Bruxy Cavey is an author and influential Canadian pastor, leading the third largest church in Canada and nineteen regional sites. One of the ways that he uses his influence is to argue for a way of reading Scripture, which includes non-violence and a Jesus-focused faith. In his most recent article, he argued, for example, that Jesus, not the Bible, should be the ultimate authority for Christians.
I don’t find Cavey’s arguments for this position to be convincing. And while I am not responding to his entire argument in this article, I would like to highlight three of his points and consider whether or not they are persuasive.
Cavey argues that Jesus and not the Bible is the ultimate authority
He writes, “We trust the Bible, like John’s disciples trusted him, and we do what the Bible instructs us to do – submit to the authority of Jesus.” It’s hard to argue with Bruxy here until you consider what else he says:
Many Protestant Christians say things like “We follow the Bible”, or will talk about the “authority of the Bible”, or say that Scripture is “inerrant”. As a Radical Christian, these are things I would tend to say about Jesus first and foremost. I follow Jesus. Jesus holds all authority. And Jesus is the perfect one, without error.
So by following Jesus in this way, Cavey seems to split Jesus’ authority from the Bible’s authority. But does this really make sense?
In short, no.
When the risen Jesus met two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he did not point to himself but to Scripture and to the breaking of bread. These are two ways that Jesus remains among us while being absent from us, namely, through Scripture and the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus means for us to see the Bible as an authority that sufficiently makes Christ present to us. In our meditation of it, we let the word of Christ dwell within us richly (Col 3:16).
I would also argue that separating the Bible from Jesus in the way that Cavey has done doesn’t match the biblical idiom about the Holy Spirit and the Godhead. When Scripture speaks, the Spirit speaks: “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says … ” (Heb 3:7).
Since when Scripture speaks the Spirit speaks, then it makes no sense to say that Jesus is authoritative not the Bible. Is Jesus more authoritative than the Spirit? God is one. He speaks with one voice whether the red letters of Jesus or the letters of the Spirit in Leviticus.
Why should only the red letters of Scripture be allowed to interpret other Scripture (namely, the OT)? If the Spirit speaks in Scripture (Heb 3:7), then why cannot we let God speak when he speaks? It’s all from God. All inspired. And all authoritative because it’s all of God.
Christ speaks in Scripture whether in red letters or in spiritual words. If not in the Bible, where else can we find the authoritative words of God?
Cavey also argues that Sola Scriptura produces bad fruit
According to Cavey, the Reformers’ doctrine of Sola Scripture produced bad fruit like division and violence. The reason, as mentioned above, is because Protestants compared Scripture with Scripture without privileging the words of Jesus.
The Protestant Reformers missed such central teaching of Jesus because they balanced it with every other teaching in the Bible as a way of maintaining their commitment to “the authority of Scripture”.
And so the Reformers misread the Bible because they interpreted Scripture by Scripture. At least, according to Bruxy.
I might like to respond by bringing to light evidence from the whole history of Christianity in which Christians have read the whole Bible and used Scripture to interpret Scripture. And while the Faith has had its up and downs, it has thrived.
And so has the Reformed church (yes, after some horrible wars). In any case, I am not sure we can judge the success of a Bible-centered movement by a hundred years of violence. What about the 300 years of non-violence? And what if some of that violence was thrust upon the Reformers? And what about the prior 1,500 years in which Christians interpreted Scripture with Scripture?
The analogy of Scripture is an ancient doctrine, contained in the Bible itself. If you read the New Testament, you will soon realize that the New Testament authors cited the Old Testament near continually. They used Scripture to interpret Jesus!
And so I am not convinced that the analogy of faith (Scripture interprets Scripture) produces bad fruit. It’s not a good argument. And it’s not true.
Cavey further argues that Jesus’ words should interpret the rest of Scripture
He writes, “And, catch this, what we learn about Jesus from the Bible should inform how we read everything else in the Bible.” So Jesus’ teachings (i.e., the red letters) should guide how we interpret the rest of the Old Testament. And this seems to justify, for example, not following the violent passages from the Old Testament.
Cavey seems to agree with or at least follow partially Greg Boyd’s cruciform hermeneutic. Boyd argues that we should interpret the Bible according to the cross. So the Old Testament may not accurately portray God. The cross does.
Cavey similarily privileges the teaching of Jesus over the rest of the Bible. So the violence in the Old Testament, for example, does not carry over to the New Testament because we follow Jesus, not the Bible.
Now my response is that Cavey’s view misconstrues the Spirit’s role and the Godhead. God by his providence through his Spirit inspired all Scripture to be a unified witness of the Triune God. Jesus led Israel out of the wilderness, gave the law at Sinai, and followed them in the wilderness.
Jesus gave the Torah, and he sent fire down on Sodom (Gen 19).
The same God does one work in the whole Bible in various ways. The cross shows God’s love, and Jesus uniquely reveals God to humanity. But God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I don’t find Cavey’s arguments persuasive because Jesus gives his authoritative teaching in the Bible, because Scripture does interpret Scripture and bears good fruit, and because God is the same in the Old Testament as he is in the New Testament.