Noted apologist and Bible teacher Jeff Cavins has hosted EWTN shows, led pilgrimages around the world, and written several books, including My Life on the Rock, Walking with God: A Journey Through the Bible, I’m Not Being Fed, and the Amazing Grace Series. A central characteristic of his work has been the study and teaching of Sacred Scripture, demonstrated in his well-known Great Adventure Bible Study program, which was created nearly twenty years ago, and the new Great Adventure Catholic Bible, published by Ascension Press. The Great Adventure Catholic Bible has proven to be very popular and, due to high demand, continues to sell out.
Cavins recently spoke to CWR about his background, the Bible, and his catechetical and evangelistic work.
CWR: Can you give us some background about your background and your ministries and apostolates. Like myself, you are a “revert” to the Catholic faith. What made you return to Catholicism?
Jeff Cavins: I was raised in an average Catholic home in Minnesota, in the 1960s and 70s. We were just an average family in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. I was an athlete and a voracious reader.
In my junior year of high school, I started to ask the serious questions: what’s it all about, and why are we here? I was reading a lot of books on meditation and Eastern religions, exploring different things. I began to speak to a young lady about Jesus, and I had never heard anyone talk about him like that before—she was talking like she really knew him.
After several months, as I was driving home one night, I pulled over on the side of the road and started to cry. I told God that I needed him in my life. When I prayed, something happened, and I knew that, for the rest of my life, I would be telling people about Jesus. I heard the voice of the Lord, and knew that this was why I was put on the earth.
At first, this was not welcomed in my home—talking about being a “born-again Christian,” being “saved,” and so forth. I went to Bible college in Dallas, then studied broadcasting, and then went to North Dakota. It was there that I left the Catholic Church. I actually yelled at a bishop (the late Bishop Michael Driscoll of the Diocese of Boise) in public, during a service, and he asked me if I wanted to talk. Bishop Driscoll eventually told me that I would return to the Catholic Church.
I became a Protestant pastor for fifteen years, and it was there that I began really studying Scripture and the Jewish roots of Christianity. I later started teaching at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, including working with Scott Hahn. I later got started with EWTN, and got to work with Mother Angelica with shows such as “Our Father’s Plan” and “Life on the Rock.”
CWR: What makes the Great Adventure Catholic Bible unique?
Cavins: We have inserted the Great Adventure Bible Timeline, and instructions for readers on how to read the Bible chronologically. We wanted people to be able to understand “the story” of God’s plan for us within the Bible. The Church tells us to read Scripture, but it is rare for Catholics to know how to read it.
CWR: Why would you say that Catholics need to know the Bible better?
Cavins: Catholics need to know the Bible better because of what is in the Bible. It is Divine Revelation, and contains God’s plan for our salvation.
People are not looking for pithy sayings; we are looking for the meaning of life: how do I fit into this, and what is the plan? We need to know both the theology and the economy of God. We need to know the mystery of the Trinity, and the heart of the Father. Catholics are in desperate need of going beyond pop culture gurus. We need to know that this is an eternal plan.
While many Catholics may know parts of the Bible, many do not know the overall plan. The main way of receiving Divine Revelation is through Scripture and the guidance of the Church.
CWR: The Church is going through some very rough times; what are your hopes for the future of the Church?
Cavins: That we will become a people who are disciples of Jesus, not just believers who say “Yes, we believe what the Church teaches.” We need to follow Jesus, to imitate him, to do his work, as I talk about in my new book, The Activated Disciple: Taking Your Faith to the Next Level. Jesus did not somehow “stop” at the end of his public ministry; rather, he gave us the task to continue to his work.
We have the unfortunate situation that many people might “agree” with Jesus, who is inside of them, but do not want to let him out—he is like a prisoner who wants to come out of them, into the world. It is not so much a matter of agreeing with what he teaches as it is having a willingness to have an active faith. We must remember Galatians 2:20: “Yet, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
The culture has many “gods”: sports, money, sex, power, etc., and we need to refocus our attention on serving God.
CWR: What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?
Cavins: It’s probably the one that I gave you: Galatians 2:20. That, to me, is my life verse. I remember memorizing it for the first time, on a ten-hour drive in the car, back in 1981. I realized that there was nothing more central in my life. So, that became my favorite verse, and every time I want to do my own thing, my own will, I am constantly reminded of the movie “Dead Man Walking,” that “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:19b). There is no point in forming my own agenda; I am created to be like Christ.
CWR: Do you have any other thoughts for our readers?
Cavins: I do. My advice is, when it comes to the Bible, don’t be afraid and don’t think that this is for theologians alone. In Scripture, our heavenly Father comes to us. It is divine accommodation, divine condescension, baby language, really, of a Father lowering himself to speak with his children.
In our culture today, people are fearful and unaware of how to form their lives, so they listen to talk shows, social media, and so forth. As my friend Scott Hahn says, Scripture is like a sandbox: get in there and have fun, get to know the Word of God! Scripture draws us closer to the Lord, who wants to reign in our hearts.