand God’s covenant to be a mutual bond of obedient trust and committed love (one might be inclined to call this “God’s favor”).

“The failure to recognize the rootage of the institution of covenant and covenant obligations in the structure of kinship societies has led to confusion and even gross distortion in the scholarly discussion of the term berit, ‘covenant’, and in the description of early Israelite religion” – F.M. Cross

It was Pope John Paul II whom Mr. Hahn references as saying that the Adamic Covenant brought forth the issue of mankind (sin/death) and it is this covenant from which all the others arise. I hold to the view that all men are guilty of sin before God, the “creation story” is Israel’s way of expressing that within their covenant context yet it highlights the issues of all mankind. So yes, God then begins a redemptive plan of not only bringing His people to Him through the promises given to Israel, but also to call those who are His from the ends of the Earth- in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile.

Scott Hahn has a chapter is his book which is titled “Creation Covenant & the Cosmic Temple” which reminds me of the views given by first century historian Josephus regarding the Temple and it being symbolic of not only God’s covenant with Israel but also the “heavens and the earth”. If this didn’t serve to legitimize the views I hold to about “covenant creation” then it was the following details that Scott Hahn shared that surely did. To get things started, Mr. Hahn makes the following statement:

“To put it bluntly, many readers are more interested in figuring out whether or not Genesis can be squared with the theory of evolution than in discovering what the author really meant to say. Our modern preoccupation with science often gets in the way of a fair reading of Genesis”.

When it comes to those who are seeking to help us understand that we must lose our modern Western presuppositions about the “creation account”, my hat goes off to Dr. John Walton and his book, The Lost World of Genesis One. I must say though, it surely is encouraging that Mr. Hahn goes on to note that the only place in the Bible that raises the question about the creation of the physical planet earth is Job chapters 38-41. Mr Hahn goes on to make the following statements about understanding the literary genre and historical context of “the creation account” (and Scripture in general):

“We must adhere to the narrative as closely as possible; it beckons us to read it with great care and with critical empathy for the culture and the time in which it was written and trasmitted”.

He goes on to say:

“If the creation account is initially approached and studied in this manner, on its own terms, the text will yield a literal sense that remains open to the genuine discoveries of modern science, along with the valid findings of comparable religion and ancient mythology”.

A great resource to read about these details is the follow link:
 http://biologos.org/blog/author/brian-godawa

Covenant Creationism is the view that the “creation account” is not dealing with the creation of the planet earth and the heavens, instead it is dealing with the creation of the Biblical “heavens and earth” (God’s covenant people). This is the beginning of God’s covenant relationship with Israel (along with God’s presence in the Temple). This view is evident as I read through details and connections of Scripture that are provided throughout Scott Hahn’s book.

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 should be enough evidence that we are not dealing with a chronological/ literal creation of the heavens and the planet earth. Instead what we find evident in the seemingly 2 different “creation accounts” in these chapters is the forming and filling of God’s creation. In Genesis 2:15 we read that the Lord set Adam apart and placed him in the garden to cultivate it which was the role of the high priest in the Tabernacle/Temple (see, Numbers 3:7-8; 18:5-6). Sure enough the garden was known to be the “presence of the Lord” (Genesis 3:8) which again should remind us of the Tabernacle/Temple (see, Leviticus 26:11-12; Deuteronomy 23:14; and 2 Samuel 7:6-7). In Genesis 3:24 we read about how God placed cherubim around the garden to guard the entrance. This was because Adam was guilty of sin and therefore was not able to come into the presence of the Lord. However, the Levitical high prest was allowed into the presence of God in the Tabernacle/Temple which sure enough was guarded by cherubim (see, Exodus 25:18-22; 26:31; 1 Kings 6:23-29). In Genesis 3:21 we read about the Lord covering Adam and Eve with “garments” which is the same term used in Exodus 28:42 referring to the linen that the high priest must wear when he goes into the “presence of the Lord”. Nakedness was forbidden in the eyes of God through the Law (see, Exodus 20:26) and that is why Adam and his wife hid themselves and their nakedness from God (Genesis 3:10).

It is not hard to see how Genesis can be properly understand as Israel’s “Temple text” and their “origin story” as the covenant people of their God. As I stated above, all the other covenants spring from this one. We end up following the lineage of Adam, through Seth, and read of the covenant people. This lineage in matters pertaining to please God seem to make constant wrong turns what Mr. Hahn refers to as “Beloved Backsliders”. It is not hard for us today, those of us “in Christ” to know and see that some things just don’t change. Amen?

Scott Hahn goes on to say, “God’s plan was to raise up Israel as a royal priest to serve all the other nations if only the nations would cooperate”. This is evident in Deuteronomy chapter 4. Israel was to be a “witness” to the nations around them, just as the ‘body of Christ’ today is called to “make known the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10)”.

Sadly, just as Israel continually failed to hold to the standard of being God’s set apart holy priests, today the church falls guilty as well. Ezekiel chapter 20 was the call to Israel to “come out”- even if it was simply for 3 days to offer pure and undefiled sacrifice to God and get refocused (as the Lord sought to have the Israelites do during the ‘Exodus captivity’.

Contrary to the thoughts of many confused people, a ‘covenant relationship’ comes with conditions. Go ahead and read Exodus 19:3-6, wherein you will see what is called “the big “if””. God lays out the options before Israel- blessings or curses (see, Deuteronomy chapter 28).

That is what begin the kingdom and exile story of Israel. When they obeyed God and fulfilled their calling as a witness of the Lord to the nations around them they were blessed. However, when they failed to honor God they received the curses and were exiled from the presence of the Lord (should remind us of the garden story with Adam and Eve). This happened continually to Israel- the Assyrian invasion in 722 B.C., the Babylonians captivity in 586 B.C., and the Roman invasion in A.D. 70.

“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons; then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord has scattered you (Deuteronomy 30:1-3)”.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for my Holy Name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My Great Name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord”, declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. “For I will take you from the nation, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean: I will cleanse you from your filthiness and all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances. You will live in the land I gave to your forefathers; so you will be my people, and I will be your God (Ezekiel 36:22-28)”.

God would redeem His people and bring them back. However, “the hope of Israel” pointed to the “time of the Messiah” when complete atonement/salvation would be accomplished. The promised restoration God gave to Israel which would eventually be summed up in Christ Jesus. Jesus gave the final warning in Matthew chapters 22-23. Fulfilling the promises of restoration to Israel required a “new heart” and a true circumcision which is detailed in Romans chapter 2 and Colossians chapter 2.

This is the theme of the covenant that is woven throughout the prophets. When we understand the “historical context” and the “narrative story” of Israel we are able to better understand what they desired. In their constant failure to fulfill the obligations of their covenant relationship with God they would be removed from the presence of God- where He would hide His face, He would ‘disown’ His people, and they would experience captivity. The promise God offered was restoration. This would be found in and through Jesus Christ.

I must say it again, Scott Hahn does an amazing job at detailing this throughout his book.

Now, I have mentioned it in this blog that Scott Hahn is a Catholic. Therefore, Mr. Hahn places the traditional interpretation of Scripture as passed down and interpreted by ‘Church Fathers’ and the Pope. I find it odd that Mr. Hahn offers much of the details that I have mentioned and yet this still falls into what he would deem “orthodoxy”. However, praise God!

I have offered details about the depth of what Mr. Hahn tackles in his book about God’s covenant love, yet I will say there was some “Catholic rhetoric” found within the book. For example, referencing Numbers chapter 16, Mr. Hahn seeks to make an indictment against “modern day rebels” who denounce the “distinction between clergy and laity”. If it weren’t for “modern day rebels” who challenge the traditional thinking we would not have had the scientific developments offered by Galileo Galilee, the reforms accomplished by Martin Luther, the English Bible and all that is took from brave men like Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and so many other necessary reforms.

One area where I disagree with Scott Hahn’s conclusion (and not just his, but a large portion of those who allow what they deem ‘orthodoxy’) is in reference to “Atonement”. I did find it intriguing that Mr. Hahn does challenge popular thought on “atonement”. For example, Mr. Hahn notes that the “standard evangelical answer” to what was finished on the cross in John 19:30 is “complete salvation”. Hahn’s catholic conclusion is that atonement and salvation are contingent upon participation in the Eucharist which is seen as eating the literal blood and body of Christ (something Catholics believe in which is referred to as ‘transubstantiation’). While I am glad to see that challenging the “It is Finished” statement in regards to salvation/atonement is not limited to the view that I hold, I would force an understanding of the redemptive events of AD 70 as fulfillment of complete atonement (Daniel 9:24-27and Daniel 12:1-7 make this pretty darn clear). It also helps to understand the mediating work of the “high priest” and how Jesus Christ was fulfulling that role (go read Hebrews chapters 8-9).

The crux of God’s covenant love is evident when we correctly identify ourselves as sinners who need grace to be brought into covenant with God. As Mr. Hahn notes, “The only remedy is to abandon ourselves to God’s providence, to trust our Heavenly Father to meet our needs and to keep His promises to us”.

The “good news” is that complete atonement has been declared and can be found in Jesus Christ. Through His atoning works and His “appearing a second time for salvation (Hebrews 9:28)” in AD 70, we now can enjoying His dwelling among us. We can celebrate the eternal Feast of Tabernacles. Sadly, this is an unappreciated aspect within the Church due to misunderstanding regarding God’s purposes and “the hope of Israel” (i.e., resurrection of the dead). Take some time to read through Ezekiel chapter 37 and compare that with Revelation chapters 21-22.

The “New Jerusalem” is the complete New Covenant (see, Galatians 4:21-31).

I am grateful for Scott Hahn’s book because it gently urges all who want to understand God through Christ to understand covenants. It is vital that the Church grows in this understanding since this is the “manifold wisdom of God”. This is simply another aspect of “reform” that is alive and well within the Church.

It was Cyprian of Carthage (otherwise known as St. Cyprian) who once stated, “You cannot have God as your Father without the Church as your Mother”. Granted, Cyprian most likely meant this is regard to the Catholic Church however I believe it can apply to the ‘body of Christ’ as a whole. As I have said before there is no such thing as “lone ranger Christians”. Instead it is our job to work together to make God known to the world and continually reforming the Church. As the Catholic Catechism states, “The Church (is)…at once holy and always in need of purification” (#827).

As I finished reading through Mr. Hahn’s book, I developed a list of studies that I would like to look into. Here I will share some of those topics and details to invite you along to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18).

I.) The Lord’s Table in comparison to the Passover Seder and the details from The Baltimore Catechism on Atoning Sacrifice (i.e., the Eucharist)
II.) The doctrine of Transubstantiation
III.) Christian Mysticism
IV.) Near Eastern Creation Myths (D.T. Tsumara – Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern stories of creation
V.) Read P.S. Alexander’s book, “The Targummim and Early Exegesis of ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis 6
VI.) Read about the “Origin Tradition” of Ancient Israel
VII.) Read “Mighty to Save: A Study in Old Testament Soteriology” by T.V. Farris

Blessings in and through Jesus Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano

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