Monday, January 25, 2010

Catholicism: East of Eden by Richard Bennett

Catholicism: East of Eden, Insights into Catholicism for the 21st Century,
by Richard Bennett, Berean Beacon Press, 2005, 339pp
I bought the wrong book. With its subtitle, Insights into Catholicism for the 21st Century, I thought that this volume offered a calm and reasoned assessment of post Vatican II Roman Catholicism. That isn't quite it. Catholicism: East of Eden is a passionately written and deeply personal account of the author's disillusionment with the Rome as it dawned on him that the Church he had served as a priest did not stand up to biblical scrutiny. By passionate I don't mean that this is a ranty "hot-Prot" diatribe. As a former insider Bennett gives a fair and accurate account of Roman Catholicism, carefully referencing teachings he criticizes in the light of Scripture. But what we have here is an urgent tract rather than a detached scholarly treatise.
Bennett tells the story of his conversion from Roman Catholicism to salvation in Christ. Along the way he includes some detailed discussion of the distinctive doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Chapters are devoted to the authority of Scripture, the Papacy, Confession, the Mass, Marian teachings and so on. A chapter entirely devoted to justification by faith alone would have been welcome. The author certainly shows that Rome's teaching on this matter is not in accord with the Bible. But it would have been helpful to have had a more in-depth treatment of the differences between Rome and Evangelical Protestantism on great doctrine that lay at the heart of the Protestant Reformation.
Too often it is assumed that the differences between Rome and Evangelical Protestantism are of little magnitude. "Sure we disagree" it is said, "but what's a few differences between Christian friends of equal standing?" From his experiences as a practicing Catholic and armed with the teaching of God's Word, Bennett knows that such a laidback attitude is misplaced. Eternal issues are at stake. The controversy with Rome is nothing less than a battle for the gospel of saving grace. Evangelicals need to wake up to this and realise that Rome only engages in ecumenical discussions such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together with one objective in mind. That is to encourage Evangelicals to renege on the gospel and return to the Roman fold. If that sounds to you like a typical Protestant "Jesuits under the bed" conspiracy theory, then take a look at Chapter 15 of this book where Bennett exposes the Roman Catholic ecumenical agenda.
On the question of ecuminism, the author rightly stresses that a shared commitment the gospel rather than outward institutional uniformity is the basis of Christian unity. True enough. But this gospel unity is to be made manifest in the life of the local church and in the way Bible believing churches relate to each other. It is regrettable that Protestants have tended to divide on issues not essential to the gospel or the well being of the church. We seem to have forgotten that our Lord prayed that the evident unity of his people would bring the world to believe that the Father sent him (John 17:21).
Bennett highlights the way in which Roman Catholicism tends to emphasize the importance of the Church to such an extent that Christ is relegated to the sidelines. That is a fair point. But we also need to bear in mind what the New Testament says concerning the role of the church in bearing witness to the gospel and nurturing believers in the faith. Put in rather simplistic terms, if Rome is all "church" and no gospel, Protestants should not give the impression that for us it is virtually all gospel and no church.
To conclude, Catholicism: East of Eden serves as a reminder that the Reformation is far from over. The big doctrinal issues that separate Evangelical Protestantism from Rome have yet to be resolved. It is a mistake to try and play down the serious theological differences that remain. Such an approach does no service to Romans Catholics who are beginning to realise as did Richard Bennett that their church preaches "another gospel" (Galatians 1:6-7). We need to be absolutely clear that according to the witness of Scripture alone, salvation is through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.
With its autobiographical style the book is a useful counterpart to Francis Beckwith's Return to Rome, where the former President of the Evangelical Theological Society explains why he returned to the Roman Catholic Church (see my review here).

3 comments:

Jonathan Hunt said...

He's a very passionate man! A lovely man, kind and calm in person, but when it comes to eternal truths, like a tornado.

kevin considine said...

i think mr bennet is sincere but the organization that surrounds him has the trappings of her mother thier deeds the hunted have have now become the the hunters, they begin to zero in on evreybody and form which hunts without trial, they burn you at the stake and poor richard probably never hears of thier deeds, its a shame,they dont try to reason with anybody like the mother they daughters just convict you on ancient dogma

bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ said...

We are commanded to seperate ourselves and stand firmly against those that preach a false gospel (2John 9-11, 2Pet. 2:1-4). Rome has separated herself early on with her web of man-inspired deceit. This a very eye opening book to those that truly love and want to follow the Christ of Scripture as found in the King James Version Bible (and NKJV). Do not stop here, there are many other excellent writings by other authors. Mr. Bennett exposes the truth of R.C. to help God fearing vitims flee with their eternal lives! May the Holy Spirit reveal the truth to you! Remember, in regard to your ancestry, people that are in error will teach in error! Therefore you are the victims of error! Believe it! I used to be one of you (a victim of deceit). Satan= the great deceiver! Godspeed!