The binary number system, made of two digits, o and 1, is the very basis for the computing power sitting in front of you, whether you’re reading this on your desktop or your smartphone. I’m only smart enough with the binary number system to be able to laugh at the math-geek t-shirts that say “1 + 1 = 10”, and to be thankful that we don’t have to be able to actually use the binary system to make our computers and smartphones work. But I do understand that binary as it applies to computers has to do with switching, either something is on or it is off. There’s no in-between.
A lot of my studying lately has led me to a frustrating realization that too many Christians, from pew-sitters to theological heavy hitters, are living in a binary, either-or world. It seems that no matter what the issue, there appears to be two sides, with a crisp, clean dividing line that separates them, and no room for people like me to either straddle the line, or more preferably to live on the line, exploiting the opportunity to embrace the best of both poles.
I think this polarized, yes/no, left/right, on/off attitude is a byproduct of the world we live in (Aaaughhhh! He just said the church is influenced by the world–may it never be!).
- Should we be culturally relevant, or hold to our traditional ways?
- Should we be “seeker-friendly” or doctrinally sound?
- Should we preach the gospel, or show compassion to the world?
- Predestination or free will?
- Faith or works?
OK, some of these are recognizably false dichotomies (at least to me), while others might just get me branded as a heretic for even presenting them as anything other than truth/lie. But the truth in many of these seeming opposites is that there is great opportunity to have a “yes, and” relationship!
I like the editorial in the recent Leadership Journal by Drew Dyck, where he speaks of Clark Blakeman’s desire for “Biblical Symmetry.” Why can’t we preach the gospel AND do acts of compassion in our community? I personally know of a great man of God who makes those who are curiously seeking something, maybe not even specifically Jesus, feel right at home, all the while preaching powerful, doctrinally sound, messages that in no way compromise the Gospel.
Are there absolutes in Scripture? Absolutely! But not everything is. Is there a better way? Is there an opportunity to find a beautiful, complex, multiplying tension between the two poles that in fact creates something more powerful than either extreme?