What the Jennifer Knapp Controversy Teaches About Depravity and Witness

If you haven’t kept up with the Jennifer Knapp on Larry King Live ordeal, you can watch the entire exchange and a little bit of commentary here. The purpose of this post is not to develop an entire biblical theology of sexuality or to comprehensively develop the biblical view. Rather, I want to operate under the assumption that the Bible is inspired/inerrant and that both homosexual desire and homosexual acts are both displeasing to God. The purpose, then, is to help us see the “tricks” of those who want to discredit God’s Word and to equip us to navigate our way through such attacks in a manner that speaks to the heart.

In light of that purpose, the past two Sunday’s I’ve preached on John 7:1-24, where we saw that that the world hates Jesus, called him crazy in an attempt to discredit the truth, and even attempted to kill him, simply because he confronted them about their personal sin.

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. – 7:7, words of Jesus

In this same context, then, Jesus tells these unbelievers that that their problem is a moral one; they do not want to submit to God and His will. He says,

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

Piper writes this concerning this verse,

Jesus is saying that the basic reason why people do not own up to the truth of what he teaches is not that they lack sufficient evidence, but that their wills—or we could say their hearts—are against God. The fundamental problem is not intellectual but moral. The great obstacle to recognizing the truth of Christ is not deficient resources but deep rebellion against God. People cannot see and recognize the truth of Christ’s teaching because the prevailing tendency of their will is insubordination against the authority of God.

Jesus is not physically present on the earth today; He rose and ascended to heaven. However, the rejection and persecution that He received is now received by the Church, his body upon the earth (cf. Acts 9:4). I think the Jennifer Knapp interview on Larry King Live demonstrates the tactics that the world and its god will try to use against the truth and true believers, just like they tried against Jesus.

These fall under two categories — discrediting both message and messenger.

Ad Hominem with intent to discredit the messenger. How many times did Jennifer resort to sarcasm and questioning the motives of the evangelical pastor?

She says,

You do not know me, and don’t have the right to speak to me in the manner which you have publicly.

Notice the irony here? She accuses Botsford of judging her!

Twisting the Truth with intent to discredit the message. Naturally, she goes right after the Bible with a strategy that was first used in the Garden of Eden by Satan himself, “Has God really said?” She tries to explain that because the Bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew that we can’t be certain about the translation of it, while simultaneously calling the Scripture, “sacred text!”

She says,

There are a lot of well-studied academics — both believers and seekers of God and those who are just purely trying to understand what the sacred text means to all of us — that really put question on how we’ve interpreted the words, what is it malikos and arsenokitai. There are two Greek words that we have substituted in our English language as homosexuality, which didn’t actually exist in my understanding of a lot of Greek language experts in the manner in which we use it.

Seemingly drawing upon the work of John Boswell, she tries to argue that the two Greek words in question don’t really refer to homosexuality. She doesn’t really understand the issue; however, the simple presence of the controversy is all she needs in a fast-moving venue like Larry King Live, and her mission of discrediting the authority and clarity of the Word is completed in many hearts and minds of listeners.The problem, though, with this approach is that it ignores the larger context and general thrust of biblical teaching. The biblical case that homosexuality is a sin is not bound up in simply the meaning of these two words; the case is much, much larger. The words in question are not even used in Romans 1, which is the clearest biblical case, and especially not in Leviticus, which is written in Hebrew!

If that weren’t enough, in response to Pastor Botsford’s assertion that the Scriptures are inspired, she attacks the idea of an inspired text of Scripture; she says,

Am I not inspired by God because I am filled with love for you, for my partner, for my family?

Does she really want us to believe that she is inspired in the same sense that the Scriptures are? But she continues and calls the text “mysterious” over and over again. Are mysterious themes developed in the Bible? Absolutely. But what has been plainly revealed is ours to obey, not to discount.

What to do?

The most powerful apologetic in this situation is to speak the Word of God for the glory of God, apart from self-interest.

Jennifer, at one point, tried to make this a game of superior morality. She said,

So, why are we — why am I — why aren’t you in this seat and I’m in the other seat condemning you on national television?

Jesus said,

The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. – John 7:18

In situations like these, then, we must insist that we are not speaking on our own authority, but that we are simply reiterating what God has already said. Botsford tried to do this — simply getting back to the Bible and grounding his position upon it.

We must not stop there, though, for the Word of God itself can be communicated by the messenger in such a fashion that it still communicates that we have personal glory to be gained from its acceptance and truthfulness. If we want to be a miserable failure (Botsford wasn’t) in our witness for and defense of Christ and his gospel, then we must talk about how morally exemplary we are and pretend that we are intellectually superior as well. We must allow the gospel to shape our apologetical speech and redeem it from the baseness of the genre called argumentation. May God give us grace in these situations to speak about the badness of our personal sin while simultaneously speaking about how big and costly the perfect sacrifice was.

Vincent explains,

If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved…Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations.

We strip our message of our own glory and self-interest when we focus our message upon Jesus Christ and him crucified for our pathetic, sinful selves.

  1. #1 by David Morse on April 26, 2010 - 12:25 pm

    I think the best statement in this post is when you say, “The most powerful apologetic in this situation is to speak the Word of God for the glory of God, apart from self-interest.”

    Sometimes we think that this is “all” we can do with these people, yet we forget that this is the most powerful apologetic, because it doesn’t rest in human logic or conjuration. It is the Word of an omniscient God who knew of human depravity which would try to discredit His Word before these situations ever arose.

    I think sometimes that these people are pointless to argue with, but then I remember, I was just like them… a sinner, in a darkened state, blinded without the truth, yet for me, God so graciously saw fit to save me when I came to Him in faith. Then, I remember, God can do that for them as well.

  2. #2 by David Morse on April 26, 2010 - 12:36 pm

    Wow! It wasn’t until actually watching the video that I realized who this “Jennifer Knapp” was. It is very upsetting to realize that I listened to her music when I was a younger teenager. I don’t want to cause a music controversy, but in seeing this video and story, it is sad to see yet another “CCM” artist who has fallen away from the faith that they once proclaimed in song. In my mind, this is just another reason I am wary of the CCM industry and it’s bridging effects into the mainstream popular music industry.

  3. #3 by Dave on April 26, 2010 - 2:09 pm

    David, while a conservative musician could just as easily have a public sin-issue, I think the issue at hand with much of the industry is just that, it’s an industry. It has an entertainment focus and is not really fashioned for the church in a local sense.

  4. #4 by Siew on April 26, 2010 - 2:39 pm

    Hey Dave, thanks for the post. My friend and I listened to much of the LKL, and I found myself a bit frustrated with the way the conversation drifted off to shellfish and when Botsford said, a little hurriedly, “God changed His mind.” Other than that misstep, he needed some back up and had none. The whole “you’re judging her” bit was overdone as well. If he had more time and fewer interruptions, I’d like to think that after giving the gospel, he would then discuss sanctification and how we surrender our sins to God…even those deeply ingrained sins that we imagine aren’t bad at all, they’re “just how I am.” …Thank God for at least a pretty competent defense of the Biblical stance, it was more than I expected from LKL.


    PS- I think by the 4th part I was willing to give money if Haggard would only give a clear yes or no answer…

  5. #5 by Ben on April 26, 2010 - 5:30 pm

    I don’t intend to comment on the music side of the issue, because like Pastor Dave said, these types of sins can happen to any of us, and I’m sure we all know of pastors/musicians from the side of Fundamentalism that have fallen too. And I think that despite that we still have people from both sides of the spectrum producing Gospel centered music that has strong theology (i.e. The Wilds, Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team, and Sovereign Grace Ministries to name a few). So with that I will comment on what I noticed from these videos. Some of my observations have already been made by some of you.

    Like was already mentioned, I think Pastor Bob Botsford did a very good job at presenting the Gospel clearly, except for the part about the shellfish, when he said that “God changed His mind.” I don’t think that it was necessarily said intentionally though.

    Before I share my main concern, I want to say that from the different interaction I have had with the counseling faculty at school, and the personal experiences I have seen from friends of the family, I truly believe that a homosexual CAN be a believer. A homosexual is just someone who struggles with lust. It may be a different form of lust than others, but lust is lust. A friend of mine who has been married a long time and even has 4 kids, 3 of them already married, left his wife because he “thought” he was a homosexual. After several years, he has now given up the lifestyle, returned to church, and is allowing the Holy Spirit to work in his life and repair his marriage.

    Now, my main concern is with Pastor Haggard. He did not help the situation any, and he could not even say whether or not he believed homosexuality is a sin. Instead he answered, “The main concern we should have is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ….we should not judge others because we were once like them…” Although I do believe the personal relationship with Christ is of utmost importance and that His sacrifice covers all sin, it is not a license to continue in a habitual lifestyle of sin (Romans 6 – “…Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?”) Sorry for writing a book! Maybe it’s getting close to the time for me to start my own blog! 🙂


  6. #6 by Ben on April 26, 2010 - 5:41 pm

    Just thought I would add this link. This is an excellent article written by Trevin Wax and he stresses four main points on how we can better address this in our churches as believers, and better minister to those who are struggling.


  7. #7 by clearly on April 29, 2010 - 6:18 am

    @Siew, I think your point about discussing sanctification would have been really really helpful!

    @Ben, thanks for the comments. Jesus is certainly powerful enough to transform people in any sinful state…we need to keep that in mind. He transformed us through his death and resurrection when we were pitiful ourselves, just in a different way.

  8. #8 by Tim on April 29, 2010 - 10:02 am

    Remember the good ol’ days when the biggest scandal in CCM was divorce?

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