Since words are important, let me define theological integrity. It refers to the truth of God’s nature and character and everything relative to the Lord, God almighty.
I have the same question for the church today that John Calvin had for the church over 400 years ago. “Do we hope for salvation from the gospel while no man is willing to run any risk in asserting its truth?” Calvin goes on to explain; “in so many cities and provinces the purity of Christianity is gone” (an excerpt from Calvin’s treatise on The True Method of Giving Peace, and of Reforming the Church.) I do not intend to speak against the Bride of Christ. However, I am concerned about the condition of the church for the sake of this and coming generations. To put this in proper perspective, I believe the evangelical church, including conservative Bible believing churches are in the process of slipping into a neo-dark age. I have argued that the church growth movement is the primary reason for this dilemma along with the children of modernity. Pragmatism, consumerism, relativism and a dozen other world and life views have contributed to this neo-dark age plague. The postmodern concept now contributes another dark side to this dilemma; the abandonment of truth. The church cannot ignore this exponential slippage because at the root of all these problems is theological integrity. Have I misunderstood our culture or is my understanding of church history clouded by my own subjective ideas? Even if I have, that will not change the verity of my fundamental argument that theological integrity is the root of all our church problems.
In another place John Calvin said, “When Divine Truth is avowedly attacked, we must not tolerate the adulteration of one single iota of it. It is certainly not a trivial matter to see God’s light extinguished by the devil’s darkness; and besides, this matter is of greater moment than many suppose. Nor is it true, as they allege, that he who does not acquiesce in the errors of others, shows deadly hate by dissenting from them.” Calvin’s principle argument is as true today as it has been throughout the history of the church. Calvin was far more ambitious than we might anticipate in the church today. When theological integrity comes into the picture, it is foggy with feelings.
Theological integrity means that one vows (pledges, professes, or confesses) with a reasoning regenerated mind a belief system that works out consistently based on the Word of God. If your creedal statement(s) are the result of your understanding of the “full counsel of God” then your theological integrity will be demonstrated in human experience. It was theological integrity that brought Jesus to the point of a deadly confrontation with the right winged conservative religious leaders of his day (See John 8:37-59). He even accused them of being children of the devil, the father of lies, so they must have been childish liars. A childish liar is the opposite of theological integrity. Those religious leaders were not able to understand the truth. That is precisely correct. They were unable to understand the truth, thus they could not believe the truth. Was the inability a knowledge problem or was it a theological problem? It was both! There wills were slaves to the devil (John 8:44). They were very willing to sacrifice theological integrity because of the condition of their souls. Their minds were clouded because of their sin nature. How sad that the Pharisees could not understand what Jesus meant when He said, “take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Theological integrity means that you must have clear revelation and a clear mind (Eph. 1:17).
The inspired, infallible and inerrant wisdom of Scripture says: “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies” (Proverbs 14:5). A lie is contrary to the truth. I just do not understand why Christians in general and church leaders in particular are so unconcerned about truth and ultimately theological integrity. The anti-confessional and anti-intellectual agendas are the primary agents leading the church away from theological integrity and into relativistic, humanistic, and pragmatic notions, all of which spell disaster for the future church.
Theological integrity is not the easy road. It was not easy for men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, or J. Gresham Machen. They suffered because theological integrity was important. In fact the Bible tells us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). If you are not suffering persecution perhaps, you do not desire to live godly in Christ Jesus. We must not forget that Jesus said “you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22) and in another place Jesus said “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Theological integrity is not popular or attractive to the man-centered church growth movement, the broad evangelicals, or liberals, but theological integrity is necessary! Everyone will be held accountable on that day.
The genius of theological integrity is profoundly simple. The great 19th century theologian and church doctor James Henley Thornwell said: “We have minds that were made to know – we are constructed with a reference to truth” and then reminds us not to turn “from the temple of truth to worship at the shrine of ignorance, error and shame. . . .This love of truth, which I have been endeavoring to recommend, will be the very last importance to you to guard you against the deceits of the world. . . .The world, the flesh and hell all conspire by glozing falsehood to seduce us to perdition. A covering is spread upon the grave and the pit, and the ways of sin are adorned with all that can please the eye, fascinate the ear or enchant the heart. Our security against these dangers is conviction for the truth” (The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, vol. 2, p. 494-495).
My prayer is that God will raise up someone like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, James Henley Thornwell, J. Gresham Machen or anyone willing to stand for theological integrity.. My prayer is that the church will be reformed by the power of the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God. My prayer for the church is found in Psalm 25:21-22: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You. Redeem Israel, O God, Out of all their troubles!