The Bible is the bestselling book of all time. Year after year, it is always at the top of the list. We are blessed to live in a day and age when we have more access to the Bible than any other time in history. If you have a smart phone, you can even download a free app that will allow you to have multiple verses at your fingertips and in the palm or your hand. For this, I am thankful. I am thankful that we have so many tools that will allow us to get the Bible into our hearts and heads due to technology. Technology can be a beautiful thing. However, such great advancements in technology can also come with a cost. I am just on the outside of the millennial bubble. I believe my unofficial title is an “Xennials” since I was born in 1981. I have been in church for the 36 years. I have seen all sorts of fads come and go (WWJD bracelets and all). One that I have noticed an increase of more in the last 6 or 7 years is that of people leaving their old bound copies of their Bibles at home and replacing them with a digital device, which is most often their phone. I get the allure of having everything so accessible and it all fit in your pocket. However, I believe we are missing out on something if we dump our leather bound Bibles for a sleek pocket sized digital one. Here are a few reasons I prefer a hard copy of my Bible over a digital one.
When I was a child I would often get into trouble for being distracted or being a distraction to others in church. Now, we hold in our hands the ultimate distraction: the smart phone. So much of our lives are on the little hand-held computer. Any information we could ever possibly want to know is there. When someone likes our Facebook post, we get an alert. When someone retweets you, there is a notification. An early morning e-mail finds its way into your inbox, and you get the little shake of you phone. Most of us are drawn to those notifications like a moth to a flame. We just have to see what is going on in the world and what someone has said about us. When you use your phone as your Bible (or any device that is connected to the internet) there is always a great temptation to quickly check that alert. If you are not disciplined, the next thing you know, you are replying to that e-mail and all of the sudden you don’t even know what the pastor is saying. You have gotten sucked in by the digital vortex. This is one of the blessings of using a physical copy of the Bible. You can set your phone on silent, and never get those distracting buzzes and pop-ups. You can just enjoy and engage in the Bible, the worship of God, and the sermon.
This may just be me, but one of my favorite sounds in the world is to hear those thin pieces of paper in your Bible flip from one page to the next. It sends off a sound that people are looking, listening, and engaging. The sound of screen tapping just simply isn’t the same. While there is nothing biblical or theological about the rustling of paper over the sound of a finger tapping, it is just a simple pleasure that is missed when we use our little computers over a bound copy of scripture.
Much like the sound of pages turning in the Bible, another simple pleasure that is missed on our smart phones is the feel of the Bible in your hands. There is just no other book quite like it. One of the benefits of having that physical copy is the ability to take notes in it. While there are certainly ways of taking notes digitally, the reality is often we do not get around to looking at them later. Just like we never print all of those HD photos that we take on our phones and loose when the phone breaks, the same is often true about our notes. However, any time I flip open my Bible I can see notes that were taken 8 or 10 years ago, and that is an encouragement to me. I don’t get the same familiarity with “My Bible” when I use a digital version. It just isn’t the same. It just feels different.
Ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439 people have been printing the Bible for public use. During the time of the Reformation we saw an explosion of different translations. Primarily before the press was made the Latin Bible of the Catholic Church was virtually the only Bible in use, but after the press was invented it was not long before the Lord used it to start printing modern translations for a modern vernacular for the common people. For the past 600 years we have had hard copies of the Bible. Before then, there were scrolls, codex, and a variety of other types of materials used for holy writ. This is what people like Augustine, Tyndale, Calvin, Zwingli, Spurgeon, and D.L. Moody used. If a digital copy had been available for them to use, I am sure that they would have taken advantage of it, but the hard copy of scripture has a long history. It is my hope that we never lose it in place of pixels, glass, and hard plastic.
The invention of the digital Bible has been a marvel and a blessing for this age. In closed countries, the digital Bible may very well be all a person may own. For this fact alone, we should give praise for it. If a computerized version of the Bible allows you to read more, meditate often, and memorize scriptures, by all means . . . use it. I use it almost on a daily basis. However, when I walk thought the doors of my local church I prefer the feel of a heavy leather book filled with 1000 pages of God’s holy Word over the smooth and shinny glimmer of high definition pixels on my phone. Is a person more holy for having their big ESV Study Bible in hand over the person carrying 20 versions with Logos Bible Software in the palm of their hand? By no means, but I do think there is something special about the old book. So, next Sunday before you walk out of the house let me encourage you to think about taking that beautiful, sometimes cumbersome, book with you and not just your phone for worship. You might be surprised how much you enjoy hearing those pages turn, feeling that old familiar book that is filled with such history, and being less distracted all the while.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell