What Is an Inductive Bible Study?

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The deriving of a conclusion by reasoning; specifically: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises.


Inference of a generalized conclusion from particular instances.

Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.

Let me explain. A "deductive" Bible study begins from a point that the teacher is trying to make, and then uses a number of scripture verses and examples to support that conclusion. Most sermons and Bible studies are conducted this way. Our JesusWalk study is an example of this.

An "inductive" Bible study, on the other hand begins with the raw text of scripture, and encourages participants to read the text and draw conclusions directly from the text itself says. This is an important learning method that uses questions to elicit thought and learning. It also trains people to study the Bible better, since it teaches them to ask questions which help them understand what is going on, what is being said, and how that relates to the rest of the passage.

I probably like an inductive approach since I was trained as a scientist and did virus and DNA research for five years. Researchers look at the raw data and then try to develop hypotheses that are either proved or disproved by the test data. The scientific method is at its root an inductive method of learning.

However, as good and as powerful as the inductive approach to learning is, it is weak in quickly imparting a basic body of knowledge to people. A "deductive" lecture or exposition can much more quickly provide the general principles as a groundwork for learning. I use deductive approaches constantly in my ministry.

The inductive method, however, is better than the deductive method in two areas:

  • It helps people apply the truths they are learning. When you have to think about something and its implications, you are able to internalize it.
  • It helps people learn to understand the scriptures. It teaches people how to learn. Unless you learn inductively, you become prey to the cults who take a smidgen of a scripture here and a pinch of a passage there to brew a concoction that is deceptive -- and poisonous. If you learn to read and study the scriptures for yourself "inductively," your understanding will be based on the teaching of the Scripture itself, not some teacher's or denomination's interpretation of that Scripture.

The only downside is that many people are lazy thinkers, and don't want to prepare their answers ahead.


Copyright © 2018, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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