An Integrated Apologetics

Reasons to Believe is Scott Hahn’s guide on how to be a well-integrated apologist.


A Catholic Family Guide

by Scott Hahn

Doubleday, 2007

240 pages, $21.95

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I miss Frank Sheed. I found him in a used book store shortly after my conversion. I’d never heard of him, but the title of his book, Theology and Sanity, intrigued me.

Sheed is widely considered the greatest apologist of all time. The Australian immigrant stumped for the faith on street corners, started a publishing firm and spawned a generation of Catholic apologetics.

The wave he started eventually subsided. Fortunately, Karl Keating resumed apologetics in the 1980s and ushered in a generation of muscular verse-by-verse biblical defenders of the faith.

The new apologetics provided good buckshot-like ammunition, but didn’t provide a Sheed-like integrated approach to the Catholic faith, an approach that brings together philosophy and the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Vatican councils.

Enter Dr. Scott Hahn and Reasons to Believe.

A convert from the high intellectual ranks of Presbyterianism and co-author of the bestselling Rome Sweet Home, he teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

He apparently thought the Catholic faith needed a Sheed-like approach, too. In Chapter 10, he says it’s easy to pursue apologetics because it’s full of adrenaline, but that the best defense of the faith is integrated: “The attractive power of the Catholic faith is the way it all hangs together: the natural, the biblical, and the theological.”

That’s what Hahn has done. He has broken down the Catholic faith into three small portions: natural reasons (philosophy), biblical reasons (verse-by-verse defense of Catholic dogma), and theological reasons (a history of the Mass, starting with God’s covenant with Abraham).

While he goes through his rosary of arguments, he doesn’t forget the best source of apologetics: our lives. Prayer and virtue are the best witnesses to the faith, and Catholics with true faith ought to be models of “gentleness and reverence” (I Pet. 3:15) with an ability to witness to grace, no matter how high the apologetic stakes.

Readers will find old arguments re-hashed in the book’s earlier parts. Although some readers might find the repetition boring, even these sections bring fresh material. Hahn is a deeply-learned man. When he covers old ground, he brings new gems to the surface.

And when he covers the oldest ground of all in the last part, the book glows. This section, called “Royal Reasons,” is worth the price of the book by itself. It’s packed, it’s eye-opening.

And it’s integrated. Hahn ties together today’s Church and her Mass to the Old Testament, especially the Davidic Kingdom, in a careful manner that merits close reading. When I read it, I got excited: The Mass is part of a kingdom that stretches back to ancient Israel and stretches forward into eternity. When I participate at Mass, I participate in God’s plan for all creation.

The best part: such a belief is entirely rational. In an age when the mainstream media portray all religious believers as fanatics, it feels good to read a calm, methodical book that shows otherwise.

Eric Scheske writes

from Sturgis, Michigan.