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?

Sermon: Not Ashamed of the Gospel

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” said Jesus.

Is it prideful to believe and insist that there is only one true, living God?

How should a Christian approach an unbeliever? What sort of presuppositions should a Christian be aware of in himself and in the one he attempts to teach?

The Shack: Does It Accurately Describe God?

The ShackYou’ve probably heard of (or possibly have read) The Shack, a best-selling novel which came out in 2007, written by Canadian author William P. Young. The book was published amidst a cloud of controversy, and the arguments continue because the movie (see the trailer) will be released early next year (March 3, 2017).

Many “main-stream Christian” groups are promoting The Shack as a wonderful and fresh portrayal of God’s nature and character.

Does The Shack accurately portray God? Is it helpful in understanding His character, purpose, and plan for us?

Belinda Elliott defends the book on the Christian Broadcasting Network:

“I just couldn’t find much in the book that I would consider heretical…

“The author portrays the Trinity in a unique way. I understand that some readers will be uncomfortable with this portrayal, especially with God The Father as an African American woman and the Holy Spirit as a mysterious Asian woman named Sarayu. This depiction is one of the things that many critics have deemed heretical. Some have gone as far as to cite these two characters as the promotion of ‘goddess worship’ or a feminist God. But I found these to be not only interesting artistic choices, but actually enlightening in a spiritual sense as well.”

God's RevelationReally? Portraying God as a woman doesn’t smack at all of the heretical?

James B. De Young, ThD, wrote a challenge to The Shack entitled Burning Down “The Shack.” He claims The Shack is greatly deceptive and exposes William P. Young’s worldview as a universalist:

“I have known the author of The Shack, Paul Young, for more than a dozen years. In 2004, Paul Young wrote a lengthy document in which he rejected his evangelical faith and embraced universalism. I expose these in my book. He said then:

  • that evangelical faith and its teaching about judgment makes God “grossly unjust”;
  • that “Jesus is a million times more vicious and vindictive than Pharaoh, Nero, or Hitler put together”;
  • that Jesus Christ is “not the Savior from sins”;
  • that Jesus died “a failure and in vain and never saved anyone”;
  • thus Jesus “is not even a good man but a liar, a rogue, and a deceiving rascal”;
  • that “Calvary is a farce, a travesty, and a sham.”

“Young began work on a novel proclaiming universalism for his children. Then three years later Young rewrote the fiction and published it as The Shack, in part his autobiography. Since its publication I have sought to expose the aberrant theology on a web site, in various articles, and most recently, in my book Burning Down “The Shack” by WND Books. In my introduction I cite the many statements that Young wrote in 2004 and compare them with the claims made in his novel, The Shack. The parallels with 2004 are several:

  • “God puts himself on our human level and limits himself”;
  • “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human”;
  • “Although Jesus is fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything”;
  • “God cannot act apart from love”;
  • “I don’t need to punish people for sin”;
  • The Father and Jesus were crucified together;
  • “God cannot send any of his children to an eternity of hell just because they sin against him”;
  • “mercy triumphs over justice because of love”;
  • Jesus is “a path of reconciliation”;

“These are just some of the distortions of Christian truth that Young puts into the mouth of his characters speaking as the Trinity.”

Jesus the BabyI cringe and shudder whenever a human being (man or woman) attempts to play God in any way. The only human who has a right to show us God in the flesh is Jesus Christ, and He has already done it! ONLY GOD has a right to tell us who He is and what He is like, and He has told us in many passages.

Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34.5-7)

In the same context, God both extends mercy to His people and judges those who persist in sin. He does not universally save everyone despite what we do, as The Shack teaches. On the contrary, He judges, and Jesus assured unbelievers of an eternal punishment (Matt. 24.45-51; 25.30, 46). John wrote in his Apocalypse about the final judgment, a lake of fire (Rev. 20.11-15). The Bible gives no room for universalism but instead commands all men everywhere to repent because of the coming judgment (Acts 17.30-31).

The Bible depicts God as masculine. God is a Father, a Husband, a Shepherd, a King. Our post-modern, feminist world cannot accept a God depicted as a male, but neither can it accept the Bible’s clearly-defined roles between the sexes. They would have an androgynous god, but the God of the Bible does not speak of Himself that way. We do not pray to our mother, but to our Father. The church is not Jesus’ husband, but His bride. Any confusion on this aspect of God’s character IS blatant and terrible heresy, and woe to those who cannot see it and teach otherwise!

Be careful! Don’t accept man’s images of God, which are only idols; only settle for what God says about Himself. Once we start attempting to find “fresh” ways of communicating who God is, we have stepped outside of our rights. He created us; we have no right to create Him or attempt to modify / explain His character outside of what He has already given!

If you love the divine image from The Shack, my friend, you love a man-made and impotent god. She is most certainly not the real deal.

Two Months to Live

Showing the BibleI just got off the phone with a man whose brother-in-law has been told has two months to live because he has aggressive, stage four lung cancer.

My friend said, “I want to send him a Bible verse to encourage him in this time…can you give me some ideas of what to send him?”

“Is he a Christian?” I wanted to know.

“Well, he’s Catholic, but he never goes to church anyway,” was the answer.

“I see.” I told him I’d try to text him some verses.

But I knew that someone who is not a faithful believer won’t get much hope from the Bible!

I finally texted my friend:

I’d encourage your brother-in-law to read one of the gospels and get acquainted with Jesus really well. I’m not sure how encouraging Bible verses will be if he’s not in a good relationship with God and Jesus.

Food for LifeThen I sent the following verse suggestions, which might help lead the man where he really needs to go. But before you read them, let me ask you:

What would you say to this man? How would you counsel someone with only a couple of months to live?

John 14.1-6

          1      “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2      “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3      “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4      “And you know the way where I am going.”
5      Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
6      Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

1 Corinthians 15.42-58

          42      So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised can imperishable body;
43      it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44      it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45      So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46      However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
47      The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
48      As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
49      Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
50      Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51      Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52      in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53      For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54      But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
55      “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
56      The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
57      but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58      Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Philippians 1.21-26

          21      For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
22      But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23      But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
24      yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
25      Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
26      so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.