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Pierre Abelard, a medieval scholastic, juxtaposes apparently contradictory quotations from the Church Fathers and from scripture on many traditional topics of Christian theology and writes a text called Sic et Non (translated “Yes and No”).

His first five questions are:

1. Must human faith be completed by reason, or not?

2. Does faith deal only with unseen things, or not?

3. Is there any knowledge of things unseen, or not?

4. May one believe only in God alone, or not?

5. Is God a single unitary being, or not?

Abelard had probably intended this to be a textbook for students, but his contemporary church authorities saw it as heresy, and Abelard died on his way to Rome to defend himself to the Pope of his day.

Now fast forward to our day. Computers need binary to function. Binary states are often abstracted as 1 and 0 in computer science. Either the circuit is closed or open, it can’t be both. Computations must be broken down into a state of one of two mutually exclusive conditions such as on or off, true or false, presence or absence of a signal. Otherwise the micro-processing unit in your computer would only be useful in heating your tea.

But, you know, outside of a micro-processing unit, binary is much less useful.

So for instance if we look at Abelard’s first question, “Must human faith be completed by reason, or not?” both yes and no are correct answers. I know personally that my faith and my reason often are struggling with each other. I think it’s another factor on being a human being who is a child of God, for whom Christ died and in whom the Holy Spirit is working. And personally I think we insult the Holy Spirit when we deny such struggles.

When you have a real life problem, you’re not usually given the luxury of it being a simple yes or no question. You probably know that already; maybe that’s why you clicked to read this blog. There are many variables and problems that need to be addressed before you can get to a simple yes-or-no answer to any real life question. Answers usually include “Which will do the least harm?” or “What can I afford right now?” or “Where will that choice lead?” And if the real life question begins with “Why?” a simple Yes or No will never be a sufficient reply.

But don’t take my answer, work it out yourself.

Image courtesy of MRLIGHTMAN /

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