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Is the Bible an Inexhaustible Text?

inexhaustible bible da carson

According to Evangelicals, the Protestant Christian Bible is an “inexhaustible” collection of religious texts. No matter how many times you read from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, you will never exhaust the truth and knowledge found within its pages. Colleges, universities, and seminaries — both secular and religious — devote themselves to the Bible’s inexhaustibility. The Bible, in the eyes of believers, is unlike any other book. It stands above all the other books ever written, including the divine texts of other religious traditions. You see, Evangelicals believe GOD wrote the Bible. Regardless of their position on Biblical inspiration and inerrancy, Evangelicals believe that the Bible consists of the very words of God. When Evangelicals read the Bible they believe they are reading God’s words to them; a timeless supernatural message to fallible humans from a supernatural God.

The irony of this position is the fact while Evangelicals believe the Bible is an inexhaustible text, most of them do not read it; most of them have never read the Bible all the way through one time; most Evangelicals are content to read devotional bits and pieces of the Bible. Evangelicals show up on Sundays, Bible in hand, to hear the Word of God read, taught, and preached to them. Once the service is over, their Bibles will be tossed in the back windows of their cars, stuffed under the front seats, or conveniently deposited on a catch-all at home, not to be picked up again until the following Lord’s Day. Most Evangelicals will testify to being born-again Bible believers, yet when quizzed on what the Bible actually teaches, they are clueless. And if it is this way in Evangelical churches, imagine how it is in mainline/progressive churches. The Bible remains the number one bestselling book. Rarely read, but everyone has one. I laugh when I hear of Evangelicals handing out Bibles to Americans. Who in America doesn’t have a Bible? Oh, they might have to dig deep into the recesses of their closets to find it, but virtually every American has a copy of the Bible. The issue, then, is not availability. Everyone has a Bible, but few people take the time to actually read it.

Why do Evangelical pastors cajole congregants to read their Bibles, without success? Many pastors have thrown in the towel and have resorted to supplying congregants with devotionals containing a couple of Bible verses and a sermonette for each day of the month. There are roughly 31,000 verses in the Bible. Using the devotional method, it would take forty years to read through the Bible one time, and that’s providing the devotionals covered every book in the Bible — which they don’t. Evangelicals, when they bother to read the Bible at all, typically read Genesis, Proverbs, and Psalms in the Old Testament and the Gospels in the New Testament. Few Evangelicals are willing to devote time to reading through Numbers, Leviticus, or Chronicles (and I don’t blame them — ugh).

Consider the Evangelical belief that the Holy Spirit lives inside every Christian; that he is their teacher and guide. Here Evangelicals have God living inside of them, daily guiding and directing their paths, yet they neglect faithfully and diligently reading and studying the Bible. Not much of a teacher, this Holy Spirit, if he can’t get his charges to do their homework. If the Bible is God’s roadmap for life and a manual by which Evangelicals are to govern their lives, why do so few of them bother to read it?

Perhaps the problem is that many Evangelicals don’t privately buy the party line about the Bible. Perhaps they have concluded that Bible is NOT a supernatural book; that it is not an inexhaustible text. Perhaps Evangelicals have learned — though they dare not speak it out loud — that the Bible is of human origin and that there’s better literature out there waiting to be read. Calvinistic Theonomist Rousas Rushdoony said in one of his books that most books aren’t worthy of being read once let alone twice. Too bad Rushdoony didn’t apply this to the Bible too. As an Evangelical, Rushdoony believed the Bible was different from all other books; that the books of men were rarely worth being read once, let alone twice, but the inexhaustible Bible, well, it was worthy of being read day after day, month after month, year after year.

As a pastor, I encouraged congregants to immerse themselves in God’s inspired, inerrant Word. At times, I berated them for being lazy; for not devoting time to reading and studying the Bible. Polly remembers me oh-so-fondly getting after her for not being a diligent reader of the Word of God. Later in life, I came to see that the reason Polly didn’t have time to read the Bible (or pray) is that her domestic chores and church obligations took up virtually every waking hour. I, on the other hand, was paid to read the Bible. I had hours upon hours to read and study its words, reading the Bible from table of contents to concordance numerous times. Later in my ministerial career, I quit guilting people into doing things such as praying, attending church, or reading their Bibles. I finally recognized that the people who called me preacher had lives outside of church. I was wrong to judge their lives by my own.

One dear lady faithfully played the piano for many years. She attended church every time the doors were open. She went out on street ministry and helped with our Christian school. She was a devoted follower of Jesus. She did, however, have a problem with making herself read and study the Bible. Try as she might, she simply wasn’t that interested in reading the Bible. You see, she didn’t find the Bible to be an inexhaustible text. Now, she was a voracious reader, but not of the Bible. Instead, she loved reading true crime stories. When she knew I was stopping by for a visit, she would put away her library books so I couldn’t see them. One day, I stopped by unannounced and found a large stack of crime stories from the local library. The look on her face betrayed her guilt. No time for God’s Word, I thought, but time to read this trash. Years later, I came to understand that this woman found true crime stories more exciting and compelling than the stories in the Bible; that there were better books to be read than the Bible; that once religious demands are stripped away, the Bible stops being compelling literature.

I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t read the Bible — perhaps they should. The Bible played a big part in the shaping of Western Civilization. Perhaps preachers should stop saying the Bible is an inexhaustible book, and instead encourage congregants to read through it once before they die. That way, Evangelicals can check off “Read the Bible” from their bucket lists. Done, now on to books by Gandhi, Wendell Berry, Allan Eckert, or Erica Jong. Too many books worth reading to waste your time reading just one book.

Were you a devoted reader of the Bible? Or did you struggle with reading the Word of God? Did you feel guilty over your lack of devotion to the Good Book? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I can’t see other comments, by the way. Opera problem? Not gonna troubleshoot it tonight.

    The Bible is truly an inexhaustible text for religious historians of that era, like Bart Ehrman. And to be a proper scientist about it, it’s the background knowledge for a whole lot of archaeologists and historians who used the basic descriptions of life in the times it covers to help them distill and publish a better understanding of life in those times. I understand that isn’t what the “inexhaustible text” folks really meant.

    As an aside, though, Bruce, please recognize, at least privately, that J. K. Rowling in particular is strongly, publicly, against trans rights and need not be suggested as an author for any reason. MJ and our other trans community members deserve better.

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    Neil Rickert

    “Were you a devoted reader of the Bible?”

    Yes, I spent a lot of time reading the Bible. I’ll admit that I skimmed through some boring parts. And I skipped most of Revelations, because it didn’t make sense and I didn’t want to rely on what others told me it meant.

    Reading the Bible was what eventually led me to deconvert.

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    Yes, I had a guilty secret, very fundy, I read of a bible portion a day, but I disliked the violence of the OT – and Revelation was just a jumble of words, so I rarely read them. I worked in children’s ministries and told OT stories lovingly about our awesome god….which was hypocritical since I didn’t value many of the adjacent OT stories that I glossed over. I always put some of my inability to be thrilled daily by my readings, down to the fact that I have a near photographic memory, knew what the passage said, so it was boring to read it again and again. I would pray daily that god would give me some amazing new insight into a passage – others got that – but I didn’t seem to. That made it hard at conversational bible studies sometimes when folk did speak of god’s amazing revelations to them as they read a scripture portion, so I’d manufacture a blessing or a ‘word’ I’d received too. I took great pleasure in shredding my bible and chucking it into my compost bin….such a relief after decades of trying to make it the foundation of my life. And hubby being quite well known here for leading a volunteer group supporting members of a foreign bible translation mission. Oh, and I like to think my veg patch cropped especially well that year, with all that holy compost!

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    I read a great deal of the Bible, but mainly for comfort and inspiration. That was when I thought it helped me with things like anxiety, an eating disorder, depression etc etc. Well, it didn’t. I still struggle, but I am more emotionally together after leaving Christianity and not reading the Bible at all. Surprise.

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    I read a chapter a day, that is on workdays, before I leave to spend ten hours of life making the man richer. I’ve, officially, read through the Bible twice via a reading plan. For me, a chapter a day is good. I’ve taken more of an interest in the Old Testament when I started to listen to Michael Heiser and his Naked Bible podcast.

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    Ben Masters

    “Or did you struggle with reading the Word of God?”

    I still do– especially since it seemingly has the fingerprints of a preacher my mother listens to (Ralph Sexton, Jr.) all over it (what I mean by that is that the way he has interpreted it/still interprets it has seemingly been the default means of interpretation in my family).

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    I read it but didn’t like it. I remember so much frustration surrounding reading the Bible. We were supposed to believe it was the actual words of a real live deity, but it was tremendously boring, some things made no sense, others were horrifying, and I really didn’t love it as I was supposed to. And I remember as a kid sneaking to read the Song of Solomon because it was supposed to be about sex, but I didn’t get what the hype was.

    Seriously, poll evangelical Christians and ask them if they’ve read the book of Habakkuk……🤣🤣🤣

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    Merle Hertzler

    I read the Bible, uh, how do I put this, religiously. Every year beginning with my junior year in high school I read through the entire Bible–every chapter, every verse, every line. I did not allow myself to skip one word, not even when I was reading genealogies. I made it through every verse every year for six years, and read the interesting parts many more times. I dedicated a half hour a day to Bible reading.

    By the sixth time through, it was dawning on me that there was something very wrong with this book.

    If every Evangelical would read the entire Bible, it would change things. There simply is no correlation between the endless rants of the Old Testament prophets and modern Evangelical psychobabble.

    • Avatar

      Greetings friend,

      For the past 2 months, I have had multiple tabs on my browser at mindsetfree. Out of common courtesy, I would just like to say thank you for the invaluable info on your site. It has expedited my detox from the Christian cult.

      My status at this point in time though, however remains firmly at ‘agnostic’.

      This is due to the website : – or –

      While I’m not a flat-earther, I believe that there’s strong evidence that point to a very unlikely cosmology.

      • Avatar

        Infidel iImam, thank you for this feedback. I am glad I could help.

        I have been branching out into some more detailed analysis including posts on scientific creationism and dualism. Currently I am writing something on population overshoot. I will check out your links. Perhaps there is something there I might want to write about.

        I assure you that the path of exploration that Bruce, many people here, and I have found is well worth living. We would never want to go back into the box from which we came. I encourage you to keep on exploring. I wish you well.

      • Avatar

        Infidel Imam, I have looked at your links. Sorry, but the concept of the Earth being hollow like a balloon with us living on the inside of the balloon surface cannot possibly be supported by science. If you are interested in how science works, there are plenty of sources within mainstream science that would be better for you to search.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I did read the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, before leading a Bible study group in my Evangelical church. I always felt insecure, not only about my Bible knowledge, but also about my enthusiasm for it: some people seemed more zealous about reading and promoting it than I was .

    Much later,’after I stopped believing, I realized that I never saw the Bible as “inexhaustible.” I knew that the day would come when I had no more to offer the people in the group, or any other. I told myself that it because of my own limitations—which is partly true. But I knew that, really, there was only so much one could mine from the book as a source of spiritual guidance, and that if it was “inexhaustible ,”’it was as a subject of study for its influence on culture .

  10. Avatar

    I didn’t believe in breaking down the Bible into devotional daily reading, as I had a lousy attention span. So I would normally dedicate particular days to finish 1/4, 1/2 or 1 book from the Bible at a time. I would read huge chunks of the Bible at a time. That felt more fulfilling & sort of gave me a more complete narrative. I also use Matthew Henry & other commentaries to deepen my understanding of the Bible. I wanted to study the Bible & commit to memory, rather than just a casual reading.

    Before I began, I would pray that the Holy Spirit would give me new insight into whatever passage that I’d already gone through in the past. I would, in time, read different versions of the Bible. My first Bible was the NIV (sunday school – youth ). I went full KJV as a young adult. My final version was the ESV. I have read the Bible many times over (but under 10 times), and particularly the eschatological verses & passages scattered all over the Bible. I probably memorized the book of Rev & bits and pieces of Daniel, Isaiah & Joel. I was an obsessed end times nut case.

    My views shifted from pre-mil to amil. My views also shifted from eternal torment to annihilation. And finally, my view shifted from Faith Alone to Faith + Works Salvation. I loved Christian apologetics & would argue with other fruitcakes & nut cases on Christian forums.

    In the end, I regret dedicating so much of my life trying to unlock the Bible. In truth, reading the Bible was boring as hell! Try as I might, I couldn’t glean additional insights because the Holy Spirit doesn’t exist.

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