Scott Hahn’s conversion from being a Presbyterian minister to a Catholic apologist has gained a lot of momentum in the last few years. Scott Hahn’s conversion story written in Rome Sweet Home, narrated on CD’s and related on different places on the internet have seemingly convinced many of the Catholic faith as the true Christian faith and has even probably converted some Protestants to Catholicism!
But, is Scott Hahn’s explanation of the Catholic faith any different from what the Catholic Church has been teaching all these years or are people just taken up because he was a Protestant Pastor and theologian who converted to Catholicism? And, is his critique of the Protestant belief really what he says it is?
As I read Scott Hahn’s conversion experience, it is very clear that his conversion was a result of:
1. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of scriptural truths and scripture passages – just as the rest of the Catholic Church does – during the course of his quest. His understanding and explanations of being born again, baptism, his understanding of justification by Faith Alone – Sola Fide, the Bible as our only authority – Sola Scriptura, the authority given to Peter, the Eucharist and many other doctrines are all completely flawed.
For example, his understanding of what Jesus meant by ‘born again’ in His conversation with Nicodemus in John 3: For Scott Hahn ‘to be born again’ means ‘to be baptized’! Why? Because after Jesus taught about being born again by water and the Spirit from John 3:2 to John 3:21 the very next verse says Jesus and his disciples baptized! This seems to be his most outrageous claims among all others. Is that the way one interprets scripture, only check what follows after a particular discourse and completely ignore what is taught within it and in the rest of the scriptures? Is it right to reach a conclusion on a scriptural position by taking just one scripture in isolation or should we study all that pertains to the subject and then come to a conclusion? Obviously, the latter! Otherwise we will end up concluding that the Bible contradicts itself on many subjects.
What does Jesus teach within the text in John 3:1-21? After Jesus tell Nicodemus that he needs to be born again of the water and the spirit in verse 9 says, Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” (How can I be born again?). Jesus answered in v14-18,
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
So, Jesus is giving His answer to how to be born again. Jesus in essence says that if a man believes in Him he will not perish but will be saved from condemnation. That is what born again means: being saved from sin and final judgment by believing upon the cross and hence being born as a new person – that is exactly what Jesus said. And a person is made new – born of the Spirit – when the Holy Spiritconvicts him of sin and convinces him of Jesus as his Savior, as he hears the Gospel and then responds to the truth by repenting of his sins and puts his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Baptism always follows hearing the Gospel, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus in every instance in the New Testament. This is the pattern we see in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
What does the rest of the Bible say and teach on being born again of water? In, 1 Peter 1 :23 – 25 says ‘having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever….Now this is the word which by the Gospel was preached to you’. So, Peter is clearly writing (not inferring) that we are born again by the word of God, not baptism.
In Ephesians 5:26 Paul says, ‘that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word. Apostle Paul is saying that we are washed by water which is the word of God.
So we see that Peter and Paul understood that when Jesus said be ‘born again by water’ He meant that a person needs to be born again by hearing and responding to the word of God, not baptism. It is the preaching of the Gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit that makes people born again – be born again of the water and the Spirit. We see this exemplified in Acts 2:37-38, as Peter preached the Gospel the Holy Spirit convicted the hearers, then those who heard him were cut to the heart and asked what shall we do. Peter said ‘Repent and be baptized…’ not ‘only be baptized’.
So, the biblical truth and pattern for being born again and also baptism is clear. It’s only those who want to run with their own beliefs, ignoring biblical pattern, who say otherwise… Scott Hahn seems to be one of them! Here, in his explanation of baptism being the way to be born again, it is clear as to how inconsistent and grossly wrong his method of interpreting scripture is and hence the interpretation itself. He follows this pattern of interpretation and arriving at conclusions from the scriptures in almost every single doctrine and hence goes from one error to another!
2. Being swept away in his mind and emotions by Catholic teachings. Catholic teachings are always very appealing to the mind and to the senses; they have a way of ensnaring the mind and making people feel good, even though, almost always, they are scripturally wrong.
Scott Hahn’s book ‘Rome Sweet Home’ and narrations are very emotionally moving and gripping as he explains the quest, the pain, the emotional, spiritual and family struggle he went through in the process of converting to Catholicism. And that is the reason most people are taken up with his and his wife’s conversion story… it’s an emotionally moving narrative mixed with scriptural misinterpretations. So, a person who is not thoroughly rooted in the understanding of scripture will be swept off his feet even as Scott Hahn and his wife were!
Apostle Paul said in Colossians 2:4, 8,
4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments….8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
SCOTT HAHN’S MISUNDERSTANDING AND MISINTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE
In his book, ‘Rome Sweet Home’, Scott Hahn from the outset gives his scriptural interpretations that are way off the truth. They are no different from what the Catholic Church has been teaching all along. They are based on human tradition, human thinking and human emotions. Let’s look at some of the doctrines he deals with:
The very first doctrine he deals with in his book (and probably in his quest for truth) is baptism. Based on his understanding of covenant in the Bible he concludes that just as infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant now infants can be baptized, because baptism is a sign of entering into the new covenant! This is a clear misunderstanding of the work and the very purpose of God.
Circumcision in the Old Testament does not equal to baptism in the New Testament! First, in the Old Testament, by God’s explicit command to Abraham, the infants in Israel were required to enter into the covenant with God through circumcision as a sign; but in the New Covenant, clearly there is no explicit command to baptize infants in order for them to enter into the covenant.
The ONLY way of entering into a covenant relationship with God is through the Blood of Jesus. It is only when an individual repents of his sins, believes in Jesus and is washed of his sins by the Blood of Jesus, that he enters into a covenant with God. That is the reason why Jesus at the last supper took the cup and said ‘This is the blood of the NEW COVENANT’. Under the old covenant the infants’ blood was shed in circumcision, but that was not sufficient to make him righteous. But under the New Covenant the Blood of the Son of God is shed which is able to save us from the uttermost (Heb 7:25) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Once a person enters into a covenant relationship with God through the precious Blood of Jesus, then he/she needs to be baptized in obedience to God’s command as an external sign. Baptism without first entering into a covenant with Jesus through His blood is absolutely irrelevant and futile.
Second, we find that Baptism in the New Testament always follows hearing the Gospel, repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. There was no such pre-requisite for circumcision; it was always an isolated event. The fact that many Christians may have been preaching and teaching for hundreds of years that baptism is the means to enter into the covenant with God does not make it true; the truth is there for any sincere Bible reader to see in the Bible.
Scott Hahn then says that Jesus said ‘let the little children come to me’ in Mt 19:14 and so we can baptize infants. This is a very foolish argument as it is very simple for anyone to understand that there is a lot of difference between ‘bringing a child to Jesus’ and ‘baptizing the child’. Jesus did not say, ‘let the infants come to me that I may baptize them’. Again, just because an infant is not baptized it does not mean that the parent does not bring the child to Jesus. No protestant parent keeps his child away from Jesus. They always bring their children to Jesus! Not baptizing the child does not mean not bringing the child to Jesus. Parents ought to dedicate their infants to Jesus and not baptize them. Dedication is the way to bring a child to Jesus as an infant.
Scott Hahn then uses Acts 2:38 to say that even Peter spoke of children when Peter said, ‘The promise is to you and to your children’. Again a very gross misunderstanding as it talks only about the fact that we and our future generations are promised the blessing of God but talks nothing about infants being baptized. Peter here is preaching to the adults and asking them to ‘repent’ and be baptized that they and their children may be blessed. Children are blessed by the obedience of their parents but they need to repent make a personal decision for Jesus when they come of age to enter into the New Covenant. This scripture talks nothing about infant baptism!
Most Catholics use Mt 19:14 and Acts 2:38 in connection with infant baptism when the context makes it more than clear that it has nothing to do with infant baptism. Some use the ‘household’ argument quoting Acts 16:33-34, when the verse says nothing about infants being present. There are innumerable households without infants! These are just frivolous and baseless arguments with no substance. With such arguments we can even prove that the Earth is square in shape!
If Scott Hahn’s search begins with such misinterpretation of scripture, is it not reasonable to believe that the rest of his arguments are the same? (For more Baptism read Water Baptism According To The Bible)
B. SOLA FIDE – JUSTIFICATION BY ‘FAITH ALONE’
The next subject Scott Hahn happened to deal with in his search was the doctrine of Sola Fide – one of the pillars on which the reformation stood. And, he and his wife say that they found out that justification by ‘faith alone’ was unscriptural, and that the position of the Catholic Church that justification is by ‘faith and works’ is scriptural! The scripture reference they give for it, James 2:24, ‘… a man is justified by works and not by faith only’. This is another example of taking one scripture in isolation and twisting what the Bible actually teaches. Let’s look at what the Bible teaches as a whole on the subject.
PAULS’ ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK OF ROMANS
In the book of Romans, Paul’s entire aim from chapter one to chapter five is to build up the argument for justification by ‘faith alone’. And true faith implies believing in Jesus Christ as the Bible says. After building up his argument in chapters 1, 2 and 3 he starts to give his verdict from Romans 3:20,
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
We see very clearly Paul teaching in this portion of scripture, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that justification is by faith ‘alone’ apart from works. He is making it clear that by the deeds of the law (works) no flesh will be justified.
And in v 28 he says, ’we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law’. Martin Luther did not make it up, it’s in the Bible!
Scott Hahn, Kimberly Hahn and many other catholic apologists have made a great deal about the fact that Martin Luther added the word ‘ALONE’ after the word ‘faith’ in verse 28 in his German translation of the Bible. But does adding that word really change the meaning of that verse? Not at all! With or without the word ‘alone’ the verse still means that a man’s justification is by faith ‘alone’ apart (without) the works of the law. So they seem to be stating things just for ‘shock value’ rather than to establish a truth, and people are unfortunately buying into it.
In Romans 4 Paul continues the argument on justification by faith alone,
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…
Here Paul is stating clearly that Abraham was not justified by works. And his conclusion is that faith and works are opposite to each other. If it is by work then God is indebted to us and then it is no longer by grace. But if it is only by grace and faith then righteousness is imputed or freely given into our account without works.
He sums up this truth beautifully in Romans 11:6,
6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
Again, in Romans 5:1 the Bible says – ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we havepeace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
PAULS’ ARGUMENT IN THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
While in Romans Paul is stating the truth on justification to the Church in Rome, in the book of Galatians we find Paul rebuking the Galatians for going back to the works of the law to be justified.
Galatians 2:16 : knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Galatians 2:21 : I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
If we try being justified by our works we nullify the work of Jesus on the cross!
Paul says in Gal 2:18, ‘For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor’ and again in Gal 5:4, ‘You have become estranged (separated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.’
Paul very clearly saying that not only do we nullify he work of Jesus on the cross if we try to justify ourselves with works but we become sinners again in God’s eyes and are cut off from Christ, as no amount of good works can make us righteous before God!
WHAT DOES THE BOOK OF JAMES REALLY SAY?
So, if Paul is so clear in his writings that justification is by faith alone what does James mean when he says, ‘A man is justified by works’. James 2:14-26 says,
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
The key to understanding this passage is verses 14, 18 and 19.
In verse 14 James writes, ‘If someone says’.
In verse 18 he writes, ‘Show me your faith…I will show you my faith by my works’.
And in verse 19 he writes, ‘You believe in one God…even the demons believe’.
James is writing about a person who only says that he has faith in Jesus Christ but his works (actions) do not show it. This passage is talking about name-sake Christians who say they are Christians just because they were baptized or just because they made a prayer of salvation. He is talking about those who only have a mental faith, like the demons who also believe but have never repented or believed in Jesus as their Savior! Such a Christian’s faith is not a faith in the heart that moves them to good works (v 15,16), surrender and sacrifice (v21) or value and respect for servants of God (v 25). If a person truly puts his faith in Jesus and has been justified by his faith, his works will show it, just as Abraham was declared righteous first and then his works demonstrated/showed it.
There are those who say that they have faith but their works show otherwise. If anyone says he has faith but continues to live in sin willfully without any regrets and has no intentions of repenting such a person never really put his faith in Jesus. He only believed in his mind and confessed with his lips but his heart is still far away from God. It’s just a mental faith, a belief in the mind. There are certain others who once had genuine faith but because of carelessness and hardness of heart they have walked away from what they once professed and lived in and hence now their faith is dead and hence there are no works to show forth, and in fact might be in bondage to grave sins.
FAITH VS. GOOD WORKS
A person who has genuine faith will produce good works but a person showing forth good works does not imply that he has truly put his faith in Jesus! A person without faith also can do good works. That persons’ good works will not save him. Our good actions or works cannot bring us into a right relationship with God but true faith from the heart in Jesus will justify us before God and bring us into a relationship with Him as sons and daughters. And once we have a relationship with God and are born again the outward demonstration will be a life of good works; in fact, good works will flow, because God abides in our hearts once we are born again! Faith produces good works.
A person is justified by FAITH ALONE. Whether or not a person has truly put his faith in Jesus will eventually be shown by his works. Our works prove our faith, but our works do not make us right before God. True faith in God will be demonstrated by our actions.
Therefore when we study Romans, Galatians and James we understand that justification cannot be by a combination of ‘faith and works’. It can be ‘only by faith’ or ‘only by works’ because faith and works are contrary to each other with regard to justifying us before God (Rom 4:2,3). With Paul’s arguments from the books of Romans and Galatians it is made absolutely clear that justification is by faith alone – sola fide, but from the book of James we understand that true faith will show itself in works and hence will prove our justification, even as in Abraham’s case. The thief on the cross was saved by faith alone; he did not produce any good works. But, had he been released and set free we can be sure that he would have demonstrated his faith with works as James says!
With this biblical view it is clear that Scott Hahn and his wife have clearly overlooked many scripture verses in Romans and Galatians in coming to their conclusion on sola fide and hence are in serious error and grave danger because Paul said in Gal 5:4, that if we try to justify ourselves with our works we are cut off from Christ!
C. SOLA SCRIPTURA – SCRIPTURE ALONE? WHERE DOES THE BIBLE SAY THAT IT (THE BIBLE) IS THE FINAL AUTHORITY?
This is the question the Catholic Church would ask anyone who says that the Bible should be our final authority and is also the question that Scott Hahn was troubled with for a while. At first it seems to be a valid question because there seems to be no single verse that says explicitly that the Bible is the only authority. But as we study scripture it is more than clear that the Bible, the Word of God, should be our yardstick, our final authority, and nothing else. And only by closing our eyes to the following text can we really say that the Bible is not our final authority.
Jesus said it very clearly in Mk 7: 1-5, 8, 9 and 13:
1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”
9 And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Jesus is stating very clearly here that no matter what the tradition, it should never nullify the Word of God. He is saying that we cannot let go the commands of God for the sake of traditions. He is saying that we cannot use ‘fine ways’ of setting aside the command of God in order to observe the traditions that have been handed down. And when Jesus here refers to the Command of God and the Word of God He is, of course, referring to the command of God contained in the Old Testament scriptures that had been handed down and not just some oral teaching/tradition.
Does not the teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord here very clearly mean that the written Word of God, the scriptures, is far above every other tradition and authority? Is He not very clearly implying that the Word of God is the final authority and not tradition? How could anyone come to any other conclusion from this passage!
We should note that Jesus spoke the words in Mk 7:1-13, to the religious leaders of that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law! Jesus rebuked them and corrected them regarding their way of giving primacy to the traditions of men rather than the Word of God.
Colossians 2:8 says,
4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments….8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ
Again here the Bible warns us against philosophies and teachings based on the traditions of men. From 1 Thessolonians 2:15 we know that certain traditions are fine. So from Mk 7:1-13, Col 2:8 and 1 Thess 2:15 we understand that any tradition is fine as long as it does not go against the Word of God.
And so, every tradition ought to be checked in the light of scriptural teaching. And if every tradition ought to be checked in the light of scripture and any tradition that goes against Scripture is to be discarded, then it means Scripture alone is the final authority. And, to that effect Jesus in the above passage of scripture is clearly implying ‘Scripture Alone’ – Sola Scriptura.
So, Scott Hahn and the Catholic Church are again overlooking and trivializing what Jesus so emphatically says in these verses, and hence are again on the wrong side of truth!
At this point the Catholic Church would say, ‘But, Jesus is talking only about corrupt traditions, all our traditions are scripture based, they in no way oppose the teaching of the Bible’, and will quote one or two scriptures (taken fully out of the context of the Bible teaching) for each tradition!
With the Catholic way of interpreting and using just one or two scriptures out of context to support a tradition, we would have to allow men to marry many wives, because we could say there are scripture verses for it as Abraham, David, Solomon and so many other prominent leaders of the Old Testament had more than one wife! Catholics and Protestants agree that that would be wrong as that is not what God has said or what the Bible teaches as a whole. When we take scriptures as a whole we understand God’s plan – ‘A man shall be faithful to the wife of his youth’. Or for that matter if we went with the Catholic way of using scriptures, we would have to allow a man to divorce his wife and remarry at will because Moses allowed it! But again, Catholics and Protestants (most!) know that that is wrong as Jesus said in Mt 19:7, that that was not God’s will.
So, it is absolutely important to take Bible teachings as a whole!
What did Paul mean when he said in 1 Timothy 3:15 that ‘the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth’ ?
Firstly, it is obvious that Paul did not mean the ‘Church as an institution’, ‘Catholic’ Church, ‘Catholic Hierarchy’ or any other denomination is the pillar and ground of truth. He clearly meant the Church – the Body of Christ on the Earth – as a whole. The Church is every believer in the world put together, not any denomination.
Secondly, he meant the Church in contrast to the world. For, it is truly the Church that carries the Truth of God to this world, for the world does not have the truth of God. We are the salt and the light of the world. The world does not know the truth about God and Jesus Christ but we the Church of the living God have the truth. We the Church have the truth concerning every situation of life and every area of life from the word of God, and so we the Church are the pillar and foundation of truth!
Thirdly, if we strictly take this scripture verse in context, Paul was not even referring to the ‘universal Church’ but about the Church in Ephesus, about which he is talking to Timothy. So, Paul is referring to each individual Church, wherever it is, as being the pillar and foundation of truth, and by implication the entire Church – the Body of Christ – itself.
No where in the Bible do we see a single, unified Church, under one leader. But we see Churches established in different places with God ordained leadership in every Church functioning under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It shows the importance of Local Churches and their functioning. And the Bible shows unity among the Churches and healthy discussion, as it should be, among the Churches and its leaders as we see in Acts 15 and Galatians 2. But we truly do not see any semblance of even Paul submitting himself to Peter or even considering Peter as the Pope! In fact, we only see Paul rebuking and correcting Peter on a very serious error.
The Church and its leadership ought to submit itself to the Word of God. Every country has its own constitution. There is a time in every country’s history when there is no constitution for the country but at a particular time and place the leaders of the nation come together to decide on the constitution – the rules, regulations and the system by which the country would be run. Once the constitution is in place neither the leaders who formulated it nor the government are above it. The very leaders who formed the constitution are to be governed by it; they cannot change it at will.
Similarly, there was a time when there was uncertainty as to what books composed the New Testament; but since God inspired the leaders of the Church to choose the books of the New Testament and finalize the Bible, the Church and its leaders ought to submit itself to the written Word of God. The Church and its leaders are not above the Word of God. The Bible is to the Church what the constitution is to a country. And the Local Church leadership is like the government of a country. Just as a government can go only by the constitution, the Church authorities can go only by the Word of God, the Bible. The Lord has given us in the Bible the system by which we should live. More than just being a book of rules and regulations the Bible is life itself, As Jesus said in John 6:63, ‘ My words are Spirit and Life’.
If the Church(universal and local) does not submit to the truth in the written Word of God, the Bible, it will no longer be the pillar and foundation of truth; it will then only be an organization moved about by every wind of doctrine and man made tradition!
D. IS PETER THE ROCK ON WHICH THE CHURCH IS BUILT?
Jesus said in Mt16:18-19,
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
i. ON ‘THIS ROCK’
Taking Mt 16:18 in isolation, the Catholic Church has for long claimed that Jesus in this passage meant that Peter is ‘the Rock’ on which the Church is built because He said ‘on this rock I will build my Church’. But this is far from the truth, as Jesus is referring to Himself when He said ‘this rock’.
The most important and clear parallel we find in order to understand this in John 2:18-22,
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
What did Jesus mean when He said destroy ‘this temple’? We know that when Jesus said ‘this temple’ He clearly meant ‘Himself’. But, what did the Pharisees understand? Since Jesus was standing in the temple and looking at the literal temple and speaking, the Pharisees thought that Jesus was referring to the literal structure and even asked how He would build in three days what had originally taken 46 years! The Pharisees were misled because they did not understand the scriptures about the Messiah’s death and resurrection.
Similarly, in Mt 16:18, though Jesus was looking at Peter and speaking, He meant that the Church would be built on ‘this Rock’- Jesus Himself ! The Catholic Church leaders (just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day) are choosing to be misled by ignoring what the rest of the scripture says.
The rest of the scripture substantiate the fact that Jesus is in fact ‘this rock’:
In Ephesians 2:20 we read, ‘… having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…’
Paul here is clearly saying that Church is built on the ‘apostles and prophets’ – not Peter alone – and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone
In 1 Corinthians 10:4 we read, ‘…For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:11 says, ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’
Speaking of Jesus Isaiah 28:16 says, Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “ Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.
In 1Peter 2:4-8, Peter himself says that Jesus Christ alone is the chief Cornerstone and the Rock on which we are built as a house (Church),
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“ Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “ A stone of stumbling, And a rock of offense.”
Is 8:14,15, Psalm 118:22, Mt 21:42 also refer to Jesus as the ‘chief cornerstone’. Therefore, the entire Bible refers to Jesus as the Rock, Foundation and Cornerstone on which the Church, His House is built. In Eph 2:20, the Bible says the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus being the Chief Cornerstone. So, all apostles and prophets are referred to as the foundation but Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone. So, nowhere in the New Testament or Old Testament do we find that Peter alone is the Rock on which His Church is built. We do not find any of the New Testament authors – Paul, John, James, Jude or even Peter himself – referring to Peter as the Rock. In the Acts of the Apostles we find that in the Jerusalem Church it was not Peter who was in charge but James.
Therefore, with all the above scriptures, especially John 2:18-22, we clearly understand that Jesus in Mt 16:18 was not referring to Peter as the ‘rock’ but Himself. Only a person who chooses to be blind can ignore the weight of scripture for a single scripture in isolation!
ii. KEYS OF THE KINGDOM
Peter being given the Keys of the Kingdom here does not mean that he is the one who allows or disallows people into heaven or being given the authority of the Pope! The keys being given imply the special privilege that Peter was given with respect to the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mt 4:23,24). The special privilege he had was that after the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter was the one who first opened the message of the New Covenant to the Jews and to the Gentile world. In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, preaching to a multitude of Jews, he converted 3000 of them in a single day and all of them were baptized. Again, in Acts 10 being led by God, he preached to the large household of Cornelius and they were immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit and baptized in water. Peter is the one who opened the door of the Kingdom with the Key of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews and Gentiles.
And, keys also refer to the authority Jesus gave Peter to bind and loose, even as we use keys for locking and unlocking. But this authority was not something that was given exclusively to Peter because in Mathew 18:18 we find Jesus giving the same authority to the entire Church.
The Catholic Church says that only they have been given the authority to interpret the Word of God using Mathew 16:18 –19. But, as we study the scriptures carefully we find that there was no special authority, power or position Jesus gave to Peter or any of his successors. Even if Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, Mathew 16:18-19 nor any other scripture talks anything about Peter’s successors having his power! Actually, no one has a problem if the Catholic Church interprets the Word of God, but the problem is that they interpret the Word of God by tradition!
SCOTT HAHN ENSNARED IN HIS MIND AND EMOTIONS BY CATHOLICISM
E. THE EUCHARIST
A careful reader will not miss the fact that Scott Hahn was taken in not only because of his misunderstanding of scripture but also because Catholicism appealed to his mind and his senses! Below is part of what he says regarding his first encounter at a Catholic Mass:
“Then the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. I watched and listened as the priest pronounced the words of consecration and elevated the host. And I confess, the last drop of doubt drained away at that moment. I looked and said, “My Lord and my God.” As the people began going forward to receive communion, I literally began to drool, “Lord, I want you. I want communion more fully with you. You’ve come into my heart. You’re my personal Savior and Lord, but now I think You want to come onto my tongue and into my stomach, and into my body as well as my soul until this communion is complete.”
When Jesus Christ has already come into your heart and soul by receiving him as Lord and Savior, why would you want to experience him on your tongue and stomach? It is nothing but a desire to be satisfied in the emotions at the cost of being miles away from the truth. I understand that it is just emotional because that is what I used to do as a fervent catholic. But when I understood the truth from God’s word I was set free from being just emotional, and I believed what Jesus said in His word. When I have received Him as my Lord and Savior, I know that he has become a part of my entire being, including my body. He said in Jon 14:23,
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with Him”
And in John 14:17 Jesus said that, ‘the Holy Spirit will dwell with us and will be in us’.
Therefore, from the above two scriptures I understood that once I believe in Jesus and love Him the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be in me. Jesus becomes a part of me and I become a part of Him. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53,54).
When anyone truly believes in the death of Jesus on the cross for him and puts his faith in the blood of Jesus, he is eating and drinking the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, and therefore receives life. Jesus did not mean literally eat his ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’. Jesus was using symbolic language. In the same passage in John 6:32-35, Jesus said,
32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
And in John 6:51, Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life’,
Did he mean literal bread? Did He mean literal bread from heaven? Of course not! He was using symbolic language to say that He is the one who is the real food and satisfaction for this life and eternal life. That is why He said that if we come to Him we will never ‘hunger’ and if we believe in Him we will never ‘thirst’. So, Jesus is essentially saying ‘coming to Him is ‘eating his flesh’ and ‘believing Him’ is ‘drinking His blood’. So, Scott Hahn and other Catholics are forgetting that Jesus used symbolic language in the same chapter and regarding the same truth, when they say that Jesus meant ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ literally!
This has been my experience. I received communion in the Catholic Church for many years but neither did it give me life nor did it give me true satisfaction in life. But, the very first time I heard the word of God preached in power and responded by ‘receiving’ Jesus into my life and making Him the Lord of my life, I know I received life – my hunger was satisfied and my thirst quenched. It did not happen while receiving communion! My life did not change because I ate the flesh and blood of Jesus at communion but because I received the ‘real’ Jesus into my life. As food becomes a part of us when we have eaten it, and we cannot separate the food from our bodies or our bodies from the food, Jesus became a part of me and me a part of Him. That is what Jesus meant by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
WHY DID THE DISCIPLES LEAVE?
In John chapter 6 when most of His disciples left Jesus saying that his teaching on eating His flesh and drinking His blood was a hard saying, Scott Hahn says, ‘If Jesus had intended that language to only be figurative, He would have been morally obligated as a teacher to say, “Stop, I only mean it figuratively.” But He doesn’t do that; …?’. But did Jesus ever call back any of His disciples to explain something? Jesus told all His followers the parable of the sower.
Then Mathew 13:10-11 says this,
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
And then Jesus went on to explain the parable to the closest of his disciples. Jesus did not call back those who went away thinking they understood something from the parable but in truth had not understand its true meaning.
In another instance in John chapter 2, Jesus told the Pharisees he would destroy the temple and raise it up in three days. They were angry with Him and even used it against Him at His trial before the council, but Jesus did not explain to them that He had referred to His own resurrection when He said that. Jesus never bothered to explain many other things to the Pharisees and Sadducees in spite of being asked, even at His trial before the crucifixion. The true meaning was revealed only to those who asked Him with humility. So it is with every other secret in the Kingdom of God. So to say that Jesus literally meant ‘eat His flesh’ and ‘drink His blood’ just because he did not call back all the disciples who left, is a baseless argument.
So, Scott Hahn has given in to the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist because of his misunderstanding of the Bible and because he has given into emotions and feelings more than the truth. It’s a combination of both. You find many Protestants who have turned Catholic describe how moving the Mass is. The fact of the matter is that all of them are just moved in their emotions/senses by ceremonies and rituals. It is important and good to involve our emotions in worship but to be only emotional without obedience to truth is useless!
NOTHING SCRIPTURAL ABOUT THE MASS!
Many say that the whole Mass is Bible based. That is sheer nonsense because the very center of the mass – the Eucharist – itself is non-biblical. The Catholic Church teaches that at every mass Jesus is sacrificed again! Most Charismatic Catholics deny it, but that is exactly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says in point 1367:
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.”
The same now offers … the same Christ who offered himself once…is offered in an unbloody manner. What does that mean? It simply means that Jesus is sacrificing Himself again and again at every mass! To say that, do it or be at a place where they claim to be offering the Son of God again and again is an abomination!
There is nothing scriptural about a mass!
EMOTIONALISM LEADING TO WILD IMAGINATIONS
Many of Scott Hahn’s explanations are just wild imaginations.
For example, his explanation on Heaven being hotter than hell and hence his defense of purgatory: He says that since God is a ‘Consuming fire’ heaven must be infinitely hotter than hell! Scott Hahn says that, not the Bible or Jesus. Jesus only said that the fire in hell is unquenchable and will torment whoever is there. Jesus never described heaven as a place of fire. Yes, our God is a consuming fire but only for the unbeliever. For a believer in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross His fire is a pleasant and a holy fire that draws us closer to Him, even as the burning bush drew Moses closer to Him.
He then goes on to imagine that it is for the same reason that Paul said that saints will go through the fire on the final day and hence justifies purgatory and its’ fires.
Catholics have for long used 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 as a scripture verse that justifies purgatory. But nothing in the passage really talks about purgatory, it’s just wild, unscriptural interpretation. What does 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 really say:
1. It is not the person who goes through the fire as the Catholic Church says, but it is only the persons’ work that will be tested by the fire.
2. The person is not cleansed by the fire but his work is tested
3. The person does not stay in the fire for many days or years, as the Catholic doctrine of purgatory teaches, but His work is tested on that Day- just one day the day of a believers’ judgment!
4. The person saved and makes it to heaven, in spite of nobody praying for him, even though his work may be destroyed. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory requires people on the earth to pray for souls in purgatory in order to help them out from there to heaven!
5. It is a day when a person whose work endures in spite of the fire will receive a reward but the one whose work does not endure suffers loss, in the sense of not receiving a reward even though he may have expected it while on the earth serving God. It is not a day/month/year of purification for ‘venial’ sins.
G. MARY – THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN
His wife Kimberly follows in his footsteps and gets even more emotional.
For example, Kimberly Hahn’s explanation on Mary’s position as the queen of Heaven: She quotes the Old Testament and says that just as Solomon made his mother, Bathsheba, sit on the throne at his right hand, when he became King of Israel, Jesus has elevated Mary to his right hand! With this method of irrelevant and meaningless interpretation, why not say, ‘King David’s mothers’ name is never mentioned in the Bible, so we should never mention the name of the mother of Jesus’!
The Catholic Church’s practice of calling Mary the Queen of Heaven is just another pagan practice adopted by the Church. In Jeremiah 7:18 God condemned the Israelites tradition of worshiping the ‘Queen of Heaven’ a Babylonian Goddess. This is what God says in Jeremiah 7:18,
“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger”
The same is mentioned again in Jeremiah 44:15 -19, 25-26:
‘Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
The women also said, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”… Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’ Therefore hear the word of the Lord, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says the Lord, ‘that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “The Lord God lives.”
We just need to understand that we don’t need a queen in heaven. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the King of Kings but never mentions Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Whatever is important to our faith is mentioned in the Bible. We need not get emotional and use our imagination to give Mary a high place. As she said, “Do whatever he says”. Let us just do whatever Jesus tells us not what our imaginations dictate to us.
Scott Hahn’s belief in praying to Mary, considering her the mother of the Church, his belief in patron saints can all be attributed to plain emotionalism and nothing else. Some of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s explanations are at best humorous just as the ones stated above.
So, as we interpret the Bible as a whole it is very evident that all of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s explanations are empty and vain and is very much in line with what the Catholic Church has taught down the ages. He uses his talks and debates with friends, professors and theologians, and their failure to answer him satisfactorily to show that the Protestant understanding of scriptures and doctrines is wrong. Just because the friends and theologians he spoke to could not clarify his doubts to his satisfaction and explain clearly the protestant stand, or rather the Biblical stand, does not make his views or the Catholic Church’s views right.
Don’t fall into emotional traps or scriptural misinterpretations. Study the Bible for what it is and be strong. The Catholic Church has always got the attention of people by appealing to their mind and emotions, knowingly or unknowingly. It has always been a Catholic Church hallmark to have a particular tradition and then somehow misinterpret some scripture verse in order to justify that practice. While many Catholic doctrines and traditions have no scriptural support at all, many other Catholic doctrines are based on just one or two scripture verses that are taken totally out of context from where it is stated, and with no importance given to what the Bible teaches as a whole on the particular subject. As a result, most of the time they end up quoting or using scriptures that really have nothing to do with the practice in question. They are just trying to somehow fit into that scripture verse their practice. For example, using Mathew 19:14 for infant baptism and using 1 Corinthians 3:15 for explaining purgatory.
The Bible is self-explanatory if someone is willing to take time and read all that the Bible tells about a particular subject. To understand the Bible clearly a person should be willing to put personal experiences and traditions aside and study it without prejudice or fear of finding out that he/she has been following the wrong practice. It is when a person runs with just one scripture, instead of taking the Bible as a whole that false traditions start or churches split for silly reasons.
There are presently many Protestant denominations too that base their Church’s belief system, theology and doctrines on just one or two scripture verses without considering the rest of the Bible. Catholic Church or Protestant Church, sound biblical teaching and doctrine requires that we study the Bible as a whole and not just in bits and pieces!
Jesus said in John 14:15, “ If you love me, keep my commandments”