A Methodology for Integration

For those involved in classroom teaching, the following methodology may help a person do integration which embodies the values identified above.

Identify and define the sphere of human endeavor or the aspect of creation you will be studying.

Try to avoid technical or distinctively modern terms and instead definethe discipline using more primitive terms. So instead of business being the exchange of goods and services in a free market, it might be instead defined as the matching of the goodness of creation with human need. Both definitions are descriptive of the tasks involved in business, but the latter makes facilitates connections to biblical and theological categories. Often times a good definition opens the door to all of the rest of the integrative task.

Identify God’s intentions for that aspect of the created order or for that sphere of human endeavor.

It is here that one must study Scripture & theology. INTENTIONALITY and TELEOLOGY are contrary to so much modern thought in the humanities where everything is reduced to a social construct. There is no “intentionality” or “teleology” in the social order. There is no “way things are supposed to be”, and therefore there is no “not the way things are supposed to be” and therefore there is no sin and therefore there is no righteousness and therefore there is no story. In addition to Scripture, study the products of human experience, reasoned reflection and systematic scientific investigation, as well as “received wisdom” embedded in tradition and culture.

Identify points of congruence, points of contention, and points of where the findings of general and special revelation merely complement or complete one another.

If one believes that the book of nature and the book of Scripture are both authored by God, one would expect that the findings of the careful study of the world would generally coincide  with the findings of the careful study of the Word. Indeed, it is striking how often Scripture is reinforced by the findings of science. Recent studies in sociology haven confirmed the value of traditional marriage in terms of the benefits to both children and parents. The destructive nature of divorce is also apparent in these findings. Similarly, the value of forgiveness

for fostering mental health, the importance of honesty and truth-telling in the context of business, and the need for people to be involved in service to others have all been confirmed in systematic studies of the world and complement teaching of God’s Word.

There are also many places where the Word and the world complement each other. The Word tells truths about God which are not amenable to scientific study. Scientific study and often go beyond the Word in terms of specificity and scope. In such cases there is a complementary relationship between word and world.

And, of course, there are cases in which the Word and the world seem to conflict. In such cases, it should be remembered that the conflict is generally not about the facts per se, but rather about the interpretation we give them and the theories in which they are embedded. It is not uncommon to hear magisterial truth claims based on very narrow biblical support. These claims are often untempered by exposure to current research and create needless controversy by making claims for Scripture that Scripture never makes for itself. This problem is not new. Charles Hodge addressed it in his Systematic Theology:

"It is admitted that theologians are not infallible in the interpretation of Scripture. It may, therefore, happen in the future, as it has in the past, that interpretations of the Bible, long confidently received, must be modified or abandoned to bring revelation into harmony with what God teaches in his works. This change of view as to the true meaning of the Bible may be a painful trial to the Church, but it does not in the least impair the authority of the Scriptures. They remain infallible; we are merely convicted of having mistaken their meaning…"

Reading narrowly is an enemy to sound biblical integration regardless of whether it is a theologian or a member of some other discipline who is reading narrowly. If we are serious in our affirmation that all truth is God’s truth, we must be serious in our efforts to unearth truth “wherever it may be found.”

On the other hand, it is hard to read the dismissive writings of Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins and realize the facile dismissiveness is not the exclusive practice of the Christian community.

Ask what that aspect of the created order or that sphere of human endeavor would look like if it were once again subject to the purposes of the King and was awaiting His return.

I use the phrase “awaiting his return” as a caution against utopic visions. We will ultimately not usher in the kingdom by our work, we anticipate the Kingdom in our work. The task of actually instating the Kingdom of God is best left to Jesus (this is to say we are not a post-millennial institution).

Often we will have visions of next steps, or parts of culture that might be changed. Comprehensive change is only accomplished incrementally or else at tremendous price.