Binary World of Bright Side/Dark Side

God made the world binary. Everything comes in twos, whether in sets like man/woman, opposites like black/white, or dark side/bright side in positive-negative contrasts. Pagans observed this latter phenomenon and naturally concluded that reality was dualistic, where good and evil always existed alongside each other as equal powers, and are in eternal conflict. Their pantheons with good and evil gods reflect this, and on a more sophisticated level, so does the yin-yang of Chinese philosophy. As we all know, this pagan idea has made deep inroads into our culture with the return of Gnosticism, popularly portrayed and delivered to us through Star Wars with its impersonal “force” battling the “dark side.”

The Bible however, rejects dualism while displaying very profound insight into the binary nature of reality. In Genesis 1 we see that the cosmos was made by God in pairs, light/darkness, day/night, evening/morning, earth/sky, dry land/watery deep, waters above/waters below, fish/birds, and man/woman. We discussed in a previous post, “A Tour through the Holy of Holies,” how God created the various phenomena we labeled “motifs” that made up the Garden of Eden. All these were motifs are presented in Genesis 2 in their positive pristine goodness. However, as we shall see with the Fall narrative (Genesis 3-12), each of these motifs has a “dark side.” This binary bright side/dark side reality is crucial for understanding the physical and moral structure of creation, ultimately associated with a central doctrine of the image of God in humanity; that of will and choice.

The dark side of the garden motif is the formless earth or desert/wilderness motif, and by extension the whole idea of Sheol, the underworld, referred to as a dark “land” in the Old Testament (Job 10:21, 22, Jer. 14:2). The dark side to the mountain motif is the Tower of Babel, the “magic mountain” of pagan thought, the “high places” where Israel engaged in pagan practices. The dark side to the river motif is the watery deep, the symbol of death, and flooding. The dark side of precious metals and gemstones, while good in and of themselves, is the power they possess over the human soul in the form of greed and the magic powers gems were thought to possess. The dark side to the marriage/family union, and by extension societal unity, is the dissolution of human bonds, breaking of relational boundaries in illicit sex, adultery, and murder, as well as humanity uniting for dark purposes (Gen. 11:1-9, Ps. 2). The dark side to the innocence of pristine nakedness is uncontrollable lust, exposure, fear of rejection, and shame. Associated with this is the clothing motif with its bright side of protection and dignity and dark side of “dirty clothes” (e.g. Zech. 3:3). The dark side of aromatic spices is stench and rot. The dark side of the boundary motif is the breaking of boundaries, both physical and moral (law), or the constraint of boundaries that inhibit expansion and blessing, or walling oneself in for selfish or arrogant reasons (e.g. Amos 3:9-11). The dark side of the naming is slandering one’s name, or having no name. The dark side to the work motif is laboring against the elements brought on by the curse of the fall, the work that goes into evil scheming, laziness, non-creativity, and unfruitfulness. Finally, the dark side to the theophany motif is the demonophany where evil penetrated the garden through the serpent.

Everything in reality, both physical and spiritual, is binary! Everything surrounding us, both seen and unseen, is geared for choice. Choice has consequences directly linked to life on the bright side, or death and chaos on the dark side. In a way, the two trees, the tree of life and the tree of all knowledge which translates for us as “doing life our own way,” still stand before us. God in His great power could have anything He wants, but He cannot have my soul except I give it to Him. This is why my choice is so precious to Him. This is why the whole world stands before us in the form of binary structures; every moment offers us opportunity to choose. Adam is every man; Eve is every woman.

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