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I don’t do binary

It’s either black or white yes or no democrat or republican good or bad   Or not. Consider the future, for example: Will technology contribute to the deterioration of spiritual values or promote revival? Will people grow in faith or become more cynical? Will the web make the w…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
It’s either black or white
yes or no
democrat or republican
good or bad
 
Or not. Consider the future, for example:
Will technology contribute to the deterioration of spiritual values or promote revival?

Will people grow in faith or become more cynical?

Will the web make the world more homogeneous, or more diverse?
Will the world become brighter or darker? 
Will wisdom increase or will angst prevail?

Will power concentrate in new institutions or become fragmented?

 
The problem is not the issues addressed by each question, per se, it’s the binary (“bi” meaning “two” as in bicycle) way in which they are expressed. Maybe you’ll find elements of both in the answer. Maybe the complexity of the future requires greater nuance in our analytical tools, beginning with our questions.
 
People were forever asking Jesus questions like, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”* And he tied them in knots by showing the complexity of spiritual reality. It’s a good model to learn from. It’s always been about worshiping at the tree of life not the binary tree of right and wrong.
 
We live in an increasingly binary world. Computers run on binary code and are built by people who understand how to write it. We’ve all got our issues, but folks who are highly structured, engineers for example, seem to fall into the binary trap more than others. I know of a few engineers who inadvertently destroyed their marriages with this kind of thinking. They allowed their personality type and preferences to preclude the possibility of learning to live a life of grace. And they are poorer for it; bless their hearts.
 
There’s a tribe forming that’s based on grace. If you have a problem with judging other people, with placing them in categories, you may struggle with us.
Whole denominations are built around binary thinking. Theologians
call it legalism. Young people have seen its bankruptcy and are fleeing
it in droves. And the good news is, that’s one thing that Jesus came set
us free from.
 

My counsel for living a free life: think twice about answering next time you hear:

“Who do you agree with, them or us?”
“Do you like her more than me?” 
 “Are you for him or for her?”
I don’t know about you, but I’m boycotting binary questions. I suggest you join me and make today a binary-free day. Let’s walk in the mystery of “I don’t know,” just for one day.
 
*John 9:2

Comments (11)

  • With the web having so many people out there we also attend to those of us speaking truth from our blogs… Are we touching more people than we realize? Is there a real answer to anything that you ask here? I don’t really think so- However, I believe we as a culture especially in the church look to the binary tree instead of the tree of life.

  • I packed my bags for destination grace some time ago. Just a day? Saints, LIVE there! Jesus, “full of grace…” said ABIDE. Amen.

  • I have often struggled over the idea of “sins of our parents passed down to next generation”. Am doing an indepth study in Genesis, reading about the Esau’s descendents in contrast to that of Jacob’s, and the subsequent unrest in Esau’s lineage as a result of his poor choices.

    I appreciate how you look at this John 9 passage: “he tied them in knots by showing the complexity of spiritual reality. It’s a good model to learn from. It’s always been about worshiping at the tree of life not the binary tree of right and wrong”.

    Thank you.

  • I have often struggled over the idea of “sins of our parents passed down to next generation”. Am doing an indepth study in Genesis, reading about the Esau’s descendents in contrast to that of Jacob’s, and the subsequent unrest in Esau’s lineage as a result of his poor choices.

    I appreciate how you look at this John 9 passage: “he tied them in knots by showing the complexity of spiritual reality. It’s a good model to learn from. It’s always been about worshiping at the tree of life not the binary tree of right and wrong”.

    Thank you.

  • As a programmer binary might be hard for me to avoid, but I know my thought patterns outside of work have to change. Thanks for the tough words of warning and encouragement too keep up the fight against legalism.

  • Seth,

    I love this post!

    I’m grateful God created some us engineers with the ability to see the importance of grace and the damage caused by legalism.

    My own struggle….seeing the legalists through eyes of grace!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks Seth for these insights.

    We all are a product of our experiences. That being said and without being cynical or hyperbolic my own journey with a tribe included a season where those most known for a message of grace were stingy in sowing it.

    That knowledge has caused me to ask God to do deep cleaning of my own sometimes flawed perspective.

    Grace is a verb not a noun.

    The real tribes– not self promotional ones– extend grace till it hurts.

    The Good Samaritan is the model for me.

    Shalom……

  • Seth I am in! As someone well familiar with the literal world of binary and bits, and having always felt like a foreigner in it (cannot stand it now) this is no stretch for me. 🙂

    Thanks. Insightful reading.

  • I like this analogy. Especially as an engineer. Sometimes my life swings like a pendulum between one idea verses the other. There may be more and better answers found somewhere in between.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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