Catholicism: East of Eden – A Review by Erroll Hulse
Richard Bennett begins his book1 with an autobiography. Born into a devout RC family he spent eight years in theological training for the priesthood. He was assigned to the West Indies where he spent 21 years serving in Trinidad as a parish priest. After a life-threatening accident he began an earnest study of the Bible. This led to 14 years contrasting Roman Catholic doctrine and practice with the Scriptures. Following and during this time he was converted. In 1986 he formally left the RC Church. He subsequently founded an evangelistic ministry called Berean Beacon www.bereanbeacon.org.
First-hand experience provides added authority to this study which traverses the following subjects: the authority of Scripture compared with the authority of tradition; paedophile abuse by priests; the homosexual subculture of the priesthood; the evils of imposed celibacy; the rise and history of papal Rome; 600 years of the Inquisition; the response of the papacy to the Reformation; the record of the papacy during the Second World War; baptismal regeneration: ‘for 21 years I baptised an average of 30 babies a month. I assured the mothers and godparents that their children were now children of God’ (p. 109); the evils of the Confession Box: ‘it was like being in a garbage pit where garbage had been thrown over me until I was nearly succumbing under the sheer weight of the knowledge of sin that had fallen on me’ (p. 124); the Mass as a Sacrifice; the obligation to worship the bread as the literal body of Christ. The author is excellent in refuting transubstantiation referring to the text, ‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ (John 6:63). Rome gives official approval to mystical tradition which is the practice of mysticism in seeking to gain ultimate knowledge of God by direct experience that bypasses the Bible and the mind. ‘Dramatised mysticism’ is practised by Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin. ‘Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn, Charles Capps, Robert Tilton, Paul Yonggi Cho, Marilyn Hickey, Morris Cerullo, T L Osborn and Jerry Savelle promote stage-managed mysticism‘ (p. 179).
Richard Bennett devotes pages 201 to 222 to the subject of the elevation of Mary to the state of Godhood. He traces out the parallels of Mary to Christ and to the Holy Spirit. The doctrines that have been invented to support this have come by stages through history, the last being in 1950 with the claim that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Mary has been declared Mediatrix which means that she is given omniscience in order to mediate the prayers made to her. Rome exalts Mary to the place of Christ in calling her ‘the All Holy One’ who is sinless, able to bestow grace and salvation, also to mediate and intercede. The worship of Mary as though she is God by the recent Pope John Paul II is documented (p. 202). These anti-biblical heresies concerning Mary highlight the tragedy of a truly apostate religion.
There follows a discussion of the doctrine of marriage and the claims of Rome to control marriage laws. One out of two Roman Catholic marriages in the USA ends in divorce, with one out of five officially annulled by the Church (decreeing that the marriage was never valid). The author brings us up to date with ecumenism and the role of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).
The sub-title of the volume reads Insights into Catholicism for the 21st Century. This is a work of insights. Richard Bennett does not attempt to be comprehensive as Lorraine Boettner is in his magnum opus, Roman Catholicism (1962). He omits forbidding the cup to the laity, purgatory, indulgences, saints, relics, pilgrimages, prayers for the dead and rosaries.
The author writes out of his deeply personal experience and has succeeded in maintaining the clearest distinction between the way of salvation revealed in Scripture and that taught by the Roman Church. His writing is not bitter to the taste. It is pastoral in style and is commended to be placed in the hands of Roman Catholics.
Reviewers have criticised Richard Bennett for using 19th-century popular works that have been superseded. While the Waldensians and Hussites were biblical, the orthodoxy of the Albigensians and Paulicians is disputed. I believe that the older writers had the advantage of living nearer the events they narrate. We should study Harold O J Brown’s work Heresies (Hendrickson, 2003) and George H Williams’ The Radical Reformation (Westminster Press 1961). For more recent history John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope – the Secret History of Pius XII (Viking, 1999) is important. Even if the Albigensians were not always orthodox or if they were in error, that does not give license to kill them. The Great Commission reads, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,’ not ‘Go and force everyone by threat of death to conform.’
Richard Bennett is energetic and powerful in unveiling the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is in a continual state of regression. Its claim of infallibility insulates it against repentance and reformation.
A deep impression made on me is that the Popes who claim to represent Christ on earth were responsible over a period of six hundred years for the deaths of fifty million who refused to embrace the heresies of Rome. We must not imagine that Rome has become less devious. Hitler was baptised into the Catholic Church in Austria and served as an altar boy (p. 80) and to the day of his suicide remained Catholic. Pope Pius XII (Pacelli), a cardinal and leader of the RC Church in Germany from 1933 to 1939 was culpably compromised with Hitler. Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Dollfus and Peron were baptised into the Catholic Church as was Anton Pavelic of Croatia. The modern inquisition in Croatia (1941 to 1945) was led by Pavelic and Archbishop Alois Stephinac. These grisly monsters ruthlessly pursued a ‘convert or die’ policy toward 900,000 Greek Orthodox Serbs, Jews and others in Croatia. 200,000 converted. 700,000 chose to die and were tortured, burned, buried alive, or shot after digging their own graves (p. 81).
Four brief appendices add value to the book. Appendix One opens up the sole authority of Scripture as against tradition. Appendix Two is about the Apocrypha while the third is about the nature of the true Church and Appendix Four consists of columns comparing biblical truth with Romish deviations. Indices would greatly enhance the volume.
Former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett concludes his treatise with the most important subject, ‘How can I be saved?’ He reminds us that the early Church lost its way by turning to rituals and the idea that spiritual regenerating power is conveyed through the physical means like the water of baptism and that spiritual renewal is given by eating physical bread. Justification is by faith alone and by grace alone. This teaching was lost in the Roman Church with disastrous consequences.
Richard Bennett is not alone in his escape from Rome. He and Martin Buckingham have edited a book published by the Banner of Truth with the title Far From Rome, Near to God (362 pages, paperback) consisting of the testimonies of fifty converted Roman Catholic priests.
1. Catholicism: East of Eden – Insights into Catholicism for the 21st Century
336 pages, paperback
ISBN 978 1 84871 083 2
Reprinted with permission from Reformation Today, May-June 2011
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