Deductive vs. Inductive Bible Study

Scientist“Method” comes from joining two Greek words: meta (with) + odos (road or way). This gives the rough meaning of “going with the way” or “a way of going.” A couple of methods of studying are deductive and inductive. You already do both of these.

Deductive Study

Deductive study is a “top-down” approach which begins with a stated “truth” or proposition and then moves down to examine the proofs. A deductive student starts with a proposition (“truth”), and examines all evidence to see if it really proves true. She starts with a view of the whole puzzle and then examines the parts.

For example, you might study birds. You read the definition for bird: “any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Aves, having a body covered with feathers, forelimbs modified into wings, scaly legs, a beak, and no teeth, and bearing young in a hard-shelled egg.” (dictionary.com). Then you show how this definition is true as you examine storks, eagles, kingfishers, parrots, finches, etc. Each individual bird representative should fit the definition. If we find one bird which does not fit, we either must change the definition to include the difference we discovered or reclassify the “bird” we’re studying as something else. In this way we deductively study birds, but in order to do it someone had to supply a working definition before we started.

Be aware that too much deduction can land us in trouble. The Pharisees argued deductively that their fellow Jews should follow the traditions of the elders. Why? Because they believed those traditions were truth, just as Scripture was truth. Deductively, they assumed the traditions to be true, and they taught and preached to defend those traditions. We can fall into the same trap, if we’re not careful.

Inductive Study

Inductive study is a “bottom-up” approach which begins by examining individual facts or pieces and moves up to formulate more general propositions and conclusions. Scientific discovery is based on observation, interpretation, and application—the examination of how the parts relate to the whole. This form of study begins with the puzzle pieces and attempts to put the puzzle together.

EmuIn keeping with the above example, you might study animals and write down things you notice. Soon you discover that many animals bear live young and many others lay eggs, so you divide your animal list into those two categories. Among the egg-layers you discover that some eggs hatch in water and others on land, so you divide the animals that way. Among the eggs laid on land, you find some animals grow up to have feathers and others to have scales or some other skin, so you group all the feathered into one class. Eventually, in this way you end up working your way towards a definition which fits all feathered, egg-laying animals. You might say, at first, that all egg-layers with beaks or bills are birds…but then you run across the platypus and must readjust. You then say all egg-layers which have feathers and fly are birds…but then you run across penguins and ostriches, and adjust your definition again. Inductively, you are working from the details and forming a general definition for “bird.”

While usually more rewarding, inductive study is often more demanding than deductive because the inductive student must constantly compare, evaluate, and associate things together and think in order to formulate conclusions. When you study Scripture inductively, you have to think! The intensive cognitive component to inductive study discourages many would-be students from mastering this method. But be encouraged! After you practice a while, you’ll find it much easier.

The solution to destroying some of our own Pharisaical traditions is in the inductive study of Scripture. Instead of coming to the Bible to prove a truth we think we know, we come to Scripture to examine it carefully and see what it teaches us to do. Do you see the difference?

Inductive study asks lots of questions, following in the steps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who often led His learners through careful, intentional interrogation (i.e., Matthew 6.25-34; 7.3-4, 9-10, 16). Often when the Jewish leaders challenged Him, He would ask a simple question which confounded them and exposed their ill-intentions (i.e., Matthew 21.23-27, 28-32; 22.23-33, 41-45). We must learn to ask many questions of God’s word in order to draw out the meaning.

Any questions?

Have You Praised God Today?

Sunflowers SunsetPraise God for a beautiful day.
Praise God for creating family.
Praise God for my health and ability.
Praise God for His awesome creation.
Praise God for protection and sustenance.
Praise God for my gifts and talents.
Praise God for opportunities to serve.

And MORE THAN THAT…

Praise God for turning away His anger from me!
Praise God for forgiving my sins.
Praise God for comforting me.
Praise God for His mercy through Jesus’ blood.
Praise God for His guidance through His word.
Praise God for the joy set before me.
Praise God for the peace which passes understanding.
Praise God for the love and unity among my brethren.
Praise God for the hope of eternal life.

Gorgeous LandscapeYou will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to You, O LORD,
for though You were angry with me,
Your anger turned away,
that You might comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon His name,
make known His deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that His name is exalted.
Sing praises to the LORD, for He has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy,
O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

(Isaiah 12)

How Dead Were You?

Walking Dead

How dead were you?

When “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2.1), just how dead was that? Dear Christian, do you recall being dead? Oh, you functioned well enough, as you “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2.2). Remember when we “formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2.3)? We were just like the rest of the world, which walks in the darkness even until now. Just how dead were we?

We were dead to God, dead in spirit. We were not sensitive to spiritual matters and couldn’t tell right from wrong. We may have understood there was a right and a wrong, but we couldn’t explain what it was, and we surely weren’t walking in truth. We directed our own path, guided our own steps, called our own shots–totally and completely divorced from the one relationship which matters most.

TombsDead people are incapable of living. That may strike you as funny, but isn’t it true? Paul used this language of spiritual death on purpose because he wanted us to realize the absolute powerlessness and tragedy of stumbling around dead in our sins–spiritual zombies. We couldn’t make ourselves alive. Dead people can’t reverse the process.

We didn’t even know we were dead–that is, not until God told us through the gospel. I can preach the gospel to my dead neighbors, but it might not wake them up. Many (most?) simply laugh because it seems so ludicrous to them. “You think I’m dead? But look at the life I’ve made for myself!” But God can wake the dead, and He does! Every Christian can attest to this fact–God does, indeed raise the dead. Praise God!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2.4-6)

In some mysterious, deep, and supernatural way, God breathed into our immortal souls and granted us…LIFE! It’s a life alongside Christ Jesus our Lord, as we sit with Him in the heavenly realms.

How dead were we? We were totally, completely, irreversibly dead, without hope in this world. But for the grace of God, we’d still be dead.