I have noticed that fewer people are bringing their Bibles to church. Some may leave them at home because they know the preacher’s text will appear on the PPT screen, while many others actually are carrying their Bibles to church—on their cell phones. This is definitely more convenient than lugging The American Patriot’s Study Bible to church (and safer theologically as well), but I have a few questions about this new trend. I don’t have a cell phone (except a trac fone which I use for emergencies), so I am asking input from those of you who do.
1. Is it hard to concentrate when reading the Bible off your cell phone or book reader? You know that you are one click away from checking email, surfing the Internet, returning a text, or bombing angry birds. Do these temptations distract you from focusing deeply on the biblical text? Do you notice a difference when you read the Bible in a physical book and when you read it on your digital device?
2. Is it hard to remember that you are reading God’s revelation when you are reading it on the same screen that you check email, surf the Internet, return texts, and bomb angry birds? In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman observed that television mashes everything together into its single genre, so that a news report on a devastating earthquake is immediately followed by a lighthearted advertisement for laundry soap. Postman thought that such trivial ads lessened our sensitivity to the serious news, and soon we begin to see television newscasts as yet another form of entertainment. I can guess what he might say about the many more things we do with our screens now.
I am not suggesting that there is no place for reading the Bible off a computer or phone screen. I have typed many Scripture passages onto this blog, which I assume were read from a screen. But I do think there is a danger in making our cell phone or Kindle the main way we read the Bible. There are children today who will grow up without ever owning a tangible, bound copy of the Word of God. The only Bible they will ever know will exist in cyberspace, fighting for a place among their other apps. Will these children have a difficult time believing that they are reading the eternal, unchanging Word of God? Will the digital age—and the many useful downloadable Bibles that it produces—inadvertently undermine our understanding of the authority of Scripture?