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Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Letter & Spirit by: Scott Hahn

Letter and Spirit
Scott Hahn
Doubeday
ISBN 0385509332
November 2005

Depending on whom you talk to, Scott Hahn is either a hero or a turncoat. He was raised Presbyterian, and was even on the fast track to be president at a Presbyterian seminary when he began to doubt two protestant mainstays: ‘by scripture alone’ and ‘by faith alone’. So he did what any academically trained person would do, he decided to research and went back to school to do a master’s in Roman Catholic thought, eventually converting to Catholicism. Since then, he has been a prolific writer and speaker on things Catholic, and why the catholic faith is the one true valid faith.

This book is part academic treatise and part faith discovery. Hahn states in the introduction that he is writing this book for both his university students, and for the general population - readers of his many popular books on all things Catholic.

Letter and Spirit is a study of how scripture is central to the mass, and how the eucharistic life is central to the word. It is a study of scripture and liturgy. The book shows a clear progression in the life of the faithful from receiving the written word to the living word in the liturgy.

But that is just the beginning of the story; the church is still developing. “Much work needs to be done. There are books to be written, studies to be undertaken, sermons to be preached, prayers to be raised, and ordinary lives to be lived.” (p.172) This book could easily help those with faith to explore that commitment a much deeper level. A strong reason for this is because it is both academically oriented yet written to be accessible to any reader. It is also written in a clear concise manner that makes the book hard to put down once started. It will open up as easily to a person of faith as to someone who just wants to understand people in their life who have faith. Its succinct prose and plethora of quotes from history will show both groups the progression of thought throughout church history.

And yet this book will likely not be accepted by much of its target audience because of Hahn’s past, because he recently announced that he is a member of Opus Dei (an organization within the church misunderstood to be extremist), and because has a book on that topic coming out later this year. Here the issue of authorial integrity comes very much into play. As such, though this book has much to offer, its fate and worth hang in the balance. Will it be received for the treasures within or rejected for the author’s past and associations? Trite as it must sound, only time will tell.

Steven R. McEvoy

(First Published in Imprint 2006-07-28 as ‘Spirit hang in the balance’.)
Note: Yes I wrote a different review of this book earlier, this is a new review of it recently published.

Other Reviews of Hahn's Books.

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei
Letter and Spirit (Version 1)
Letter and Spirit (Version 2)
Understanding “OUR FATHER”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

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