Inter-Varsity And Rome

When I was in seminary a few years later, I had a discussion with our local InterVarsity rep, who was a seasoned, old-time IV veteran. When I brought up my concerns about the dangers of inductive Bible studies and heterodoxy, she surprised me by saying, “Yes, InterVarsity believes in heterodoxy.” Now, this was just one person, but I think it was also the simple truth. I amazed me that this would be stated as a virtue, but there it was. I also think this embrace of heterodoxy was predictable, just as I think this IV-Urbana dabbling with Roman Catholicism is predictable. The very organization that perhaps more than any other promoted the idea of individual interpretation and authority, now promotes articles written by those who are fleeing individualism for the safety of papal authority.

Rick Phillips, Ref21.


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  1. Joe wrote to ask what Rick means by “inductive” here.

    I reply:

    I think he’s describing the approach to Scripture whereby folk try to read it as if no one has ever read it before, where we sit in groups and pool ignorance. It’s the attempt to read Scripture outside of some confession or system. As Rick shows, it can’t be done. Folk trade the broad evangelical “system” or anti-system for the Roman system.

    The Reformed churches read the Bible with the church. We confess Scripture together. We’ve reached certain conclusions and summarized them in confessional documents. We don’t start from scratch and there are such things as wrong answers!

  2. I work at IVP (in the warehouse getting damaged books for free!). Don’t even get me started about our (that is the editors) theological tendencies and publishing choices….

  3. It seems like what Rick means by using the term “inductive” as applied to a bible study is that there are a bunch of people sitting around suggesting various interpretations of a passage and that no interpretation is either authoritative or definitive – just a bunch of people’s feelings about the bible. When he attacks this, he is attacking a straw man (not that these types of bible studies don’t exist in IV – they do). He should not be attacking an “inductive” bible study, but rather how it is run and managed. “Inductive” bible studies are usually defined as a way of teaching where one proceeds from specific facts to a whole. Instead of saying “this is the doctrine that we believe” and trying to find proof texts (a helpful exercise), an inductive bible study would look at a passage and try to draw out various things from the passage. Some of these things that would come up when studying a new testament passage would include questions. Who are the main characters? What old testament passages are referenced? How would someone hearing this passage in that time and place be likely to interpret it? What is the literary structure of the passage? What is the genre? How does this relate to Jesus? In other words, a good inductive bible study would teach people to ask the right questions. It would teach them to read scripture. It would teach them (ideally, if done right) the same method that Scott or other good pastors would use every day as they approach the word of God. It seems like a (good) “inductive” bible study is not mutually exclusive with a confessional or biblical theological approach to scripture.

    Rather, a good leader of an inductive type bible study should be knowledgeable and should be able to run the bible study in a way to draw out the correct (and confessional) interpretation of the text. With this post I am certainly not trying to defend some of the wackiness that Rick referenced in his post. I am only trying to say that some people learn best by seeing the relationships between the particulars. Sometimes people learn best when they are forced to think about something and are not merely being fed the correct or confessional answer (we do need to give them the correct and confessional answers since systematic theology and a confessional, doctrinal understanding is important). An inductive bible study format can actually help people learn the tools for getting to the correct answer along with the correct answer itself.

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