The Value of Inductive Study

I come to Kanakuk to train the students in what I think is the most important thing out there — to handle the scripture for themselves. We talk about three broad words and work within that framework.

The first is observation. This asks the question what is the text saying. In other words, we want to look at what the text says, not what we wish it said or what we thought it said or have always heard that it said. These things don’t matter. What exactly did God say?

The next is interpretation, or what does the text mean by what it says, how do I understand this passage, or what is God getting at here.

And then there’s application, which refers to what to do with the test or why the text matters.

The bulk of our time in Bible study is actually spent in observation, what is the text saying exactly. This is what takes the most work. We teach the students to read with a purpose, we give them a set of tools to help them engage with the scripture purposefully. Now, let me just ask, have you ever gone through the Bible in a year or tried to go through some kind of study that did this? And did you ever read the Bible and realize you didn’t really know what you had read? You know you read a passage, but you didn’t really know what it was you were supposed to take away. Inductive Study can fix that. You can learn to read with purpose and not lose focus. We talk about repeated words; we talk about people, places, events, and references to time. These are things that, when I read and watch for them, I train my eyes to focus and train my mind to pay attention to the text. When I get done, I actually remember ad have a better understand of what I just read.

The next thing we do in Inductive Bible study is interpretation. We don’t spend as much time on this because, frankly, it is clear and obvious most of the time. The most important aspect of interpretation is context; context rules interpretation. A passage only means what in means in the context it is in, and it doesn’t mean anything out of the context that it is meant to be in. This is one of the great problems I see in the American church that distresses me: pulling out a verse or maybe two and weaving them with other verse and teaching on them that has no context for the listener. Even if the teacher is absolutely right, if the listener has no context, they have no mental place to put this verse and become dependent on the teacher rather than the Word of God. If you’re a teacher, help your people see the context so they can accurately interpret the Word.

The less obvious part of Inductive study is application. Sometimes the American church wants to jump to the application without laying the foundation, but an application without a foundation is worthless to the student.

Application comes in two parts: a change of belief or a change of behavior. We see this in Paul’s writing a lot, don’t we? The first thing he says deals with belief, the second half with behavior. Context helps me see what the truth is. What do I do with it? I change what I think so that my thinking lines up with God and I begin to look at things from His view. Or I change my behavior.

I learned all this through Precept Ministries International, and I get to come to the Kanakuk Institute and train these students in basic study methods so they know they are equipped to handle the Word of God.

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