Post Published on October 11, 2020.
Last Updated on October 13, 2020 by davemackey.
Why Scriptures are Valuable to Those Who Don’t Believe
Understanding the Christian Scriptures1I believe there is value in understanding the perspective of others no matter their creed. I’ve spent time reading a number of religion’s Scriptures and attempting to understand their beliefs. If you want to dialogue about anything intelligently you need to understand what you are discussing. is a valuable asset whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. The current political climate demonstrates this importance. A significant number of voters will place their vote based upon their understanding of their faith. To understand why people vote as they do, or to have any hope of changing their mind, you must engage them on their terms (the Scriptures).
I mean, you don’t have to, you can choose to engage from a secular perspective, an angry perspective, or choose to ignore them entirely — but if you want to have meaningful and productive discussions with many voters you need to understand their worldview. I want to encourage you, if you do not consider yourself a Christian, to spend some time learning and understanding the Scriptures so that you can speak meaningfully with your neighbor, co-worker, adversary, etc. about the topics of the day.
Why Christians Should Know Their Scriptures Better
There are many sincere practitioners of the Christian faith, students of the Christian Scriptures who attempt to rightly understand and practice the faith. But there are also many Christians whose faith is based more upon pseudo-Christian beliefs learned from “christian culture” than upon Scripture. It is to these latter I especially present this challenge.
How do you know if you fall into the former or latter? I’m afraid I can offer no simple and definitive litmus test. However, I would suggest that these two questions can help in self-reflection:
- Are your beliefs based in an understanding of the Scriptures as a whole or from select proof texts that support your beliefs?
- There is nothing wrong with proof texts, but they must be based in an understanding of the text as a whole. If your beliefs don’t have that “whole text” support, it’s time to dive deeper!
- Are you extremely confident that you have the one true understanding regarding the vast majority of topics addressed by the Scriptures?
- Humility is a key aspect of Christian character (Proverbs 3:34, Micah 6:8, Luke 14:11, Romans 12:3, Ephesians 4:2, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, and so on).2See Bible Verses About Humility for additional references.
- Scripture itself confounds our attempts to systematize it, one of the simplest examples is:
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:4,5, NKJV)
What Does Scripture Say About?
Here are a few topics, just a few, that are worthy of our consideration:
- What does the Bible say about capitalism, communism, and socialism?
- What does the Bible say about patriotism?
- What does the Bible say about racism?
- What does the Bible say about welfare?
- What does the Bible say about faith vs works?
- What does the Bible say about profanity?
- What does the Bible say about marriage, divorce, and remarriage?
- What does the Bible say about abortion?
- What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
Two More Resources
For those starting out on their journey to understand Scriptures I recommend doing so in community. Look for a community that is diverse, not monolithic in its perspectives. Preferably one that regularly challenges your understanding of the Scriptures.
In addition, a particularly helpful introductory book on understanding Scripture is Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. I highly recommend it.
So What About Logos?
When it comes to Bible software there is one company that dwarfs all the others – Logos Bible Software.3The official company name is now Faithlife as they cover a variety of products/services besides bible study software. In more recent years they’ve begun offering a free basic version of their software (it runs on Windows, Mac, Mobile, and just about anywhere via the Web). Lets walk through what’s included in this free basic version.
The free version includes the classic King James Version (KJV) as well as the contemporary Lexham English Bible (LEB). The LEB was translated and published by part of the Faithlife (Logos) organization. I’d recommend the latter for its clarity.4Some people prefer the KJV over modern translations. They believe that the KJV was translated from better manuscripts and that it is less subject to the modern biases of interpreters. I am not persuaded but do enjoy reading from multiple translations of Scripture as each carries the words slightly differently and may bring forth different emphases of the text. If you are concerned that you might not be getting the “unadulterated truth” by reading a modern translation might I suggest reading the KJV and LEB side-by-side? In my opinion, the actual differences once one gets past the language dialect are fairly minor.
A commentary is a book that provides help in understanding the Scriptural text. It provides historical, theological, geographical, etc. insights into what the text is saying. The Faithlife Study Bible (FSB) is an absolutely amazing resource for understanding Scriptures and is included in this free basic version.5It includes links throughout to other resources that dive even deeper on various texts/subjects. Many of these, however, are not free. You can purchase the additional resources if desired, but the amount of material the FSB provides is quite copious in itself.
The most important free dictionary is the Lexham Bible Dictionary (LBD) which covers a wide variety of topics related to Scriptures in an in-depth manner. Its scope is stunning (and no, I’m not getting paid to write this post).
One area where the free version is a bit weak is in its original languages dictionaries. The Old Testament was primarily written in Hebrew while the New Testament was primarily in Greek. This version includes the Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament and this is a decent resource, but A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament is quite underwhelming providing only very brief definitions.6I’d like to see them at least include Strong’s Greek Lexicon, an older but standard work.
Note: If you are starting off, don’t feel the need to dive into the original languages. This can be a fun learning tool down the road but to start I recommend the LEB, FSB, and LBD. You’ll get a great education from these three resources alone.
There are a number of other resources available in the basic version. The most impressive of these are various resources compiled by Logos including:
- Biblical Event Navigator
- Biblical People Diagrams
- Biblical Places Maps
- Weights & Measures Converter
In addition there are several classic books on the Christian faith:
- St. Augustine’s The Confessions.
- Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.
- John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
I’ll let you explore the other provided resources on your own as you like.
More Free Logos Books
Logos offers a number of free books it doesn’t bundle with its basic version
- The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (SBL) – If you want to read the New Testament in the original language, this is a solid rendition.
- Lexham English Bible (LEB) with Audio New Testament – If you enjoy listening to the Scriptures this audio rendition of the LEB is quite good.
- ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible – The English Standard Version (ESV) is another solid translation of Scripture and this audio version includes both Old and New Testaments.
In addition to those books which are permanently free Logos makes one or two titles every month free with additional volumes available at tremendous discount. You can find these time-limited free books on their Free Book of the Month page. As I’m publishing this post the free title is Interpreting the Pentateuch: An Exegetical Handbook ($22) and on sale for 90% off is Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook ($1.99 instead of $20). You don’t have to purchase the discounted title to get the free title.
The Hidden Free Academic Basic Package
Logos also offers an Academic Basic package for free which I highly recommend. This is a resource for more advanced students. Get it by all means, but I’d recommend sticking with the LEB, FSB, and LBD as mentioned previously. Some of the titles I find particularly valuable (and not mentioned above):
- The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible – Explanations of why certain verses are translated as they are and alternative translations.
- Lexham Hebrew Bible – The Christian Scriptures are pulled from multiple manuscripts, sometimes this manuscripts disagree, this is a contemporary attempt to pull together the most trustworthy manuscripts.
- Lexham English Septuagint – An English translation of the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.
- Lexham Analytical Lexicon of the Septuagint (LALs) – Essentially a dictionary of the Greek words used in the Septuagint with English definitions.
- Hebrew & Greek Alphabet Tutors – Flash cards for learning the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, clicking on a letter results in its pronunciation.
There are a number of other resources but these are the ones I think most users will find most valuable. Note that the LHB is a Hebrew Bible, not an English translation. You would need to know Hebrew to utilize it fully.
If you are just starting, use the Lexham English Bible, the Faithlife Study Bible, and the Lexham Bible Dictionary. If you want a high-level introduction to the Scriptures and how to understand them I recommend Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.
If at all possible, study the Scriptures not only on your own but in community with others, not all of whom understand the Scriptures in the same way you do. This helps keep us honest and humble about what we are reading.
Learning the Scriptures is useful for Christians and non-Christians. It is an imperative for Christians so that they can accurately represent their faith and it is useful for non-Christians in understanding and dialoguing with Christians.
I hope to add a few more posts in the near future on other free biblical resources, but these should be more than enough to keep anyone busy for a year or two.