How should we read the Scriptures?
Let’s return to our Guardian columnist, Paul Oestreicher. He took the simple declaration that John was the disciple that Jesus loved and made the incorrect premise – through faulty translation - that their relationship was a physical “eros” expression of love. To this he “read between the lines” of other Scripture and made faulty deductions. This is what he did:
Jesus loved John (correct).
It was ‘eros’ love expressed here (incorrect).
Resulting in: Jesus loved John ‘erotically’ (incorrect!)
Here are some more examples:
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science cult, looked at the name Adam, then divided it into the two syllables “A” and “dam”, then taking the English meaning as “an obstruction” concluded that Adam “was an obstruction put in place by the serpent between man and his Creator” (?!) Her mistaken deductive thinking was that it is valid to use wordplay even in a translated language, therefore it is valid to divide the name Adam into two words, therefore I can attach my own resultant interpretation to the Genesis story.
Erich von Daniken was the Swiss author who wrote Chariots of the Gods (and 25 other books), asserting that God was an alien astronaut. One “proof text” he used for this was Genesis 1:26, where God speaks in the plural (“let us make man in our image”). So he has taken a Scripture and used it to back up his mistaken presupposition that God was just one of many “alien astronauts”.
Then there are the modern-day prosperity teachers who plunder the Bible for “proof texts” to support their own agendas, twisting meanings and contexts of these Scriptures in ways that would make that master of deductive logic, Sherlock Holmes, turn in his fictional grave! More of them later.
So, the Bible and deductive logic? Good for doctrine, as long as your reasoning is sound and as long as your general statements are true, which they patently weren’t in the case of Paul Oestreicher, Mary Baker Eddy and Erich van Daniken. And, as the abiding general statement for our prosperity preachers is that Jesus wants us to be rich, we know that the very subjective logic that follows will be directed solely towards that end.
As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded … (Acts 17:2-4)
Paul here reasoned from the Scriptures. He allowed the Scriptures to speak for themselves, allowing them to tell the story of the Messiah who was crucified, but who rose again from the dead. He met with some success too. So there’s nothing wrong with deductive logic per se, it’s just that we need to know when to use it.
Now for inductive thinking and the Bible. Let’s remind ourselves.
Here we start with specific statements that we know to be true, then arrive at a general conclusion that we’re happy with but may or may not actually be verifiably true, but could be probably true.
With inductive Bible study, the specific statements that we start with as our raw material are the Bible verses themselves. So all we are doing here is examining the Scripture and coming to conclusions. Nothing other than good ol’ fashioned Bible study!
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Paul says it well. The Holy Scriptures, with enlightened guidance, are sufficient to make one wise for salvation.
Inductive thinking encourages us to grapple with the specific statements (Bible verses) and arrive at a general conclusion that we are happy with – though it may not be everybody else’s conclusion. As Bible study is an interface between our minds and God’s mind, then we can surely expect God to be speaking to us in different ways, without allowing us to veer away from the truth of the Scriptures.
For the previous article in this series, click here.
For the next article in this series, click here.
To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.
You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.