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Embracing the Digital Revolution?

Digital Bible

Digital Bible

I love books, I always have done.

It’s that distinctive smell and that satisfying feeling you get as you gently close it for the last time, story or arguments completed.

I also love technology. All the information I could possibly need in one place, in my pocket, YES PLEASE!

But inspite of my love for technology I’d always said I’d never get a Kindle. Books were the one thing I would remain a luddite over. Then I had a long trip over the summer and my case was going to be 4–5 books too heavy.

So I gave in.

And since then, I’ve been totally converted. If I can get a book on my Kindle, that’s how I’ll read it. That is, all except for one book – my Bible.

Why? I’m not entirely sure…. but last weekend I was confronted with the reality of the digital revolution at the Christian News and Media Conference with a presentation from Chris Juby, who recently led a project to summarise every chapter of the Bible into 140 tweetable characters.

Chris gave an excellent talk at the conference, unpacking the benefits of digital engagement with Scripture. When asked, ‘How many of you do your personal Bible reading on a digital device?’ most people in the room raised their hand. And there is no doubt that digital engagement with Scripture is only going to increase, especially with the plethora of apps and technology helping us to do so. Generations to come will become increasingly digitally literate, and indeed reliant. As Chris rightly pointed out, we need to be ready to pass on Scripture to the next generation, but we also need to work out how we do this well.

Whilst I don’t have answers as what ‘doing it well’ will look like, there are definitely a few pitfalls we need to be aware of:

1) A fragmented approach?

Within Biblica, we work hard at encouraging people to read the Bible in a less fragmented way and to ensure they read it in context. Chris’ project is helpful and thought provoking, however my Twitter feed is often flooded with Bible verses totally out of context. Most often they are used as words of encouragement and hope, or to support a particular argument. We must, must, MUST be very cautious of cherry picking verses, and pushing them out for the whole social media world to see! Yes, online Bibles have made it easier than ever to share God’s Word and let’s continue to do so. But let’s do it thoughtfully, in context and not presenting only the ‘warm and fuzzy’ side of Christianity or in the hope of supporting somewhat dubious arguments.

2) Delving deep

Another concern is that we read ‘digital Scripture’ differently. Research has recently emerged that we use a different part of our brain for reading screens compared to when we read paper. Our ‘screen’ brains scan and skim, whilst our paper brain reads in a linear and deeper fashion. We can be ‘bi–literate’ in these two types of reading, but the more we read on a screen, the less practiced we become in ‘deep reading’. The research advises we take some time away from the screen daily to practice our deep reading.

What does this mean for digital Bible engagement? Perhaps we will have to be more disciplined in ensuring we are using our deep reading skills. Perhaps we need to retrain ourselves to read on a screen.

3) A question of value

At Biblica we know how precious the gift of a Bible is. That’s why we continue to update our translations, develop engagement projects like Community Bible Experience and publish low cost Bibles. But if we can get the Bible free anytime and anywhere, as the digital world allows us to, are we losing a sense of the value of the physical Bible we have in front of us? Are we thinking about how the translation came to be and prayerfully and financially supporting the organisations behind them?

There are so many benefits to engaging with the Bible digitally and we have to move with the times. However as this becomes more and more the norm we must not just use technology for technology’s sake, but ensure our engagement with the Bible is as good as, if not better, than with our old paper friends.

Article by Becky Miles, London Church Relations Manager for Biblica Europe