I almost swallowed my H. Upmann Churchill whole reading Dr. Scott Clark’s definition of an inductive bible study. To wit: An inductive bible study involves “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.”
Of course the part that got me choking was the pooling ignorance part. And the sitting in groups part brought some pictures to mind that were very close to home. How well I remember the guilt I felt when I began to skip going to “care groups” because I suspected I was wasting time.
The article about which Dr. Clark is commenting above is in reference to inductive bible studies that are the hallmark of the Intervarsity para-church organization – an organization which has carved out a good foothold on many college campuses. Hence, they are dealing with intellectuals – folks who are in the process of being trained to think. So, even though you’d think that students are used to submitting to the authority of experts in their chosen fields of study, it turns out that this approach to religion may very well be the very thing one would expect on a college campus in America in the evangelical climate of the 21st century.
How so? First, rationalism is being groomed at our universities. So much does this come with the territory that such an assertion isn’t all that different from saying all bachelors are unmarried. Since my reason is the master, I don’t need any objective presuppositions in order to master these texts.
Second, the individualistic spirit in America hailing from the post-colonial days has fostered an I-can-do-it-myself attitude that most certainly has had its effect on religion. Nathan Hatch has written an insightful book entitled The Democratization of American Christianity which details the disestablishmentarian mindset that swept aside the notions that a minister might need to be educated to preach the gospel. To this day, American Christianity has a congenital distrust of outside help – which would include confessions, systems, dogmas.
Third, the evangelical climate today with its liberal bent for feeling the Christ within is tailor made for self expression. The thought of an ecclesiastical faith centered around word, sacrament and discipline is nowhere near as appealing as the apparent therapeutic value of relating what the text means for you.
Finally, what better phrase than “there are no wrong answers” could one offer for a description of post-modernism. Of course, Horton is right when he says that post-modernism is really most-modernism, rationalism on human growth hormone.
Comments? What does this post mean to you? Don’t be shy, there are no wrong answers.