Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Book Review of Garnett Reid's Intentional Integrity (Part 1)
Book review of Garnett Reid, Intentional Integrity: Ten Life Strategies for Wholeness from the Book of Job (Nashville: Randall House, 2011) 150 pages; ISBN9780892656356.
Intentional Integrity is exactly what the book’s title says it is about – integrity. The author, Garnett Reid, explains in his Preface that one of the problems evangelical Christians in the US are facing is the lack of integrity. How Christians seek to live and portray a consistent Christian lifestyle is what ultimately matters. But the reality of the situation is that most Christians conform to the societal norms around them rather than shape them to Christian values. Having defined what ‘integrity’ means, Garnett then seeks to demonstrate that mere consistency is not enough to produce a life of Christian integrity. Integrity also needs ‘commitment plus truth’ (p. ix). Integrity is living with a center or axis in our lives and the axis is God and his truth. Yet these things can remain theoretical in our lives, for integrity also needs testing to show its real worth. For integrity to be consistent and real in our lifestyle, it must be able to withstand life’s pressures and trials. Garnett says the best example is to see this at work in the life of Job, a righteous man who was subjected unfairly to great trials and testing but who was able to overcome them and remain faithful to God.
In the book of Job, chapter 31 is the last chapter of Job’s words to his three friends before Elihu makes his brief appearance (chapters 32-37) and before God makes his replies to Job (chapters 38-42). Chapter 31 has the general character of a legal defence where Job makes the accusation against God and demands an answer. Its structure is a long catalogue of offences with the recurring patter of a conditional statement, ‘If I have… then let X be done to me’. Job is calling upon God to punish him if he indeed had been guilty of committing such crimes. The offences are generally ethical in nature and some of the offences are not considered serious enough to be punishable by human law as they border on the realm of the subjective (for example, verse 20 ‘rejoicing at the ruin of one who hated me’). Yet, in the oath made by Job, it forms ‘the staging area for future displays of his honor and so becomes a vow or a promise as well’. Garnett thus identifies the ten stanzas in chapter 31 which reflect the ten qualities of integrity that Job embraces:
1] Purity (vv. 1-4)
2] Honesty (vv. 5-6)
3] Contentment (vv. 7-8, 24-25)
4] Loyalty (vv. 9-12)
5] Equity (vv. 13-15)
6] Compassion (vv. 16-23, 31-32)
7] Worship (vv. 26-28)
8] Forgiveness (vv. 29-30)
9] Confession (vv. 33-34)
10] Stewardship (vv. 38-40)
Garnett acknowledges that the exact number of subjects addressed in Job 31 is disputed by scholars and that the order and flow of the subjects are not always in chronological order but the above ten qualities serve as a good example of the commitments by Job. Verses 35-37, which should be the concluding verses of the chapter, represent Job’s signing of his name to his pledge which seals his testimony.
The following ten chapters follow a similar pattern. Firstly, Garnett seeks to explain the meaning of Job’s words themselves. This is important as Garnett believes that ‘the biblical text must guide us as we apply the principles in our setting’ (p. 6). Secondly, Garnett draws its application to today’s world and culture. How would these virtues work in today’s setting? Thirdly, Garnett suggests that the most important task is what action we need to take today in order to be a person of integrity. How would a life of integrity look like for us?
(to be continued)