Book review: Reasons to Believe, by Scott Hahn

I've heard it said that theological orthodoxy is fundamentally creative, while heterodoxy (i.e. heresy) simply says the same old things over and over. The difference is in their appreciation of mystery. Heresy gets tired quickly of the great Truth, and seeks to replace it with something else. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, tends to stay where it is, but that does not mean it is static: a truly dynamic orthodoxy is always exploring the mystery of Truth more and more. Those are the discoveries worth making.

With regards to Scott Hahn's book Reasons to Believe, I knew ahead of time that it would be orthodox (i.e. faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church). What I did not know was if this book would be dynamically orthodox. In other words, would Hahn simply re-cover material already examined elsewhere? That would already be valuable, assuming he did it in his characteristically palatable way, as good introductions are always useful. But I was really hoping this book push the envelope — and I was not disappointed. In fact, Hahn has managed to accomplish both.

The purpose of Hahn's book is to help the reader to "understand, explain, and defend the Catholic faith". The first two parts, therefore, are really an introduction to certain basic elements of theology and apologetics. Part I covers the philosophical background to the Catholic faith, and this is important, because a conversion of the heart to Christ often first requires a conversion of the mind to the possibility and content of Truth. Part II then tackles some specific Catholic doctrines, like the Church, the Eucharist, the Papal office, etc., and shows how the Catholic teaching is rooted in the Bible. I'll be honest and say that, up until this point, the book had not "wowed" me. Again, it was covering a lot of the "same old" material, and in fact there was a lot of even more "hot-button" material it was not covering. For example, it would have been nice to have a section on explaining the Catholic teaching on human sexuality — a very, *ahem*, touchy subject at the best of times.

But Hahn's book got lifted from "B" to "A" status when I began to read part III, which covers what is called "salvation history". Simply put, Hahn masterfully presents a big-picture outline of God's plan for human history. He weaves together Biblical "threads" to form a narrative "tapestry" that is just brilliant. I have been reflecting on these questions for years now, and I learned something new page after page. For example, did you know that in the early days of the dynasty of David, King Solomon established an exalted place for his mother? The "Queen Mother" was a member of the royal court, with the right to the ear of her son. Given that Jesus is actually the several-generations-later successor of David and Solomon, it certainly puts a new spin on the role of Mary as an intercessor in Heaven. For myself, I know a book is good when it nourishes my prayer life, and I can tell you that I have not prayed the 5th glorious mystery of the Rosary the same way since.

In the end, the interesting thing is this: if you are not too confident of your intellectual grasp of Catholic teaching, this book is actually a really good and simply-written introduction. And, on the other hand, if you *are* blessed with a certain amount of theological culture, this book has the possibility of taking you even further in the exploration of the mystery. So what can I say? Get it and read! My rating: A