This will be my final post reviewing Brian Zahnd’s trip to The Meeting House. We’ll take one final look at some comments made in the “Meeting House Round Table” podcast Zahnd recorded with Bruxy Cavey then I want to move on to some other important things in the weeks to come.
In my last post we were examining comments from Zahnd and Cavey regarding their doctrine of Scripture. We saw that Brian Zahnd sits and communes with spiritual entities which laugh along with him as he rejects the veracity of Scripture (you can’t make this stuff up), and that he is simply embarrassed by what Scripture actually teaches.
High Christology results in rejection of Scripture?
Their conversation continues. Zahnd says:
“The Bible’s not an end in itself. Jesus himself says ‘look, you search the Scriptures thinking that it’s the end in itself, that the Scriptures themself [sic] will give you the life of the age to come but no, it’s the scriptures that point you to me and yet you won’t come to me.’ So I have a high view of Scripture, but I have a higher Christology.”
I’ll deal with the continued use of John 5:39 in a bit. I want first to point out, once again, that it is completely absurd and incoherent to say “So I have a high view of Scripture, but I have a higher Christology.” First, Zahnd does not have a high view of Scripture, or else he would not dismiss it, correct it, twist it, mock it, and lie about it as I have documented in this review series. Second, saying you have a high Christology to justify rejecting the ultimate authority of Scripture is simply incoherent. How can one’s view of Christ be higher than one’s view of his word? When Zahnd’s wife speaks to him, does he sift through what she says, reject that which he doesn’t like, mock it, twist it, and tell her that the reason he didn’t take seriously everything she says is that he loves and respects her so much? It’s ridiculous.
Jesus taught that what we speak is the manifestation of what is in our heart (Luke 6:45) and he also taught that Scripture was the very speech of God (Matthew 19:4-5, 22:31-32), and so it is nonsense to hold Christ in a higher position than the speech of God, the Scriptures. They are the perfect expression of the very heart of God. If one had such a high Christology, he would have the same view of Scripture as Christ. Unless, of course, one is following a false Christ.
Jesus Saves… The Bible??
“And I think, I believe, and I confess that Jesus is Lord and Jesus redeems all that is to be redeemed. And I’m going to say something that’s kind of provocative, this may be a bit much for some people… Jesus saves the Bible from being just another violent religious text. It’s Jesus that gives us the capacity to understand the Bible in a way where it’s not just confined to being yet another violent religious text. So, what the Bible does perfectly is point us to Jesus.”
Jesus saves the Bible from being just another violent religious text? This is Zahnd’s “high view of Scripture”? On this view, it is logical to conclude that before the incarnation of Jesus Christ, nobody could possibly have the capacity to understand Scripture as anything other than a violent religious text. It should be pointed out that this is not at all how the Bible presents itself. God’s word is not in need of redemption by God.
This division of God from his own word is absurd, but it is foundational to Zahnd and Cavey’s aberrant view of Scripture. God does not misspeak and then have to circle around to clean up his mess. The incarnation of Jesus Christ was not for the purpose that God could show us what he really had been meaning and trying to say for the previous 1500 years but just couldn’t find the right words. God said exactly what he intended to say, everything he said was entirely consistent with his character (lest we accuse him of lying).
Again, if “what the Bible does perfectly is point us to Jesus”, even though the Scripture is not inerrant or ultimately authoritative and is really just a violent text without Jesus, this is simply not possible. I covered this in detail in another post.
So, does Jesus save the Bible from being another violent religious text? No.
- It may sound profound, but nothing in Scripture says anything like this.
- We have already seen that Zahnd is incapable of dealing with the text of Scripture fairly to support his position, so why should we give any weight whatsoever to this comment?
- It is utterly incoherent to say that Jesus saves his own word.
- Zahnd has already sawed off the branch he’s sitting on. He has no more reason to believe what the Bible says about Jesus, his ministry, and the meaning of it all than he has to believe all the parts of Scripture he rejects. His view is utterly arbitrary. He has no foundation for any of the things he’s saying.
John 5:39 Twisted Again
Bruxy Cavey then says:
“Yeah, that’s good. You quoted John 5:39-40 when Jesus says ‘you search the Scriptures but you need to come to me’ and I’m thinking just the verses just before that John 5:37-38 leading up he says ‘you might memorize the Scriptures, study the Scriptures, but you do not have the Word of God in you’ in the verses just before that which I find fascinating. You can know the Scriptures and not know the Word of God. And then he goes on in 38 and 39 to talk about himself as the centerpiece of the Word of God.”
What I find fascinating is that Bruxy Cavey and Brian Zahnd both continually use John 5:39-40 as a proof text in this way. They focus on Jesus saying that these Jews searched the Scripture, as if they were some kind of staunch Bible-believing folks, but I have never heard them include the fact that Jesus himself said that the Jews he was speaking to did not believe Moses’ writings (John 5:46-47). Jesus speaks again to this in Luke 16:31. So, searching the Scriptures and believing the Scriptures are two very different things. Why do Cavey and Zahnd continually quote this conversation between Jesus and the Jews and leave this out? Possibly because it doesn’t fit their message.
Furthermore, Bruxy Cavey is sitting on the same branch Zahnd already sawed off. On what basis does Cavey know that John 5 is both true and authoritative?
Scripture doesn’t say God spoke by the Apostles or New Testament?
Zahnd comes back:
“I’m thinking of another text, the opening of the book of Hebrews. ‘Long ago God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.’ Ok, that’s what we call the Old Testament. ‘But in these last days…’ “
Bruxy interrupts and says: “He’s spoken by the Apostles – the New Testament, but that’s not what he says!”
Zahnd continues: “This is written 2000 years ago, but it’s the last days. Meaning that we now have arrived at the finality of perfect revelation of who God is in Christ ‘but now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed the heir of all things through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.’ I love that! So there were many revelations that are communicated by the prophets, but if you want an exact imprint of the nature of God, that’s Jesus. To put it quite simply, the Bible is not a person within the Trinity, it’s not Father, Son and Holy Bible. It’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I’m afraid that too often, some Christians come awful close to making an idol out of the Bible – that is conferring deity upon it. It’s inspired by God, but it itself is not God.”
Cavey’s comment here is strange. Zahnd affirms that God did speak to us in the Old Testament by the prophets, then Cavey seems to deny that God spoke to us in the New Testament by the Apostles. Does he think this is helping his cause? Is he saying that God has not spoken by the Apostles? That God has not spoken by the New Testament? Wasn’t it the apostles and their companions who wrote everything in Scripture about Jesus? Isn’t it all in the New Testament? So, if God did not speak to us in these last days by the apostles in the New Testament then Cavey knows nothing about Jesus. A strange comment indeed. I’m not sure exactly what Cavey is driving at here, but it’s a comment that would invite a lot of confusion.
And why do they bother citing Hebrews 1:1-2? Is that text inerrant and authoritative? How do they know, and how can we test it? I thought it was in the New Testament, which Cavey just insinuated God didn’t speak to us by.
It’s interesting, too, that Zahnd would quote Hebrews 1:1-2 to prove that Jesus is the authoritative word of God, not the Scriptures. That verse says that God spoke by the prophets (which Zahnd correctly says is the Old Testament), and has now spoken by his Son. In Zahnd’s message he clearly and unequivocally declared that not everything those prophets (whom God spoke by) wrote was true. So why is it any different when God speaks by his Son in Scripture? Both instances of God speaking were recorded by fallible men in writing. If the Old Testament record of God speaking through prophets features instances of “assumptions” and other kinds of errors, why not the New Testament record of God speaking through his Son? There seem to be a lot of unchallenged, frankly arbitrary assumptions being put forward by Zahnd on this view. He wants to have all of the scriptural narrative about Jesus’ earthly ministry and its significance be completely true and authoritative, but not the rest of Scripture, and he gives no meaningful reason why.
Another oft-repeated misrepresentation is Zahnd’s comment that the Bible is not a member of the Trinity or that it is God – as if someone is saying it is. Nobody is saying that. The correct view of Scripture, however, is that the Scriptures are the Triune God’s revelation to us. They are his word and, therefore, carry all of his authority. Instead of dealing with a real view of Scriptural authority that Christians actually hold, Zahnd would rather erect a straw-man and beat it down.
Zahnd continues on to say that the Bible is like John the Baptist:
“John is sent from God, John is inspired by God, but John is not the Messiah, John is not God. So we can almost play with it a bit – ‘there came a book sent from God who’s name was Bible. It came to bear witness to the light that all might believe through it. It itself was not the light but it came to bear witness to the light that everyone might believe on Jesus through it.’ Another thing to say is the Bible doesn’t call us to believe the Bible, the Bible calls us to believe God and to believe Jesus. So the object of our faith is not the Bible, rather the Bible engenders faith toward the true object of faith which is the divine, which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The Bible does call us to believe Scripture. Believing Scripture, believing God, believing Jesus – it’s synonymous in Scripture. Paul uses “God says” and “Scripture says” synonymously. Jesus, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul, etc. – all of them quote Scripture as the authoritative words of God, his very speech, meant to be believed entirely and acted upon – believing Scripture is believing God.
Also, the Scripture does not speak of John the Baptist as “inspired” – certainly not in the way it speaks of Scripture itself. The term rendered inspired in 2 Timothy 3:16 is the greek word “θεόπνευστος” (theopneustos) which literally means God-breathed. Where does the Bible say that John the Baptist was breathed out by God? Certainly he was a prophet, and certainly some of what he said was inspired in that way (it’s recorded in Scripture, after all), but John himself was a sinner, and he most certainly said sinful things too. Those things would not be God-breathed. So this argument hinges on a false-equivalency.
The real question is, what does Bruxy Cavey and Brian Zahnd know about John the Baptist? Are the texts about him authoritative as well? I’m still looking for that objective standard by which I can test this teaching. I mean, they’re in the New Testament, written by Apostles, and Bruxy just insinuated that’s not How God has spoken to us. It’s so hard to keep track of.
“This is so good… Do you use terms like inerrancy? You use inspired, you definitely use inspired, do you use infallible? Inerrant?”
“What the Bible does inerrantly and infallibly is point us to Jesus. I just don’t think we need to take these enlightenment terms and try to force them upon the Scripture. What the Scripture is designed to do it does inerrantly, it does perfectly – but it’s not a perfect revelation of history, or science. It will, if you follow the journey, it will always lead you to Jesus – and it does that inerrantly.”
So Zahnd doesn’t want to use “enlightenment terms” of infallible and inerrant, but then immediately uses the same terms. When Zahnd uses the terms, we are supposed to understand that he means perfect, without error, etc. We are supposed to be fair in our understanding of the language he is using and realize that even though the Scripture doesn’t use those terms, he is saying that they are terms that describe the biblical teaching. But, when inerrantists use the exact same terms in the exact same way applied to Scripture, well, then they are just using elightenment terms that we shouldn’t impose on Scripture. What kind of a double-standard is that?
As stated before, we’ve already seen that on Cavey and Zahnd’s view of Scripture it is impossible that the Scriptures could infallibly point people to Jesus. In fact, since what is authoritative in Scripture is up to our own arbitrary choices depending on our presuppositions, and there are errors in Scripture but no objective standard by which to judge what is error or truth, the Scriptures could very well point us to Baal, depending on our choices and presuppositions.
Cavey then says that his denomination doesn’t have a statement on inerrancy either for various reasons. Then Zahnd wraps up this segment of the interview with this statement:
“I love the Bible, I read it every day, I read out of both Testaments every day. I love the Scriptures because it’s my most direct access to Jesus. But it’s not Jesus – Jesus is Jesus.”
Zahnd reads the Bible every day, it’s his most direct access to Jesus, he just doesn’t believe that the Scriptural testimony about God is entirely true – some of it is the result of errant “assumptions”. It seems to me that in order to separate the “assumption” from the truth, Zahnd would have to have a more direct and accurate access to Jesus than the Scriptures. On this view of Scripture, if Scripture is truly his most direct access to Jesus, then he has no reason to believe he actually knows anything about Jesus. Zahnd refutes himself all over the place.
I reject, based on the way Zahnd handles both the Bible and Jesus, that he loves either of them. In fact, he has made it very clear that if all of Scripture is true, and all of Scripture’s portrayal of God is accurate, without “assumption” or other error, he does not love that God.
This is the conclusion of my review series of Brian Zahnd’s activity at The Meeting House. In short, I believe I have demonstrated that Zahnd’s teaching is incoherent and self-contradictory. His arguments rely on several logical fallacies as well as misrepresentations of both positions he rejects and Scripture itself. He preys on the ignorance and gullibility of his hearers. He is a classic false teacher.
Bruxy Cavey and the leadership of the Meeting House are obviously blind to this, or simply not concerned about it. They have been feeding their people this kind of teaching for a long time now, it’s just that Zahnd is more forceful and bombastic about it. To whatever extent they may agree or disagree with Zahnd, the fact remains that they brought him in to teach, never publicly corrected anything he said, and promoted his visit enthusiastically.
There’s not much more to say about it.
The teaching The Meeting House is promoting is not Christianity. You will not find teaching like this anywhere in church history except among groups that have long been recognized as heretical, liberal, etc. You certainly will not find this type of teaching in the apostolic example given in Scripture itself. Avoid The Meeting House, avoid Bruxy Cavey, avoid Brian Zahnd, and warn others.