First, a disclaimer: I am not opposed to i-Tech. I own an iPhone, an iPad, and a MacBook. I am not put off by the current myriad of newfangled, whizz-bang gadgets and apps – except perhaps the plethora of Bible apps.
A second disclaimer: I have and do make frequent use of several Bible apps on my phone and laptop. So what is my problem? What ought do I have against such a wonderfully helpful, perfectly convenient, and marvelously handy tool as a Bible app?
Simply this: it lacks the sense of immanence communicated by the feel of holding a leather-bound Bible. There is something visceral about the aroma of paper imprinted with ink. The sterile stare of digitally created words cannot match the feel of paper in my hand as I turn from one page to the next.
I like being able to underline meaningful words and verses. I like scribbling personal insights in the margin of my Bible. I smile when I consider the possibility that my children, or perhaps my grandchildren, will one day read my Bible and my semi-legible notes. Those notes measure the growth of my faith the way the pencil marks on our kitchen threshold measured the growth of our children.
When I read the Bible on an electronic device the experience is one of rush and hurry, coolness and distance. The experience has no depth. The encounter with the Word leaves my soul as flat as the digitalized, pixelated text on my handheld screen. Paper has texture. It has dimension. It is tactile and I like tactile. It’s the difference between watching a baseball game and the pop of the baseball hitting your glove or the sting of the bat in your hands. It just feels real.
When I pick up my worn, leather-bound translation of the Bible, it’s like I’m visiting with an old friend. Indeed I am. And like a visit with an old friend, there is no rush. There is no hurry. There is a proper pace to the experience. The Bible read on an electronic device may create a connection, but it does not create intimacy. How could it when the same device with which I read the Bible is also used to check email, surf the internet, or play Spider Solitaire. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
In comparison with most forms of i-Technology, the Bible has a single-purpose: to be read. It is in the reading we experience the Presence of The Author. It is by design that Scripture printed on pages made of paper is to be read slowly. References can be sought for without fear of losing battery life. Time can be taken to mull and to meditate, to ponder and to pray, and, if necessary, to underline a significant passage or write a note in the margin.
When I read the Bible, I am definitely old school. However, it is not nostalgia that prompts me to read the Bible on paper; it is the expectation of encountering on every page the God who wrote it. When I read the Bible on a handheld device it is a matter of convenience. When I read the Bible on paper, it is a moment for worship. The elaborate nature of that last statement notwithstanding, the point remains: when I read the Bible I am definitely old school. How about you?
To open a Bible that has a frayed front and back cover, its pages grayed, worn and loose, one with margins filled with penciled notes and underlined passages; to open a Bible like that establishes the intimacy reading Scripture is supposed to create.
Here is a faithful friend. Here is the eternally true word from the Word who is both Eternal and True. Here is wisdom this world can neither match nor fathom. Here is Life offered by the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Here is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit now present, now teaching, now correcting, now encouraging, now exhorting, now comforting, and always, always, always welcoming and inviting us further up and further in!
So my fellow pastors, read your Bible - preferably one with paper pages and be blessed.