The following short article from a “Christian” source recognizes and addresses a modern day problem associated with Bible engagement and technology.
Though technology has played a major role in the availability of the Word of God in ways unimaginable just a generation back, today an estimated 50% of Americans read their Bible digitally on computers, phones, and Bible apps. In addition, computer programs quickly and efficiently present the Bible in multiple translations, readily available for reading, copying, and saving with the click of a mouse; while essential tools which Bible students depend upon such as concordances, lexicons, commentaries, etc. are equally available on line.
Yet… what impact has technology had on Bible engagement in this digital age?
Studies conducted by the Barna Group and The American Bible Society show that there is a growing Bible literacy problem despite the technological advantages, concluding,
“today’s technology is doing as much, if not more, harm than good to overall Bible literacy.”
Scriptural sound bites and snippets necessarily reduce not only content, but also meaning and impact. There is simply no replacement for Bible study. When one repeatedly reads the Bible with the sincere desire to understand and embrace it, one becomes familiar with its themes, its teachings, and its contexts.
We are admonished to
“study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
– Editor of the Christadelphian Advocate
It turns out that electronic Bible providers are employing “a data-centric model” which regularly regurgitates those verses which are already the most tweeted or shared by their user communities. The result is basically a repeating loop of “verse of the day” Bible balm. This means those who get their Bible online will receive plenty of I can do all things through Christ… (Philippians 4:13), and, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace…(Jeremiah 29:11), but not so much of the rest of the Bible. Apparently no one is intentionally choosing a wide selection of verses to more adequately convey the wider range of biblical teaching… The prognosis is not good… the less-than-hopeful question:
“Does this mean that we lose out on doctrinal or propositional input into our Bible reading online”?
And if we do put more than therapeutic Bible verses out there, will they all merely land on “deaf ears, blind eyes, and dead screens”?
The concern is appropriate.
Constantly engaging Bible verses that make me feel good is perilously close to turning the Bible into a prophet that tells me only what I want to hear. This is the kind of prophet the real prophets warned us about. But is simply adding more verses – propositional ones – to the playlist really the solution? Isn’t there a deeper problem here?
Exposure to a wider variety of Bible verses might offer me more than therapy, but the entire approach is still based on providing would-be Bible readers little more than a morsel. The bigger issue is that we can’t rely on tweets, Facebook posts or “verse of the day” deliveries to our inbox to fulfill the promise of Bible engagement.
The social media channel as a communication medium has built-in limitations. The Bible itself is so much more than a collection of verses, so much richer than a sourcebook of one-liners… The Holy Scriptures are a gathering of complete literary works, meant to be read as a whole. These books come together to tell a story that can only be taken in, understood, and lived if it is fully encompassed, apprehended at length, and deeply embraced. Sound bites can’t do this. A constant diet of atomized fragments is a disservice to the Scriptures that God gave us.
Let us rather respect and read the Bible holistically.
Let us honor the Word of God by giving it our time and full attention.
We don’t need a shrinking Bible delivered to us with a diminished set of expectations. May we rather welcome back a full-sized Bible – the stories, wisdom, instruction, and visions overflowing with all that God has for us and all He expects of us.
Words to encourage and inspire us, yes: but also to instruct, correct, and welcome us wholly into this long and winding narrative that in the end leads us where we need to go. Only the complete Bible can do this. So read big.
This article originally appeared on Institute For Bible Reading organisation under the title “Verse of the Day‘Therapy’ is Shrinking the Bible,” October 10, 2018.