A few months ago under the TGC Canada banner, Pastor Paul Carter of First Baptist Church in Orillia, Ontario undertook an interview series with Bruxy Cavey with the stated purpose of seeking clarity from Cavey on a few of his teachings (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Analysis and Recommendations). Following the first article of the series I wrote this article to communicate some of my concerns with the goal of setting the record straight with someone I consider to be a brother. Chief among my concerns were that clarity was not being reached at all, and that Carter had simply not done his homework. All of my interaction with Pastor Carter up to this point had been cordial and respectful, and I thought that maybe I could demonstrate the weaknesses I saw, having researched and studied the teachings of Bruxy Cavey for a couple of years myself. I sent him the article that I had written, received from him a quick bit of feedback in the form of a DM on Twitter (also respectful), then immediately found myself blocked by him on all social media. That’s fine with me, it’s his prerogative to decide who he will interact with on social media. No big deal. The problem with being blocked from interacting with him on a personal level is that in order to air the issues I see, I have to do it in a much more public way. Hence, this post.
Of course, Carter published the remainder of the articles including his conclusions. I saw the same weaknesses in the remaining articles and disagreed strongly with his conclusions. I decided not to write about them. In fact, I have taken a break from all of this mess up until now.
In that time, however, I have been sent multiple screenshots by different people of Pastor Carter defending Cavey and claiming that Cavey believes some variation of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. That was also his conclusion in his published series. This, based on what Cavey stated in their interaction. In fact, it seems his analysis is based solely on what Cavey stated in their interaction, completely divorced from his consistent teaching over the course of many years. On top of that, he seems to take issue with those who do not share his conclusions, accusing them at times of not listening, lacking grace, etc.
I’ve read Pastor Carter’s articles, and I’ve also listened to a lot of Cavey’s teaching on Penal Substitution and the atonement from the last several years (which Carter, to my knowledge, has not done). My analysis of Cavey’s teaching on Penal Substitution is the exact opposite of Carter’s. I believe that Cavey REJECTS the biblical doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I understand the statements made by Cavey in his interaction with Pastor Carter in light of his years of consistent teaching on the subject.
This video is a collection of some of Cavey’s teaching that I would refer anyone to who wants to hear what Cavey has to say on the issue.
Now, I believe that Carter is a well-intentioned brother. He stresses the importance of hearing Cavey out and giving him grace in our assessment of his teaching. I believe I have done that. I’ve listened, re-listened, and documented hours and hours of Cavey’s teaching. I have even considered what Cavey said in his interview with Carter and received correction from Bruxy Cavey himself. My analysis is based on all of this together. It took me a long time to assess Cavey’s teaching, and I did not take it lightly at all. That said, I would like to challenge Pastor Carter to defend his assertion that Cavey affirms some variation of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. To do so he will have to explain in a coherent and consistent way Cavey’s statements (all in the video above) that:
- The blood sacrificial system, as with other aspects of God’s Law, has it’s origin in man, not God.
- The blood of Christ was shed merely as a symbol to assure man that sacrifice was not necessary for forgiveness.
- God’s justice does not require satisfaction in order to forgive sin.
- God does not require blood to forgive sin (that’s a principle of law, not God).
- Jesus was not punished by God for the sins of his people/Jesus did not take the wrath of God in the place of sinners (Cavey refers to this idea as “pure myth”).
- He explicitly rejects “the penal part” of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
- The only wrath Jesus endured on the cross was the sinful wrath of man.
- The Bible does not teach Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Even Isaiah 53 explicitly teaches against Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
- He cannot think of a single element of truth in the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
- He wants to convert people away from the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement and wants people to stop preaching it.
- Christ did not die for our sins in the sense that he satisfied God’s justice on our behalf, rather he died as the result of our sin in that it was sinful actions which killed him.
There are, of course, many other troubling statements in the video which would have to be explained as well.
I do not believe that these teachings of Cavey can be reasonably understood in any way that would give the impression that Bruxy Cavey actually affirms the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. In fact, I don’t think that anyone sitting under Cavey’s teaching at The Meeting House, Tyndale Seminary, Fresno Pacific University, Woodland Hills Church (Greg Boyd’s church), or anywhere else he has taught is under the illusion that Cavey actually affirms Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
Apparently, Pastor Carter is of a different opinion. He has stated that there are many published definitions of Penal Substitutionary Atonement that he thinks Cavey could affirm as ture without reservation! He offers the following definition from Thomas R. Schreiner as an example:
“I define penal substitutionary as follows: The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy God’s justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.”
Given Cavey’s documented teaching, I’m amazed that Pastor Carter thinks that Cavey would affirm that definition as Schreiner intended it as true without reservation. In my assessment, Cavey has explicitly denied nearly every aspect of Schreiner’s definition as it would be intended by Schreiner himself.
I firmly believe that Pastor Carter’s assertion that Bruxy Cavey affirms some variation on the biblical doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is completely indefensible. I may be missing something. Pastor Carter may have information I do not. Perhaps Bruxy Cavey has somewhere repudiated and repented of his previous teaching. I look forward to hearing from Pastor Carter regarding his understanding of Cavey’s teaching in this matter.
It’s my opinion Pastor Carter’s continued assertion that Bruxy Cavey affirms Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not helpful, and actually serves to further muddy the waters and denigrate truth of the matter. I must say that if Pastor Carter cannot, in light of the full body of Cavey’s teaching, defend his assertion that Cavey teaches a form of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, then for the sake of clarity and truth he ought to quit repeating it.