I saw this picture on Facebook a few days ago with a very common saying about integrity. Well, I think it sounds like a good and reasonable definition. It denotes honesty. If we have integrity we will be honest people when no when is watching. In other words, it looking at integrity from the outside to the inside.
But I think there’s something more to integrity than this simplistic saying will allow. Integrity is about our actions lining up with beliefs. So whatever we believe about something or someone our actions will be consistent with that. We lack integrity when we do or say something that is inconsistent with our belief. This means looking at integrity from a reverse angle – from the inside to the outside.
This past summer when I took History of Doctrine with Dr. Bingham, professor of historical theology and chair of the Theological Studies department at DTS. He expounded on this definition of integrity with a discussion of Marcion, who was one of the first early church figures in the 2nd century to develop a canon of scripture (Old Testament scripture with the apostle’s writings) but also labeled a heretic. Marcion’s problem was that he saw two completely different Gods in the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament was a body of literature inspired by a god, Jehovah. but had nothing to do with the Supreme Father, the God of the universe as depicted in the New Testament.
So because of his belief that the God in the New Testament was not the same, not only did he discount the Old Testament but deleted any reference to it in the New Testament. Dr. Bingham then said something kind of profound (as he often does), that at least Marcion had integrity. Why? Since he didn’t believe the God of the Old Testament existed, he lined his actions up with his belief and ignored it in the New Testament.
He then directed the next obvious question to the class, “Are there parts you need to cut out of the Bible?” In other words, if we say we believe the God of the Bible, we then can’t profess something that is contradictory to who God has revealed himself to be or act as if it is not true. To do so would lack integrity.
This kind of integrity does not stay in the closet. It makes sure that whatever is believed in private is expressed in public. Otherwise, hypocrisy results because we believe something privately that we don’t profess publicly.
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