Bible “studies” — don’t be too sure (2 of 2)

Continued . . .

I recently came across a reference to “inductive Bible study,” and this reference reminded me that I’ve never really been clear on the categories 1) inductive and 2) deductive.¹  Taken as mere verbophones, “inductive” sounds more open or even vague, and perhaps somewhat euphonic; where as “deductive” sounds colder and more scientific.

Once we got out of ourselves, we would want to be more scientific, wouldn’t we (unless we were all wrapped up in present-day Pentecostal notions of the charismata, that is, expecting obvious, manifest gifts of prophecy)?  On the other hand, most of us probably want to be personally involved and invested in Bible study, and making such study out to be “deductive” sounds initially as though it might be easier to remain distant and uninvested.  Hmm.  Let’s not be too sure which is the more desirable.

I gather that Kay Arthur still has her dust pan in hand, sweeping the nation with charisma.  I don’t believe I’ve ever laid a hand on anything she’s written, but I know a lot of people use her materials.  From the little I’ve read second-hand, this is probably a better bet than using “Beth Moore ‘studies.'”  Aside:  why would I want to put something in semi-permanent form on this blog when I have no better basis for the opinion than merely having gathered or read a little second-hand information, you ask?  Good question.  I think it’s because every Bible study “method” or reading plan I’ve laid eyes on deserves question, and some more serious question than others.  I feel that I’m picking on a relatively good method here — with a view toward encouraging more ardent scrutiny of ALL available study “methods.”

Now, click http://precept.org/about_inductive_bible_study (opens a new window).  Click around the site a bit, if you have time.  You’ll likely be at least somewhat impressed.  Let me state clearly and firmly that I have no (current) questions about Kay Arthur’s intentions, or her heart, or her “ministry” organization’s general integrity.  I do have some questions, however, about the validity of her methods.  Really, if I had to choose one of the popular methods out there, I might choose this one!  (And as it happens, a very devoted, trusted friend is using this very method.)  Yet it, like pretty much all the others, is found wanting.

Here’s a statement pulled from the Arthur/Precept Ministries website:

Learn to think biblically and discover what God has to say about your real-life questions.

I would first question what “learning to think biblically” is.  Since the Bible is to be seen primarily as a collection or library of documents and not a single document itself, I have a tough time conceiving of what it is “to think biblically.”  If thinking biblically means to think anciently, great — all the biblical documents are ancient.  If it means to think with Christian glasses, reading later superimpositions onto the documents, I grow concerned.  And if it means to think as though Exodus relates directly to John or to Hebrews or 1 Thessalonians, my concern develops into a troubled state.

Now, with that first quasi-imperative (inset above) aside, note carefully the implications of the second one.  If my goal, after supposedly having “learned to think biblically,” is to figure out something about my life, my questions — hear this, please! — then I am quite likely to have missed the point of the original text.

The Bible is really NOT all about me.  To think otherwise is to be blasphemous, or megalomaniacal, or at least all sandy-headed, ostrich-like.  (Take this last choice.  It’s temporarily more messy, but there’s a lot more hope if you just shake off the sand and get your head into something else!)

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¹ Don’t laugh too hard; I get other distinctions that you may not get, such as “organic vs. tasty” or “productive meeting vs. waste of time.”

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