Sure seems like there is much thinking going on in the Christian academic world these days. I believe Christian scholars, have been challenged to pick up a “new pair of glasses” and gain a fresh perspective at research. On the surface it appears the deductive method is not as plausible as the inductive method. If one takes the deductive approach then he or she has to come to the project with a preset theory to prove correct or incorrect. On the other hand, if he or she takes the inductive method then there will be the gathering and analyzing of data which will aid in the formulation of a theory. The latter approach is the one I like best but I do believe it will be more difficult to put into practice. Who among us has already come up with a theory regarding a problematic issue within the church? I am guilty. I have some preconceived ideas and theories when it comes to how to bring about revitalization to the local church. The trouble is every local congregation is unique and has its own “DNA.” Therefore, there must be some aspects of deductive research involved in order to gain insight of a local church. Again, it is a matter of blending the two or at least employing the two.
I recently thought of a Bible which I purchased several years ago which was titled, “The International Inductive Study Bible.” What fascinated me most at first glance was the study aids included. The editors had gone to great lengths to demonstrate how the inductive approach to Bible study works. It involved much observation and then it challenged the reader to come up with the themes, headings, topics, etc. After purchasing the Bible, I went home and pulled out my colored pencils and I was very excited as I dove in to the inductive world of study. It was not long before I realized this involved much hard work! I wish I could report how much I learned from my time of inductive studying the Bible. What I can say is it made me appreciate more the topical headings in our English Bibles! Someone did the hard work for us. When it comes to the inductive method being employed in our research, it, too, will mean hard work. There will be observation, studying, and prescribing the right “pill” to solve problems in the local church. However, it will be worth the effort when the theory surfaces in the end and we have a solution. And this is the goal, to have solutions for church problems. If we come to a problem with the answer in hand we are not really advancing our cause as far as research goes. We will be able to confirm we have an answer which worked. This is not bad and it will help the church. Our challenge is to demonstrate we are capable of research and to this end the inductive method, in my opinion, is the best method. At this point, all options are still open including the famous “blend.”