Bruxy Cavey recently made the claim that Scripture does not refer to itself as the Word of God. He and other leaders in his denomination are also on record claiming that Scripture doesn’t teach it’s own inerrancy. In this post I am going to tackle these two separate, but inextricably linked issues. Cavey and his friends are just wrong about what Scripture claims for itself.
As a guest on Jarrod McKenna’s “Inverse Podcast” Bruxy Cavey spoke on his view of Scripture and authority. Again he presented his untenable and incoherent distinction between Jesus’ authority and the authority of Scripture.
Speaking of John 5:37-38 Cavey explains that Jesus warns the Pharisees that though they studied Scripture the didn’t know the Word of God. He then makes the amazing claim that the Bible nowhere refers to Scripture as “the Word of God”. Cavey says:
“That’s one of the dangers even of a tradition that always refers to the Bible as the Word of God. ‘I love the Word of God!’, because the Bible doesn’t call itself the Word of God. The Bible refers to itself as the Scriptures. The Word of God is the message that God gives to an individual through the Scriptures… It’ll say ‘the word of the Lord came to this prophet’, the word of the Lord comes and the Scriptures will tell us about God delivering his word, a very specific word. And then ultimately the word of God or the message of God is revealed in the person of Jesus himself who is called the Word, and His gospel message which is called God’s word to people in different passages in the New Testament. But just calling the Scriptures the Word of God lets us off the hook too easily to say ‘I read the Bible therefore I know the Word of God’ and Jesus says ‘No, you don’t’.” (36:59)Bruxy Cavey – “The 2nd course with Bruxy”, Inverse Podcast, March 4, 2019. Apple Podcast link HERE
Back in February of 2018 Bruxy Cavey, Doug Sider, and Darrell Winger put out a podcast and video titled “Inerrancy, Authority, Tradition, and The Bible“. Their presentation is a glaring demonstration of either their ignorance of the position they oppose, or their unwillingness to represent biblical inerrancy truthfully and interact with the best arguments for it.
In the podcast/video, these men claim together that Scripture nowhere teaches it’s own inerrancy.
Cavey: “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. We think it can be a distraction. And as I learn more about Anabaptist theology it started to make sense to me. How would you respond to the person who says why don’t you believe in inerrancy?”Inerrancy, Authority, Tradition, and The Bible with Doug Sider, Darrel Winger, and Bruxy Cavey (42:28)
Winger: “If our starting point is inductive – what does the Scripture say about itself, that’s one key piece. We don’t see the Scripture saying that about itself. And what it says about itself and how it witnesses to Jesus’ authority, and if we’re trying to live that out in a simple straightforward way, then I think we’re saying we’re not quite sure how the word ‘inerrancy’ is necessary. Does it create more confusion than it brings clarity? I think back to the time when the words or principles of inerrancy and infallibility were inserted into theological statements and understandings it was to try to ward off a sense of Liberalism. ‘We need to shore things up, we need to strengthen what we understand the Scriptures to be about and our Christian faith to be about because 100-plus years ago as Liberalism was coming in there was a sense of wanting to respond to that and strengthen things. I think the Anabaptists would say ‘we already see a strong, reliable, trustworthy Scripture pointing to Jesus. We are already trying to live in an obedient, straightforward manner following after Christ. We see the simple truth of Scripture here. So, we see this as more of a theological deductive hypothesis debate that we affirm your hearts… but we just don’t sense that that’s required to help us follow Jesus more closely.”
Sider: “When you go beyond what Scripture says, you then have to accept a whole slew of other conversations. If you say inerrant, what do you mean by inerrant? What is that definition? And depending on that definition then what do you do with places where the Bible disagrees with itself?” (42:28)
So, is it true that Scripture does not refer to itself as the Word of God? And does Scripture not teach that it is inerrant? It depends. By that I mean that it does – just so long as it is not demanded that Scripture somewhere says “Scripture is the Word of God” in those exact words, or that the term inerrant is actually used within Scripture itself. Clearly, Cavey and friends are saying much more than that. These men seem to think that Scripture doesn’t teach that it is the Word of God or inerrant.
I am indebted to B.B. Warfield in answering this question. His book The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible is available free in electronic format here.
The Nature of Scripture
Let’s look at how the Scripture speaks of itself to determine whether Scripture is the Word of God.
Jesus taught that Scripture is God speaking. When questioned about divorce, Jesus said “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two should become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5) Here Jesus is quoting Genesis 2:24 as what God said. Read Genesis 2:24 for yourself and you will see that it is a narrative. So, even the narrative of Scripture is God speaking – it is God’s words.
In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus corrects the foolishness of the Sadducees by applying what God had said in Genesis 3:6 to them directly, “Have you not read what was said to you by God ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Here Jesus references Exodus 3:6 where God is speaking to Moses out of the burning bush, but 1500 years later, Jesus tells the Sadducees that God was saying it to them.
When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus responded to each temptation with Scripture. The first was a quotation of Deuteronomy 8:3 when Jesus said “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (v.4). Satan even tempts Jesus by twisting Scripture (v.6), to which Jesus responds to him by quoting Scripture properly (v.7). Jesus quotes Scripture which itself refers to Scripture as the “words that come from the mouth of God” and tells us that these words are vital to man’s life.
Jesus also said the Scriptures were true (John 17:17), cannot be broken (John 10:35), and repeatedly appealed to the Scriptures as Divinely authoritative (Matthew 4:4,7,10; 11:10; 21:13,42; 26:31; 19:4; 22:29-32; 26:56). To Jesus, a Scripture quotation justified action, or ended an argument.
Peter confirms this in his second epistle (2 Peter 1:16-21). He recounts the events on the mountain when he witnessed Jesus transfigured with his own eyes, and heard the audible voice of God booming from the heavens (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36). Peter tells us that the Scriptures are an even more sure word than his experience there! He tells us that the Scriptures are certain and reliable because they did not come into existence by the will of man, but by the will of God. The prophets did not prophesy by their own interpretation, they did not merely write what seemed good to them, but “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.
Paul also speaks to the nature of Scripture as being spoken by God when he writes to Timothy of the “sacred writings”, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. He continues “All Scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The Scriptures are breathed out by God for a purpose – to make the man of God complete.
The New Testament, in general refers to the Scriptures as the very words of God. In fact, what the Scriptures say is asserted as what God has said. For example, Romans 9:17 tells us that “the Scripture says to Pharoah ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up…'” and Galatians 3:8 says “the Scripture… preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.'” Of course, in both instances these are the words of God to both Pharoah and Abraham respectively, which are directly attributed to Scripture. The words of Scripture are the words of God, the biblical writers make no distinction.
Even in places that the Old Testament is not directly recording God speaking, the words of Scripture are said to be the words of God. Hebrews 3:7 quotes Psalm 95:7-11, attributing these words to the Holy Spirit speaking (present tense). In Acts 4:24-26 the apostles quote David’s words in Psalm 2:1, attributing them to God who said it by the Holy Spirit through David’s mouth. In Acts 13:34-35, Paul quotes both Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10 as both being what God “says”. The first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14, Deuteronomy 32:43 (Septuagint), Psalm 104:4, Psalm 45:6-7, Psalm 102:25-27, and Psalm 110:1, attributing to each of them that they are what God “says”.
Examples throughout Scripture could be multiplied, but this should be sufficient. For further reading on this be sure to check out B.B. Warfield’s work on this.
The Nature of God
If Scripture is God speaking, the very words of God, then we can further understand the nature of Scripture by understanding the nature of God. Someone’s word is only as good as their character and ability. So whether or not we ought to trust God’s word depends on what God himself is like.
The Scriptures tell us that God is light, and in him there is no darkness (1 John 1:15). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Although men are all liars, God is true (Romans 3:4). God does not change or lie and when he speaks he is completely faithful to his word (Numbers 19:23, James 1:17). God’s speech is so powerful that when he speaks that which did not exist begins to exist (Genesis 1).
An Inductive description of Scripture
So, if one were to stick to a very strict, inductive approach to the doctrine of Scripture, using only terms and descriptions that the Scripture uses of itself, would he come down on the side of Cavey, Sider and Winger? Would he believe that Scripture is not God’s Word and is errant? Let’s see.
According to Scripture, Scripture is God speaking through men as they are carried along by the Holy Spirit, none of it comes by the will of man, nor does it originate in man, but is 100% from God. It is the God-breathed, sacred writings which serve to make the man of God complete. It is more reliable than if you were to hear the audible voice of the true and living God from heaven. When Scripture has spoken, God has spoken, and not only has he spoken in the past, Scripture is to be taken as God speaking presently. Scripture is true. cannot be broken, and is authoritative. It’s authority is derived from it’s nature as the words of God – it’s authority is the very authority of God himself. It is so authoritative that in debate a portion of Scripture rightly used ends all argument. Here we have the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration and the absolute authority of all of Scripture.
Scripture is the very speech of the Triune God who is true, perfectly faithful, does not change, cannot lie nor deny himself. His speech is powerful to accomplish his purposes.
In short, all of Scripture is God’s inerrant Word and carries all the authority of God himself.
That is a far cry from the view of Bruxy Cavey, Doug Sider and Darrell Winger! In Cavey’s public teaching he says there are “just so many errors” in the Bible which he attributes to the fact that man’s involvement introduces a corrupting influence. He says it’s dangerous to consider Scripture to be God’s Word. He says that the authority of Scripture is unscriptural, and warns that it discredits Christ to say the Bible is inerrant! Doug Sider says in the podcast/video referenced above that the Scriptures disagree with themselves, and he differentiates himself from those who believe that everything in the Bible “actually occurred”! Darrell Winger is along for the ride and demonstrates no disagreements with Cavey or Sider, but agrees that Scripture doesn’t teach it’s own inerrancy. I guess we could say that Bruxy Cavey, Doug Sider and Darrell Winger actually teach the exact opposite of what Scripture teaches about the nature, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture.
Bruxy Cavey claims that the Scriptures do not teach that they are the Word of God. Doug Sider and Darrell Winger join him in claiming that the Scriptures do not teach that Scripture is inerrant. They’re just flat wrong, and it’s been demonstrated by Scripture.
If Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, if it is God’s speech which carries all of his authority and speaks only that which is true – then what does that say about men who present themselves as teachers of God’s people and yet contradict what it says at such a fundamental level? What does that say about those who would deny the ultimate authority and veracity of Scripture?
Flee from men who will misrepresent God’s Word in such a fashion as to undermine it’s authority and truthfulness. In doing so they are impugning the Triune God of Scripture.