This is my response to Bruxy Cavey’s second article in his series, Radical Christians & the Word of God, speaking to his view of Scripture. His article focuses on scriptural inerrancy. My response to his first article on authority is here.
This article has been on the back burner for quite a while. I only recently had an opportunity to finish it.
A number of months ago, Bruxy Cavey wrote a series of articles as a response to public criticism he has been receiving. In reading these articles I realized that they are not written with the purpose of answering the serious concerns that have been voiced regarding his doctrine of Scripture. No, those concerns are not even acknowledged. Instead, Cavey is doubling down on his position, repeating the same bad arguments that have been refuted already, and misrepresenting the controversy as a whole.
Here is my response to Bruxy Cavey’s article, “Radical Christians & the Word of God (Part 2 of 3): Inerrancy”. I’m going to interact with Cavey’s arguments against Scriptural Inerrancy as well as his examples of what he sees as Scriptural errors. It’s a long article, but I wanted to demonstrate in detail just how poor Cavey’s case is here.
Cavey Sets the Table
When reading Cavey’s article, I noticed immediately that we were not going to get an honest discussion of scriptural inerrancy or the theological issues surrounding it. Within the first two paragraphs, Bruxy Cavey sets out the issues. I found his representation unhelpful.
As per usual, Cavey immediately begins talking about what Anabaptists tend to believe. Well, that’s great, but the controversy swirling around Cavey right now has nothing to do with what Anabaptists tend to believe, it has everything to do with what Bruxy Cavey himself has actually said. Cavey explains that the reason he speaks of Anabaptist tendencies is simply because it’s a matter of emphasis. Cavey says:
“You will often hear (or read) me saying things like ‘Anabaptists tend to say it this way or that way’ because our differences are often exactly that – a matter of tendency, of where we put the emphasis in our theology rather than trying to create a different theology. Our default? Jesus is always our emphasis.
Sounds good! But that’s got nothing to do with the issue of inerrancy, nor with Cavey’s rejection of it. Nobody is criticizing Cavey for putting too much emphasis on Jesus, we are criticizing him for his deficient and incoherent doctrine of Scripture which divides the authority of Jesus from the Scriptures, denies that all of Scripture is the Word of God, and insists that there are errors in the Scriptures. The only way this could be considered merely an issue of emphasis is if Cavey actually AFFIRMED scriptural inerrancy, but simply didn’t emphasize it. That, of course, is not the case, so this is not really an entirely truthful framing of the discussion at hand.
Again, Bruxy Cavey misrepresents the very issue at the center of this entire controversy. Cavey says:
“Radical Reformers (or Anabaptists) tend to talk about Jesus the way Protestant Reformers tend to talk about the Bible: Jesus is our perfect, inerrant, infallible, authority. What Christian would want to argue with that? (Quite a few, apparently, but let’s move on.)”
Let me first say that no Christian wants to argue with somebody saying that “Jesus is our perfect, inerrant, infallible, authority”. For Cavey to say that “quite a few” Christians want to argue with this is not honest. Can he provide examples of the Christians doing so? He certainly doesn’t bother to in this article, or in any other material he has produced to my knowledge. Cavey is just not being honest about the criticism he is receiving.
The issue is not that Protestants say that Scripture “is our perfect, inerrant, infallible, authority”, and Anabaptists say “Jesus is our perfect, inerrant, infallible, authority”. Not at all. Protestants (at least the Protestants who take issue with Cavey’s doctrine of Scripture), would affirm both that Jesus AND Scripture are “our perfect, inerrant, infallible, authority” because we do not divide the authority of Scripture from the authority of Jesus (as I explained in my respones to his first article). We speak of the authority of Scripture and the authority of God/Jesus synonymously because it is the same authority. Bruxy Cavey, on the other hand, drives a wedge of division between the authority of Scripture and the authority of Jesus and places one over the other. This division is an essential denial of the very nature of Scripture as being God-breathed, the speech of God, as Jesus taught (see here) . That’s the real issue, but you will not understand that from reading Cavey’s representation of it. He wants you to think that Protestants don’t think Jesus is “our perfect, inerrant, infallible, authority” but Anabaptists do.
So, immediately in his introduction Bruxy Cavey confuses the entire issue and makes it clear – if you take the inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture seriously this article is not for you. If you are someone with serious concerns regarding Cavey’s doctrine of Scripture, this article is not going to address any of that. He has erected a straw-man and poisoned the well with a misrepresentation of his critics, his own position, and the issues immediately at hand. Unfortunately, this is not the only part of Cavey’s article I found to be less-than-forthcoming, as we will see throughout my response.
Bruxy Cavey’s Transition
Cavey tells of his experience in joining the BIC Canada denomination, having previously been part of a more evangelical denomination. He recounts that he was concerned with the fact that BIC Canada did not affirm inerrancy in their statement of faith and so he approached the Bishop of the BIC at the time with his concerns.
“I remember meeting with the Bishop of the Canadian BIC at that time, Darrel Winger, to ask him about this potentially dangerous omission from the BIC statement of faith. ‘I’m wondering what to make of the absence of inerrancy in your doctrinal statement. Does this mean you believe the Bible is errant?’ Darrel’s response was simple: “It just means we don’t think in those terms. Nothing more and nothing less.” Then he added, ‘But if you hang out with us for any length of time, you’ll see that we believe the Bible is breathed out by God, and as we read it together, God uses the Bible to thoroughly equip us to follow Jesus.’ And that has been precisely my experience with Anabaptism.”
Interestingly, Cavey tells this exact story in this video (at around 42:27), but the name of the Bishop is different:
“When I first came to the Brethren in Christ at that time… I met with the Bishop at the time, Dale Shaw, and said ‘Are you guys liberals? You don’t believe in inerrancy!’ and he explained to me that by not using the word we are not trying to say we are errantists, we’re not trying to say the opposite and say ‘we think the Bible is 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.”
Considering Darrel Winger was sitting at the same table as Bruxy Cavey when he told this story in the video/podcast, I’m not sure who I should think Cavey had this conversation with, but there’s a much bigger issue than that.
First, if Cavey used to affirm Scriptural inerrancy, then why does he have such a hard time representing it accurately and formulating relevant objections to it? As we will see throughout his article, his objections are largely irrelevant, he never deals with the central issues, and his examples of errancy disappear with nothing more than careful examination!
Second, Cavey wants you to believe that just because they don’t use the word “inerrancy” doesn’t mean they are errantists. He wants you to believe that the word inerrancy is simply not part of his denomination’s language, and that they just don’t want to go beyond Scripture to use words that the Scripture doesn’t use. I find this all to be incredibly disingenuous for two reasons.
- It is demonstrably true that Bruxy Cavey, Doug Sider, and Darrel Winger (see the video above) are errantists. They believe that the Bible does, in fact, contain errors, meaning that not all of it is entirely trustworthy. Cavey has taught exactly that on several occassions, INCLUDING within the article I am responding to right now. In this teaching Cavey explicitly stated “Well (Scripture)’s actually showing errancy!”. Sider and Winger (current and former Executive Director of BIC Canada respectively), too, in the video above speak of examples of errors. Sider even distinguishes his view from that of inerrantists with the comment that inerrantists believe everything Scripture says happened “actually occurred” (27:42) and also says the Bible “disagrees with itself”.
- The claim that they just don’t want to use the term inerrant because it’s not a Scriptural term is, frankly, hogwash. Cavey says often that “We believe in the infallible, inerrant, authoritative Word of God – and his name is Jesus”. He does so in this very article. So, Cavey has no problem using the term inerrant in reference to Jesus, yet Scripture never calls him that. Of course, it is a scriptural concept that Jesus is without error so I have no problem with that. But, it is equally a scriptural concept that the Scriptures themselves, being by nature the very speech of God are also without error. So it seems that Cavey’s real issue is not that he is just too concerned with not going beyond specific terms that Scripture uses, he just doesn’t think the Scriptures are free from error! Why not just say that?
I am having serious concerns regarding the level of intellectual honesty we are seeing from Cavey so far.
What Colour is that Herring? – Irrelevant Objections
Inerrancy Only Applies to Original Autographs
In the section headed “The Limitations of Inerrancy”, Cavey explains that inerrantists only apply the concept of inerrancy to the original autographs of the Scriptural text. He also admits that we can be confident that what we have today is very close to the original manuscripts. This is all true.
Then, Cavey goes on to explain that inerrantists should adjust their grammar to more accurately represent this reality. But, we do already. How else would Cavey be able to get so precise on what inerrancy is in this case? All of this is laid out in the Chicago Statement as follows.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
WE DENY that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
Not only have inerrantists been very clear in exactly what we are saying regarding the original autographs, the Exposition section of the Chicago Statement directly addresses Cavey’s objection.
TRANSMISSION AND TRANSLATION
Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.
Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit’s constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
So, Cavey’s entire objection here is answered by a document published in 1978. Errors in translation or transmission are irrelevant to the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy speaks of that which is God-breathed, inspired in nature, not any corruption that may be present in our current Bibles due to the transmission of that text. Errors in transmission are not Scripture. Therefore, when we say that Scripture is inerrant we are providing the accuracy Cavey is asking for. This is just another irrelevant objection based on a poor representation of the position he has come out swinging against.
Cavey’s objection here seems a little disingenuous, however, because his own position is that even the originals, the autographs contained the errors he points out. He may go on about translation or transmission, but those issues are irrelevant when he’s speaking of what he sees as errors in 1 Corinthians 1:14-16, Matthew 27:9-10, Mark 1:2-3, and Titus 1:12-13. Does Cavey think that those “errors” are the result of bad translation or transmission? No, he simply thinks the text, the original text, the inspired text, was in error. So why throw this argument around like so much sand in the air? It seems to me to be a distraction, a red herring, ultimately irrelevant to his own position and to the doctrine of inerrancy.
“Inerrant” focuses on what the Bible is not
Cavey quotes Ben Witherington III speaking to the fact that inerrancy speaks of what the Scriptures are not, rather than what the Scriptures are. According to Cavey, that “puts our focus on the negative, by emphasizing what what Bible is not – errant”. Apparently, that’s an issue with Cavey that somehow impacts the verity of the doctrine. The quote from Witherington says we should focus on the positive, what the Bible is – “truthful and trustworthy”, and that when we say the text is inerrant our position will often “die the death of a thousand qualifications, not to mention you have to define what constitutes an error”.
I’ll make three points about this argument.
- Again, it is irrelevant to the topic. Part of being clear about what something is is being clear about what it is not, especially when it comes to truths that are consistently under attack like the nature of Scripture. The argument has no bearing whatsoever on the veracity of the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy.
- The objection that Scriptural inerrancy “die(s) the death of a thousand qualifications” and “you have to define what constitutes error” cuts both ways. Let’s apply Cavey’s objection to his own view. Cavey says the Scriptures are truthful and trustworthy. Well, in this very article he points out what he imagines to be errors. One of his examples, Titus 1:12-13, is Paul making a statement about the Cretans and specifically saying “this saying is true”. Cavey, though, disagrees and believes it is not true. So, what, exactly does Cavey mean that Scripture is “truthful and trustworthy” while simultaneously holding that something directly affirmed as true by Scripture is actually false? It seems that Cavey would really have to qualify exactly what he means by “truthful and trustworthy” to explain his own doctrine of Scripture as well. He’s going to have to explain what exactly constitutes “truthfulness” and “trustworthiness”, and in the process explain what they are not. In turn his own position would “die the death of a thousand qualifications”.
- Isn’t Cavey guilty of the exact same thing in reference to Jesus when he calls Jesus inerrant and infallible? Isn’t that speaking about what Jesus is not? Again Cavey comes out with a blatant double standard!
This objection is not only completely irrelevant, it exposes a Cavey’s double standard. So why bring it up?
An Unnecessary Assurance?
Cavey says that inerrancy provides “unnecessary assurance” for believers. I whole-heartedly disagree. Inerrancy is epistemologically necessary for the Christian. God is the ultimate authority on all things, and God is truth. Scripture is the Word of God, God speaking, God-breathed. If God has spoken then his speech is necessarily true and ultimately authoritative. Since there is no authority greater than God, there is absolutely no possible way to judge God’s Word for error without assuming that you have some greater knowledge of truth than God himself.
This is the challenge that has been put to Cavey and others like him repeatedly, and which Cavey has apparently decided to ignore – If there are errors in Scripture, then by what ultimate standard are we to know what is true and what is false? On Cavey’s own view how are we all supposed to test the verity of Cavey’s own claims that certain texts are true and some are false?
If inerrancy is not true, if God’s own word is in error, then we have absolutely no way of knowing what is true or false about anything, let alone God, Jesus, the gospel, the church, what constitutes false teaching and how to identify it, etc. Without a sure word from God, Christians are in the same boat as the world that rejects Christ – having nothing objective upon which to ground any of our beliefs. Inerrancy seems a rather necessary assurance.
In one of the most blatant blunders in the article, Cavey Quotes Luke Keefer Jr. to support his claim that biblical inerrancy provides unnecessary assurance.
“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. There is an assumption that the Bible must be defended against certain attacks upon it. But certainly it needs no such defense against people who believe that it is the only complete, reliable, true, and authoritative Word of God.”Luke Keefer, Jr., “Inerrancy” and the Brethren In Christ View of Scripture as cited by Bruxy Cavey in “Radical Christians & the Word of God (part 2 of 3): Inerrancy”
Notice, however, in this this quote Keefer does not deny inerrancy or infallibility. Nor does he claim it that inerrancy or infallibility are entirely unnecessary. He merely affirms the obvious – that it is unnecessary to defend inerrancy and infallibility against those who already believe that the Scripture is “the only complete, reliable, true, and authoritative Word of God”. But Cavey is NOT one of those people. He teaches that not all of Scripture is true and reliable (demonstrated by the examples of error he gives in the very article currently under review), and does not believe that Scripture is the only authoritative Word of God – he divides and distinguishes it’s authority from that of Jesus and denies it’s ultimate authority. Additionally, he is on record saying that Scripture itself is not the “Word of God” (see here).
The quote from Keefer Jr. would imply that the inerrancy of Scripture does need to be defended against those who, like Cavey, deny that it is “the only complete, reliable, true, and authoritative Word of God.” It’s actually an argument against Cavey, not against Inerrantists.
Another objection Cavey throws out there is that an emphasis on inerrancy can miss the forest for the trees. He says:
“Another inadequacy with an emphasis on inerrancy is that it can tend to lead to word legalism. After all, if every word of Scripture is individually important, should we not honour God by staring into each word on its own? Word studies can be very helpful, but if we lean too far in that direction, our Bible study can miss the forest for the trees.”
As Cavey explains, inerrancy can cause us to get too hung up on the individual words of Scripture whereas, he argues, “New Testament writers tend to quote the Old Testament more thought-for-thought than word-for-word, often following closer to the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) rather than the original Hebrew words of Scripture”. In the process, Cavey points out an example of Paul basing his argument in Galatians 3:16 on the specific word “seed” in Genesis 22:18, as well as Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 but adding the words “all your mind”.
Within the Scriptures we see many examples of arguments being based on a single word. Jesus, in Matthew 22:32, based his argument on the tense of a verb in Exodus 3:6. And yes, there are also places where an argument is based on the overall thought of a text. At times the Scriptures are paraphrased, even. Cavey’s error here is that he sets these two aspects of the Scriptural testimony against each other. This is not an either/or scenario, both are necessary. Over-arching thoughts are conveyed by individual words. An over-arching message is, by necessity, an interpretation of the words. Nowhere in Scripture will you find a paraphrase or summary of a text that carries a different meaning than the text being referenced.
In fact, today when two parties disagree over what the thoughts or message of a particular text is, they immediately begin discussing the individual words to prove their case!
For example, Cavey has taught his egalitarian view by citing 1 Timothy 2:11-14. In doing so, he offers his own understanding of the message of the text, a paraphrase of what he sees the text teaching. I wrote an article (here) disputing Cavey’s interpretation of the text based on the fact that his paraphrase was not true to the actual words of the text, but included elements not found there that would be required for his interpretation to be true.
A second example is when Cavey and Brian Zahnd repeatedly paraphrases John 5:37-39 as teaching that you can believe the Bible but completely miss Jesus. I have critiqued that interpretation by demonstrating that their general overview of that text is in error (see here and here). How? By looking at the actual words of those verses and the surrounding text.
So, a paraphrase, summary, or general overview of the message of a particular text is fine, but only insofar as it is faithful to the meaning of the actual words of the text cited. And how do we determine if it is faithful to the actual words? By examining the actual words, of course!
Even Cavey’s example of Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 in Mark 12:30 with the addition of “with all your mind” is not an example of Jesus not being focused on the words of the text, because the Hebrew word for “heart” includes the mind in that context. Jesus was simply expounding upon the meaning of the specific words. It’s not like he introduces some concept which was foreign to the original text.
So, when reading Scripture we should pay attention both to the message of the text as well as the words used to convey that message. That’s the Scriptural example, as well as the only possible way that the message of Scripture is intelligible.
Finally, this objection is irrelevant to the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy. Inerrancy has to do with whether everything the Scriptures say are true or not. How is this perceived problem of “word legalism” supposed to function as an objection to inerrancy? Cavey doesn’t say.
This objection seems to be another irrelevant distraction from the real issue. Cavey’s own examples prove the opposite of what he is asserting. It seems to me that Cavey is just trying to throw out as many objections as possible, regardless of their relevance to the issue!
Bruxy Cavey’s Defense
The Anabaptist Approach
After a brief historical excursion, Bruxy Cavey addresses the Anabaptist approach to inerrancy. He claims that Anabaptists “don’t talk about biblical ‘inerrancy’ positively or negatively. It isn’t our language.” He then makes an attempt to lay out an Anabaptist approach to the doctrine of inerrancy. 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. For Anabaptists, we are less concerned about the language of inerrancy as we are about using the Bible, Old and New Testaments, to help us see Jesus clearly and follow him faithfully.”
Dr. Rich Davis (Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Tyndale University College) has addressed this statement from Cavey on his blog here.
I will try not to overlap Dr. Davis too much, but I must address these claims from Bruxy Cavey. I will deal with each one as it pertains to Bruxy Cavey himself, and not all Anabaptists or “Radical Christians”. The claims, and my brief responses are as follows:
Claim #1 – What the Bible means to teach it does so perfectly.
Response – By what criteria does Cavey determine what the Bible intends to teach? Titus 1:12-13 specifically affirms that what it says “is true”, but Cavey says it’s not true. So, does Cavey believe that the Bible does not intend to teach that? What else does the Bible specifically say to be true that is not? What objective standard did he use to come to the conclusion that the Bible is intending to teach the opposite of what it says? If the Bible can specifically claim a particular statement “is true”, yet it is NOT true, then he had better let us know what his standard of truth is, or else this claim of his lacks intellectual honesty.
Claim #2 – Cavey does not object to the idea of inerrancy. He does not speak of it positively or negatively.
Response – This is patently and demonstrably false. Cavey is on record saying that both the word and concept of inerrancy are false. I have documented that here. When Cavey speaks of inerrancy as hindering evangelism, discrediting Christ, and leading to bibliolotry, is that not speaking of inerrancy negatively? Is that not an objection? Wait, isn’t the current article under review an objection to inerrancy since it critiques it and contradicts it?
Granted, in this context Cavey is saying he does not object to the statement that the Bible is inerrant, if by inerrant it is meant that it is inerrant in everything it teaches and is ‘to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms’. But we have seen that even this definition is not consistent with Cavey’s position either.
So, Cavey equivocates on the term inerrancy. That should be obvious in the fact that within the same article Cavey claims to “align with” and “say amen” to inerrancy, and also offer several arguments against inerrancy!
Furthermore, as I demonstrated here, Cavey is on record in 2016 denouncing the very definition he provides here as a “maneuver” of those who want to appear to affirm inerrancy when they do not! He objected to this maneuver saying “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”. So by his own testimony he is pulling a fast-one on his audience.
This is just a mass of confusion. If we put together everything Cavey has said about inerrancy in the very article under review and elsewhere, and then consider this paragraph, we would come to the conclusion that the following are simultaneously true:
- Bruxy Cavey does not affirm inerrancy.
- Bruxy Cavey affirms and aligns with inerrancy.
- Bruxy Cavey thinks inerrancy is a dangerous concept.
- Bruxy Cavey does not speak negatively or positively about inerrancy.
- Bruxy Cavey is not an errantist.
- Bruxy Cavey believes the Scriptures are errant.
- Bruxy Cavey says “AMEN” to the statement that the Scripture is “to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms”
- The Scriptures affirm some things that are not true.
- Inerrancy is the doctrine that the Bible is truthful in all it intends to teach.
- Inerrancy is not the doctrine that the Bible is truthful in all it intends to teach (that’s infallibility).
Forgive me if I fail to see the consistency here that would be necessary for a coherent position.
Cavey’s Examples of Errancy
Following his claims that he aligns with inerrancy and is not an errantist, Cavey proceeds to provide “examples of errancy” (his words for the same examples in this podcast and in this video). We will examine these examples for the strength of Cavey’s argumentation, as well as consistency with his claim that he aligns with inerrancy.
Example #1: Paul Forgetting
Cavey cites 1 Corinthians 1:14-16 and claims the text is in error because Paul says he only baptized Crispus and Gaius in Corinth, then adds the household of Stephanus, then says he forgets who else he baptized.
Dr Rich Davis has addressed this example here.
Cavey explains this specific “error” in this video like this:
“What do I do with a doctrine of inerrancy over a passage like this? 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 this? Which part of it is inerrant? Well, it’s actually showing errancy!”
The fact of the matter is that this text simply teaches that of the believers in the Corinthian church Paul knows of Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanus as those he had baptized. He adds the household of Stephanus in the way he does because he is simply recollecting that Stephanus and his household now resided in Corinth, though they were originally saved and baptized in Achaia (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:15). He says that he doesn’t know for certain if he baptized anyone else who is in the Corinthian church, probably because he’s not sure if anyone else had moved there who he had originally baptized in other locations, as had been the case with the household of Stephanus. John Gill (1797-1771) says in his commentary on the passage:
“‘I know not whether I baptized any other’; meaning at Corinth, for he might have baptized, and doubtless did baptize many more in other places, for anything that is here said to the contrary: of this he would not be positive; for though he might fully know, and well remember, on recollection, who, and how many, were baptized by him with his own hands there, yet he could not tell but that some persons might have removed thither, and become members of the church in that place, who had been baptized by him elsewhere.”Gill, John. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:16”. “The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible”. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-corinthians-1.html. 1999.
Notice, though, how uncharitable Cavey is with the text. Paul qualifies his statements and is clear in what he is saying, but Cavey ignores that and atomizes each part of the passage as if Paul is just some kind of idiot who cannot string together a coherent sentence. When you listen to him present this he adds pauses and deliberately reads it in such a way as to make it sound like Paul was just sitting there confused, scratching his head, just not really sure if he’ll ever get this darn sentence out right! There’s no reason to read it that way unless you are intent on twisting the text to fit your desired conclusions.
Additionally, Cavey offers what he calls the “Evangelical Commentary” on this text as an example of how an inerrantist would reconcile it with the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. He says:
Evangelical Commentary: Here God sovereignly inspires his inerrant Word so as to show us how God uses imperfect people to carry out his perfect plan.
Rather simplistic, isn’t it? By imperfect people does he mean not omniscient? Is this anywhere close to the explanation given above? It makes me wonder if Cavey has ever bothered to even punch this text into Google and spend five minutes reading the commentary that has been offered.
So, there is no error here. Cavey doesn’t show any familiarity with the text in question or the commentary offered which would be consistent with scriptural inerrancy. This example (along with the others below), DOES serve another purpose, though. Cavey affirms in teaching this verse that this is an example of errancy, meaning that he is an errantist (despite his claim that he is not) speaking negatively of inerrancy (which he claimed he doesn’t do) which negates the possibility that he aligns with inerrancy (which he claimed he does). This example alone puts the lie to three claims he has made in this article. What are we to think of such blatantly contradictory statements, all on the same topic, all made by the same man in a single article?
Example #2: Matthew and Mark Mislabeling
This example is one that is directly addressed by The Chicago Statement. Cavey claims that in both Matthew 27:9-10 and Mark 1:2-3, the gospel writers are mistaken in how they cite the prophets. He further asserts that the Matthew example demonstrates that Matthew was not concerned with specific wording, but rather the message of the texts he cites.
First, Cavey acknowledges that it was conventional in the context in which the writers of Scripture found themselves to cite the prophets in this way. Well, if that’s true (it is), then what Mark wrote is not an error. He cited the text exactly how he would have been expected to when he wrote it. The Chicago Statement specifically addresses the use of this kind of citation. Article XIII says:
WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Article XIII
WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.
So when Cavey says he aligns with the definition of inerrancy he cited from The Chicago Statement earlier in this post, he cannot mean that he aligns with the authors’ intended meaning of that definition, because here he is directly contradicting it.
Again, Cavey’s example is no example at all. It has no bearing on the veracity of the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. In fact, the Chicago Statement directly addresses exactly this type of objection.
Example #3 – Paul’s Slander
Cavey’s final example is Titus 1:12-13 where he accuses Paul of sinful slander. Cavey insists that this is an example of Paul behaving like a racist.
Dr. Davis addressed this supposed error here.
Bruxy Cavey here says that even though Paul was wrong, slanderous, and racist, this text is still “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)”. How, you might ask? Well, by giving us an example of how not to act. Cavey says “Paul’s morally problematic slip has been providentially included as part of the process by which God teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us.” Sure, the text specifically says “this saying is true”, but it’s not. Sure, the text never indicates that the purpose of these verses is to demonstrate the slanderous example that we are NOT to follow, but Bruxy Cavey would rather look at it that way, impugn the Apostle with grievous sin, and call the truth of the Scriptures into question.
This example is specifically helpful in exposing the incoherence and inconsistencies of Cavey’s view.
First, 2 Timothy 3:16 is specifically referring to that which is God-breathed. Cavey applies it to this text, which he calls slander, so, by necessity, Cavey is saying that God breathed (spoke) slander.
Second, by what standard does Cavey determine that a statement specifically affirmed as true in Scripture is actually false? By what standard can we judge whether what Cavey says or what Scripture says is true? I’ve been asking for this standard for a while (my very first article here), but Cavey has never bothered to provide it. Until he is able to produce such an authoritative standard, I have no reason to believe him over that which is God-breathed.
Third, this text has a certain context. Paul is writing to Titus with specific instructions in how to minister in Crete. How was Titus supposed to understand this instruction from Paul? Did Titus presume sin and error on Paul’s part? Is it Bruxy Cavey’s claim that Titus understood this as an example of how not to act when he read these instructions from Paul?
Fourth, there is a reasonable, consistent explanation of this text that does not require us to admit error, nor to accuse Paul of grievous sin. Cretans at the time were, to some degree, evil, lazy, etc. There’s no reason to reject that unless one has some pre-commitment that requires this text to be in error.
Fifth, Cavey just said “AMEN” to the statement that Scripture is ‘to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms’. Well, when the Scripture says “this saying is true” and leaves us no hint whatsoever that it is not true, what could that be other than affirmation?
I’d like to conclude by quoting Bruxy Cavey’s own conclusion in his article.
“Anabaptists and Evangelicals (and other Christians) may disagree about how we talk about the Bible, but if we listen closely to each other, look past the rhetoric, and try not to kill each other, we’ll see brothers and sisters with a similar heart to honour God’s Word.”
It’s true, Bruxy Cavey talks about the Bible differently than I do. I guess you could say that was what piqued my interest in his material. I have listened closely to him. I have peeled back the rhetoric of what he says about Scripture (and other doctrines). I have not ever attempted to kill him. But, in all of my examination of his doctrine of Scripture I have not found a brother with a similar heart to honour God’s Word.
I have instead found a man who consistently misrepresents God’s Word as well as those he disagrees with. I have demonstrated that the vast majority of his argumentation relies on empty rhetoric, utterly irrelevant to the topic. I have found a man who adds to and twists Scripture to support his own views (see here and here and here). I have found a man who is more than willing to hand his pulpit (if you want to call it that) to other men who are even more dishonest and flagrant in their rejection and mockery of Scripture (one example here). I have found a man willing to even misrepresent the history of this issue (documented and responded to here and here). I have found a man who, when called out for doing these things responds in less-than-honest ways about his own positions and his critics (see here and here).
For me, the most concerning aspect of all this the complete lack of intellectual honesty in Cavey’s arguments. It seems to me he’s not even serious. I have no reason, based on his public behaviour and teaching, to believe that he is actually interested in honesty. I have even less reason to believe he is a brother with a heart to honour God’s Word. At the very least he is utterly disqualified to be in a position of pastoring a church or filling a pulpit.