At The Gospel Coalition Canada, Pastor Paul Carter has started a series of interviews to determine what Bruxy Cavey actually believes, in Cavey’s own words. I have spoken and written extensively on Bruxy Cavey already, so I was intrigued when I learned about this initiative. Having read the first interview just under a week ago and already having read and listened to a number of things that Cavey has already taught, I left with the sincere concern that the process, or at least the first interview, is flawed. The Gospel Coalition Canada has asked that we reserve final judgment until their final post, and I am happy to comply with that request. But I do believe that given the severity of the allegations I have made against Bruxy Cavey (that he’s a false teacher) a critique of the first post is warranted. So this is not an evaluation of the whole series but rather an evaluation of the first post. But I have not written the review. Eric Schneider has. Eric has written extensively on Cavey on his own blog here. He is a member of Trinity Bible Chapel, and Eric is an absolute joy to pastor. And he’s not a pastor, nor the son of a pastor; not a seminary grad, nor the son of a seminary grad. Eric is a hard-working carpenter. Sometimes God chooses people from obscure places with no recognized credentials to say things that need to be said. That was certainly the case with Amos, Peter, and even our Lord Jesus, who was Himself a carpenter. I firmly believe that Eric Schneider deserves an honest hearing. Eric has sent this blog below to me for review several times, and it is our sincere hope that after much review our disposition towards Pastor Paul Carter and the Gospel Coalition is interpreted as a charitable disposition. With that, please pay special attention to what Eric Schneider has written in what follows:
Paul Carter teamed up with Bruxy Cavey over at The Gospel Coalition Canada and wrote this blog, the first of three in a series seeking clarity on Bruxy Cavey’s views.
Carter and TGC Canada have advised that we hold off on final judgment of this series until the three interview articles and their final analysis are published. I’m not sure what that analysis will include since the preamble to this article simply says they will publish their own position on the authority of Scripture and the atonement of Christ. That’s fair enough, but I also think it is fair to give analysis of this series along the way since there is going to be a large time gap between the articles, especially between this one and TGC Canada’s final analysis.
I think it is important to get clarity from Cavey. I think he has said some things, taught some things, and responded in ways that warrant his comment for clarity’s sake.
I commend Carter for desiring that clarity. I commend him for wanting to get the information “from the horse’s mouth” and wanting to be fair with Bruxy Cavey. Those are commendable things, and I believe Carter to be a brother and a good man.
However, when I was finished reading the article I was left wondering what happened. I do not think anything was any clearer regarding Cavey’s views than they were the day before. I read nothing in that article that I have not heard or read Cavey say before. I was not surprised by any of Cavey’s answers.
That said, I have some criticism to offer in regards to this first article.
Examples as Illustration
I would first like to offer two examples which are instructional for our current situation with Bruxy Cavey.
Dr. Jack Rogers was one half of the duo after whom the “Rogers McKim Proposal” was named. In his book “Biblical Authority” (a devastating criticism of that proposal), John D. Woodridge writes about an encounter involving Dr. Rogers and D.A. Carson in which Rogers explained how it is that he can say that the Bible has no errors, while still holding that there are actually errors in the Bible. Woodridge quotes him:
In that book I carefully… defined error as being deliberate deception from which the Bible is free. So I can say there are no errors in the Bible by that definition of error which I think is a biblical definition of error (pg 16-17).
Woodridge then explains that Carson pressed Rogers on that point and it came out that he did believe there were other types of error. If Carson had not pressed, if he had been unfamiliar with Rogers’ teaching, if he had not been very precise and clear in his examination, people would have been left thinking that Rogers affirmed that the Bible is completely error-free.
Another example is more recent. In this article, Greg Boyd responds to the news that he was released from his teaching duties at Fresno Pacific University, an Anabaptist institution in the United States. Speaking of Boyd’s “Open Theism” the author of the article says that Boyd affirms God’s omniscience, then quotes Boyd:
It’s nothing to do with the scope of God’s knowledge, He knows perfectly everything that exists.
In this quote it would sound to most people like Boyd affirms God’s exhaustive knowledge of all things including future events – unless you already know that Open Theists do not believe that the future “exists.” So Boyd is actually denying God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future. The author of the article understands this and brings it out.
These two examples should help to illustrate my issue with Carter’s article and the brief interview contained therein. People who have aberrant views often try to appear as orthodox as possible by redefinition of terms, misdirection, and incomplete information.
It Seems Cavey Does the Same
That is what I see in this interview so far. I have good reason for this, as I believe I have seen Bruxy Cavey do the same thing before.
Cavey seems to operate on different definitions depending on his audience and context. In his Drive Home podcast for his own people, Cavey says:
Now, another maneuver of inerrantists Is to say ‘well, by inerrancy now’ because it’s really hard for people to uphold the idea of every word being perfect and no mistakes being there because there are small ones, what inerrantists will say is ‘by inerrancy what we mean is that everything the Bible intends to teach as truth it does so, even if there are small mistakes of fact here or there on minor things, all of those are gathered up together to teach the ultimate truth of Christ and it does that, the Bible does that with no error’. Well, I would absolutely agree, but that’s not technically inerrancy, that’s what’s called infallibility, which is a doctrine of the Bible being truthful in all it intends to teach and it may intend to teach these things by showing you some mistakes in the people who are talked about in Scripture and are even involved in the writing process of Scripture. It’s infallible, it will lead you toward truth in everything it wants to say but that may include some of the errors that are laid bare before us. Scripture, God, The Holy Spirit will use those errors to lead us toward truth infallibly. Inerrancy is not that. ( Inspired #3 – The Shadow and the Substance, Drive home)
But then, in his blog on the subject, Cavey says:
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states that the Bible is “to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms” and adds that ‘Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching.’ Radical Christians can say ‘amen’ to this. What the Bible affirms, what it means to teach, it does so perfectly. As the Statement of Faith for Tyndale Seminary, a local Evangelical seminary where I sometimes teach, says, the Bible is ‘the authoritative written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, inerrant in all that it teaches’ – a statement I have been happy to align with. It isn’t my primary language as an Anabaptist, but neither do I object to the idea.
Cavey identifies a certain definition of inerrancy as a “maneuver” some people make to give the appearance of affirming inerrancy while not truly believing in it, which seems to imply an element of dishonesty on the part of certain inerrantists. Then he admits to signing the Tyndale Statement of Faith which says that the Bible is inerrant in all that it teaches. Clearly he does not believe the Bible is inerrant in all that it contains, but in all that he thinks it teaches. Regardless, he dismisses this definition of inerrancy as a “maneuver” to give the appearance of affirming inerrancy, but then admits to signing a statement affirming inerrancy based on that definition. Something is not adding up.
Also, in the same blog post he quotes Luke Keefer Jr.’s definitions of both inerrancy and infallibility:
Terms like ‘inerrant’ and ‘infallible’ are negative terms. They declare what the Bible is not – that it contains no errors and is not capable of being at fault.
Again, that is a different definition of “infallible” than in the first quote. To gain clarity from Cavey, definitions need to be precisely nailed down.
Additionally, I have heard him rail against inerrancy as discrediting to Christ, leading to idolatry, and hindering evangelism. And then he’s publicly said he is not “anti-inerrancy” (documented here).
I have heard him repeatedly offer several examples of what he calls “errancy” in Scripture, but at the same time defends BIC Canada (the denomination in which he is a leader) as not being errantists.
That verse that says ‘I thank God I did not baptize any of you’ – is that right? ‘Well except Crispus and Gaius’ – is that right? Or is this right? Or is it this? Which part of it is inerrant? Well it’s actually showing errancy! It’s showing Paul’s errancy and I love that.” (Bruxy Cavey Teaching on Scriptural Inerrancy – You Tube https://youtu.be/jJCZhqL34-4 [section starts at 5:50])
Why don’t Anabaptists say that Scripture is inerrant? Are we trying to import theological liberalism in our refusal to use the word? How are we similar to evangelicals and how are we different?… He [Dale Shaw] explained to me that by not using the word we are not trying to say that we are ‘errantists’, we aren’t trying to say the opposite and say we think the Bible’s untrustworthy and full of errors, it’s just not our language. We just don’t go beyond Scripture on this one in using a lot of language that Scripture doesn’t use for itself.” (Inerrancy, Authority, Tradition, and The Bible | The Meeting House Roundtable – You Tube https://youtu.be/MWlSzxzvtDY [42:28])
I have heard him express his opposition to inerrancy “as a word, and as a concept” to his followers and teach directly against the entire concept of inerrancy. Even Doug Sider, Executive Director of BIC Canada distinguishes between their view and the inerrantist view with the comment that inerrantists believe everything from Genesis 1 to Revelation actually happened:
Even people who would take… an inerrant view of Scripture, that everything in this book from Genesis 1 to Revelation is exactly as, it all occurred – and probably I’ve just woken up some of the people now – they love Jesus, we just differ on the nuance of how we understand what God is saying. Now, I think we’re right, and that’s alright, that’s fine.” (Inerrancy, Authority, Tradition, and The Bible | The Meeting House Roundtable – You Tube https://youtu.be/MWlSzxzvtDY [27:42])
Sider appears to be saying that we do not need to believe that everything recorded in Genesis 1 through Revelation actually occurred. But when it comes time to respond publicly to criticism, Cavey says that the real issue between his view and the inerrantist view is simply an issue of terminology and emphasis, as he did in Carter’s interview, this sermon, and this video. Considering his overall teaching on the subject, I would have to say that is less-than-forthcoming (also documented here).
Cavey also teaches that Jesus contradicted and corrected the Old Testament Law and prophets in the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings, creating disagreement and inconsistency between Jesus and the Scriptures. You can see examples of this, again in this video and this blog (which I reviewed here).
Only someone familiar with Cavey’s teaching would be aware of these examples, and would therefore be able to press him on these glaring inconsistencies to get at the truth. It seems that Carter, though, is not familiar enough with these things, and so is unable to really get to some of the real issues. Either that, or he is not willing to press for consistency. Cavey is able to spin the issue how he wants and come out looking pretty good. Carter did not challenge him to any depth.
That said, I believe Paul Carter’s unfamiliarity with Cavey’s teaching is detrimental to the interview in the article. Carter indicates that he has almost no knowledge of what Bruxy Cavey teaches.
I recently became aware that most of what I know about Bruxy and The Meeting House came from anecdotal comments and 3-minute video clips on YouTube. I knew what people said about Bruxy and I knew what the clips said but I wasn’t sure that I knew what Bruxy really believed.
The problem is that Carter’s questions seem to reflect this. Carter’s questions give Cavey the perfect opportunity to answer with his standard, stock answers that he gives all the time. Carter is able to press Cavey a little, but since Carter is not familiar with Cavey’s actual teaching on the issue, Cavey is able to answer in a way that I believe is not entirely honest or consistent with his own teachings elsewhere.
A better understanding of Cavey’s previous teachings would have served Carter better in this interview. The resources are out there. Except for some of his videos from Fresno Pacific University that were taken down after he was let go from that institution, the vast majority of Cavey’s teaching is available on The Meeting House’s website and You Tube. Before interviewing Cavey on the subject of Scripture, a helpful resource would be this 7-part (including Drive Home teaching) series from Cavey on that subject. Or maybe this Round Table podcast on the same subject. Or this lecture on the topic of biblical inerrancy from Cavey in a university setting. This document, which was authored by yours truly is on the internet and would help in directing someone to specific teachings. All quotes are cited so they can be appreciated in their full context.
Other Christian leaders have interacted with Cavey’s material as I have shown here. Some of these men may be worth consulting as well.
That is my main criticism of the article, and I think it is a very important one. Carter is not familiar enough with Cavey’s teaching to ask the right questions.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have spoken to Paul Carter and he assured me that he has access to much of the research that has been done to date. Carter must push Cavey on specific points of what he has already taught. That is essential to bringing clarity.
In short, I think Carter gives Cavey too much credit. The article and interview seem to operate on the assumption that Cavey will be entirely forthcoming and perfectly honest. In my experience from what I have documented, I think it unwise to make such an assumption with Bruxy Cavey.
Throughout the interview there were several points that Cavey made which, for clarity’s sake, should have been pushed on. I’ll only point out a couple as examples.
One of Carter’s first questions is basically whether or not Cavey has access to knowledge of Jesus outside of Scripture. Cavey answers:
…to be clear, I am talking about the Jesus we encounter in the Bible. I am not talking about the Jesus of my imagination…. I’m talking about how we focus on Jesus in the Bible, not doing an end run around the Bible to know a different Jesus. I’m not a particularly mystical person. All I have for knowing Jesus is Scripture.
Now, a perfect follow-up question would be “Good to hear. Now, based on your own teaching that there are errors in Scripture which the text actually teaches as true (example Titus 1:12-13), how do you know for certain that the texts in the Bible regarding Jesus are not in error?” This is a question that would expose what Bruxy Cavey’s ultimate authority of truth really is—a crucial element of obtaining clarity from him.
Cavey could also be pressed to explain whether he actually believes the teaching of Jesus are 100% consistent with the Old Testament, or if he thinks Jesus teaches contrary to the Old Testament Scriptures in any way.
Later in the interview Cavey appeals to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and John 5:37-40. He says
All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for training in discipleship so we can live loving lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus said it is all about him and unless we allow Scripture to lead us to him, we’re using it wrong and, like the Pharisees, we’re missing “the Word of God” (John 5:37-40). I hold that every book of the Bible, Old Testament and New, is the Word of God in print, given to lead us to the Word of God in Person.
Here again we have a great opportunity to press further—“But, Bruxy, you have already been teaching that there are errors in Scripture. Doesn’t your appeal to these texts of Scripture simply assume they are true? Wouldn’t you have to admit that, for all you know, pretty much any text you quote may not even be true?” That would bring us back to the essential question of ultimate authorities.
He could also be pressed on what exactly inspiration is, whether there is a category for inspired error, or what Jesus is actually saying in John 5.
I understand that there is only so much room in a brief interview article, but these seem like questions that would need to be answered. It would also change the course of this entire interview and actually start down the road of getting clarity.
Some Better Questions
In light of that criticism, I would like to offer a few questions that I would have asked Bruxy Cavey. Any reference to Cavey’s teaching in these questions is documented elsewhere on my blog or can be found in the resources linked to above.
- Mr. Cavey, you have said that the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy discredits Jesus Christ, leads to the idolatrous worship of Scripture, and is a hindrance to evangelism – which would seem to indicate that those who espouse it are in sin. Can you please explain?
- Mr. Cavey, you have indicated that you believe there are several different errors found in Scripture including Titus 1:12-13, which you indicate is actually a sinfully racist slur affirmed as true by Paul. I am sure you think these errors are obvious, but could there be other statements in Scripture which you believe to be true (for example, words of Jesus himself), but are actually errors? By what infallible, inerrant authority are Christians to know what in Scripture is absolutely true, and which are errors? Do you have an inerrant way to test whether something is an error in the Bible?
- Mr. Cavey, piggybacking on the previous question – you appeal to certain texts in Scripture to defend your position. For example, you appeal to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to say that Scripture “comes from God and is useful”, but not inerrant. Considering your teaching that there are errors in the text, doesn’t your appeal to Scripture to defend your view beg the question? Aren’t you assuming that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is not in error? Again, what is the authority by which we can test the text to know what is true or false?
- Mr. Cavey, you have affirmed that everything the Bible intends to teach, everything it means to say, it does so perfectly, even though it does so by utilizing erroneous statements (such as the example in Titus 1:12-13). How are we to determine what the Bible intends to teach if some of the things it affirms as true are not? Are there things it teaches as true (again, Titus 1:12-13 for example) which it does not intend to teach as true? In Titus 1:12-13, the Bible specifically says “this saying is true”, but you have said it is not true – can you explain how you determined that a statement specifically affirmed as “true” could be not true? Did Paul intend for Titus to take that statement as true considering he specifically affirmed it as such and gave instruction to Titus based on the truth of that statement?
- Mr. Cavey, your position seems to indicate that human participation in the recording of Scripture necessitates errors being present due to the imperfection of human beings. How does this apply, then to the canon of Scripture? Since humans were involved in the process of identifying the canon, what errors were made? On your position, are there possibly entire books in the Bible which are not actually Scripture? Either way, how do you know?
- Mr. Cavey, you consistently portray the current controversy around inerrancy as a simple issue of terminology and emphasis, but in your previous teaching you have said that you are opposed to both the word and concept of inerrancy as discrediting Christ, hindering evangelism, leading to idolatry, and setting the Christian faith atop a house of cards. So is it really an issue of words and terminology, or is it an issue of doctrines and concepts?
- Mr. Cavey, you have offered many examples of what you see as errors in Scripture, even specifically noting the “errancy” of Scripture, yet when responding to criticism you have insinuated that you are not an errantist. What is an errantist then, and how are you exempt from being an errantist even though you believe there are several errors in Scripture?
- Mr. Cavey, you have defended your signing of Tyndale Seminary’s Statement of Faith which affirms scriptural inerrancy by defining inerrancy in a certain way. At the same time, the record of your teaching is replete with your teaching against scriptural inerrancy. When you speak against inerrancy, what definition are you using and how does it differ from the definition you use to justify your signing of that statement? Why not be more specific in your teaching as to what exactly you mean by inerrancy if you actually see a substantial difference between the two, so much so that you warn about the dangers of inerrancy (discredits Christ, leads to idolatry, setting Christianity atop a house of cards and hinders evangelism) in one setting and then affirm it in another?
- Mr. Cavey, you have taught that scripture is not in harmonious agreement but disagrees with itself, and that Jesus actually taught contrary to the Old Testament Scriptures (for example the six antitheses in Matthew 5). You have said that the account of the events of Jesus’ transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) is to be interpreted as God commanding the Apostles not to put the authority of the Old Testament Scripture on par with Jesus’ authority. You say he “took authority over” Scripture. Can you explain, then, the relationship of Scripture to the truth of God? Was the Old Testament mistaken, or did God intentionally communicate things which he knew were not true? How is your interpretation of the transfiguration consistent with Peter’s own interpretation and application of that event in 2 Peter 1:16-21? Is the Holy Spirit the author of Scripture?
- Mr. Cavey, you have affirmed that “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), and is “God Speaking” (Matthew 19:5), “The Word of God in print”. You have criticized the inerrantist understanding that this means there cannot be error in Scripture because God cannot err, is truth, and cannot lie on the grounds that we do not consider that the human element of Scripture can and does err. Is there any place where Scripture describes Scripture in this way? Are the portions containing error (example Titus 1:12-13) God speaking, or only man speaking? If they are both, Does God speak and affirm error, and does he expect us to believe what he speaks? If it is not God speaking but only man, then can those parts of the Bible truly be said to be Scripture in light of 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21?
I think that questions like this would have provided a whole lot more clarity on Cavey’s positions, which is what Carter’s expressed purpose of this interview.
The stated purpose of Paul Carter’s article was to gain clarity on Bruxy Cavey’s views. I applaud that desire. I do not at all question Paul Carter’s motivation, nor his desire for clarity and truth. Unfortunately, any clarity that was gained by Cavey’s answers in the interview could have been gained simply by listening to what Cavey has already said. Based on Carter’s self-professed unfamiliarity, I don’t know that he has actually listened to Cavey’s position enough to really press him. For real clarity, Bruxy Cavey needs to be held accountable for specific statements he has made. It probably would have made for a more uncomfortable interview but that’s what would have needed to happen.
Instead, Cavey was given the platform to put answers out there that he knows will soothe many, and was not challenged to any real depth by Carter. I believe the answers he gives are tailored to have a certain effect within the audience he knows this article will reach.
In dealing with Bruxy Cavey, I believe we are dealing here with a wolf. Jesus described and warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing who destroy the flock. A wolf is a cunning predator, especially one who has learned how to blend in with the sheep, even how to look like one. A wolf must be handled with severity and conviction. The only way to expose the wolf in sheep’s clothing is to force him to expose his long snout and sharp teeth. Anything less simply gives the wolf more time and opportunity to devour more sheep.
Of course, this is only the first of three interview articles that Carter is going to publish. I’m not able to judge anything beyond what has been published thus far. As of now, I am concerned that Cavey will not really be pushed to account for his teaching. I sincerely hope I am wrong.
*** By the time this blog was published Carter’s second article was posted. At the time of completion I have not yet read that article***