Digital Scripture

November 30 2018
November 30 2018

What would you say are the gains and losses that come with reading a digital Bible—that is, reading Scripture online or with an app on your phone?  “Gains and losses” is good way to put it; it’s a complex issue.

Book lovers should remember that God’s Word is not paper and ink, but rather the words in their context as revealed by God through the human authors of the biblical writings.  So there’s nothing inherently sacred about printed pages over against electronic screens.  Plus, the power of digital tools to help us find resources and compare/contrast Bible passages and key words (etc.) can be a great plus.

Still, the digital Bible brings certain dangers, especially the risk of distraction.  The whole idea of the smartphone is to place an array of systems under your command—powerful tools to access info or perform actions (e.g., send/receive messages, play music, watch videos, take pictures, book flights, play games, order food, and much more):  such power—and such diversion!  Can you be fully present in our worship gatherings and fully attentive to the Father in personal prayer and Scripture reading when using a digital Bible?  Can you, and do you, lock out texts or emails that could snatch your focus?   It takes great discipline to do this; I confess it’s very difficult for me.

Trevin Wax offers wise, nuanced counsel about using a digital Bible—take time to read his blog posts, “When the Bible Becomes an App” and “The Revenge of Analog Discipleship.”  Drawing from Jeffrey Siker’s book, Liquid Scripture, Wax says when we move from print to online, we lose “the sense of the Bible’s geography.  When the Bible ‘loses its covers,’ it no longer has a beginning and end, a shape or geography, and we may slowly lose our knowledge of the contours of the text.  We no longer know our way around the Bible…”  So “tech­nological gain leads to a loss of intimate familiarity.”

Wax contends, “The form of digital engagement is not neutral, and we need to be aware of the losses we will experience if we shift to online Bible reading as the primary or only way we encounter the Bible in the future.”  Key word:  “as”—AS your primary way of accessing Scripture.  Use the digital tools to supplement a primary and focused practice of reading Scripture in print.


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