In a world where terms such as “relativism” are growing in their popularity and “personal opinion” is being exalted over absolute truth, the temptation to interpret Scripture through a subjective lense has only increased. The approach to studying Scripture has more commonly been satisfied by the question, “What are you getting from this passage” than “What does this passage mean?” As Christians, we should seek to interpret God’s Word carefully and accurately. As great as the temptation may be to follow in the footsteps of culture, we have a higher standard and have access to absolute truths worth standing for. One invaluable method for reaching a correct interpretation of Scripture is inductive studying.
What is Inductive Studying?
According to Gotquestions.org, Inductive studying is “An approach to God’s Word focusing on three basic steps that move from a focus on specific details to a more general, universal principle. Through these three steps, we apply inductive reasoning, which is defined as the attempt to use information about a specific situation to draw a conclusion. The steps are observation (what does it say?), interpretation (what does it mean?), and application (what does it mean for my life?).” By thinking inductively as you dive into God’s Word, you pay attention to what God’s purpose was in writing that particular word, phrase, or verse. You search for the original meaning through cross-references, the original language, surrounding context, and background information. Studying in a systematic manner prevents us from arriving at conclusions too soon that are only based on our subjective feelings and opinions.
Its opposite, deductive studying, (according to gotquestions.org) “involves picking a certain topic and then going through the Bible and finding passages that support the topic. This is related to the “topical approach” to Bible study… Deductive Bible study, to be beneficial, must begin with a universal truth rooted in Scripture. If we begin with conjecture or our own ideas, then we end up with a possible falsehood.” When we only think deductively about Scripture, we put a greater focus on our own insights, understanding, and ability to draw out our own personal applications. A proper balance must be reached for this form of study to be truly helpful in our interpretations of God’s Word.
Why should we Study Inductively?
Studying inductively has many benefits. It acts as a safeguard against many large holes and errors in biblical interpretation. It teaches us how to rightly divide the Word of truth, research on our own (thus giving us more exposure to God’s Word), think biblically and not subjectively, and allows us to answer the deeper questions such as, “who, what, when, where, and why?” God’s Word is like a treasure – full of truths and life-giving answers that we sometimes have to dive deeper to discover. The deeper we go, even though it often takes more diligence and time on our part, the more treasure will be obtained.
How do you study Scripture inductively?
There are many resources available for studying Scripture in this way. Blue Letter Bible, Bible Hub and Open Bible Info are all great websites that offer tools to help you dive deeper into Scripture. Concordances, Bible dictionaries and Scripture indexes are also helpful resources. Another great way to get into God’s Word is by getting Scripture into you. Memorization helps us to fully retain what we read and think on it more deeply. This aids in both a proper interpretation and application. Most importantly, acknowledge God in your studies and understand that all wisdom ultimately comes from Him. Unless He reveals His Word to us through His Holy Spirit, we won’t be able to come to any biblical conclusions. When we are in need of wisdom, we don’t have to wonder if He will grant it to us. He has already promised! In our times of need, when we want to grow in our knowledge of Him and His Word, all we need to do is ask in prayer and trust in Him to supply what we lack.
Written by NBB Alumna: Hannah Kohner