“There is no condemnation because God doesn’t make junk.” Enough with junk theology

Vern Poythress, my favourite thinking theologian, has this to say about junk DNA:

 “About 1.2 percent of human DNA has code that is translated into proteins. What about all the rest? When geneticists became aware of noncoding DNA, the Darwinist framework provided an explanation. Noncoding DNA was interpreted as giving us a record of broken evolutionary pieces that no longer had a function—it was “junk” DNA. Francis Collins pointed to this “junk” as one evidence for the gradualistic character of human genetic origins.” (Francis Collins, a Christian, was head of the Human Genome Project. He is a theistic evolutionist and founder of the Biologos Forum). But further research has uncovered many positive functions in what was formerly termed “junk.” The ENCODE project (the “Encyclopedia of DNA Elements”) has endeavored to catalog systematically the noncoding DNA, and reports that more than 80 percent “have now been assigned at least one biochemical function.” The leader of the ENCODE project accordingly called for retiring the word “junk.”25 (Vern S. Poythress, “Adam versus the claims from Genetics.”  It would seem that many other Christians, among them many preachers/pastors, agree that God doesn’t make junk. It goes like this “God doesn’t make junk. No one is junk. Everyone is valuable to God. You are God’s original masterpiece. Are you disappointed in yourself? Lift your head up high; God doesn’t make junk.” If we had to represent this sentiment visually, it would look like  this:

God doesn't make junk

Here is Helmut Thielicke (and Philip Yancey, who quotes Thielicke approvingly in his “What is so amazing about Grace,”( Zondervan, 1997, p. 175): “When Jesus loved a guilt-laden person and helped him, he saw in him an erring child of God. He saw in him a human being whom his Father loved and grieved over because he was going wrong. He saw him as God originally designed and meant him to be, and therefore he saw through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath” (Helmut Thielicke, “Christ and the meaning of life,” Grand Rapids, Baker, 1975, p. 41). In other words, grime and dirt don’t mean junk.

I heard this in a recent sermon on love. “We must love ourselves. God doesn’t make junk. God doesn’t condemn because He doesn’t make junk.” Poythress and the others mentioned are talking about different kinds of junk. Poythress is talking about biological junk, while the others seem to focus on the human “heart” (the “inner man” – Paul’s Epistles). When Thielicke speaks of a “person”, and the “man underneath”, he appears to be talking about anybody who feels guilt, which is the whole human race (except possibly psychopaths, and even there we are not sure what they feel); and there lies the problem with Thielicke’s portrait of sinful man. Thielicke’s Jesus and Thielicke’s human being are not the Jesus and human being described in the Bible. The Bible says the opposite: Jesus did not see “through the surface layer of grime and dirt to the real man underneath,” because the real man underneath was not only superficially grimy, he was filthy. The “real man” of the Bible is totally depraved in his very nature.  Everything in the Bible glorifies God and abases man. God saves men and women not because deep down they are good, but in spite of the fact that deep down they are evil. He chooses to save them – for one reason only: because He wants to. The natural man despises such a God. Many professing Christians do so as well. But that is the God of the Bible. (See Why don’t you call me good? Because you’re not.

When Christian teachers says “God doesn’t condemn you, the reason being that he doesn’t make junk,” they exhibit a poor understanding of the nature of man after the Fall. Indeed they seem to ignore it. “The Bible and theology, says Poythress, call on us to retain the conviction that Adam was a historical individual whose fall into sin resulted in guilt and sin.” Adam and Eve were created perfect physically and spiritually – yet, hard to fathom, with a yetser hara “evil inclination” (See How can a Perfect God create the potential for imperfection? After they sinned – the first sin – degeneration and death, spiritual and physical, entered. Since then “natural man” refuses to be guided by the Spirit of God but follows after false gods, for example, his belly and lower down. 

One may argue that the preacher (this is not the case of Thielecke, who is addressing all without exception) is only addressing Christians. Let us assume this is so and now read from the Epistle to the Romans 7 and 8 (my italics), where Paul writes “there is no condemnation.” 

7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 

In conclusion, the reason that God does not condemn Christians is not because he didn’t make junk but because he redeemed them from their bondage to self. As Poythress says, “the Bible focuses on man’s religious status and relationship to God. This focus is appropriate because it is vital to our understanding of God himself, human sin, and Christ’s redemption.” 

junk 2

Enough already with junk theology.

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