Scott Postma

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Ten Reasons to Read the Bible, Even if You’re Not Religious

The Bible is by far the most widely and prolifically published book in all of history, making it the most accessible book in the western world.

It’s also arguably one of the most controversial books ever published—like people being burned at the stake, controversial!

That’s why I’m often surprised at how many people have never read this glorious tome of religious literature completely through.

And I’m not talking about just the people who don’t believe it’s true. I’m talking about Christians too.

Wherever you stand on the issue of inspiration and inerrancy, I posit the Bible is well worth your time and effort. So I offer ten reasons you should read it through at least one time, even if you are not religious.

  1. You have probably never read it cover to cover.

Given the obvious, perhaps you’ve never wanted to read it. Or, maybe it’s just something you’ve taken for granted and never got around to. It might be something like the first time my wife visited the Grand Canyon—twenty years after she moved away from it. She literally grew up next door to one of the natural wonders of the world, but never discovered its beauty and majesty until she was an adult with kids of her own. The best time to have started reading the Bible may have been twenty years ago; but the next best time is today.

  1. Everything you read shapes you.

From the cereal box on the table at breakfast to the vulgar scrawlings on the bathroom stall at the gas station, everything you read influences your thinking about things. People often say they can’t remember or don’t understand what they’ve read. This may be true consciously, but studies have shown the mind absorbs a lot more than we may realize. You might as well intentionally feed your mind some inspirational and challenging content.

  1. It is filled with some of the most renowned and inspiring stories of the literary world.

We really have no idea how inspiring the stories of the Bible really are until we read them. The Bible is filled with romance, kings, conquests, beauty, war, goodness, evil villains, comedy, poetry, tragedy, hope, love, despair, murder, treachery, miracles, and otherworldly beings.

Stories like “Moses Parting the Red Sea,” “Jonah and the Whale,” “David and Goliath,” and “Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand” are all classics of the literary world. Why deprive yourself of such beauty and inspiration when it’s so accessible?

  1. No other book in all of history has had more impact on western culture than the Bible.

Many of our quotations, philosophies, and ethics have been derived from the Bible. Yet most don’t even know it. Have you ever heard of the expression “by the skin of my teeth?” It comes from Job 19:20. Did you know the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the constitution) was derived from the biblical principle of individual soul liberty as articulated by the Rhode Island Baptists? How about the expression, “turn the other cheek?” That comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:39).

These are some anemic examples that don’t even scratch the surface, really, but you get the idea. The Bible has impacted painters like Michael Angelo and Vincent Van Gogh, poets like John Donne and William Shakespeare, political activists like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King, Jr., and musicians like Bach and Beethoven. Now we are starting to scratch the surface a little.

  1. It is filled with practical truths that will make you a better person.

The Bible is filled with principles for gaining and maintaining wealth, avoiding poverty, enriching and sustaining your marriage, raising your children, avoiding troubles caused by vice, gaining and employing wisdom, exacting justice, finding redemption, and just being a better citizen. What’s interesting is how the Bible always seems to speak to the reader’s circumstance in a subtle but profound way. Try it and see.

  1. It offers a high moral standard that although unachievable becomes the basis for redemption.

One of the interesting, and most controversial, aspects of the Bible is its high moral standard. And what’s so significant is not that it offers such a standard—most religious writings do—but the Bible offers a standard that is unattainable. Reading the Bible and contemplating its moral standards offers a unique perspective into our own moral compass and how we deal with our failures. In other words, it really is the ultimate revelation of the human experience ever offered in any genre of literature.

  1. It had a profound effect on our nation’s founders.

Arguments abound as to the actual religious beliefs of many of our nation’s (USA) founding fathers. But one thing is certain, regardless. They all revered and were influenced by the Bible’s message in one way or another. Some were Christians, some were deists, some were agnostics, but their tracts and letters are filled with references to Scripture and the Providence that gave them success. The Bible deserves a good read on that foundation alone.

  1. It had a profound effect on the world’s greatest writers.

I once heard my college professor say something to the effect that literature is not literature unless it, in some way or another, references or interacts with the Bible. I’m not sure if that was his opinion or if he was quoting someone else, but it struck me as profoundly true. Nearly every renowned writer, from Stephen King to Shakespeare, interacts with or conceptualizes biblical themes, characters, or principles in their writing in some fashion or another.

  1. It is the world’s most recognized sacred text.

This is too obvious to expound. While there are other well-known and revered religious texts–the Quran comes to mind–it goes without saying the Bible has been central to most western religions and even some eastern religions. At the very least, being acquainted with this major sacred text—even if you are not a Christian—seems to be a wise enterprise in my mind.

  1. It will make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament book of 2 Timothy, Paul told his young protege that his being acquainted with the sacred writings was the instrument that made him “wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” In another place, Paul told the church at Rome that faith was produced from hearing the words of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:25-17 cf. Romans 10:17). Who knows what may happen in your life if you gave the text a chance.

Of course there are many other reasons besides these to read the Bible. And many of you may even disagree with my reasons. That’s okay. What are your thoughts on reading this amazing collection of ancient literature?

About Scott Postma

Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He helps people cultivate their capacity to perceive and appreciate the good, the true, and the beautiful by sharing rich insights into the arts and humanities, meaningful perspective on faith and culture, and valuable tips on writing and teaching. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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5 Replies

  1. I’ve read the bible once all the way through front to back and it was a Catholic American Standard Version Bible and am in the process of doing a 6 day reading on Galatians from a New King James Version of the Bible then I’m going to be reading Galatians in it’s entirety again on my last reading day from a Message Bible then I’m gonna start from the beginning of my NKJV and read it front to back again and really dig deep with The Bible I’m thinking of reading each book and studying each one as I’m reading it and then I got a bunch of other versions of the bible to get through as well. and was wondering because I noticed that in the catholic version of the bible it has 7 other books that the other bibles don’t have and was wondering what your thoughts were on that and is it wrong that they took books out of the bible regardless of it being catholic or not I’m not into churches with labels on them like catholic, baptist, lutheran, methodist etc. I just used to go to a catholic church when I was young and now I go to wherever God is telling me I should go which is whatever church cause I know what the bible says so none of them can brainwash me into their beliefs I strictly follow what the bible says not what the churches say.

  2. I have been reading through it lately… realized that over the last 50+ years of being a Christian I had what I thought was all of it in bits and pieces, but realized that I had never really read it through like a normal book. I read through the New Testament first. Loved the Gospels, and found only one event that I had never heard read before– little incident where Christ told his disciples he would not go up to the feast, and then when they were gone he went secretly. Had never heard that before. A bit curious.

    Also realized in transitioning from Paul’s epistles and into Hebrews that Paul did not write Hebrews– the writing style, which I tend to feel, was entirely different.

    Working my way through the Old Testament now, and so far not “enjoying it”. Exodus and Leviticus the last few days. I can unfortunately see where atheists get their ammunition for a portrayal of God as cruel. Nations slaughtered, wives and children taken over, punishments abounding. Lambs, goats, rams, bulls, slaughtered and burned, while God enjoys the sweet smell of the offerings. I pray for the understanding of many of these portions, and sincerely hope that things improve as I move into more of the history, and into the Psalms and prophetic books. Again, I find that while many of the passages are familiar, reading completely through reveals sections that are seldom mentioned and used less frequently. We tend to pick and choose for lessons and messages. I recall Philip Yancy pointing out once that while most of us are familiar with the joyful and comforting Psalms, fully half of them can be far from encouraging– the 23rd is a lifelong message to cling to, but the highly prophetic 22nd starts with, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    I journey on…

    1. Francis, incredible insights… I agree Paul did not write Hebrews… and I agree the Old Testament is “hard to be understood,” and much of it is rather arduous to read through. I appreciate the way reading through the narrative of Bible as a whole text puts a lot of the pieces together–and raises some concerns about other things. Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s inspiring!

      1. Dan Spaeth

        Another great article, Scott! I’m really enjoying reading your blog. On another note. . . .

        Yes, the writing style of Hebrews is quite different than Paul’s other epistles. But is that evidence enough to conclude that he isn’t the author? I don’t intend to debate all the evidences of Paul’s authorship. But consider the possibility that the unique writing style simply means Paul was cognizant of his readers. The target audience was very different than that of his other letters. Remember that Paul said of himself, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews. . . .I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”. This desire to meet people where they are and deal with them accordingly shows through in his writings, particularly here as he deals with those of whom he said, ” For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”. In Hebrews, Paul addresses these beloved kinsmen as only he could – as a converted pharisee and an apostle of Christ reasoning with them from their own scriptures concerning the great high priest and messiah. Such writing requires a different approach than say. . . .a letter of instruction and encouragement to his son in the faith, or a letter of correction to a carnal church, or a heartfelt plea on behalf of a newly saved runaway slave or a pastoral letter to a gentile church struggling with the doctrine of grace and the pressure of Judaizers teaching legalism.

        I have done a fair amount of writing, but nothing on the scale as you, Scott. But I’m sure my readers are glad I don’t write doctrinal studies in the same style as I did Air Force performance reports. Writers employ various styles to fit their purpose and the intended audience. Surely Paul, as the human instrument God used to pen Hebrews, was no different.

        1. Dan, You’re absolutely right on the issue of genre and audience. And that has been one of the viable considerations for a Pauline authorship throughout the history of the discussion. Ultimately, we’ll never know for sure (this side of eternity) who wrote this excellent letter. Just for discussion’s sake, the two things that persuaded me against Pauline authorship are the style difference and the introduction. When comparing the Greek translations of the undisputed Pauline letters with Hebrews, the syntax is significantly different (much more so than it just being a different genre or audience). But of course that alone doesn’t prove anything except that it’s different. But the second reason, the introduction, combined with the different syntax makes a compelling argument, in my opinion. In Hebrews 2:3
          The author indicates he learned from the first generation Apostles. In Galatians 1:12, Paul makes it clear he did not learn from them. Again, any guesses we make can only
          be speculation but it’s interesting to explore the options, nonetheless. P.S. Thanks for following and commenting. I’m humbled and honored that you would read my blog. Blessings, my friend.