PRINCIPLES AND METHODS

Chapter 5

Inductive Bible Study continues by forming a Conclusion based the Data.

The Bible is not a cookie jar with a mouth too small to extract anything out of it. We study it because we know there are things in there for us to find. We can be quite definitive about what we find if we have done our homework. Conclusions are expected from our study, and we should be bold to state what they are within the arena of our available data. Truth is black or white, right or wrong. God is not a God of confusion but of order. We can make very specific and detailed statements about what the Bible teaches. The God of the Bible is a God of detail (Matthew 10:30). Look carefully at a flower if you do not believe it. Everything that God does and says has order and purpose. The Bible is not a collection of stories or mystical obtuse sayings. It is a unified, carefully structured volume of truth. The creation is a beautiful integrated whole, with each part carefully designed for a specific purpose. Therefore we should expect God's spiritual truth to be just as specific and clearly delineated as any other of His works.

When we get this far in our study, we should ask a very revealing question: "Am I able to explain clearly in my own words, in one or two simple sentences, what the point is that I came to?" Remember, when we summarize all the data, we are trying to distill one truth at a time. If we cannot express it simply, we probably do not know what it is, or at the very least do not understand it very well. This kind of test is valid because writing makes an exact man and reveals in the harsh light of the next day the durability, accuracy and clarity of the conclusion we were so excited about the previous night.

At this point we should be warned not to establish a pattern in our thinking too quickly. We must make absolutely sure that we have gone over all the data before we begin to direct our thinking in a certain pattern. When we make the decision too early in our analysis that the data requires a certain conclusion, we could create problems for ourselves. As much as we hate to admit it, it is very difficult to abandon a decision at which we have personally arrived. It is very hard to change once we have settled upon a conclusion, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. This resistance is rooted in the pride we have in our accomplishments: "We figured it out ourselves and how dare anyone question our hard work?"

Furthermore, snap, premature decisions reduce our effectiveness in discovering truth by depriving us of the inclination to abruptly try any new patterns of thought that occasionally show themselves by surprise. Some of the most interesting and valuable lessons are learned when we have stumbled upon them as we were pursuing another unrelated idea. Keeping an open mind for a longer period of time allows us to take advantage of things that pop up along the way.

We must always be willing to change if the evidence presents itself. Besides, humility becomes a Bible student. After all, who are we, sinners saved by grace, to show any airs when we study the Word of our Almighty King? Remember, any insight we do receive is only a gift of God anyway.

As a final word about conclusions, we must always keep in mind that arriving at a clear understanding of a passage and being satisfied with our conclusion does not mean we know all that is worth knowing about that passage. We will never exhaust the content of a passage of the Bible, no matter how many thoughts we have extracted. Therefore we should expect to find other insights later on and we should welcome the contributions of others.

 

Home     Principles & Methods     Top of Page     Back     Next