Home > theology > Inductive vs Deductive Bible Study

Inductive vs Deductive Bible Study

I’ve heard people refer to “inductive bible study” but never really had a firm understanding of what was meant or how it differed from a deductive bible study. In looking for a definition, I came across a very helpful article called Inductive and Deductive Bible Studies by Harvey Bluedorn. I don’t know much of anything about the author, other than he appears to be the father of Nathan Bluedorn, whom I met very briefly at a film festival a few years ago. Nathan is the author of the Fallacy Detective book series http://www.christianlogic.com/ (and I believe he is influenced by Gordon Clark’s writings, but don’t quote me on that).

Bluedorn is very helpful in that he explains that inductive and deductive study is not the same thing as inductive and deductive reasoning:
As you can see, we aren’t actually talking about a method of reasoning so much as we are talking about a method of approaching a subject.
Here is his conclusion. I welcome comments:

“Deductive or synthetic Bible study gathers propositions from Scripture and arranges them as premises in formal arguments which reason toward necessary doctrinal conclusions which may not otherwise have been stated in the Bible. In this way, it builds Biblical doctrine. On the basic level, the gathering and arranging of Scripture to prove doctrines has already been done for the student. On the advanced level, the student researches these on his own.

Inductive or analytic Bible study examines in detail large passages of Scripture in order to understand those passages in context. In this way, it builds a general understanding of the Bible. On the basic level, the student researches on his own. On the advanced level, the student surveys all or large portions of Scripture looking for patterns, and theorizes about the meaning of what he observes. He then goes back and attempts to prove his theory deductively.

So inductive and deductive study go hand in hand. Inductive study supplies the analytical Bible knowledge and understanding necessary to deductively build Bible doctrine, and deductive study researches and builds doctrine which informs inductive study concerning the wider doctrinal context of Scripture which then enables inductive study thereby to draw out even more meaning from the text.

The weakness of inductive study is its limitations in building doctrine, and the weakness of deductive study is its susceptibility to being infected with dogma.

The abuse of inductive study comes when theory is turned into dogma, and the abuse of deductive study comes when dogma is mixed with doctrine.”


Categories: theology
  1. March 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    It sounds like inductive Bible study results in biblical theology, while deductive Bible study results in systematic theology.


  2. March 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    That reminds me of problems I ran into while taking Principles of Epistolary Interpretation at Washington Bible College. When assigned a passage, we had to almost completely limit ourselves to the passage at hand. Too much use of other passages or established doctrine was not allowed. Hebrews 6:4-6 was one of the passages, and it was a complete disaster. Huge waste of time, and a lot of students left completely confused at the end. I did learn that A.W. Pink is pretty great on that passage, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. December 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Hey thanks for taking the time to put this together. It answered all my questions in a very clear and helpful manner. God bless.


  4. May 8, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Sounds like a charley horse between the ears to me. Inductive Bible study done without a systematic understanding of Scripture is to insert disjunctions that do not exist. Deductive Bible study acknowledges that the details fit with the system of theology in the Bible and in God’s mind. Systematic theology is therefore indispensable in interpreting the Scriptures.


  5. Rusty Carroll
    March 4, 2016 at 3:42 am

    In the context of biblical study, it seems to me (only my opinion), inductive means to take away (as by force); and deductive means to enter into (coming empty handed to the unified and complete biblical story). Either the story becomes small enough to get into our big lives (story becomes conquerable) or our lives are small enough to get into the big story (our lives become conquerable by the story).

    We spend much time in attempting to master the biblical narrative, to make it subject to us (inductive temptation) over against seeing ourselves as part of the whole story (deductive affirmation).

    Inductive approach leads to a form of church nihilism by throwing off the continuity of the voice of the saints that have come and gone before – boldly going one’s own subjective way. Is this not a sign of our american individualistic times? Is it not the reason Sunday school classes are filled with glazed eyes.


  6. Tony G Campbell
    December 6, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I like the suggested cyclical connection of the two approaches, or the two sides of the same coin suggestion (from elsewhere). Whether we journey from a filling (self) to an emptying (faith, repentance, justification) and then back to filling (Sanctification) the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason) guide me. The Bible takes precedence. Tradition gives us dialogue with past Christians. Experience and Reason are where it gets obviously exciting and sticky since these areas are very subjective. Love, respect, tolerance and genuine appreciation of experiences and reasoning are foundational for the Body of Christ to expand from one heart to a global community.


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