[Update on July 7, 2018: after videos were discussed publicly, Fresno Pacific University removed some of the videos of Bruxy Cavey sourced in this blog from Youtube. Eric Schneider has uploaded those videos now to his own Youtube account. I have updated the source links accordingly].
How far from the teachings of Scripture and the consensus of the Church can we stray before we become something other than Christian? At some point, a line exists. We cannot venture beyond that line because to do so is to deny the Christian faith.
With that in mind, I turn to the teaching ministry of Pastor Bruxy Cavey. Cavey is the pastor of one of Canada’s largest churches, The Meeting House. With campuses across Ontario, Cavey also teaches at Christian seminaries, keynotes as a speaker at Christian conferences, and he presents himself as a spokesman for conservative Christianity. He might just be one of the most recognizable church leaders in Canada.
But is Cavey’s teaching even Christian teaching?
Below, I quickly summarize the doctrine of Scripture as found in Scripture and as articulated in various times throughout Church history leading up to the modern era. To that I compare the teaching of Bruxy Cavey.
In this, we will see a stark difference between Cavey and historic biblical Christianity.
The Doctrine of Scripture
The Christian Church has consistently throughout the ages maintained that the Bible is God’s Word, meaning that God inspired the human authors to write what they did. As such we believe it is authoritative, meaning that it is the highest authority to which we can appeal. We believe the Bible is infallible, meaning it is unable to lead us astray. And we believe it is inerrant, meaning that in the original manuscripts there are no affirmations of anything false.
While the term “inerrant” only became widely used in response to nineteenth century theological liberalism, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is consistent with historic Christianity. Because God cannot be in error, His Word cannot be in error. If the Bible is the Word of God, which it is, it must be inerrant.
Bruxy Cavey’s understanding of Scripture contradicts the Bible and the consensus of the Church throughout the ages. He denies the authority and inerrancy of Scripture.
Jesus and Scripture
Looking to our Lord’s view of Scripture, we find He quoted the Old Testament as authoritative and reliable, and He believed it to be true. With dozens of examples available, I’ll cite one. When tempted by Satan, who twisted the Scriptures, Jesus quoted Scripture as an authoritative rebuke to Satan’s lies. Three times in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus says, “It is written.” He then quotes Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; and 6:13 in that order. He relied on the authority of Scripture, and in doing so even said that we must live on the very Words of Scripture (Matthew 4:4). To Jesus, the Scriptures are the Word of God, authoritative and reliable even as God is.
In addition to upholding the written Word of God as authoritative, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for not upholding the Word of God as it was revealed by the Prophets (Luke 11:47-52). Claiming to be righteous before men, the Pharisees were actually wicked because they, like those who the Prophets preached against, rejected the divine oracles. While the Pharisees rejected the standard of God from Scripture, Jesus upheld it. Like the Pharisees, we will see below that Cavey seems to uphold his own standard at the expense of God’s.
The Apostles and Scripture
The Apostles, likewise, had the same doctrine of Scripture as Christ. To them, not only are the Law and Prophets authoritative, but they put their own New Testament letters at the same level as Scripture. For example, Paul writes, “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38). Below, we will see that Bruxy Cavey calls that same letter, 1 Corinthians, errant. Yet, here Paul says if we don’t recognize his words as God’s Word we will not be recognized as part of the Kingdom of God. Paul’s letters are true and authoritative. The other Apostles do the same as Paul. There are many examples. I’ve cited one.
With this the Apostles taught Scripture itself is from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21). Because God is truthful and God is without error, so is His Word.
The Early Church and Scripture
As I now turn to the historic teaching of the Church, I’ve taken the quotes in the following paragraphs, unless otherwise stated, from Greg Allison’s Historical Theology, which has been an immense aid to me. These quotes are but a small sample of what Christians have said about the Bible over two millennia.
The early church believed the same about Scripture as Christ and the Apostles. St. Augustine (4th – 5th c) said, “I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture. Of these alone do I most firmly believe that their authors were completely free from error.” From this, we note Augustine held to biblical inerrancy. To him, Scripture was without error. Saint Athanasius (4th c) said, “The sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth.” Athanasius, then, believed our teaching is only validated by being grounded in the truth of Scripture. Consistent with Jesus and the Apostles, these prominent early teachers believed Scripture to be authoritative, infallible, and inerrant.
The Medieval Church and Scripture
Like Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Church, medieval scholars held to the authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible. Anselm (1033 – 1109) wrote, “For I am sure that if I say anything which is undoubtedly contradictory to holy Scripture, it is wrong.” For Anselm, then, all teaching must hold up under the scrutiny of Scripture. Otherwise, it’s wrong. Scripture, to him, was the highest authority. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) wrote, “It is plain that nothing false can ever underlie the literal sense of Holy Scripture.” As a 13th century inerrantist, Aquinas also said theology “properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof.” For him, all theology had to be grounded in Scripture. Without Scripture, it cannot be good theology. As with Christ, the Apostles, and the early Church, these Medieval Christians saw the Bible as their inerrant authority.
The Reformation and Scripture
Starting in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation created a rift between Catholics and Protestants. Sparked, at least in part, by a controversy over Scripture, Catholics and Protestants differed in that Catholics didn’t see Scripture as the final authority on all things, whereas Protestants did. That said, both Catholics and Protestants alike saw Scripture as the authoritative inerrant Word of God. Catholics only found a parallel authority in the oral tradition of the Church. So when Scripture contradicts tradition the Catholic clergy were to decide which is most authoritative. Yet still today, Catholics do believe Scripture is infallible and inerrant. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (107) says,
The inspired books teach the truth. ‘Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.’
So, while also believing in an inerrant oral tradition, Catholics do affirm the inerrancy and authority of the Bible.
Protestants, unlike Catholics, deny an authoritative oral tradition outside of Scripture, but, like Catholics, believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible. While Catholics see tradition as an equal authority to Scripture, Protestants historically have seen Scripture as the final authority, the norm of norms. For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith (I.IX) says,
The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
Protestants have historically turned to the Bible as their final authority, believing it is the Word of God. Despite their differences over sources of authority, Protestants and Catholics alike maintained and still do maintain today that the Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, and authoritative. Protestants, unlike Catholics, appeal to Scripture as the highest authority.
The Liberals, Neo-Orthodoxy, and Scripture
In the 18th and 19th centuries, seminaries saw the rise of theological liberalism which, for the first time in memory, questioned the reliability of the Bible. Truly, it was an attempt to rationalize Christianity with the modern era. For example, Friedrich Schleiermarcher (1768 – 1834) believed that our experience of Jesus Christ had little to do with the Bible. He said,
The faith that makes alive may spring even from a message about Christ which is in no way bound up with the conviction that the books of Scripture possess a special character, but may rest on any other sort of witness that is accompanied by real perception of Christ’s spiritual power.
Essentially, he removed faith in Christ from any reliance upon Scripture as the revelation of Christ. To him, Christ could be experienced without a knowledge of Christ from Scripture. He removed the foundation, but he wanted to keep the edifice. He said, “The authority of holy Scripture cannot be the foundation of faith in Christ.” Theological liberalism fancied a Christ without the Bible.
Similarly, Emil Brunner (1889 – 1966) found authority in Christ, but not Scripture. He said, “Scripture…is an instrumental authority, in so far as it contains the element before which I must bow in the truth.” To him, Scripture itself was not the authority, but it only contained the authority. To him the authority had to be edited out of the Scriptures. Seeking Christ became very subjective because it no longer relied on the objectivity of biblical study.
Similarly, the neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth (1886 – 1968) tried to bring theological liberals back to Jesus without an inerrant Bible. He believed Scripture only bore “witness to divine revelation.” In departing from the authority of Scripture, he too found his authority in Christ. Scripture became something other than the authority, and it was left up to the reader to discern which aspects of Scripture where truly authoritative.
Aside from being a departure from historic Christianity and the teachings of Scripture, the liberal and neo-orthodox positions are problematic in that they seek a knowledge of Christ without the Bible. If we forsake Scripture, the Word of God, we also forsake God who spoke the Scriptures into existence. Christ, God in the flesh, cannot be separated from His Word. Essentially, these theologians attempted to separate Christ from Scripture, but they ended up with something other than Christ. Desiring to release Jesus from the authority of Scripture, they themselves become the authority. In essence, they set themselves up as Christ because they reserved the right to edit Him out of the Bible.
The Evangelicals and Scripture
Spotting the problems of theological liberalism and neo-orthodoxy, evangelicals called the Church to rely upon the Bible as authoritative and inerrant, just as previous generations had done. They noted that by separating Christ from Scripture, liberals themselves became the authority, not Christ. J. Gresham Machen (1881 – 1937) criticized liberals for setting their own teaching up as the final authority over Jesus. He said, “It is not Jesus, then, who is the real authority, but the modern principle by which the selection has been made” (Christianity and Liberalism, Machen, p. 78). Indeed, by transferring authority from Scripture to Christ, liberals actually transferred authority from Christ to themselves, setting themselves up as the final authority on who Christ is. That’s why Machen observed “that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different” (Ibid., p. 79). Christianity is founded on the Bible, but liberalism is founded upon the ever-changing thoughts of man.
In 1978, Christian leaders produced the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy which reaffirmed the doctrine of Scripture as held by the Church since ancient times. That is that Scripture is the infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God. It was a blatant rejection of theological liberalism and neo-orthodoxy. It was a call to let Scripture speak for itself. And it was a warning to avoid the subjective fancying of so-called theologians and pastors.
Bruxy Cavey and Scripture
Having now explained what the Church has historically taught about the Bible, let’s observe the teachings of Bruxy Cavey. I have at my disposal several pages of quotes from Cavey, but I will provide only a few at this time. His teaching on Scripture is inconsistent with Scripture itself, as well as inconsistent with the consensus of the Christian Church. In fact it bears a very close resemblance to the liberalism and neo-orthodoxy of a hundred years ago.
Commenting on 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, Cavey articulates not biblical inerrancy but rather biblical errancy. Of that passage, he says,
Well it’s actually showing errancy! It’s showing Paul’s errancy and I love that. And I don’t have to try and figure that out because Jesus is the authoritative, infallible Word of God. How about – oh there’s that – no, okay, sorry I could just keep going but that’s not my main point here. But it is fun” (Bruxy Cavey Teaching on Scriptural Inerrancy, YouTube [start at 5:50]).
Notice, he calls 1 Corinthians errant, but then claims Jesus is the authoritative Word of God. He separates Christ from Scripture, much like theological liberals did a hundred years ago. Apparently, it’s “fun” to present the Bible as errant.
Not only does he deny the inerrancy of the Bible, but Cavey also argues that the biblical doctrine of Scripture is a hindrance to personal evangelism. He says,
It hinders our evangelism to say our faith is based on the authoritative and infallible word of God and say that’s the Bible instead of Jesus. It discredits Christ by taking qualities of Christ – his sinless perfection – and trying to attribute those to Scripture. And it also sets up Christians for a downfall (Inspired #3, Dive Home Podcast [17:20]).
Here, the Christian teaching on Scripture becomes a hindrance to Christianity. Like the liberals and neo-orthodox of a century ago, this is an attempt to rationalize Christianity for the modern mind. He replaces the authority of the Bible with the authority of Christ, as if Christ somehow contradicts His own Word. This is a denial that Scripture is the Word of Christ. Instead of placing himself under Christ’s authority as Christ is revealed in Scripture, he appears to set himself up as an authority over the Scriptures. In the same podcast, he says,
Well, it is if your faith is built on scripture as inerrant it is a house of cards. If it’s based on Christ, the solid rock on which we stand then it’s based on something sure and perfect and beautiful and powerful and authoritative. So, I want us to excel in evangelism – inerrancy gets in the way. I want us to promote Christ as central, authoritative and perfect – inerrancy gets in the way (Inspired #3, Dive Home Podcast [17:20]) .
Again, he attempts to replace the inerrancy of Scripture with the authority of Christ. Like the old liberals, the end result is that he replaces the authority of Christ with his own authority. He makes the fatal error of turning Christ against Christ’s Word. He contradicts the testimony of Scripture and the testimony of the Church, which collectively read all of Scripture as the unified Word of Christ. How he finds a sure and certain knowledge of Christ without Scripture, I do not know.
Cavey also says scriptural authority is unscriptural. He says,
The whole concept of the authority of scripture is unscriptural. God has authority, Jesus has authority. He says in the great commission ‘all authority has been given to me’, not to the scriptures. The authority of the scriptures as scripture is just a weird way of talking that Protestants made up to fight the Catholics! (Bruxy Cavey Teaching on Scriptural Inerrancy – You Tube [start at 2:05]).
Not only does he here deny the authority of Scripture, he also misrepresents both Protestant and Catholic theology. Earlier I explained that while Catholics believe tradition is as authoritative as Scripture, they do see Scripture as the authoritative Word of God. Protestants, like me, see Scripture as our final authority because Scripture presents itself as such, and our convictions predate the Reformation. If Scripture is not authoritative, it cannot be God’s Word because God is our authority. To Cavey, calling Scripture authoritative is “just weird.”
At hand I have several documented pages of quotes in which he denies the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. The quotes listed above serve as a good sample.
While Cavey may claim to speak as a conservative Christian, he clearly doesn’t. This may be either classic liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, a hybrid of both, or something. But it’s surely not biblical Christianity.
I’ll conclude with the same question with which I opened: How far from the teachings of Scripture and the consensus of the Church can one stray before he’s become something other than Christian? At some point, a line exists. We cannot venture beyond that line because to do so is to deny Christianity.
Bruxy Cavey contradicts the Scriptural and historic doctrine of Scripture. His doctrine is contrary to that of Jesus, the Apostles, the early Church, as well as the teachings of historic Protestantism, Evangelicalism, and Roman Catholicism.
Has Bruxy Cavey crossed the line? At what point should we no longer consider him a Christian teacher? At what point do we consider him hostile to the Word of God?
I must credit and thank my friend, Eric Schneider, for all the research he’s done on Bruxy Cavey’s teaching. Without him, this would not be possible. For more troubling quotes by Bruxy Cavey on Scripture, the cross, Nicene orthodoxy, and the immutability of God, you can download this file of Bruxy Cavey quotes prepared by Eric Schneider. I believe it’s time for us Canadians to speak up on this, and I’m humbly challenging you to do the same.