This is what is called a 'lag' in communication!
Anyhow, thanks for answering so fully. I guess we are approaching things differently, but I'm sure there is an opportunity to enjoy, and learn from, the differences.
I have arrived at my present 'assumptions' after a number of excursions down what can only be described as 'cul-de-sacs'. As I now see it, an omniscient and omnipotent God does not leave salvation to chance. But that still leaves room for a scripture in its time and for its time!
You say, 'I think we can both agree that the Bible is like a field with rich soil where thoughts, like plants, can root deep. Surely this is inspired literature, but can we be certain of our conclusions? Or is the very process of discussion and speculation meant to be the experience of God's blessing in and of itself?'
In response I would ask, Doesn't scripture [God] encourage us in study? Surely He does, and I have no doubt that the process of discussion and speculation in study can be a great blessing. My point of caution is over 'vain philosophy', which has the effect of sowing seeds of doubt rather than seeds of faith. The beauty of scripture to me is that it is wholesome and trustworthy. In it I find Truth - or as I understand it, the Holy Spirit of Christ.
I cannot be certain of my own conclusions, which is why I look for God's answers rather than my own. This requires an approach to the study of scripture that takes away private interpretation and, instead, allows the Lord to lead one by the hand to the place of his choosing.
Scripture does encourage study in at least two ways...it explicitly promotes study and it invites discussion, debate and argument by how its stories are crafted. That latter, I believe, is well-known in Jewish circles and the Jews would be the authorities on that Jewish Testament and its original function and intent. Christians, I've noted, often are not aware of this fact. The New Testament has a much different character and is not so much written to inspire debate and discussion expect, perhaps, the parables of the Jew Jesus.
I have a concern when someone raises the spectre of "vain philosophy". This often has the impact of devaluing a person's own thinking and feeling. To me a teaching is useless if the individual cannot at least grapple with their own personal understanding. Everyone should have room to "be wrong" for the sake of experiencing the truth or falsity of that so far as everything short of force and threats are sincerely used to argue against their wrongness. The subjective understanding of a person is precisely AND the ONLY thing that is saved if anything so we must embrace everyone's "vain philosophy" or set about learning how to program "good robots" to take our place IMO.
My experience of the Holy Spirit in scripture and in life is that it has more to do with sustaining the personal spirit in times of suffering undertaken willingly than it has proving any specific teaching. It is as if in our suffering and willing vulnerability we are compensated with a feeling of love and/or strength and/or ecstasy that is "unworldly" or unexpected if we think of ourselves as merely small beings alone in creation. It is, as a Buddhist might say, when we are practicing Right Effort and, aside from our personal strengths or weaknesses, because we are correctly oriented and making effort we are met with an army of angels (so to speak).
Now conclusions always have a lifetime anyway. My experience of God's truth does not teach me that I am an ever-growing master of any kind of dogma, but rather that I am currently walking in the path that God wanted ME to walk because I seem to be occasionally upheld by the spirit as I do at times when I might not be so certain. But then that coming into the presence of the Holy Spirit shows me that my uncertainty and fear has been resolved.
Of which of the beatitudes is one ensured, in a worldly way, that one is walking the right path as the world throws rocks at you? It is only after suffering experienced has been reached that one can feel saved. But suffering always brings with it doubt but holding firm against the doubt seems to me to bring with it the kingdom.