Earlier today, Al Mohler published a requiem to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica upon their announcement that they “will discontinue the 32-volume printed edition.” Here’s Mohler’s assessment of the situation. “Western Civilization just took another hard blow to the chin.”
I’m not sure it’s quite as violent or damaging as that. I’m sure there’s a bit of hyperbole in his statement. However, could it be instead that Western Civilization is continuing to expand and enlarge its method of communication and delivery? Did heralds, minstrels, and scribes mourn when Gutenberg shouted “Eureka”? Change happens. Cultures change. Time marches on.
I’m really trying to sympathize with Mohler’s jeremiad over the loss of the printed Brittanica, even though I don’t own four volumes (let alone one). My concerns register when his essay segues into the issue of Bible reading.
This is a loss, even if inevitable. I also believe that the experience of reading the Bible on an iPhone is radically different from the experience of reading the Bible in printed form, feeling the texture of the book as our eyes take in the inspired text. The digital age brings wonders, but subtle dangers as well. Multimedia publishing can offer riches, but maybe some things are better received without digital sound and fury.
Here’s why I’m concerned. When we view Bible reading as an experience predicated upon the medium of delivery, and not as the raw, simple words of God, we do an injustice to the Bible. When Mohler writes “that the experience of reading the Bible on an iPhone is radically different from the experience of reading the Bible in printed form” he registers a soupçon of negativity towards the iPhone method, and therefore towards the reading of God’s Word by any other means than a printed page. It seems he thinks that the “difference” may be something that is “subtly dangerous.”
I want to graciously suggest that perhaps one form of reading the Bible is not superior to another. Consider 1 Timothy 4:13 “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.” Paul told Timothy to read his letters so the people in the church could hear it. It is likely that many in the early church either could not read or did not have wide access to Scripture (Colossians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). For these early Christians, listening to the reading of God’s Word was the way that they received God’s Word.
I believe that God is more concerned with the fact of our Scripture intake rather than the form of our Scripture intake. God’s Word is God’s Word whether it appears on a retina display or on art-gild paper. It’s power is the same (Hebrews 4:12).
Mohler finishes his threnody with this statement.
I know to be happy that young people are reading the Bible in any form, even squinting into their iPhones.
And I agree with him there. I for one, will probably be doing that myself (even if I’m not squinting).
I’m not attacking Mohler, just commenting on an issue that he brought up. Should you read your Bible on your iPhone? The form you use to read the Bible is an issue of preference. If you want to feel paper and smell ink while you read the Bible, go for it. If you prefer the luminescence of a digital variation, please partake. Don’t feel guilty if you need to sneak your devotions in using your iPhone. Don’t feel snubbed by the digital elites if you prefer holding a leatherbound Bible.
To quote the Brittanica , “It’s okay. Really.”