PRINCIPLES AND METHODS
Inductive Bible study includes a Test of our conclusions.
Always keep in mind that truth will stand the test of scrutiny of its own accord. Truth is durable. We do not have to worry about its ability to withstand examination. If our conclusion is based upon sound study, we do not have to defend it. It will defend itself. Those who become concerned about challenges to their position usually argue loudly because that is all it is - their position. We must have a peace of mind about what we conclude. If our study has integrity, let it be challenged. After all, we couldn't be happier if we were found to be wrong and were corrected in our thinking. And if our conclusion stands, all praise should be to God for His truth. Remember, God will only defend His truth. If what we hold is truth, God will see that it stands the test of time. Popularity means nothing. And if we are really seeking truth, God will either correct us or make the conclusion to be a blessing to us and to others.
Not only that, whenever we present a conclusion it should be the result, if properly done, of much study and time. We must allow others the opportunity to challenge and struggle with our conclusions. They haven't had the benefit of our prior study on the same issue. And even if they did, we must be very patient when we present our conclusions. Not only do we know that God has had to do a lot of work in our lives to force us to face truth, but also we know that unless God reveals truth to others, much speaking will not convince them of our view. We must never compromise, if we have done our homework. However, we must always gently bring the truth with an open mind and leave it there if it doesn't make sense to others.
This step in inductive Bible study means that we must be on the lookout for ideas that might be in contradiction to what we have concluded. We must be willing to reconcile our conclusions with whatever else the Bible teaches. For example, we might conclude that we take part in our own salvation from the expression "received Him" in John 1:12. But a comparison with John 3:27 pulls the curtain back further on God's salvation plan and shows us that even this response of ours was in God's hand.
1) One excellent way to test our conclusion is to play the adversary. We might deliberately, in the privacy of our own mind, so our ego won't be at stake, take the other side of our conclusion and try to prove ourselves wrong. This step of inductive Bible study is not taken at once. It might be years, in fact, before a serious challenge to our conclusion presents itself. We must always be willing to face any correction, whether from what other people point out or from our ever maturing Christian walk and our growing comprehension of God's Word.
2) It is good to discuss our studies with others. Exposure will keep our study honest. But whenever we do talk, especially if it is a new idea for us, we must talk humbly. We dare not paint ourselves in a corner so that we must seek to save face somehow when we are shown to be wrong. We all know what kind of people we are and how prone we are to hold onto something because we personally identify with it. Our confidence in a conclusion that we have reached must be based upon knowledge. Have we personally done our homework on this issue, or do we have a stubborn loyalty to a teacher, denomination, friend, church, or whatever? It is better to keep a low profile for a while, until our conclusions pass at least a few challenges and until a few months or years go by without any serious unresolved questions.
3) Another way to test our conclusion is to ask the following question: "Can I find another passage in the Bible that teaches the same thing or is my conclusion an isolated case?" We should be circumspect about the validity of our conclusion if we cannot find a similar thought elsewhere.
There is a valuable result from testing our conclusion. Many times in the crucible of defense from a particularly ardent and skillful challenge, we discover whole new truths. Blessings come even if the challenge is successful and our conclusions fail. Remember that as we study God's Word we are visiting with God, and He is working upon us to shape us as well as show us His truth.
Finally, keep in mind that none of our conclusions, even a correct one, are so wonderfully perfect that they cannot stand improvement. Sometimes a challenge will not shake the firm basis of our conclusion, but on the other hand we can be grateful for small modifications that tidy up our thinking and help us to present our conclusions more clearly.
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