Integrity: Let Your Yea Be Yea
J. Daniel Hess. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1978. 214 pages.
In the introduction to this volume Kermit Eby asks, “How can we give meaning to the Judeo-Christian ethic which developed in a rather simple face-to-face village society, and transplant this ethic to a world in which issues become increasingly complex, and decisions many steps removed from the individual?”
Professor Hess performs a useful service in trying to answer Eby’s question, even though the sometimes disjointed and largely anecdotal treatment of the subject still leaves us with many gaps. At the very least, we now have a better understanding of the parameters of those gaps.
Each of the six key chapters has its strengths and weaknesses. The chapter on authenticity deals mainly with twelve interviews in which individuals from twelve walks of life grapple with the issues of integrity. I found it informative and interesting.
The remaining key chapters also shed light on the central concern but all left this reader a little perplexed and maybe even a little frustrated. Why imply, even state, that Integrity as Wholeness is somehow restricted to business ethics? The two are not synonymous. I could comment similarly about all the rest but shall leave that to the other readers. However, I must say that I was particularly disappointed to see that a perceptive and eloquent Anabaptist scholar chose to define Integrity as Reconciliation in terms of cultural exchanges. Clearly, at least in my estimation, that is not the heart of the matter.
For me the weakest section was Chapter 5, “Integrity as Verisimilitude.” As in all of the other chapters, so also here, one finds numerous perceptive insights but they appear almost incidentally.
The shortcomings of the book are not inconsequential. The overall coherence is superficial. For me, at least, the parts are more significant than the whole. Also, some parts verge on being trite: “I believe that the communication functions of persuasion, promotion, and propaganda must be anchored by veracity.” What Christian would disagree? Or, again, “In other words, the rightness or wrongness of behaviour is partially fixed by culture.” Any reader expected to know what veracity means, needs to be told that. Finally in places I simply disagree. “A person of integrity is unlikely to know it.”
In spite of these and some other shortcomings, Professor Hess has touched on many significant issues and pointed to Christian responses; for an important contribution we are indebted to him.