GDC 150-151: Inductive and deductive method

You philosophers and logicians in the reading audience might have more fun with this than I. Citing section 72 in the 1971 General Catechetical Directory, a brief discussion of inductive and deductive interaction with matters of faith is presented:

150. The communication of the faith in catechesis is an event of grace, realized in the encounter of the word of God with the experience of the person. It is expressed in sensible signs and is ultimately open to mystery. It can happen in diverse ways, not always completely known to us. With regard to the history of catechesis, there is common reference today to inductive method and deductive method. Inductive method consists of presenting facts (biblical events, liturgical acts, events in the Church’s life as well as events from daily life) so as to discern the meaning these might have in divine Revelation. It is a method which has many advantages, because it conforms to the economy of Revelation. It corresponds to a profound urge of the human spirit to come to a knowledge of unintelligible things by means of visible things. It also conforms to the characteristics of knowledge of the faith, which is knowledge by means of signs. The inductive method does not exclude deductive method. Indeed it requires the deductive method which explains and describes facts by proceeding from their causes. The deductive synthesis, however, has full value, only when the inductive process is completed.(cf General Catechetical Directory 72)

151. In reference to operative means, it has another sense: one is called “kerygmatic” (descending), which begins with the proclamation of the message, expressed in the principle documents of the faith (Bible, liturgy, doctrine…) and applies it to life; the other is called “existential” (ascending), which moves from human problems and conditions and enlightens them with the word of God. By themselves, these are legitimate approaches, if all factors at play have been duly observed; the mystery of grace and human data, the understanding of faith and the process of reason.


“Open to mystery”? Simply the notion that God cannot be contained by human expectations. God often operates with surprising efficacy, and indeed, usually surprises the believer.

“Inductive method” as described is the usual way for the homily to be presented. Likewise, much of spiritual direction takes place in an inductive halo. And interestingly enough, much of good science takes place by means of induction.

Many of the disputed issues of religion, however, are often justified by deduction. In other words, we begin with a pronouncement about an aspect of religion, say that women cannot be ordained, and then proceed to theorize and make observations that support the premise. It’s interesting that the occasional criticism of the Catholic Right on evolution is partly a criticism of a perceived deduction; that is: evolution is now a fact of natural history, and we make observations that support that fact.

What do you think of GDC 151? When thinking of homilists, and possibly your catechists, is there a balance between the kerygmatic and existential aspects of what they’ve presented? In your experience, do the preachers favor one over the other? If there are any religious-educating-at-home parents, how does this distinction inform your practice of catechesis? What about catechists forming a parish classroom from the textbook?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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