Calvary Chapel “Verse by Verse Teaching through the Bible”
The Pharisees often prided themselves in having a solid understanding of the scriptures and for teaching them. They studied the scriptures in detail and yet Jesus says of them, “you search the scriptures, for in them you think that you have eternal life but these are they that testify of me.” (John 5:39)
Jesus indicates that it is possible to study the scriptures, to comment on the scriptures, to read and to teach the scriptures and yet miss the forest for the trees. The fact that someone has a process of working through the scriptures in a sermon series: verse by verse, chapter by chapter and book by book does not guarantee that the person is handling the text rightly. To mutilate a George Orwell quote, “math doesn’t lie, but liars use math.” In like manner the Bible doesn’t lie, but liars use the Bible! Reading the text verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book is not a fool proof way to guarantee the text is taught in context or that the full counsel of God is being proclaimed. So often I have heard Calvary Chapel pastors read texts verse by verse and use them as platforms to tell stories about unrelated concepts, newspaper prophecy, or as a comedy routine. Teaching verse by verse does not excuse anyone from the false handling of scriptures.
In the book, “Calvary Distinctives” Chuck Smith makes the mistake of assuming that by going through the bible in this manner he is guaranteeing the proper handling of the text. To quote him, “Yet, it’s so important to take the people through the Word, line upon line, precept by precept. When we do, we are delivering to them the whole counsel of God.” Ironically, he is quoting Isaiah 28:13 and Acts 20:27 out of context. In the context of “line upon line, precept upon precept” it is presented as a curse so “that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” The reference to Paul being “innocent the blood of all men because he did not shun to declare the full counsel of God” comes from the book of Acts (Acts 20:27). Paul is referencing his prior statement in v20 “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable” and Ezekial 33:8, “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” These are not proof texts stating that the only legitimate method of teaching the bible is verse by verse, nor does it indicate that by teaching verse by verse you are guaranteed to handle it rightly.
I am amazed, no longer being in Calvary Chapel, learning how much of the Scriptures I have missed out on over the course of seven years. The mystery passages of Hebrews 6, Hebrews 9, Acts 2, Romans 9, John 6 and the many other passages that made absolutely no sense without the God of the covenant, the doctrines of grace or election now make complete sense and glorify Christ and His work. Old Testament passages no longer require complicated charts to understand, they too speak of Christ.
Calvary Chapel is quite often guilty of reading the recently invented dispensational view of scriptures into texts that are actually speaking of Christ. In this sense they search the scriptures for in them they think they ‘can interpret the newspapers’ or ‘tell the future’, but these are they that speak of Christ! This is typical of end-time movements. Having gone through the scriptures with Chuck Smith on tape and taking notes; I am amazed, looking back, at how many times Old Testament illustrations of Christ’s first coming and ascension are mistaken for pictures of a secret rapture… Or how Daniel’s prophecy of the first coming are mistaken for the dispensational “third coming.”
Texts are often grossly mutilated. I have heard more than one Calvary Chapel pastor entertain cultist myths of Angels having sexual relations with men and talks of aliens by Chuck Missler. I have also heard all of Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith and Jon Courson teach that Col 3:15 tells us how to hear the mystical voice of God “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” when in fact it is in context teaching the unity of the body of Christ! I can’t count the number of times I have heard this verse of scripture used to teach the modern evangelical equivalent of the Mormon “burning bosom sensation.” In fact I have a Greg Laurie booklet for new believers that explains this bizarre pagan practice to, the soon to be confused, new converts who are never sure why they don’t hear God speak to them as clearly as he seems to speak to everyone else.
I am often humbled by the fact that I remained in Calvary as long as I did. I honestly thought we were teaching the bible, I honestly thought these were respected views of scripture and I honestly thought we proclaimed “the full counsel of God.” Instead, we mocked those who took the time to learn the original languages, we mocked the reformation martyrs who brought us out of Rome, we mocked the Puritans who established America, we mocked the Biblical mandate for Pastors to be dedicated to prayer and the study of scripture. We rejected the sovereign grace of God. Seminary was called cemetery and we replaced learning with the babbling’s and regurgitation’s of the Pope: the bishop of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith. We went back to Rome.