Inductive and Deductive Reasoning are both important in life. I myself have tended toward inductive reasoning because of the kinds of obstacles I have encountered in day to day life. I think in part my gifts have combined well into looking at narrow or wide sets of data and coming to conclusions. I am always willing to look for more evidence that might affect the overall outcome of a conclusion. However, years ago I noticed a prominent Christian Philosopher named William Lane Craig making some very strong arguments for the Christian faith which were found in deductive form. This should not be surprising, as Christians have always had a host of arguments in this form. Still, seeing this lead thinker helped me to realize I needed to strengthen my deductive reasoning to formulate and follow arguments in deductive form with greater clarity.
What is the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning?
- Deductive: looks from general to particular. From Cause to Effect. Uses A Priori Reasoning. Philosophical Reasoning. Necessary Conclusions.
- Inductive: Looks from particular to general. From Effect to Cause. Uses A Posteriori Reasoning. Scientific Reasoning. Probable Conclusions.
Let’s take a look at one deductive argument for the existence of God.
- 1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- 2. The Universe began to exist.
- 3. Therefore the universe has a cause.
Numbers 1 and 2 are premises in the argument. If 1 and 2 are true, and the conclusion properly stated, then they guarantee the conclusion. I highly recommend taking a look at William Lane Craig’s work on his website reasonablefaith.org
Now, let’s highlight an inductive argument. Evolution is by definition an inductive argument. It starts with particular evidence of creatures today and the diversity that is found throughout the world of these creatures. Then, it takes a look at various remains of creatures of past era’s and compares. The question is, does Evolution offer the kind of argument that looks at the widest possible data? I will leave that for you to decide. Christians have gone both ways on this one, so long as God is seen to be working through the processes. Still, the point remains. There is a look at the various data throughout the world. Then there are various explanations that are offered to explain all of that data. Evolution is an explanation used to explain all of that data.
The tricky thing about any inductive argument is that the argument has to offer the widest and strongest possible explanation while not ignoring other good evidence. Now, let’s move on from Evolution and let’s make a point about Christian doctrine.
Christians often build inductive arguments based off of the Bible. They have their two, three, or even series of verses on a topic. Thus, they have done their inductive work of gathering some evidence. Then, they formulate various conclusions from their position. One example could be that God is sovereign or that he has predestined events for humanity, or he has given creaturely freedom. The problem with many Christian positions is that they have often done their inductive work in selective ways. Therefore, they leave out key pieces of data from the Bible in areas that would broaden a given assessment. In any inductive argument, one has to be careful of bias in their selectivity of evidence. The lesson for us Christians is to see if our views are actually in line with a wide set of data from the Bible, and not just a few verses from our favorite teachers. It is easy to stand on one verse, but we must be careful not to let one verse dictate how we read all the other verses.