My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Review: Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization

Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization by Scott Hahn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book by Dr. Hahn that I have read. My first impression was that the book as a tad overly verbose with a dash of judgement in his preaching. In fact, most of the thirty-three (33) or so times he refers to Protestants, he does so in order to contrast what they do or believe with what Catholics should do or believe. The problem here is that there is really very little that is uniformly accepted within the hundreds of Protestant denominations, and his anecdotal experience was so different than mine that I frequently thought that if that is what you were doing as a Protestant, you were doing it wrong (which is of course why there are hundreds of Protestant denominations). Here is the thing … nearly all of these comparisons were not really needed to understand what he was trying to say, so they mostly just get in the way of the message. They also add tacit support to the “Triumphalism” problem he warns about on pg 32 (after all, if the author feels a need to highlight all of the Protestant errors to explain the why, the how and the what of Catholic Evangelization, you can’t be too surprised when others pick up and advance those same judgmental arguments).

This Book is divided into three (3) parts: The Call, The Response and the Message.

Part I – The Call: Understanding the New Evangelization … [The Why]  Dr. Hahn opens with three (3) vignettes that illustrate what “New” Evangelization is. Except they don’t … or at least they miss out on any need for continual evangelization. The stories are told from the perspective of the person being evangelized up to the point where they are converted or “reconverted” (aka returned to the faith) and then it ends. This is exactly what he states is the error with Protestant evangelization … “getting him to confess his faith in Christ, and then moving on to the next unbeliever.” The primary focus is on the “big” event and not on the ups and downs that we all encounter in our faith and how we as a Church community need to continually evangelize ourselves so that we don’t fall away to begin with. Dr. Hahn dances around this theme of “New Evangelization is the work of the whole Church,” comparing it to a maturing love affair, before he tacks back to targeting “those who’ve been inadequately catechized” as if that is the primary cause behind the exodus of the faithful from the Church (which he accurately describes as a crisis). Dr. Hahn then goes into a quick primer on the Church’s efforts to stem the tide, all of which ultimately fail (how else can you describe it when “the faith had all but collapsed in Europe” by 1983). Once again, Dr. Hahn tries to pin this failure upon inadequate teaching and preaching within the Church, noting that “the quality of homilies needs to be improved.” Once again the root cause analysis here is flawed. Apply just a little Organizational Behavior 101 here and you immediately see why the top down approach will always fail (because all we are doing is bringing the horse to water).

Part II – The Response: Models and Methods for the New Evangelization … [The How] Dr. Hahn begins this section with five (5) lessons from the original Evangelists: Proclaiming Person, Word & Deed, Church, Covenant and Sacraments ... none of which is surprising or really new.  Then he meanders into some historical comparisons between pagan life and christian life that doesn't seem very well supported and generally comes across as propaganda.  He regains some of his stride when he starts talking about families being “faithful domestic churches” with at least seven (7) things necessary for success which can be summed up as follows: be faithful, witness, pray, participate, do good, obey, be hopeful ... nothing new or really that inspiring here. Now take the domestic [evangelical] family and expand that into a community. Dr. Hahn makes an observation here that what draws people to the Church in not something abstract, but seeing the way we live our faith (witness). IOW, we are called to be the example of a faith filled family and/or community that offers them something that they don’t currently have; to fill a need ... To be that person or group that people want to be around. Dr. Hahn then identifies four (4) specific areas that should be included in evangelization efforts: campuses, [social] media, retreats, and communities (aka lay movements).  Again ... all pretty obvious IMHO. 

Part III – The Message: The Content of the New Evangelization …  [The What]  Dr. Hahn starts off with the basic message (e.g. Christian elevator speech):
   1. God loves you
   2. We have sinned
   3. Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead
   4. We respond to those gifts by faith

Meh … not sure I agree that is the base message (I would normally split #3 and drop #4), but I can work with it; the keystone to understanding the message is how we view sin.  Once again Dr. Hahn feels a need to compare Catholic understanding and Protestant understanding and I am pretty sure he gets it wrong. Regardless, he does make an interesting connection between disorder and concupiscence that is helpful in understanding some of the theology behind how the Catholic Church approaches moral laws. “Concupiscence refers to our human appetites or desires, which remain disordered due to the temporal consequences of original sin.” An exploration of Atonement follows with a theoretical discussion of four (4) models for how Christ on the Cross atones for our sins (and why they prove inadequate): Economic, Juridical, Battle, Sacrifice … At this point, Dr. Hahn brings back the concept of convent to explain the “representative” (from Christ’s perspective) and “participatory” (from our perspective) of a covenantal family. Dr. Hahn then takes a brief segue into model families: trustee (socialist), domestic (bonded) and atomistic (individualist) … while somewhat helpful in trying to explain the concept of God’s family, I am not sure I can agree with the foundational assumptions here … especially the presumption that the individualism of atomistic families leads to the collapse of civilizations. He then goes into various “more than” tropes trying to tie it all together with the Mass and the Sacraments. He then closes with what is arguably the “Real” message … an imitation of Christ through love and fidelity. 

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.