A few weeks ago Bruxy Cavey spoke at Greg Boyd’s church and gave this classic Bruxy sermon in which he once again denied and preached against inerrancy, the ultimate authority of Scripture, and Penal Substitutionary Atonement. He was there to promote Greg Boyd’s newest book, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, which attempts to make sense of the Old Testament revelation of God in a way consistent with Neo-Pacifist presuppositions.
This is accomplished by positing that, just as Christ was willing to look like a criminal on the cross, God in the Old Testament was willing to allow Israel to think that He was actually a warring, bloodthirsty God just like all the pagan deities because that’s what Israel wanted in a God. God was accommodating or compromising with His people. Basically, the way God is revealed in the Old Testament is not true to His character because Boyd’s understanding of Jesus cannot otherwise be reconciled consistently with Old Testament revelation. According to this view, the Old Testament reveals a God who behaves, or at least allows His people to believe he behaves in a way that is utterly contradictory to His own nature. It amounts to some kind of Neo-Marcionism.
I got the impression that Cavey agreed with Boyd because when he was presenting this perspective he didn’t challenge any of it, presented it as if it were true,and he made comments that were approving of and consistent with this view.
Bruxy Cavey reduces the blood of Christ to pure symbolism
During his visit Bruxy Cavey, Greg Boyd, and Dennis Edwards sat down for a Q&A session. At 56:25 a question came from the audience asking Boyd:
“I think it was week 2 when you were talking about animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and you had said that was an accommodation or compromise by God, but then Jesus had to shed His blood for forgiveness of our sins. Shedding blood seems to be central and not accommodating. Can you dig a little deeper into that?”
Boyd gives Bruxy Cavey the opportunity to answer. He answers this way:
“Blood is central to the religious sacrificial system of all ancient religions. I don’t think that’s a matter of God making it central I think that’s a matter of us making it central and that Jesus enters into a religious system to speak their language and say ‘eyes front, look here, you’re forgiven. You do not need to spill another drop of blood. Look at the blood of Christ that is shed for you.’ And Christ sheds His blood as the ultimate declaration of complete forgiveness and freedom from your religious system as the last sacrifice. I do not think that that is rooted in the fact that God would like to forgive but somehow the omnipotent creator of the universe has to create a physical being and kill it, and shed a certain amount of it’s physical blood so that something’s released cosmically. That suggests that there is a law above God that He is submitted to. (Greg Boyd blurts out “I gotta get my blood!”) Yeah ‘there’s something I’d like to do but I live in a universe that has a blood economy that says I can only forgive if I make the right sacrifice’ to what? To what? To the bloodthirsty God above God? There’s nothing above God! And so God Himself can forgive, but He enters into our need to see blood to be assured ‘is this forgiveness real? Are you sure I can stop killing animals to obtain your forgiveness?’ and He says ‘I will give you a visual illustration of that absolute reality – here it is, the last sacrifice. You are free.'” (57:30)
Bruxy Cavey here states that the only reason for the centrality of blood in the atonement is because that’s what Israel wanted. Apparently, blood sacrifice was necessary not because that is consistent with God’s nature and created order, but because Israel needed it for assurance of forgiveness. This literally renders the blood of Christ spilled for no purpose at all except for our own assurance! The spilling of Christ’s blood was only done for our peace of mind, it didn’t please God or actually accomplish anything beyond that. From God’s purview, it was utterly unnecessary, simply an accommodation. This is a direct assault on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross which renders it ultimately meaningless. I cannot overemphasize how dangerous this teaching is.
Also, Cavey makes it sound like blood sacrifice was some pre-existing religious ritual that God simply adopted as His own with His people, but we see in Scripture that right from the beginning God shed the blood of an animal to cover Adam and Eve when they had sinned in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve had actually attempted to cover themselves with vegetation, and God corrected them by shedding the blood of an animal and providing them with a covering that was pleasing to Him. In the very next generation of humanity God accepted Abels’ sacrifice which shed blood and rejected that of Cain who offered vegetation. God Himself instituted the blood sacrificial system from the first sin.
Bruxy Cavey’s claim that necessary blood sacrifice would only make sense if there were some authority over God is nonsense. In no way does blood sacrifice require that God has someone over Him to answer to. If there is a “blood economy” in God’s creation it is because God has created it so from the very beginning. When He created it, He said it was very good, therefore it is consistent with His nature. The Scriptures teach that the life is in the blood, which is also why eating blood is contrary to God’s law, that sin requires the giving of life, and so we have the offering of blood for sin (Leviticus 17:10-16). If the life is in the blood it’s because God created it that way.
Another question that one must ask when considering this view is this: If God allowed such wildly inaccurate and wicked descriptions of Himself to be included in Scripture, then how is it that Israel could be held accountable for committing idolatry? If what Cavey and Boyd are saying is true, then someone living before Christ who believed the Scriptures would, by definition, be an idolater, worshipping a false god in a false way.
Boyd then comments on what Cavey says by referencing The Chronicles of Narnia and says “The one who demands blood is Satan, that’s the killer here, not God.”
Are we to understand that the necessity of blood is of Satanic origin? That God doesn’t require it, but Satan does? That certainly seems to be what this woman got from the teaching, and Bruxy Cavey approved!
So what about Hebrews 9:22? Doesn’t Scripture teach that the shedding of blood is necessary for the forgiveness of sin? Cavey anticipates this objection. His response is:
“We were talking about this earlier and Hebrews 9:22 is a passage that will come to people’s mind when we talk about ‘well doesn’t God have to kill something in order to forgive because there is that verse in the Bible that says without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins’? Read the full verse of Hebrews 9:22 that says does not the law say that, or does not the law require that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.So Jesus still sheds His blood according to the law to put the law to bed once and for all. But that is a principle of law, not a principle of the almighty God. He enters that in order to shut it down.” (1:02:29)
The problem with Cavey’s statement here is two-fold. First, according to Bruxy Cavey, the law does not reflect God’s character at all. He even seems to hint that the law has it’s origin in some other source than God. Could it be that God gave the law to actually reveal His own character to His people in the Old Testament? Why would God, in the giving of His law to His own people, give the sacrificial system with it’s incredible emphasis on the shedding of blood for sin as such a central element of their worship of Him? This view makes nonsense of the entire purpose of the law. Cavey is separating the law from God as if God Himself is repulsed by the law. But Paul says the law is “holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12), and that without it, he would not have known what sin is (Romans 7:7), and so he serves the law with his mind even though his flesh is sinful (Romans 7:25). The Bible speaks of the fact that we are to delight in the law (Psalm 1:2, Romans 7:22). This is because the principles of the law are the principles of almighty God, whom we love and serve.
Secondly, when speaking of Hebrews 9:22, Bruxy Cavey completely ignores the rest of the book of Hebrews, including the section surrounding 9:22. Hebrews 9:11-28 says:
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God,purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats,with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying,“This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is,he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time,not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Apparently the author of Hebrews didn’t understand the blood sacrificial system the same way Bruxy Cavey does. According to this passage, the Old Testament blood sacrificial system was indeed a picture of the heavenly reality, pointing to the cross of Christ. The levitical high priest cleansing what are called the “copies of the heavenly things” and “copies of the true things” was symbolic of the final, better, and true sacrifice, the blood of Christ Himself, that would cleanse the heavenly things. Jesus Christ Himself is our High Priest who has offered His own perfect blood to purify believers (see also Hebrews 10:1-14). However, if Cavey is right, the sacrificial system is not an earthly demonstration of any heavenly reality, it’s simply an accommodation to our human desire to see blood. There is no reality behind it at all. In fact, there is no reality even in Christ’s shedding of blood! It becomes no more than an accommodation, a symbolic gesture to give us assurance.
It has become obvious to me over these past few months of listening to Bruxy Cavey that he seriously misunderstands and mishandles the Old Testament especially when it comes to it’s consistency with the New Testament and Jesus’ teaching. His view of Jesus is so wildly inconsistent with the whole of Scripture that it forces him to simply deny that major parts the Old Testament, and even aspects of the New Testament, are actually true to God’s nature. His over-riding presupposition is that Jesus just loves everyone and the cross of Christ only displays God’s love. Bruxy Cavey cannot make sense of anything in Scripture that even hints that God would use violence in any way. Of course, when he is talking about love he is talking about it as defined by Cavey’s mind, not Scripture. This has resulted in hiss denial that the blood of Jesus Christ accomplished anything real at all. It was purely a symbolic gesture. This is a deadly doctrine.
My advice to Bruxy Cavey is this: If your view of Jesus, who is Jehovah of the Old Testament, causes you to be repulsed by what Scripture says about Him to the point that you have to deny what Scripture plainly and repeatedly teaches, then your view of Jesus is fundamentally and fatally flawed. It is a false, a different Jesus. Repent and change your view of Jesus. Jesus Himself said the Scriptures of the Old Testament spoke of Him (John 5:39), and so all of Scripture, like it or not, should inform our view of Jesus, our view of Jesus should not be used to correct the Scriptures.
For more on Boyd’s view, and criticism of it you can read the following articles:
- Review of The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross – Trevor Laurence, Themelios
- Greg Boyd’s Misunderstandings of the ‘Warrior God’ – Paul Copan
- Disarming the Warrior-God – Steve Hayes