Bible study is not synonymous with Bible reading. When reading, you are just going through the passage in a hurry. However, when you are studying, you are taking your time to understand the passage. Inductive reasoning is one of the best ways of studying the word of God. It allows you to read a passage and consider its context to draw meaning from it.
Difference Between Inductive and Deductive Approaches
There are two main approaches that you can use in Bible study – the inductive approach and the deductive approach. The deductive approach is when you already have a thesis and are looking for scriptures that support your thesis. On the flip side, an inductive approach is when you allow the conclusions you make to be based on what you observe from the passage you read.
The table below gives the main differences between these two approaches to Bible study.
|You make conclusions based on what you see and do not bring any preconceived notions
|You form a thesis then look for scriptures to support it
|You seek to allow the passage to speak for itself
|You dictate to the scripture as opposed to allowing the scripture to speak
|You study the scripture in context
|You make a conclusion before reading the passage
The Three Steps to Inductive Bible Study
Inductive Bible study has three main steps – observation, interpretation, and application. At the observation stage, you want to figure out what the text says. The interpretation stage (exegesis) is where you figure out what the text means. You often have to study the context to understand this. The application stage (hermeneutics) is where you figure out how the text applies to your modern setting.
The three steps have to be done chronologically. Observation is the foundation stone and should therefore be done first. The observation can then be followed by the interpretation which will be followed by the interpretation. As such, a good observation will yield a good interpretation which will in turn yield a good application.
Examples of Inductive Reasoning in the Bible
We know inductive reasoning is a Bible study tool so we are supposed to use it when we are reading any scripture. Interestingly though, there are lots of examples that we can get from the different passages that demonstrate inductive reasoning. This is especially so for books where the author was trying to teach a concept to the readers/listeners.
Example 1: Learn from the ants (Proverbs 6:6-8 )
“Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
In this passage, Solomon invites the reader to Observe the ants to learn something from them. He is attempting to teach industriousness and foresight and he uses the metaphor of ants. He describes how ants work hard during the summer to store up food for the winter. This teaches both diligence and preparation. In this example, the ants are used as an example to teach a general principle of hard work.
Example 2: learn from the flowers and the birds (Matthew 6:28-30 )
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
In the passive above, Jesus invites his disciples to observe the birds, flowers, and grass. He explains that the birds never worry about their food and yet God ensures they have enough food every day. Similarly, he explains that the lilies do not worry about what they will wear and yet God makes them more pretty than the richest king in Israel’s history (King Solomon). He then invites his disciples to a simple conclusion – if God takes care of the flowers and the birds which do not even have life beyond death – then he can sure take care of his children if they just stop worrying too much.
The message Jesus is trying to pass is that of testing God instead of focusing on one’s problems. And he uses specific examples of birds of the air and lilies of the valley.
Example 3: God’s power displayed (Romans 1:20)
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
In the above scripture, the Apostle Paul explains to the Romans that the natural world was created as evidence of God’s eternal power. The Apostle is making the argument that anyone can observe the creation and deduce the invisible qualities of the creator. To put it plainly, God’s existence, which is the general principle, can be inferred by observing the specifics of creation.
To wrap it up, there are two main approaches to Bible study – inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. While both have their merits, inductive is a better approach. That is because instead of approaching the scripture with preconceived ideas, this approach allows you to let the Bible speak for itself. This approach is best in preventing doctrinal errors and is also more powerful in the sense that the lessons learned can easily be applied to your personal life. This will result in a transformed life.