Induction, Deduction, Revelation:  Notes on a class on how to interpret the Bible and to determine what is best to do, suggesting that we need to take into account first, revelation, which is the direct teaching of the Bible, second Bible principles and third, experience as a source of wisdom.

Induction, Deduction and Revelation

How do we know what God wants us to do as a body of his people today?

How, in general, do we know God’s will?

(Phil 1:10)

William of Ockham 1285-1349

Challenged the authority of the Pope.  Ultimately, the Bible is the source of authority for correct doctrine.

Excommunicated 1324

The first Reformer?    (Wycliffe, Zwingli, Tyndale, etc…)

Ockham’s Razor

"What can be accounted for by fewer assumptions is explained in vain by more."

"Nothing is assumed as evident unless it is known per se (ie by deduction) or is evident by experience (ie by induction), or is proved by authority of scripture (ie by revelation)."


 I.      Induction   

Induction involves taking what we know from direct experience or perhaps from the experiences of others to reach a conclusion about how the world works.

Information     Pattern

Ex:  How does a child learn about  hot stoves?   In fact, children, in general, learn by induction primarily.  (kid example)

Ex:  If you do not take care of details, it will come back to haunt you. (adult example)

We will look at several spiritual examples of using induction.

•II.      Deduction

Deduction involves applying a generalized rule or law which is assumed to be true to a specific situation.

Rule, Principle      Predicted result in a particular situation


Ex:  Parents try to teach their kids through deduction:  Don’t touch that stove:  it will burn you.  We try to teach principles which they can use throughout their lives.

As we get older, we tend to use deduction a lot more than induction.  We tend to stop learning.

As a religious movement, we tend to do the same……

•III.      Revelation

Revelation involves taking the word of a higher authority and applying it to a particular situation.

Revelation:  Rev 22:18, 2 Pet 3:16  etc.  God specifically tells us to do something or to not do something.

Ex:  Lord’s Supper,  Drunkenness,  Adultury,  Elders,  Pay your taxes, Repent and be baptized.  Etc.

We should have elders in every congregation which is mature enough to appoint them

Principles & Examples

Deduction:    Clearly, God could not legislate for every situation.  In fact, in some cases, the correct answer might depend on the situation.  For this reason, God provides us with principles to apply (through deduction) to particular situations.

Ex.  Meat sacrificed to idols:   Romans 14:19-23   This is not a "prescriptive" command (to use Mark Hodge’s words)  It is descriptive.

Proverbs is almost entirely a book of principles/deduction.

Ex:   As a man sows, so shall he also reap.

Ex:  Above all else, guard your heart.

A little more problematic:

The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  1 Cor 6:19  (Not strictly stated as a principle, but to apply to sexual immorality)

Can we apply this as a general principle (ex:  get plenty of exercise, do not over eat…)

Q. What form of leadership should we move to at this time?

Revelation:  appoint elders in every city….

Principle:  Matthew 20:25  No matter what we do, we must apply this principle to our leadership.  (do not lord it over them… must be your servant…) 

Descriptive, not prescriptive.  We can and must deduce from this principle

Induction: God reveals his will to his people through them applying induction to the situations in their own lives and in the lives of those to whom they minister.

God expects us to apply our experiences and the experiences of others to make decisions about what would be best in any situation. 

In many situations it is a matter of good, better, best.  We use induction to help determine what is best.

Through Paul, God admonishes us to "abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best" (Phil 1:10). 

Through personal sacrifice to God, we "will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2) 

Proverbs 10:14 tells us that wise men store up knowledge.  This is induction.  God expects us to gather information about human nature, about what works best in personal relationships, church government, leadership and so forth to determine what is best. 

Without knowledge of history, especially church history, we are perpetually blind to the pitfalls of human spiritual endeavor.

Three tools:  (i) Bible  (ii) Principles  (iii) Our Brain

God expects us to use our minds our experiences and the experiences of others to make decisions.

It is not a matter of sin, but it is a matter of good, better, best.  We should strive to find what is best.

We should be willing to learn from History, from church history, from the experiences of our denominational "friends" and from Restoration history.

What we are is more a result of our background in the Church of Christ than we think.  Let us learn from their mistakes.

Bible example

1 Sam 15:   Saul and Amelekites

Q:  Example of "revelation?"   v2,3

Q:  Example of a principle we can use for deduction?  v22

Q:  Example of an apparent fact from which we could induce something about God or about how we ought to behave?


Q. Is it

"Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent"

or is it

"Be silent where the Bible speaks, speak where the Bible is silent"?

A. Neither.

When the Bible is "silent," God still speaks to us through principle and through history and experience.

Example:  What should we do to remain unified as a religious movement?

Restoration Movement:    Alexander Campbell vs Southern churches….   Autonomy

What kind of cooperation is biblical and helpful for creating unity and accomplishing our mission?

Let’s learn from other’s history/experience   Proposal:  para-church organizations with voluntary commitment.    Ex:  HOPE,    world missions,    even things like KNN

The problem was not the cooperation, it was the compulsion, lack of freedom of choice.

What holds the Church of Christ together (even though they publicly proclaim autonomy)?



Proposal for us:   Let us avoid swinging the pendulum too far…

 Let us move toward para-church organizations for world evangelism, for helping the poor etc, for educating our ministers, etc.  Through totally voluntary contributions.

Let us stop giving # times contribution numbers and simply telling our people what is the need and the goal.

Let us stop teaching as revelation, what is only a principle for us, Ex 10% contribution (One can deduce but not use this as revelation)

another example: History

1.  evangelists  (NT church…)

2.  evangelists & elders

3.  elders and head elder (bishop)

4.  archbishops (metropolitans)

5.  mini-popes

Other 1-3rd century church mistakes we can learn from:

Withholding baptism (catechumen)

Lead elder/bishop

Creation of formal catechisms, creed statements, etc….


In order to determine what God’s will for us as individuals and as a movement of God, we need to pay careful attention to induction, deduction and revelation.

Phil 1:10

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