Thursday, October 1, 2015

Six Honest Serving-Men

This a small part of the excellent section on inductive Bible study on the
Bible study web site.
As an aside, questioning the text does not mean that one questions the inerrancy, plenary inspiration or authority of God's Holy Word!
The more you practice interrogating the text, the more the text will be opened to you by the illuminating ministry of the Spirit. Below are some suggestive questions, but remember to allow the text (and especially the context) to guide your specific questions...
Who is speaking? To whom and/or about whom is he speaking? Who are the main characters? Who is mentioned in the book (Why? What do we learn about them?) (In the epistles ask) Who is writing (author)? Who receiving?
Where did (or will) this happen (Why? When?)? Where was this said/written (where is the author) (Why?)?
Why was this written (What purpose?)? Why is this said? Why is he there?
When is this written (When in Biblical history - where on the timeline? When in the author's life)? When did/will this happen? When did he say/do it?
What is the author doing? What are the main events? What are the circumstances? What is the historical/cultural setting (as determined from the text)? What is the main subject of the chapter/book?
How will/did something happen? How is the truth illustrated?
Do not panic if you cannot ask every 5W/H question. And remember that these questions should be asked not only when you encounter key words or key phrases, but every time you identify one of the other Observation "code words" -- Contrast, Conclusion (and terms of explanation such as "for"), Comparison, Chronology (time phrase), etc. Every encounter with one of these "code words" is an opportunity to hone (sharpen) your skills of observation. Yes, it does take time and practice to train yourself to employ this "questioning mindset." (As an aside, questioning the text does not mean that one questions the inerrancy, plenary inspiration or authority of God's Holy Word!) As you train your eye to observe the Scriptures (this training takes some time), your enhanced ability to keenly observe and intelligently interrogate will also make you a better reader of everything you read for the rest of your life.    
In short, the importance of a questioning mindset cannot be overemphasized as the answers to the 5W/H questions form the basis for every aspect of Inductive Bible Study - astute observation, accurate interpretation and appropriate application.
Although Rudyard Kipling was not referring to Inductive Bible Study when he wrote his poem Six Honest Serving-Men, you can still observe the parallel principle poetically phrased...
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
Kipling gives sound "Biblical" advice, except for his last line. Beloved, make it the goal of your life to never "give them all a rest" when you sit at the feet of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, Who alone is revealed in the eternal, holy Word of God, of Truth and of Life!
Most students of Scripture do not see the "gold nuggets" of truth in passages and paragraphs, because they do not know what to look for. One way you will learn what to look for is by asking the right questions. Questions will bring details to our attention. The following story from the secular classroom setting illustrates this point.