I recently read an interview with Christian artist, singer, songwriter Jennifer Knapp in which she not only announced her comeback to her music career after a seven year hiatus, but that she’s “come out of the closet” as a lesbian who has been in a same-sex relationship for the last eight years. This may come as a shock to Christian music fans, but this news is actually a few months old and is all over the internet.
I am not writing this post to condemn Knapp or spread lashon hara or to gay bash. The reason for this post is to show how traditional Christian interpretation of the Bible can be used to justify any sin, behavior or lifestyle. The traditional Christian perspective on the Bible and its focus on grace being opposed to the Law has provided the ammunition for tens of thousands of people around the globe to justify sinful lifestyles (not in the least bit limited to homosexuality).
Over the last decade I’ve heard of many Christian musicians “coming out of the closet,” (many of which hit you out of nowhere), many scandalous lifestyles, many countless adulterous relationships, divorce, drug addictions, etc. Why should one more be newsworthy? The reason Knapp’s confession makes the top of my news is because she was honest. What do I mean by that? Let’s listen to her own words.
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your faith or your gay feelings?
Knapp: Yes. Absolutely.
Because you felt they were incompatible?
Knapp: Well, everyone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person—and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith.
What about what Scripture says on the topic?
Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.1
Notice her reference to Torah (the Law given to Moses):
“I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics.”
This is where she’s completely honest. If I were to put it in more plain terms, she’s saying, “If you can pick and choose what you want to obey in the Bible, so can I.” There it is. Hypocrisy in full swing. Unfortunately, the Evangelical Church has so much demonized the Hebrew Scriptures and their application to the Believer, that we no longer have a moral compass by which we are directed. We have reverted back to the days of the Judges in which “every man did right in his own eyes.”
What Jennifer Knapp is saying here is the truth of the matter. If we can justify living lives contrary to the directives of Hebrew Scriptures, saying that they are no longer authoritative, why should the New Testament Scriptures be any different? The Hebrew Scriptures were valid for the world for around two thousand years until Christianity decided they were no longer valid. Now the Christian Scriptures have had their fair shake for the last two thousand. Why should they be relevant any longer either? If God can abrogate his Word once, why can’t He do it again?
What makes a Christian any different from a “moral pagan” these days other than a creed? This is why Torah is invaluable, and the missing component in our walk of faith. If we want to stop justifying our sins, and truly become the people of God by which the Scriptures speak, we need to wake up and smell the coffee and allow the whole of Scripture to inform our life of faith.
- This interview with Jennifer knapp can be found on the Christianity Today website: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/music/interviews/2010/jenniferknapp-apr10.html ↩
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22 thoughts on “Justified By Love?”
You’re right on how this highlights our need for the Torah.
There is some inconsistency with her logic: the New Testament directly speaks — and condemns — homosexuality in several places, including the writings of Paul and John. The New Testament does not speak directly to shellfish and mixed-fiber clothing. If I were a fundamentalist Christian, that would be my defense against her arguments.
As a Messianic, I’m with you; we ought not throw out the Torah to begin with.
That does beg question, however…why aren’t Messianics keeping all the Torah? Most of us have no qualms about eating at McDonalds, for instance, even though the beef is not kosher slaughtered, the food is likely mixed with unclean foods, and there are few (zero?) kosher standards in place.
June 11th, 2010 at 9:58 am
Judah – In regard to your last point, the honest answer is because we want to pick and choose as well. We all have our comfort levels and things we can or cannot yet give up.
Take myself as an example. My life is inconsistent and hypocritical in this area, mainly because I’ve been making slow changes towards going fully kosher over the last few years. I’ve been eating only hekshered meat for a few years now. However, I’ve still been eating out—vegetarian only, but that still has me breaking the standard given in Torah.
As a family, we are progressively making sure all of our food is hekshered. But does that mean it all is? No. In reality I’m breaking as many of these commandments as the next guy.
The good news, however, is what FFOZ has been trying to help us understand—that of Divine Invitation. If I were Jewish, this would be a different story. But I’m not, and therefore my slow progression is admirable both from a Biblical and from a Jewish perspective. What I am not doing is justifying why I don’t need to be growing in my observance of God’s ordinances. This is where both the Church and many Messianics fail in their calling to be true disciples of our Master.
Dan Benzvi Reply:
June 14th, 2010 at 4:17 pm
Should Kashrut be different from Homosexuality?
Why can’t a gay person claim “divine invitation” just like you do on Kashrut?
June 14th, 2010 at 4:27 pm
The BenzviBite is back! Yow!
Nice thought, Mr. Benzvi. I think you know the answer to that (probably better than I), however, I’ll respond with my thoughts on it in hopes that you’ll elaborate.
Probably the most foundational reason that there can be “divine invitation” regarding Kashrut and not homosexuality is that they are diametrically opposed to one another. The practice of homosexuality is breaking the commandments, whereas eating kashrut is a step toward holiness. One is a path downward, while the other is a path upward. And we all know that we should always strive to ascend to levels of holiness, rather than descend. We go UP to Jerusalem, and not DOWN.
June 11th, 2010 at 10:04 am
One other thing I just thought of… The reason there is such a debate over whether or not the New Testament does or does not condemn homosexualy behavior is because of the Greek. And when we don’t have the Torah as our moral foundation the New Testament has no context, and we can make it say whatever we wish.
Thanks for posting your thoughts on this. I had heard about this situation but hadn’t seen this interview.
May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you!
Are you saying that because you are a Gentile you don’t have to ascend to a level of holiness as far as kashrut goes?
June 14th, 2010 at 6:12 pm
If you are asking if I’m distinguishing between “required” or “permitted,” what I am saying is this: Being a non-Jew, I am permitted, but not required to ascend in holiness in regard to kashrut. However, I believe that if we are a people pursuing holiness, things such as these will often be in our maturing walk.
Why do you see a difference between abstaining from consuming uncleaned animals, and abstaining from performing unnatural sex acts which by definition are unclean?
Is a Gentile “permitted” to abstain from homosexuality, but a Jew is “required” to? If a Gentile sucumbs to the sin, doesn’t “divine invitation” giving him/her an out?
June 20th, 2010 at 3:18 pm
Mr. Benzvi – I’m assuming from your argument, you don’t have a problem with a bunch of non-Jews (like me) running around with looking like Jews (like yourself)?
Dan Benzvi Reply:
June 20th, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Well Darren, you look like a Jew, should I have a problem with that?
The point is that if you or I commit an act of homosexually we both will be condemned even if you use the excuse of “divine invitation.” The same if we eat uncleaned animals.
June 20th, 2010 at 7:39 pm
I’m afraid I can’t agree with that. I used to believe this, but not any more. I can’t find Scripture to support that, especially since there is a designation of holiness specifically “required” for Jews, but not for Gentiles. If this were the case, the Jerusalem council would have addressed this. They specifically address dietary issues for non-Jews. However, they only listed three specific ones to avoid:
what has been sacrificed to idols
and from blood
and from what has been strangled
There is no mention of anything beyond these three points. This is not to say that Gentiles cannot choose to increase in their level of holiness, but this yoke cannot be placed upon their neck as a means of condemnation. This is the type of argument Paul came against in his epistles.
This is a sad but accurate argument. I think the worse thing is that most Christians reading her interview won’t realize the valid logic. She is absolutely correct to assert that if other Christian leaders can pick and choose she is free to follow their example and avoid their condemnation.
Sadly, their condemnation is about where it ends. We have lost the fear of heaven in the world we live. We would rather argue with men than submit to God. I’m more saddened by the lack of logical response to Knapp than her closet-busting news. Both are abominable. But the one reflects merely the choices of an individual while the other reflects a whole culture. How I wish this would awaken a call to repentance.
I liked Knapps music. These are sad events…
I always loved the statement that when you point one finger at someone else, you have three pointing at yourself.
The discussion has put together homosexuality with kashrut. My question is if I am sitting at home and I decide to put a slice of kosher cheese on my chicken sandwich, what biblical commands am I breaking?
June 20th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
Nice, Jeff. You’ve just equated a Biblical commandment with a rabbinic one. Even the rabbis don’t do that.
So, are you saying, there is no longer anything called “sin?” That we are now “under grace” and therefore have a sin card we can play whenever we want, depending on our inclination? It appears that’s your point. Please help me if I’m missing something here.
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Whoa, hold on a minute. I think you misunderstood at whom the sarcasm was pointed. I very much agree with your blog if not all of the follow up comments.
I have always tried to eat biblically kosher, but have never agreed with kashrut. (Maybe it was the “kosher for Passover Pepsi that did it.)
I just think that we need to start with Yeshua’s two greatest commandments first. Once we Love God above all else and our brother as ourselves, then we can move on to application.
“As for me, I would rather judge a man by the strength of his character than by the color of his Tekhelet.”
July 4th, 2010 at 12:24 pm
Jeff – I understand your point better now. Thanks for the clarification. I totally agree that we must start with the commands of the heart and move outward. But on the other hand, sometimes our actions can motivate the heart.
Also, let’s be careful that we don’t puff ourselves up in that we eat “biblical kosher” and others don’t. Do we really know what that means? We think that by avoiding pork, catfish & shellfish we are eating “biblical kosher.” But do we ever eat in a restaurant? If so, we have just fallen from our “biblical kosher” status, and are now eating treif—not according to the rabbinic standard, but the biblical standard (Leviticus 11:32-38).
I just point this out to say that the rabbinic standard of kosher isn’t anti-biblical. It’s just a deep understanding of the biblical text that most of us don’t care to invest enough time to understand. If you would like a glimpse into the complexities (broken down in a more simple explanation), check out Aaron Eby’s excellent exposition on the subject on his website, Biblical Kosher:
Ok, so the term biblically kosher is out. Yes, I try to refrain from consuming that which the bible says is abhorant. But is it possible that from time to time I misunderstand what the Torah is trying to say? I am sure there are times.
And yes I have read Eby’s writings before and probably have a couple of his booklets on my shelf. But his argument is consistant with all the pro kashrut crowd. Since we Hebrew ignorant gentiles cannot possibly understand what He meant, we must do it the Jewish way. Whatever that means.
My wife and I used to attend a messianic congregation until they got mad at us for bringing store bought fried chicken for their potluck. First, the only reason that we spent $50 on chicken was because we got tired of seeing people not get to eat because the majority of the attendees would bring almost nothing yet take enough food for three people.
So we left and took the food to a shelter to help the needy, something we also never saw that congregation do. Most people miss the point of the teaching of the good Samaritan. That it was a Cohen and a Levy that walked past the man in need because they were afraid he might be unclean!
I agree that following His commands can lead to a heart change on some things. But only if there was a heart to begin with.
Jeff – I truly feel your pain, and I can reallyunderstand where you’re coming from now. Your story is a sad situation that I’m really sorry to hear about. However, we must remember Yeshua’s admonition to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 —
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
While he castigates them for their hypocrisy and failure to please Hashem in the major arenas, he also says that those minor (“lighter”) things are important as well. It’s really easy to throw the baby out with the bath water when we’ve been burned.
I would encourage you to live out your faith & convictions fully, and not let the failings of others jade you. I’ve done that for too long and am only just now beginning to recover from it. Yes, justice & mercy and the “weighter” matters of the Torah must be evident and foremost in our lives, but we must not neglect the “lighter” matters of Torah as any kind of self-justification.
Chazak! Chazak! V’nitchazeik!
(Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!)
So, Darren, I want to make it very clear that I am not being facetious or sarcastic here, at all. The main question presented by your commenters that you have not answered is why we are divinely invited to eat according to a higher standard of kashrut than the ‘no blood, not strangled’ standard of Acts, and yet you assert we are absolutely required to refrain from homosexual relations. (And a whole other ball of wax is that lesbian activity is not a clear Torah prohibition, and those who regard it as one go through some hoop-jumping, IMO, to get there).
Aside from that, the clear answer to Jeff’s question about kosher cheese on his kosher chicken sandwich is that it’s not a sin, according to Acts and assuming he’s gentile. But… I get the impression I’m stepping into a conversation that started way before this point so my contribution may not help any. :)
Lindsey – Thanks for your contribution to the discussion. You’ve got a genuine question and I hope to answer it genuinely.
Here’s the difference: The first (diet) is not a baseline standard of moral/ethical conduct incumbent upon all peoples. It’s purpose was to be a Jewish identity marker and measure of holiness by which God’s people would be distinguished from all others. It is also something by which non-Jews can choose to participate, thereby showing their affiliation with the natural branches of Israel, as well as an issue of growing in holiness.
Sexual issues are not optional for any people. The Bible sets a baseline standard for all people in this regard. If they are not addressed in the NT, it is not because they have been abrogated or do not apply to non-Jews. It is because they are assumed to be self-evident (Romans 2:14).
In regard to Jeff’s question, yes, you are correct in that it’s a deeper issue. While I don’t think that eating a hamburger with cheese is necessarily a sin for non-Jews, I don’t think you can say you would be eating kosher, since historically the definition of biblical kosher (for at least 2000 years) has been that mixing meat and dairy is a violation of a Torah commandment in regard to diet. This is based on an understanding of the Hebrew behind the text and not our inadequate English attempts at translation.
Hope that helps!
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