A successful model of integration is difficult to describe under a single metaphor. Instead, what will be offered is a set of characteristics which are commonly found when integration has been done well. Authentic integration values both Scripture and nature and has the following characteristics:
Good integration respects the uniqueness and authority of Scripture. It shows a commitment to the authority of Scripture by refusing to treat it as merely one more religious book among many. Rather, its teaching constitutes a binding for Christians and it is ultimately decisive for understanding this world and the proper place and purpose for every human endeavor.
Good integration values both general and special revelation. It clearly understands and integrates two sources of truth that come to us from different perspectives. The study of God’s world (sometimes called general revelation) and the study of God’s word (special revelation) are both necessary to establish a full understanding of our world. It is also necessary to guide the follower of Christ as he or she seeks to express his or her faith in the context of their vocation.
Good integration is conversational and dialogical. Its goal is learning and not always or necessarily resolution. Conversational means neither a mutual accommodation that shies away from all difference and vainly hopes that “we are all really saying the same thing”, nor the conquest of the stronger that allows only one message to be presented. Understanding the world is complex, and it will not always be possible to identify a single “Christian” perspective on every issue.
Positive, not merely critical.
Good integration acknowledges the goodness of creation and the value of human culture. For all of the fallenness of the world, creation is good, and we need to have a vision for using it well and for its God intended purposes. God has given us every good thing for enjoyment. We must seek to redeem dysfunctional aspects of human life and culture, not simply shun them. This is one of the great challenges of Christian intellectual life. Knowing that the fallen world system not only fails to recognize God, but often directly opposes God, it is easy to fall into a mindset of opposition. To expect the world to only grow weeds and therefore to be pre-occupied with killing anything that grows in the gardens of this world. But simply killing weeds does not create a garden. In fact, even if one kills a weed and plants a flower in its stead, the weeds have still determined the shape of the garden. Authentic integration is shaped by a vision of the sort of garden which would please Jesus and reflect his purposes in the created order. It cannot merely be critical, but it must also have a positive vision all its own.
Critical, not merely positive.
Though good integration must be positive, it cannot ignore the reality and pervasiveness of the fall. The fall clothes the goodness of creation in the agony and brokenness. It also perverts our sensitivities and distorts our reason. Therefore we must also look with a critical eye at what issues from human culture. The findings of science are not drawn from a crystal fountain of pure knowledge. In fact, sin makes us doubtful of what issues from our own heart at our best moments, all the more must we be critical in our acceptance of what is identified as truth by the pundits of secular culture.
Synthetic, not merely analytical.
Much of Western knowledge has grown by ever finer analytical reduction of the created order. This is probably the only way for human beings to acquire such knowledge—increasingly isolate the sphere of study from all else, control the variables, make observations, and draw conclusions. The only problem with this is if one forgets that the process began by a reductionist and atomizing impulse that must be restored through a synthetic attempt to bring new findings produced by fine-tuned analysis back into relationship with the whole.