Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church

I enjoy using an iPad. It is, in my opinion, one of the most impressive devices yet invented. In one light-weight, travel-sized tablet the user has everything at his fingertips. That includes not only the typical social media apps that every user has on his smartphone, but also countless tools that have characterized the laptop or even the home television.

And yet I am finding that cutting-edge, 21st-century technology is subtly but quickly changing important, even indispensable aspects of Christianity. Consider just one example: the ever-growing tendency to substitute a physical, visible Bible (remember . . . the ones where you lick your finger and turn the pages) with a tablet in the pulpit.

To clarify, I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes. Rather, I’m concerned about replacing the physical Bible with a tablet in the pulpit. As the pastor enters the pulpit to bring the Word of God to the people of God, no hard copy of the Bible is to be found in his hand, gracing the top of the podium, visible to the entire congregation as the book at the center of attention. Instead, the congregation sees a tablet. While this may seem harmless enough, I believe there are several potential dangers this subtle shift generates.

Different Message

First, the tablet as a replacement for a hardcopy of the Bible sends an entirely different message to the congregation. Yes, this tablet contains the digital text of the Bible, but visually that tablet represents so much more. It is an icon of social media and a buffet of endless entertainment. Ask my children. The sight of an iPad screams instant access to Sesame Street on Netflix. For the adult, the tablet is an immediate window into his or her social life. As advertised, the iPad is ESPN Magazine, a Visa card statement, decorating ideas on Pinterest, hotel reservations in Hawaii, the latest college football scores, Adele on iTunes, directions to the nearest Starbucks, instant tracking of the stock market, and, oh yes, the Bible, alongside thousands of your favorite e-books.

In contrast, how simple, and yet profound, is a hardcopy of the Bible, perhaps leather-bound and worn from constant use. Carried by Pastor Steve into the pulpit, this large, even cumbersome book, reveals he is ready to bring to the people a message from God himself. In short, a print copy of the Scriptures in the pulpit represents something far more focused and narrow: a visible symbol of God speaking to his people, the master Shepherd feeding his flock.

Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew

Second, the tablet may, oddly enough, unintentionally and indirectly encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew. This no doubt sounds shocking. After all, how could a tablet that provides us with gobs of biblical research tools, a digital manuscript of the Scriptures, and countless other resources create a culture of biblical illiteracy? One of the severe limitations of a digital text, as you sit there with your iPhone or smartphone, is the unnecessary task of passing by books of the Bible as you find the sermon text. When the preacher says, “Turn in your Bibles to . . . ,” the layperson simply clicks on a link or enters the text into a search box. As a result, I am increasingly discovering as a professor at a Christian university that students do not know where books in the Bible are located, let alone how the storyline of redemptive history develops. Many laypeople do not possess the ability to see the text in its context. Consequently, these old-fashioned, basic, Bible-learning skills are being lost.

Even secular scholars, such as Nicholas Carr (The Shallows) and Mark Bauerlein (The Dumbest Generation), get this when it comes to reading a book digitally. As John Bombaro explains, these authors, and many others, conclude that we have adopted a “truncated approach to texts, with no peripheral vision of what the next page holds or orientation to the linear progression of the entire text,” which only “trains the mind’s learning plasticity to think in pragmatic, detached, fragmented ways.” Therefore, when it comes to Scripture, we have lost by abandoning the printed text a “linear progression to the total story,” since “digital texts militate against a big-picture perspective and comprehension of the whole story of the Bible.”

Flesh and Blood

Third, the tablet may undermine the spatio-temporal nature of church. When a member stands before the congregation, reading the sermon text from a tablet, there is something missing, something lifeless at play. Again, John Bombaro observes, “Digital texts are ephemeral; they are ontologically diminished.” There’s no “there” there, Bombaro laments.

Surely this should rub us wrong, as physical beings who gather together as an assembly in a tangible place. We see with our own eyes a standing, breathing minister preach about a God who is, yes, invisible, but is really with us as Lord of space and time. This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.

Visual Reminder

Fourth, when the spatio-temporal nature of Scripture is replaced with a digital, even ephemeral, cyberspace text, there is an awkward inconsistency at play given the physicality of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the lineage of the Reformation, evangelicals have long affirmed at least three marks of the church and means of grace: the proclamation of God’s Word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Why not perform a baptism in private or take the Lord’s Supper alone? There is an essential corporate dimension to these somatic means of grace, as the church witnesses the gospel in the waters of baptism and together partakes of the flesh and blood of Christ represented in the elements. The materiality of these means visually remind us that we are accountable to this gospel and to one another.

Likewise with God’s Word. The Scriptures, preached and read, teach us, reprove us, and train us in righteousness so that we are equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If baptism and the Lord’s table become lifeless when we disintegrate their materiality, do we not risk a similar danger when we remove the spatio-temporal presence of the Word of God for the people of God? And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?

Nonverbal Communication

Fifth, when the smartphone or iPad (or name your mobile device) replaces a hardcopy of Scripture, something is missing in our nonverbal communication to unbelieving onlookers. When you walk to church, sit down on a bus, or discipline one another at a coffee shop, a hard copy of the Bible sends a loud and bold message to the nearest passersby about your identity as a Christ follower. It says, “Yes, I am a Christian and I believe this book is the Word of God telling us who we are and how we should live.”

If you don’t believe me, take a physical copy of the Bible with you on your next plane flight, and when you sit down next to your neighbors place the Bible on your lap for all to see. Notice the reactions; you might as well have shared your social security number with the whole plane. Typically, for the person on your left just the sight of the text makes them uncomfortable, defensive, and reclusive. But for the person on your right, it may instantaneously create a conversation that leads to the gospel. My point is simple: if we, as Christians, abandon the physical text in our own assembly, what is lost when this text does not warm our hands in front of a lost and dying world?

No doubt, my warning touches an uncomfortable and irritable nerve. To insult our use of technology is one of the seven deadly sins in the 21st century. Technology infiltrates and saturates everything we do, and therefore defines everything we are, for better or worse. But is this subtle shift changing the way we read the Scriptures? Is it ever-so-quietly removing the visual centerpiece of the local assembly? I think so. And while I never imagined I would have to say this, I close with the following admonition: Dear pastor, bring your Bible to church.

  • Carlos

    Maybe this isn’t your intention, but I get the impression that I should be carrying my Bible everywhere I go as some sort of badge. Akin to people who wear the crosses on their necks or the people who wear some Christian bracelet.

    You know what would impress people more? Being able to quote long passages of Scripture along with the reference. That would send a signal that you should be studying the Bible and committing it to memory so that it becomes a part of you. I love when preachers and laymen can do that whether preaching or just holding a conversation. It shows me what is important to them more so that just carrying the Bible around.

    • Brad

      Nice thoughts, Carlos. I think there is an element of Christian freedom missing here too. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that ancient Christians took umbrage with pastors reading from a book rather than a scroll. Let’s all just rejoice that the Bible is being read from the pulpit, regardless of the medium.

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  • Patrick

    I’m an avid underliner when I read, so for me to have my bible at church makes much more sense for me to dig deeper into the text of the sermon. I have an app on my iPhone and I can highlight passages if I want to, but I spend so much less time on my iPhone app bible than my bible that I often don’t even highlight texts in the app.

    There’s also something personal and special about your own copy of the bible. Mine has many notes and underlines that I put in when I’m studying it, and who knows when a certain text will come up during a service that I might have written a note on that reminds me of how God is sovereignly providing for me.

    It seems that you could be reading into this trend too deeply, but that’s exactly what I think is valuable about your post. Actions are important. Words are more than semantics. We tend to downplay things like this and say “hey, you’re being legalistic!” But the truth is not that we all have to agree on what we do and say, but that we’ve thought out why we do and what we say. Sure, this is an open-handed issue, it’s not going to (hopefully) split the church (!), but like every aspect of how we conduct ourselves, what does the action I’m doing really say to everyone else.

    I appreciate this post!

  • Mike

    This article, while well written, leans toward a legalistic approach to Bible worship. Scripture has not always been contained inside leather covering. To use the logic rendered here would suggest that we should be using scrolls written with pen and ink.

    Rather than seeing the tablet as Sesame Street, maybe we should begin to see it as God’s tool for our children to learn the word.

    The Word is sacred, not the means in which it is delivered.

    • Kathie Weise


    • George Hallman

      Love it Mike! Could not agree more or say it better myself.

    • Dave

      Amen Mike. The arguments made in this article are rather one-sided.

      The reaction of some people to new technology is amusingly parodied in a TV clip from a BBC children’s program, link below. It’s all about ancient Rome’s amazing new invention, the aBook :)

      What matters is that we read, study, meditate on God’s word, and do what it says, and proclaim it to others. It makes not one scrap of difference whether we read it as pigment on papyrus, ink on paper, pixels on a screen.

      OK, an argument could be made that carrying what is obviously a Bible might open a conversation with a non-believer that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, because of the stereotyped assumptions the other person makes. But those assumptions could just as easily put the other person right off you.

      Last year one time I was reading the Scriptures with my iPhone app, the guy sitting next to me, not a Christian, had no idea I was reading the Bible.

      We got talking, and he was amazed that you can get the Bible for an iPhone and that people like him – his generation, people who use the same technology and gadgets he does – actually read and take the Bible seriously. He had wrongly assumed that only old people with big black leather bound bibles believe in Jesus.

      Contextualisation can be a relevant consideration, in both directions.

    • James

      Bibliolatry comes to mind. Also a host of ‘theo-logcial’ fallacies; regarding the incarnation, The Word of God and words of God, identity in Christ, Christian witness…

    • Tom DeLeon

      Yes. Thank you.

    • Alleli

      Mike if I may expand slightly as well-
      By nature of what Mr. Barrett is leaning towards on essentially getting back to how the Bible should be read…women shouldn’t be reading the Bible, only Rabbis can read to the congregation because they are trained, and we should only be reading in its original language.

      Though I understand what Barrett is getting at, you’re right- this leans in a very legalistic direction. We miss the heart’s intent when we look down on somebody who is using a gadget to engage in the Word instead of tree poop.

    • Jason
  • Chris Nicholson

    Unfortunately this article is written from a mindset that has created a divide between “traditional” and “Contemporary” Churches.

    Should one subscribe to this mentality why not just go all the way back to using a scroll…since bound books were not popular in Jesus time and are a new “technology”…or better yet lets talk about circumcision and it’s connection to my salvation…stick to the Gospel not the outside issues please…that’s why TGC is such a good organization…this type of thinking in your organization is going to set you back.

    • Ed Dingess

      Actually, Christianity really never made much use of the scroll seeing that the codex was much more efficient. Just an FYI.

    • Johannes Hoffmann

      The author says nothing against the iPad-Bible, because it’s new technology.

      • Chris Nicholson

        Sorry Johannes…but that is exactly what he is saying in a round about way. I know his intent is to see pastors holding bibles so that a message of pastors that preach from the Bible is clearly seen. ..but it is really coming from an angle of division eBible preachers and paper Bible preachers. We have enough division in our churches today this is not a topic we should waste our time with.

        Alexander Campbell (who I don’t completely agree with but love this statement)
        “Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where the Bible is Silent, we are Silent”
        Since this topic isn’t covered we shouldn’t debate it so that pastors that use iPads don’t feel like 2nd string preachers or vice versa

        “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
        Digital or Physical preach Jesus word and everything will be alright!

  • Jeff S

    I’m not a pastor, but this is way off base.

    I DO bring my Bible to church- on my tablet. Perhaps you and I have a different idea of what the Bible actually is? Did the Bible not actually exist until we had printing presses? Should we go back to scrolls?

    Of course every advance in technology brings with it challenges, but rather than resist technology, better to answer the root issues, which is not the physical form our Bibles take.

    There is a lot of concern in this article for external appearances, but the heart will be the same no matter how the scripture is carried. I hope that my neighbor on the plane sees the Kingdom of God in me, not because of the book I carry, but because of my behavior. We are known for our love, not our symbols or possessions. I generally find ways to talk about God with most people without using a prop- and I find it disconcerting to use the Bible as a prop.

    Please stop adding rules to those found in scripture. It is not a matter of the form we carry the truth in when we worship, but rather the substance of our truth and the object of our worship.

    • Matt Parker

      AMEN Jeff S!
      These kind of blogs are so unhelpful. The author’s intentions are good…but this blog makes him into an Accidental Pharisee.
      I am a pastor, and I can tell you there is absolutely NOTHING special about a leather bound book versus an e-reader.
      When the Word is preached, whether from a traditional book or an e-reader, the Holy Spirit awakens dead hearts.

    • Ryan

      Indeed. I kind of wonder if the same objections were voiced when the Scriptures first went from stone tablet to papyrus. “How are people supposed to get to know the different books of Scripture if they can just bring them all bundled up as scrolls instead of having to go out and search through the different stone tablets?” “That’s just a scroll of papyrus! It could say anything! There’s nothing to visually suggest that it’s the Word of God!”

      The physical form of the Scriptures is immaterial. There is nothing about paper and leather binding that is more spiritually profound than any other form of presenting Scriptures – older or more recent. This blog, and the many articles and sermons I’ve read that articulate a similar point, are well-intentioned but hollow. “Technophobic” comes to mind.

    • Andy Shafer


  • Antoine RJ Wright

    About a decade ago, when I used to get this kind of push-back from pastors when I brought my PDA to church, this was the kind of argument that I experienced. Even then, I disagreed with it, despite the experience of a print/linear media culture driving the conversation from their perspective.

    You’ve postured this argument as keeping up appearances, not improving biblical/spiritual literacy (the argument in the late 1800s/early 1900s) or encouraging self-directed study.

    To position paper has having more life than digital reminds me of the [pseudo-]historical story of Abraham’s father who placed more confidence in wooden articles than in the knowledge/understanding/fellowship of God Himself. Don’t get me wrong, your appeal to social conventions makes sense – in literate cultures where a Bible in hand doesn’t evoke feelings of distrust, elitism, and spiritual superiority. But, that’s just pushed down those applicable moments into small segments to which many pastors seem to not understand more often than not.

    Yes, the digital text presents a different and challenging means of consuming the text. However, its not all that different as most bible “reading” apps/serivces are modeled after the book. Spatial orientation does make for a solid argument, but then, we are talking about those who have demonstrated biblical literacy, which seems to contradict your article’s premise.

    To solve this “issue,” I’d respond again like I did back then: get a book cover over the device that looks like the cover of a bible, and then you endear the same presumptions. Whether the wielder of the text in print or digital can live beyond the text should be the focus, not whether we can look like we live to its cultural-imposed expectations.

  • Carl A Dixon

    I would say this commentator is in denial of the future. Print books will eventually become something only collectors and a few others will purchase. I used to be a book store owner and have been a lifelong voracious reader with a library of thousands of books. I am so thankful for the digital age we are now in (i am reaching for 70) – i am a Pastor of a growing church that has reached around the world. My church is located in Sarasota County Florida which has the largest population of over 65’s in the Nation. We have hundreds of families with young children who are using tablets and computers in their schools. We also have a Christian school and our students and teachers use iPads. My personal reading has doubled since switching to the Kindle and iPad. Those who have switched to reading devices in my church read much more than those who haven’t. I take many more notes when i am listening to a sermon using my iPad due to the ease of adding as many notes as i desire rather than being restricted by only having an actual paper Bible. On my recent vacation a Pastor friend asked me which books i took with me – my answer; ‘All of them!’ Sorry for being so long winded but i am always encouraging those i have the privilege to Pastor to move forward in this area. We have older people with severe eye problems who cannot read the largest print Bible but with their Kindle they can make the print large enough to still read along and even make notes. I have enjoyed the feel and smell of new books over the past decades of my life. But now i enjoy the enormous dollar savings of being able to purchase or receive free books of great value and of being able to download a needed book while preaching in the far reaches of Siberia on an extended teaching trip. I have given away hundreds of my books to others who will read them and i have replaced them on my Kindle. I understand the perspective problem the writer presents but that means my job is to teach the Bible in a way that helps solve that problem. I travel often and like to have conversations on airplanes. I have never placed a Bible on my lap because i don’t want to alienate anyone around me until they have a chance to talk to me. I have no problem starting a conversation and then telling them what i am reading on my device.

  • Robert Wells

    Though I do not disagree, generally, with what has been said here, it just seems a bit off kilter. I can hear someone opposing the bound Bible as apposed to scrolls. What about living the gospel in community. How about let’s help people do that for a change. Sincerely, a brother concerned for the church and her witness as well.

  • Brenden

    Thanks for your post, Matthew. I totally understand where you’re coming from. However, be careful not to call unclean what God has called clean. Here’s some satire.

    Why stop at these newfangled, leather-bound, professionally-published copies of God’s word? What does that say to an unbelieving world – to have a copy of God’s Word that you didn’t make yourself? Instead, you bought it from a fancy-pancy publishing house who used the heretical technology of the modern printing press to bring us this massed produced version of the Bible. If we want to be really spiritual then we should be carrying around scrolls that we’ve personally written from copying the original manuscripts of Scripture. It would be an easy task, really, for each Christian around the world to simply buy some papyrus, travel to all the museums around the world, translate the Greek and Hebrew text onto their very own papyrus scrolls. This, surely, is the way that God intended for us to read his Word, on scrolls and parchments.

    Actually, I’m sorry. That was completely wrong and uncalled for. Now that I’ve given it some thought, the truly spiritual way to have a hard copy of God’s Word would to have it on stone tablets! That’s what God will really be pleased with. This is the original way that his Word was written down. Therefore, this must be the only acceptable way for the Christian to read God’s Word. So, then it’s very simple! Everyone just simply rents a couple semi-trucks and trailers to transport all 66 books of the Bible written on stone tablets. We’ll have to build bigger parking lots at our churches, of course, but that’s no big deal. So, when the pastor says “we’ll be looking at John 2 today” everyone in the congregation simply gets up, walks out to their respective trailers, retrieves the 10-11 stone tablets where John 2 is inscribed, and makes their way back to their seat! This would really bring us back to true Christianity – God’s word written on stone tablets. So, pastors, please bring your stone tablets to Church.

  • Matthew Morizio

    Bible, tablet, or whatever… preacher, please, please bring Christ to the pulpit!!! Brother, we don’t care in what format you bring Christ, just bring Him! Not you. Not me. But, Jesus and Him alone. You study Him and preach Him in grace and truth, and by this Glory we shall all be conformed.
    “Dear pastor, bring Jesus to the people of God! And, feel free to use whatever means needed to fix our eyes upon Him!”

    • Brandon


  • Eden

    Let’s not forget that for years the Bible was not in book form yet the words were still precious. Centuries ago, the church was criticizing the the use of the Bible in book form and it eventually was accepted into the church. In a world where books will hardly be printed in 50 years pastors need to train the next generation to treat the Bible as holy whether the words are written in a book or on an electronic screen.

  • Andrew Terry

    I think this article is spot on. I love my gadgets. I do most of my reading, studying, and general entertainment on my iPad and iPhone. Yet, when I go to the pulpit I want the congregation to see me holding a Bible. I want them to know I am reading directly from the Bible. I take my Bible in hand, step out from behind the pulpit so that all can see, and read the text at hand. It is a witness, not a badge to wear. It is not a denial of the future rather an acknowledgement of it and the fact we are loosing site of what matters. Given the universal access to Bible, the 40 plus (and growing) English translations available, we still remain largely biblical illiterate. If my people sees my devotion to the written word I hope they will use today’s technology in dig in more.

  • Matt Wallace

    I feel that most of the critiques I am reading misrepresent the article and the author’s position. While I could be wrong, I do not see Mr. Barrett making an objective claim that Using an IPad bible is wrong, but rather that it can lead to unhealthy practices and conclusions. While this may not be true for every church member, I can easily see a virtual bible can easily promote reading scripture segmented instead of in context. While most people on this blog may find this claim to be silly, I find that most commenters here tend to be well-versed in hermeneutics and theology. As wrong is it may be, keep it mind the average church member does not go out of his way to learn proper biblical interpretation.

    • David French

      Except he did. When he says “subtly but quickly changing important, even indispensable aspects of Christianity.”

      The idea that a leather bound physical Bible is an “indispensable aspect of Christianity” is to raise an aesthetic or logistical concern to the level of doctrine, which is…. really really missing the point.

      The Gospel was first spoken in word to crowds of thousands. Written down in secret on scrolls, frozen in stain glass, printed in presses, spoken on radio, broadcast on TV, archived, annotated, and made instantly searchable on the internet. Technology grows access, not restricting it. It’s not like physical Bibles are going to disappear.

  • Dean Butterfield

    The bigger issue / question is if using an iPad/Kindle/digital device is in some way signaling a belief or possibility of the lack of inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word?! I have an iPad, my wife as the iPad mini and we both use them when sitting in the congregation; but being the shepherd of a congregation carries a bit more weight.

    • David French

      I’m sorry but this seems like a complete non-sequitar. Why would using an ipad challenge inerrancy?

      Additionally, I’d point out that the only true shepherd of a congregation should be Jesus. If it’s good enough for the pastor, it’s good enough for you. Some sheep may be slightly more clever, but they’re all sheep. Follow the shepherd.

  • Steve Wood

    As a pastor I make use of all available forms of technology to help in the research and preparation of my sermons each week. I agree with the author when he stated, “I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes.” I also gather he is not telling the folks in the pews to leave their iPads at home. However, when it comes to pastors in the pulpit, I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments regarding the use of an old-school, bound Bible. The congregation needs to see the pastor open up the Bible in printed form, turn to the sermon text, and read it out loud. They need to know he can navigate the Word without a search engine and faithfully present it to them each week. They need the pastor to set an example in the pulpit with the non-verbal message that is sent when the Scriptures are opened and read from a bound book. In this, I believe this author is spot-on and encourage my fellow pastors to consider his words carefully.

    • Andy Shafer

      I fail to see why a pastor can’t “turn to the sermon text, and read it out loud,” “navigate the Word without a search engine and faithfully present it to them each week” from a screen. Why is it so important for it to be printed? Isn’t the content of a sermon more important? Must a pastor also wear a suit and tie?

  • Michael S.

    I agree completely. It’s too easy to get distracted on things with an “outside connection” during the very activity that is supposed to turn our thoughts inward and upward instead. Plus, I can still flip to a page faster than I can tap in a reference and hope I got the right one. There is so much context and so many “oh, look, see, right down here it goes on even further talking about this same thing” moments that one misses out on doing everything by “quick lookup”.

    I say this not as a technophobe but as a 24-year-old software engineer. The world is already one big distraction pulling people away from their Christian faith… the less of it that we bring into worship with us, the better. We want the people; we want their needs; I personally don’t want their Tweets and their Farmville invites at that time and in that place.

    • Andy McCullough

      So don’t do quick lookup. Turn to the chapter and read in context. Move back to the previous chapter if you like. Or on to the next one. It’s actually less effort (and less distracting) than turning the page in a physical Bible.

      And turn off your ‘outside connection.’ Then you won’t see their tweets and Farmville invites. It’s possible to use the Bible offline. But you know that. If you find it too difficult to avoid temptation, then fine, it may not be for you, but it’s not a good reason to force others to use only paper. I know you haven’t said this per se – but you do say you agree completely with the article, which IS saying that.

  • Jeff

    I use every tool of technology at my disposal. It’s smart and effective. However, I love using the print version of my Bible when I speak. I have margins full of notes, and I’ve established a certain familiarity with my several decades-old Bible. I agree that God’s Word is not “bound” by the printed page (pun intended). We won’t need Bibles in heaven. However, rather than look at this argument and criticize it as “legalistic” (which I didn’t sense at all), perhaps we should seriously think about it. Rather than read “You can’t be a good pastor if you use one of those new-fangled tablet thingys. Paul didn’t use one, so neither should you!”, maybe (like Paul) consider what is 1) most biblically effective with your audience, 2) what is most relevant to this generation, and 3) how your teaching method (print or digital) converts to inspiring your audience to get into the Bible for themselves.
    You could use the same argument for putting scripture on the big screen for everyone to see. Doesn’t that encourage people NOT to bring their Bibles? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on the people and the pastor. One of our goals as ministers is to help people embrace the binding authority of Scripture on their lives. We pastors are nor priests who have a monopoly on studying and understanding the Bible. Instead, we desire that our people do that on their own. When I speak, I see both digital and print versions being used by people out there. The only different is that you can take notes in your print version. Yes, there is a danger many in this generation can view the Bible as just another “APP”, surrounded by angry birds, Facebook and Instagram. I do think we have a responsibility to help our people see the Word of God for what it is – God’s perfect heart and mind revealed through human words – regardless of what format it’s read in. If we can do that, then not much else matters. Whatever you choose to use, just make sure you preach the Word! As for me, I’ll keep using my iPad, occasionally employing it for sermon notes. But when I speak I’ll stick to my well-worn, note-filled leather bound version.

    • Joe McCulley


    • Curt Parton

      I appreciate the tone of your comment. I personally find it easier to highlight and take notes using a digital text of Scripture. I also don’t have to transfer them if I change Bibles (or somehow reproduce them if I lose my Bible). Not to argue against you, just a different perspective.

  • Evan Dixon

    I really do get what you’re saying here and see some validity in your points. I just don’t think this concept is very future proof. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be. Right now, in some churches and situations, maybe a physical bible would have a positive impact. In others it may not matter, or at least not as much. The fact is, as others have mentioned, physcial books may not be around a whole lot longer. Eventually, neither may tablets; we may all be wearing somehting like google glass or have physcially embedded computers. Who knows. I believe knowing the Word and living lives that connect people to Jesus is a great deal important than what we carry around, no matter what the state of technology is today.

  • Michael

    To clear up a couple of misconceptions and false trails above:

    Book form was new once: Book form, from best we can tell, was pioneered by early Christians (the codex). The Bible as we know it (OT & NT) has almost always been in book form. Bound pages were around long, long before the printing press.

    If we can’t have digital, let’s just go back to scrolls: Ok, but this misses the point of why books (and scrolls) are better than digital format. The reason, as the article clearly stated and as other references to this truth also confirm, is that with digital format we can lose the grand flow of the text. And with the Bible (and Wuthering Heights and Narnia), this is a tragic loss. That doesn’t mean this loss has to happen with digital, but it certainly is much easier (especially with a Bible vs. a novel). With an already mostly biblical illiterate congregation in North America, not having any idea of the relationship between Matthew and the OT or between the prophets and Deuteronomy can lead to a skewed view of God and a misapplication of individual passages. A scroll, like a book, helps to leave in tact the storyline of the narrative.

    • David French

      Michael you make some excellent points. I don’t disagree, however I think the conclusion that “therefore we should only use bound printed Bible is false”.

      New technology comes with new logistical problems, but the ways to solve them isn’t to just revert to old technology. It’s to find the best ways to use that technology! Once upon a time phones were brand new and only had a few numbers. Then when phones became an internationally used standard, connecting all parts of the world required many many more numbers, which are very hard to keep track of. So some smart guy (named Ladislav Sutnar) decided “Hey lets divide up the numbers by 2 groups, and put the area code in parantheses”. So 1234567890 becomes the much more readable (123) 456-7890. Isn’t that wonderful? A little intelligence, a little design and you get a solution to the new technology.

      Digital bibles have their problems but there are solutions for them, and most important they have new abilities which open new doors. It’s hard to see the relationship between Matthew and the OT, but there are things a digital copy can do that a physical one can’t, like hyperlinking. Hyperlinking is an intelligible way to demonstrate the complexity and depth of the bible, all the interlocking pieces. Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia. it’s ooooh so much more than that.

      The NET bible is a great example of that. An open source, 100% copyright free, modern translation with 60,000 translation notes. And while they have physical copies of it, the true power of it is only unlocked through a multimedia experience.

      • Michael


        I would agree with your statement that it is false to say that we should only use a printed Bible. I hope I didn’t imply that. I just thought many, many people were reacting and instead of carefully reading the article and that some were simple dismissing out of hand the research that has been done about the differences between print and electronic text. I would also agree that finding the best way to use new technology is a task that the church needs to work hard at. I’m not convinced, however, that EVERY new technology is worth finding a use for. And by the way, I can remember when my phone number was 7-2813. Times have changed.

        • Jeff Martin


          The research that was done is not that well done, as David French was implying. If we can better adapt technology to get that “novel” feel then all the better!

    • Andy Shafer

      “we can lose the grand flow of the text.” This can also be done with a book, by not turning the page. Getting the “grand flow of the text” has more to do with the user’s interest than the form it’s delivered in.

  • Steve S.

    Personally, I enjoyed this article and found it to be thought provoking. While I generally agree that many of the critiques of the article were running through my mind as well, I still believe there’s good thoughts to be gleaned. I urge a certain amount of grace for the writer and certainly for every person in ministry because its hard to do a completely thorough work without writing a novel.

    With that said, I would like to add a thought if I may, to the points Matthew made. Before this, I do believe ultimately using a tablet or not is personal preference and certainly may be wrong for some to use but acceptable for others. Moving on, I wanted to add that seeing a tablet though may create a certain kind of division in the church or cause visitators to falsely believe the pastor is concerned more with wealth/modernism than with the gospel. Allow me to explain that anyone seeing an iPad knows these are a small fortune, at least in m y world. Combined with a suit and tie, people who are not quite as privileges may feel they are not up to par with a church like this. Or they may become disillusioned that the only way to really read the Bible is with a tablet.

    Now these may sound like silly critiques of against using a tablet but I knew they are true. we have a family at church who doesn’t come because they don’t have great church clothes. While we encourage them that they should come as they are able, they at least use it as one more reason not to come. They cannot afford a a bible and certainly being in an audience where everyone has a tablet could create another barrier to Jesus. As we are able, I Believe we should tear down every barrier to the gospel so they can know Jesus and not be distracted by the version of the Bible they use, whether they are dressed well enough, etc.

    I think the use of a tablet certainly depends on the circumstances: the maturity of the church, if a tablet would encourage the gospel or hinder it that is being a distraction, certainly on the conscientious of the pastor, more.

    • Jeff S

      Steve S,
      I agree that there ARE some really great reasons not to use an iPad- especially your point about the cost of the iPad. I would not disagree with an article considering these kinds of dangers.

      But he ended the article (and so titled it) with an admonishment to bring the Bible to church, as if the Bible on an iPad isn’t a true Bible. This moves the discussion beyond “here’s some things you ought to consider when deciding whether to use an iPad when preaching” (which I think would be a worthy discussion) and into the realm of “I’m saying what you are using on an iPad isn’t the true Word of God”. He’s saying that an iPad is a lesser version, and it simply isn’t true. There are differences, and a smart pastor will manage them.

      When I got my iPad, I started bringing it to church and never looked back. Ironically, I’m considering getting a new, physical Bible for nighttime reading to help with my sleep patterns (because reading an iPad at night can keep you up if you do it right before bed).

  • George

    This is nothing more than a bunch of sentimental hogwash. Are we serious about this? King David said, “I have hidden your word in my heart” not “I have bounded your word in leather.”

    I don’t know who to be more disappointed in, the author of the article or TGC for running it.

    • Larry Shannon

      Amen George!

      Dear Pastor, Bring Your [Scroll/Codex] to Church

      Where’s your [Scroll/Codex]?

      Let not the Technologist despise the Hard Copyist, and let not the Hard Copyist pass judgment on the Technologist.

      Romans 14:4 (ESV) — 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

      I think the proper view of the Bible is more important than what medium the pastor use.

      Do we need to invent more division?

  • Angel Roman

    Totally agree with you. As someone else was saying consider the teenagers in your church. What are their conclusions about the Bible as the Word of God if they just read in in their gadgets? I’ve seen many of the that struggle at finding a book in a physical Bible just because they don’t know how to use one. It does indeed create Biblical illiteracy. If most of the pastor keep on doing this, they’re approving this behavior in the young people.

    • Paul Ellsworth

      “It does indeed create Biblical illiteracy”
      This may not actually be what you meant, but it sounds like you are saying that biblical literacy, then, means (or at least partly means) knowing how to navigate a paper Bible? I could do that at quite a young age, but I wouldn’t have called myself biblically literate.

      What if you pick up a Bible that has a lightly different order? Are you suddenly biblically illiterate again? :)

      I would think that biblical literacy means knowing what is in the Bible, not knowing how to navigate it on a given unfamiliar medium.

  • Oliver Mannay

    I find myself disappointed that the commenting readers of this site seem, in the vast majority, to be more interested in creating a straw-man argument and indulging in scroll-based hyperbole than in actually engaging with the subject. Surely, if there’s a book that’s worth using in its hardcopy form, to take advantage of even the most tiny implied meaning or even the most imperceptible benefit, it is the Word of God.
    When I stand before God, and am asked to justify my pitiful actions in this sinful life, I’m going to have a lot to answer for. If using an app instead of a Bible, and the resultant stunting of my abilities to navigate Scripture properly, and lack of visible public witness (let’s face it; it’s rude to look at somebody’s screen so who’d spot that they’re on a Bible app?), has harmed my work for the Lord, the consequences will be inexcusable and eternal, and no amount of ‘keeping up with the times’ will change that.
    Oliver Mannay (with a degree in Computer Science, and more gadgets and iWhatnots than any one person can justifiably own).

    • Paul Ellsworth

      “the resultant stunting of my abilities to navigate Scripture properly,”
      On a particular unfamiliar medium, you mean. :)

      “and lack of visible public witness”
      Because Jesus said that the world will know that we are His disciples by our external appearance… ?

      If more Christians took to heart what Jesus DID say ought to distinguish us (“that you love one another”), perhaps whether or not you are visibly carrying around a Bible would be less important. :)

    • Lee

      Well said Paul. I think most of the comments have missed the point entirely. Maybe they should actually think about the points the article makes instead of just jumping to defend the “technology” God so quickly without reflection. They can’t even see their own assumptions so how can they begin to question them? I suppose you could say we shouldn’t even have written Bibles at all since we can just listen to it read on our iphone app. We can do a lot of things, but what we don’t do is actually think about how adopting the latest fad might conflict with the deepest assumptions of our faith. Like virtual church or worshiping via the internet. Mocking the article isn’t helpful to anyone but yourself.

  • Ellie

    I suppose some folks might argue that we can’t get authentic biblical insights unless the minister is unrolling leather scrolls.

    What a ridiculous article. Seriously.

  • Cody

    I must respectfully disagree.
    God’s Word is God’s Word, whatever the medium it is written on.
    Whether stone or parchment or pages or a digital screen. The inspiration is not in the medium that His Word is inscribed upon.
    I am glad the author has his own opinion. I am not glad the author is judging all pastors who read God’s Word from a digital device.
    I am not glad the author is legalistically applying his personal, unscriptural preferences to others, with not even the slightest scriptural argument.
    How are his arguments different from the fundamentalist arguing that the form of music is what corrupts?
    How disappointing that “The Gospel Coalition” would publish such legalistic diatribe!

  • Bruce

    Here’s an idea: all Christians get IPad covers with “The Bible” written on it. Solved.

    • George

      That is awesome. You just made my day.

  • Michael Bulnes

    I wonder what the first church would respond to this article when there was no leather bond bibles around. Guess we’ve forgotten the generation we live in…

  • Luis

    I wonder if several hundred years ago, there was a similar conversation about preaching with the scrolls on hand as opposed to using those new&edgy paper books. :)

  • Wayne Stocks

    To all those who have proposed the symbolic importance of reading from the bound word of God (as opposed to reading from the electronic Word of God, I would ask the following, “What about the pastor who has the passage memorized?” Should he “fake read” from a bound volume in order not to confuse the congregation? Just curious.

  • Vic Thom

    On Sunday, my lectionary reading assignment included Jeremiah 23:23-29. It was good to read all of the 23rd chapter to get the context and by doing so I saw a powerful Messianic prophecy I would have missed if I focused only on a few verses. A real page-turning Bible is helpful. I find the Kindle version much harder to use.

  • cosme cabalteja

    There’s an app called “My Bible Reading Plan” and you can read through the bible in one year. I love it and it actually helped me read through the bible 3 times, 3 years in a row. There is a down-side though, I still can’t physically place where I have read a passage if I want to go back and refer to it. Unlike when I read it from my hard copy I can easily recall from memory that, “ah, I read that on the upper right side of this book.”

    • Andy McCullough

      Though, of course, if you remember a few words of the passage but have no idea which book it was in, it could take you hours or even days to find it in a print bible, and several seconds with an electronic one.

  • bryan

    Luke 12
    “….he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known”

    I want to continue to enjoy the Gospel Coalition, but it is slowly becoming the Pharisee Coalition. Please don’t ruin a good thing by using this as an outlet to “church up” your prideful view of the “way things are becoming.”

    Everybody that read your article saw right through it to what you were really trying to say.

  • Joe Cook

    Sorry but I think this article is bad news bears, people didn’t always have a print copy of the bible, the new technology of print gave birth to a new era in the church, people could have their own copy, it helped the reformation get going. But there’s all kinds of religious nonsense here. Having your bible on the bus or a plane doesn’t mean you’re a christian, I know people who own lots of bibles who don’t know Jesus at all. Hey I know, try talking to the person and being nice on the plane, maybe they’ll think that’s different and you’ll get a chance to talk about Jesus with them. I don’t think the disciples were walking around carrying bags of scrolls, they were probably just full of the Holy Spirit and people recognized that, not the books they were reading. It’s much easier to highlight passages on my phone, I can do it with my finger, I don’t need to carry around seven special highlighters that don’t bleed through the pages. kids are learning in a digital age, they need to learn how to use the bible in a digital age, I think schools will continue to teach how to use a table of contents for those who continue to own books. we are not essentially physical beings, we are body soul spirit beings. The part that connects to God, our spirit to his spirit, is a non physical thing that we can’t see or touch, it should rub us the wrong way when someone reads scripture from any source and we see no life, no connection to God, nothing but a string of words put together that make some grammatical and literary sense but have no spiritual life. It’s the spirit that reveals the truth of the word, not the fact that it’s written on paper or in the ethereal web. I think Paul wrote something to the Corinthians about what non-believers would think when they came into our meetings and we were praying and prophesying, he didn’t mention what they would say about what we were reading from, I think it was something to do with what the spirit would do in a person when they heard the word of God(that may be a stretch, he probably didn’t know we would have ipads, but more churches have forgotten about praying and prophesying than ‘reading from the book’). Biblical literacy: i have many translation on my phone, when I go to different church that uses a different version, I can quickly look things up and compare, I can also click on my study tools and see what the original Greek or Hebrew words mean, thereby increasing the accuracy and contextual understanding of a particular passage. I love it when pastors say,”dont’ believe me? look it up”, because now I can. If we are measuring pastors by how well they can navigate the bible, rather than how well they depend on the Holy Spirit, we’re in trouble. Most people/churches measure a pastors worth by the degrees on his wall, the quality of his writing, the outward appearance of his walk with God, important maybe, but those are very western European world view standards. What we should value is a pastors ability to hear from God. Jesus said he only did what the Father told him, he only spoke what the Father told him. anyone can read scripture and write a good essay, not everyone is in touch with the spirit that breathes life into the word. Remember the Pharisees new scripture better most of us ever will, Paul said he was the top dog Pharisee, but he considered all those earthy qualifications rubbish next to what Jesus showed him by the spirit.
    Reading the bible is not a matter of type of media used, it is a matter of hunger to know Jesus. If you want to know Jesus, you’ll take the time to read the context whether it’s flipping a page or scrolling.

  • Cristian

    A timely and thoughtful article that voices some of my instinctive concerns as a contemporary pastor and preacher. I did not detect any legalism in the author’s approach. The over-reaction seems harsh and unnecessary, perhaps.

  • Chadley

    Firstly, I grew up when the print Bible was all there was, and I grew to be biblically illiterate. The medium isn’t the real problem (print vs. digital): the problem is that we teach the Bible in fragments (no matter the medium). This fragmentary pedagogic is sort of a necessity, but the problem for me was that the mega-narrative was not taught. But, to entertain the article’s argument, even if digital Bibles negatively encourages fragmentary reading, it also positively encourages people to read their Bibles more (after all, it’s always in their pocket).

    Secondly, this article strikes me as talmudic.

    Thirdly, I do appreciate the sentiment of this article, but I don’t think it warrants an imperative to pastors.

    • Andy Shafer

      Well said.

  • Mark

    Would the author recommend that we all come together and listen to the Scriptures being read out loud? This is an element of traditional churches ehich is separate from the sermon.

    Having one’s own, personal Bible in the pulpit is also an innovation brought about by the technology of the printing press.

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  • James

    Forget going back to using hard-bound bibles and parchment scrolls, pastors should carry two stone tablets into the pulpit with them every Sunday.

  • MzEllen

    First, the snark in the comments is impressive and miss the point.

    Second, how do you impress on children the importance of bringing a Bible to church…when it’s not obvious that you bring a Bible to church? (When I read or study, it’s always digital. On Sunday, it’s a hard copy)

    Third, one of my most precious possessions is my Grandmother’s Bible with her hand-written notes. I will be the last generation to pass down my notes in my Bible….

    • Wayne Stocks

      Mz. Ellen,

      My kids (both the ones that call me Dad and the ones who call me Mr. Wayne) know that I use my iPad as a Bible because I have relationships with them. They see me reading the Bible. I pull the iPad out in small group when we are talking about the Bible or I want to reference a verse and I show them how I use it, the same way I would show them with a hard copy Bible how to look up a verse. For these kids today who are likely to read more electronically than in hard copy, what kind of message am I sending them if I carry a bound bible so they will know I am reading it – “real Christian carry a heavy Bible and you with your Bible on your iPod Touch are some sort of second-class citizen?” I want them to read the Word of God. I don’t care whether it’s written on paper, on an electronic screen or carved into a tree trunk.

      So, “how do you impress on children the importance of bringing a Bible to church…when it’s not obvious that you bring a Bible to church?” You impress on them the importance of the Bible in your life and explain that you always have yours with you because it’s on your tablet. Here, let me show you how it works!…

    • Paul Ellsworth

      “Second, how do you impress on children the importance of bringing a Bible to church…when it’s not obvious that you bring a Bible to church?”
      I know you don’t mean this … but simply *bringing* a Bible isn’t good enough. I can bring the biggest Bible ever, but if I never open it, it doesn’t matter. If our kis only know what we think is important by our outward appearance, then … well, really, what they are going to pick up is that the outward appearance is what is important.

      I would hope that kids would find out that it’s important because they see one of us actually reading, studying, or talking about the Bible … not just because we carry it around.

      And if my character is such that if they see me using my tablet during church and think I’m playing games, then there are more serious issues. :)

  • Curt Parton

    My iPad _is_ my Bible. I know cultural settings differ, but in our church for me to teach from a physical Bible would seem artificial and “religious” (with a negative connotation) to the people. I might as well use a massive, forty-pound pulpit Bible. What does the artificial use of a physical Bible miscommunicate to the people—especially younger people? Maybe that Scripture itself is antiquated and artificial, only for use in a religious setting? But instead they see that the Word of God is central to my life, even in my use of technology.

    This post reminds me of articles suggesting why we shouldn’t use contempory praise songs in church but only traditional hymns. I hope this issue doesn’t devolve into another round of the worship wars.

  • Dan

    From a comic following the Steve Jobs’s death:

    “Moses, meet Steve. He’s gonna upgrade your tablets.”

    • Paul Ellsworth

      Let’s not forget that it was an Apple that tempted Eve in the garden. ;)

    • Ray Fowler

      Yes, but that’s only because she would never have been tempted by a PC! :)

  • Cliff S

    To say that a printed and bound Bible is no more than a container for the word of God is akin to saying the cross is no more than two pieces of wood stuck together.

    One of the great tragedies the modern church is enduring is an attitude bordering on contempt for symbolism and a lack of appreciation for the aesthetic. We are systematically stripping the church of any reminder that we have a history. The printed and bound word of God is a symbol that is recognized by our culture and speaks volumes by its very presence. That big, bulky book is at once a lightning rod, a work of art, a source of comfort and a testimony to the permanence and of God’s word.

    Is it required that we use a printed Bible in the pulpit? Of course not. But the near-disdain shown here for an enduring representation of the Word of God is telling.

    • Brian Wilson

      Well-said, Cliff S. Thank you!

    • Paul Ellsworth

      “To say that a printed and bound Bible is no more than a container for the word of God is akin to saying the cross is no more than two pieces of wood stuck together.”
      To be fair, I think people are saying that the “medium of a leather bound book” is nothing more than a container.

      Yes, perhaps it has become a symbol, but at best it is a human symbol. There’s no prophecy associated with it, as there is (to a certain extent) with the cross.

      “One of the great tragedies the modern church is enduring is an attitude bordering on contempt for symbolism”
      Perhaps because they (those with the aforementioned contempt) see evidence that symbolism had replaced real Christianity? Jesus did not say that the world would know we were His disciples because of our symbolism and traditions. If symbolism (and tradition) becomes more important than what is actually important (love, obedience, love, the fruit of the Spirit, love …), there’s a major problem… and perhaps some amount of contempt (or at least apathy) is justified.

      “The printed and bound word of God is a symbol that is recognized by our culture and speaks volumes by its very presence.”
      You’re right, it does say something. But that “something” is not always good. Does carrying a printed and bound Bible actually show love, as Jesus wanted us to be known by?

      “That big, bulky book is at once a lightning rod, a work of art, a source of comfort and a testimony to the permanence and of God’s word.”
      The book itself? The physical representation/medium is a source of comfort? To say that the print medium is more a source of comfort and testimony to the permanence of God’s Word than a digital medium is … well, to me, short-sighted. I don’t take comfort in the fact that I am reading from a leather bound book that was printed and published by, most likely, unbelievers working for a salary. And I don’t see books as being particularly permanent where digital media is not. Perhaps in a few very rare cases it is (stored in a vault somewhere)… but, really, for me, books are less permanent. A very simple example: a book is easily burned, but I can back up my digital copy in tons of ways (and my notes and bookmarks and everything). So how is a “book” more permanent? Sure, digital backups have their “predators.” :) But everything down here does; happily, the Word of God is forever, whereas books and hard drives are not.

      (another simple example is that I can easily lose my printed book, never to have it back; if I lose my online-backed-up book, whether it’s the Bible or something else, I don’t lose it forever, I only lose it until I get another device that I can download the contents, including my notes, to it again).

      Pages, ink, and leather are neither sacred nor “special.” The Word is special. The medium has changed many times in history; to latch onto one medium as a symbol and hold that symbol up as lofty and important is, I think, not a good thing … and says to the church and to the world that we ought to value symbols more highly than we ought to, I guess.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think I tend to hold symbols up in “contempt” … rather, I think I simply don’t care that much about them. To some, this may be seen as contempt. To me, it’s just that I don’t think I ought to value man-made symbols. (as another example, I don’t value and even, to some extent, dislike the “Christian” flag. That’s another topic though :) )

      • Carl A Dixon

        There’s such a thing as a Christian flag?!!! Or where you just making a joke?

        • Paul Ellsworth

          Carl: yes, there is. I’m not making a joke. :)

        • Katherine Coble

          I Pledge Allegience to the Flag
          And to the Saviour, for whose Kingdom it Stands
          One Saviour, Crucified, risen and coming again
          With Life and Liberty to all who believe.

          –and that is a taste of what 15 years of Christian school can teach you.

      • Cliff S

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply Paul. However, after reading your response several times, I’m still trying to understand who you are arguing against?

        I agree that there has been and will continue to be abuse of symbolism. Please tell me you’re not advocating that all symbolism is therefore bad? I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you against any church that places value on the “thing” and not the truth represented by the “thing.” But to deny the powerful and necessary place of symbolism in the church – because of malpractice by a few – is to rob the church of one of her most powerful and effective (not to mention timeless) means of communication.

        How could we possibly reconcile a laissez-faire attitude towards symbolism in general, and then ask the world, or our people, to treat with gravity the Lord’s Supper and Baptism? Are these not symbols? And while as protestants we would never venerate the articles of the symbol, there is (or should be) a great weightiness associated with the practice itself.

        Which one of us would distribute juice boxes and Goldfish crackers at communion? Why not if all that matters is the intention not the form? Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I would venture that the form of baptism your church practices (immersion vs. sprinkling) matters to you very much. Why should it if only the intention is of concern? We care because the form communicates the substance.

        In the end, the question is not symbols vs. no symbols…an iPad in the pulpit is after all a symbol too. The question is whether the symbols we choose represent the church as part of a continuum, or as autonomous from any context but the moment.

        Thanks again Paul for your thoughts!

        • Paul Ellsworth

          Hey Cliff, thanks for the dialogue. I appreciate being made to think. :)

          My clarity appears to be lacking, ha. Nothing new ;) :)
          “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you against any church that places value on the “thing” and not the truth represented by the “thing.””
          I had a big paragraph before I kept reading and saw that we agree. So, I’ll delete hte paragraph and say: yes. It would be a warm shoulder :)

          “But to deny the powerful and necessary place of symbolism in the church”
          Powerful at times I would go along with. Necessary, I’m not sure. Aside from baptism and communion … how is it we can say it is necessary? We can argue about whether it’s a good thing, helpful, etc., but necessary? Necessary would imply that it’s biblical. To me, anyways. :)

          I did not mean to say that symbolism in general is bad; however, I thought that this particular article seemed to be arguing that the symbolism is important (and universally understood) enough that pastors are wrong not to continue with it.

          “How could we possibly reconcile a laissez-faire attitude towards symbolism in general, and then ask the world, or our people, to treat with gravity the Lord’s Supper and Baptism?”
          Because we can point them to Christ who commanded those symbols. I am not about to raise *my* symbols to the level of ones that were commanded by Christ. The world already thinks that Christianity is just a bunch of people going through the motions (of which symbolism is a part). My question to you would be this: how do we show to the world that Christianity is NOT about symbolism but about redemption, reconciliation, repentance, relationship (hey, that was a lot of Rs)… not about steeples, suits and collared shirts, and sacred music. Unfortunately, I think the latter is what is perceived more often than the former.

          “there is (or should be) a great weightiness associated with the practice itself.”
          For communion and baptism, I totally agree. As a general rule, I don’t think communion is viewed as weightily as Jesus Himself weighted it. However, for other symbolism.

          “Which one of us would distribute juice boxes and Goldfish crackers at communion? Why not if all that matters is the intention not the form? Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I would venture that the form of baptism your church practices (immersion vs. sprinkling) matters to you very much. Why should it if only the intention is of concern? We care because the form communicates the substance.”
          Well, I would argue that with those two things, we’re talking about symbols, yes, but symbols that were directly commanded by Christ. What we’re talking about with printed and bound Bibles is a human tradition. I assume that we both agree that there is a fundamental difference between those two categories of symbols? :)

          “an iPad in the pulpit is after all a symbol too.”
          I’m not sure I’d say it was a symbol. It does say something, yes, but is it really recognized as a symbol (like, say, a cross)?

          “represent the church as part of a continuum, or as autonomous from any context but the moment.”
          True, but what is it we want to show solidarity with, so to speak, with the “church past?” I’m more interested in showing that we have the same Savior than showing that we have the same Symbols.

          I’m a church music guy and this idea (connection with the church of the past) gets brought up as an argument for preserving (and using as the majority) traditionally styled music. I would argue, though, that what is important to maintain is, say, a high regard for good theology, for good lyrics, for admonition through music as Paul says, etc… *not* the music style. If we have to rely on the outward appearance to show our connection with the past, then I believe others will pickup on that and see that that outward appearance is actually what we are interested in.

    • Andy Shafer

      “To say that a printed and bound Bible is no more than a container for the word of God is akin to saying the cross is no more than two pieces of wood stuck together.”

      The cross (lower-case “c”) IS no more than two pieces of wood stuck together. The Cross (upper-case “c”) is a symbol for CHRIST’S work. Would Christ’s work not have been efficacious if he’d been crucified some other way? It’s Christ that died and was raised, not the pieces of wood he was nailed to. I consider your argument fallacious.

      • Cliff S

        Thank you for your incontrovertible argument, and very kind words Andy.

  • Andy

    This article is a classic example of the Church’s level-headed resistance to cultural change and the one-style-fits-all mentality to church organizations. The use of technology should be tailored to the underlying congregation, taking into account its strengths, weaknesses, and cultural makeup. There are times when the infusion of technology in a dying church will promote cultural relevance and healthy change. On the other hand, some churches make technology an idol, and those churches need a different remedy.

  • Brian Wilson

    Unbelievable! Wow, it is obvious that your article has stepped on many, many toes. The reaction by many demonstrates your call to pastors to be an example of the believer in word and deed is unwelcomed. Thank you, Matthew, for a well-thoughtout article.

    I believe the same thing has already occurred with our hymnals. The theology of the hymnals is no longer valuable to the average Christian, and there is no need to own or even enjoy a hymnal because the words are provided electronically.

    On a separate note, I wonder if the complainers, um commentors, on this article feel the need for parishioners to bring any Bible (electronic or not) to church with them, since many churches now provide an electronic copy on the “big screen”?

    Thank you again, Matthew, for a great article.

    • Wayne Stocks


      I believe your reply is harsh and inconsistent with the objections raised by those commenting on this article. No one has suggested that the meaning of the Bible should change because it is electronic or even that anyone shouldn’t bring their Bibles (albeit in electronic form). If I had to guess, most of the people who have commented on this article in objection to the original call actually have a very high view of scripture and object to the idea that there is only one right “form” or “vessel” for those scriptures in the pulpit (that being a bound copy of the scriptures). I’m fairly certain that the Bible does not prescribe the form that Bibles should take, but I will look it up on my iPad to make sure (tongue firmly in cheek and no disrespect intended :)).

  • Marlon Hollis

    There isn’t much I can add to the many critiques already here. I too find the author’s points to have very little merit.

    “One of the severe limitations of a digital text, as you sit there with your iPhone or smartphone, is the unnecessary task of passing by books of the Bible as you find the sermon text.”

    Most electronic Bibles that I have tables of contents complete with the correct order of the books of the Bible. Are folks with printed Bibles, in the middle of the sermon, really engaging in leisurely serendipitous discovering of the text and book locations when they are hunting for the passage the pastor asks them to go to? Or are they mostly trying to find that passage as quickly as they can so they can keep up with the sermon? I’d say the latter.

    “As a result, I am increasingly discovering as a professor at a Christian university that students do not know where books in the Bible are located, let alone how the storyline of redemptive history develops. Many laypeople do not possess the ability to see the text in its context. Consequently, these old-fashioned, basic, Bible-learning skills are being lost.”

    Okay maybe so with your students, but is this a fault of the technology it’s on or something else? I have been reading the Bible from cover to cover for a many years now, first through various printed Bible (NIV, NASB, ESV) then I switched to an ESV Bible on an iPad 2 in 2011. I have learned so much about the “story line of redemptive history” reading the Scriptures this way. You know what the difference was in the quality of this understanding between reading it in the print version and the iPad version: zero.

    Technology is only as good as how you use it, and the wisdom you apply to it. Reading the Scriptures in a disciplined way whether in print or digital is much better advice than dumping on the medium it is on. A person can be just as biblically illiterate with a paper Bible It’s in how you use the tools God has given you.

  • Kevin Jandt

    It looks like you struck some nerves with this post.

    What happens when you drop it and it breaks or someone steals it. Not too many thieves looking to steal a Bible these days. Just one of the many benefits of my paper version.

    Great article.

    • Wayne Stocks


      FYI, you can back up all your notes and highlights, etc. with an electronic copy. If you misplace your hard copy – that could mean years and years of personal Bible study and reflection missing. That would be tragic. Just a thought. :)

  • Mike

    It’s a wisdom call, that’s all folks.

    I am a young pastor (just under 40 ; ) so bringing an IPad into the pulpit would be more then accepted. We are by no means a traditional church. However, I remember one of my profs pounding the drum regarding symbolism, so I have always utilized a paper copy. I don’t think the topic is that big of a deal, but a willingness to leave the ipad at home could show sensitivity to those that think it is. On the other hand, it could feed into a false perspective on “the evils of technology” and things that just do not matter. Like I mentioned above, its a wisdom call.

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  • Michael DiMarco

    I agree with the dissenters here even though I love physical books and have even published a devotional bible with both Baker and an upcoming edition with Crossway.

    Though because I do get asked to speak in churches that have an aversion to digital bibles, I did invest in this cover for my iPad mini: Highly recommended!

    Also, because I don’t want people to think I’m using credit cards to buy things and they’re so easily confused with debit cards, I only write checks in the checkout line. What a witness to everyone in line behind me! :)

  • Tahlitha

    Wonderful article Matthew! We are most stirred up not by the things we agree with but the things that convict us.

    In Exodus 24:7 it reads, ‘Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded. We will obey.”

    My thoughts on this post is not that it addresses the Word in hand over the iPad in hand but the nature in which our attention and heart could be drawn.

    The word of God in our hand calls us to slow down and be in the presence of the Author and Finisher of our faith, to seek him further and further into the scriptures. An iPad would appear to be too convenient within the confines of seeking Jesus. We can simply type in book, chapter and verse and not have to do much else.

    To read, seek, and study turns our hearts towards God and not to quick and convenient.

    The second half of the verse (Ex.24:7) reads, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded. We will obey.”

    ‘Everything the LORD has commanded’ places emphasis into today’s culture to study the scriptures and veer away from the distractions that technology (could) bring. The iPad doesn’t just have the Bible(app) on it but other apps and attractions as well.

    Would readers, Christians, pastors, enjoy the iPad as much if that was all it was? Just the Bible.

    • Jeff S

      In fact, getting the Bible on my iPad was one of the primary reasons for purchasing it.

      My only use for an iPad in church is to have worship music (for when I lead worship) and the Bible. I don’t use it for anything else. But it’s sure nice and light to carry for both purposes and it’s wonderful to have multiple translations at my finger.

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  • Chris Linzey

    Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf: Using Tech Instead of Print

  • Art

    As long as you have the word you have The Word. I wonder if similar laments were heard from the groups who had everything memorized when people started carrying scrolls or later from the scroll group once the printing press was invented? This is a misplaced call to tradition. Instead, we should be celebrating God’s common grace of providing His Word in numerous places and ways via technology…

  • j james

    I love my kindle, but I personally do not use it for my bible. I think a lot of these points are good ones, but they are opinions and should be taken as such. As many have pointed out, the printed word came along well after biblical times so we can’t really argue that it’s the only appropriate medium for studying or preaching God’s word (by the way….many Christians around the world don’t bring any kind of bible to church. It’s because they can’t read).

    Some people are more technologically proficient than others and using their tablet may work really well for them. That doesn’t mean we can’t consider the downsides, but we should keep in mind that we’re all different and what applies to us may not to everyone. The real litmus test is whether or not the word is changing their hearts and producing fruit. Why argue?

  • Curt Parton

    According to this article, it’s okay for us to take a tablet with us as we teach on Sunday as long as we’re only using it for our notes, but as soon as we actually start reading the Bible we should revert to a printed copy. This seems to me a dangerous elevation of a particular medium rather than a focus on the message itself. We shouldn’t idolize any packaging of Scripture, whether it’s digital technology or leather and paper.

    • Andy Shafer


  • juan

    dear pastor bring your scroll!!

  • Josh

    This article is a great example of someone defending their preference. It’s well thought out and well written and should give us all something to think about. You may not adopt all of Matthew’s points, but thinking carefully about something like this is important. As pastors we send messages with nearly everything we do – intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, we should think about these things. Don’t be so quick to dismiss everything he says without thinking it through. We all have our preferences and I’d guess that we can’t articulate them as well as he just did.

  • Mike

    I use my e-Bible ALL the time. I am a pastor teacher, an expositor, and need instant access to the original languages, cross references, word analysis, parallel passages and alternate translations. The e-Bible (BibleWorks) provides me that access. All of those that know me and my methods of teaching appreciate what I share and what tools I use to share it; there has never been a comment to the contrary. As I get older the ‘concordance’ in my memory sometimes fails me, but with a tool like BibleWorks I have instant access to where a passage is found. [However I keep my printed Bible close in the event of an EMP.]

  • Sarah

    I enjoyed reading this article and found it very interesting, but can I make a point you may not have thought of? What happens if the person upfront can’t read a hard copy of the Bible? I sometimes go and sing to small groups and talk about Bible-verses in between the songs. If I was to take my entire Bible with me, it would be 38 Braille volumes (2 bookshelves full), so I must admit that I spent the first part of the article wondering why having the Bible on an iPad was such a big deal.

    That’s a great point about people not knowing where the different books are and the context of the story though, but surely something could be done about that in the new digital versions (maybe as simple as numbering the books 1 to 66). I also think a good preacher, if he’s preaching on say Esther, will tell his congregation something of the context of the book and when the events would have taken place. So yes, definitely more should be made of the Bible and people should be encouraged to learn where the different books come in, but not necessarily by having a printed copy in their hands.

    • Antoine RJ Wright

      This… this is a great point.

      Though the focus is that of pastors in the pulpit, we miss that literacy, biblical literacy, is a scarce item globally. For the point, 60% of the world’s population is not functionally literate according to the Orality Network.

      For those sight-impaired, larger text, Braille copies, and character-driven languages of those quickly growing regions… making a concession for appearances as described in this piece is a lot more of a weight than it appears.

      As the comments turn, there might be a point to this, but perhaps too narrow in scope to appeal to the heart of the matter: the author feels that without the flipping of pages, the perception of spiritual authority or competence in leadership is lessened to the determent of the office of pastor-teacher.

  • Joel Garner

    I’m more concerned about the fact that almost all tablets are made in red China by virtual slaves, while we have the gall to preach about “freedom in Christ”, using said device.

  • josh

    Sounds like those kids are on your lawn again.

  • John Fanai

    How many languages have Scripture? Over 2,800. Of these, 518 have a complete Bible, another 1,275 have the New Testament. 1,005 others have at least one book of the Bible.

  • Ann Kilter

    I agree with you.

    I am reading a book by Michael Hyatt called “Platform” with my writing group this year. They have hard copies; I have mine on a Kindle. I can’t flip back a few pages. I don’t know what page they are on (my Kindle is low tech), and underlining is more difficult. I also think there is less likelihood to have a sense of reading through. My Gateway Bible online is handy for research and cross referencing. Looking up verses on Google is handy on the computer and on my phone in a pinch. But one loses the spatial feeling of a book when using electronic media.

    It is so easy to change something that is electronic as well.

  • Moses

    No tablets? But they were a gift from God.

  • Terry

    All those poor, sad Christians before the 15th century! Certainly glad for the >200 that finally got it figured out in the mid-1540s!

    This may be the best post on the topic of idolatry ever.

  • Pastor Doug

    It’s so hard to get anyone these days to sit still for an arguement. In most of the posts here, seldom have any of the author’s actual ARGUMENTS been addressed. Instead, we get snark and childish naivete.

    The idea that technology changes EVERYTHING should not be new or particularly controversial. Have you read “You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto” by Lanier?

    Gadgets train us in ways which are not conducive to deep thought or sustained, concentrated attention. Perhaps that’s why so many of the respondents have been unable or unwilling to grapple with the ACTUAL ARGUMENT above.

    This is, of course, another example of how Christians are captivated and captured by the culture. The culture says,”get with it” and we get with it, and give away our birthright in the bargain.

    By the way…you don’t REALLY even have to GO to church (to be there PHYSICALLY). There are plenty of people “doing” church on-line. Get with it.

    • Andy Shafer

      His “actual argument” is best summarized in the title of the article – “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible To Church.” By this, he means “physical Bible.” Do you not agree that God’s Word is more than the page it’s printed on? That’s where all us “snarky,” “childish,” “naive” commentors are coming from.

  • WL

    Most of those commenting are missing the point entirely – which is to provoke thought. What is it (possibly) portraying to others, and reinforcing in yourself, to use your electronic device as your source for the scriptures. As Seinfeld would say, NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. :) But I can see in my own life the effect of such “casualness” as using my iPhone as my bible. It just has the whiff of laziness. And you know why I have my iPhone as my bible instead of one of the 4 bibles I have at home or in my car? Because I forgot. Or my hands are full. Or I’m worried my son will rip out a page when he sits on my lap. But it’s not because I feel that the iPhone is a better choice. With the “reasons’ given in the article, I would say it’s not. I feel that we are becoming such a shortcut culture – everything RIGHT NOW and the easiest way possible, this seeps into the rest of our lives. Do you know how easy it is to check facebook on my phone while my Bible App is open too? Or to check that email that just came in? You may say that’s beside the point, but it happens. Yes, the author is discussing appearances but he is by no means sounding Pharisaical or Legalistic! He didn’t say “if you use your Ipad for your bible, you are not saved” or “you are not a real Christian if you don’t hold a physical book in your hands.” Oy, come on people, lets have real discussion here. This is to make you THINK.

  • Dave Price

    The Bible is a book–that is the premise of this argument. As near as I can tell, Dr. Barrett contends that to remove the Bible from book form is to diminish the essence, the meaning, even the presence of God’s Word; and he is terribly wrong. The Bible is the Word, and it has been spoken and read, written and unrolled and, yes, even pressed onto pages–in each manifestation, no more or less God’s Word. Dr. Barrett argues for tradition, a long tradition certainly, but only tradition, not the Bible. He wants a book, but books are as much “a buffet of endless entertainment” as the iPad. Dr. Barrett argument is not for a book, as such, but gold-edging and leather. Now it’s a Bible!

    You know what I have found delightful. My teenagers taking out their iPhones at school and reading a passage of Scripture to a friend. Happens all the time. Thanks YouVersion. A good preacher would do nothing to suggest that what they have on their iPhone is any less God-breathed.

  • Greg Memberto

    I am shocked there would be any push back about your thoughts. I was saddened when it moved from the Great I AM to the great IPad. I think we all should carry our Bibles around more, more than I do now I am afraid to say. You can then say, “this is my Bible, it is the Word of the Living God, savior of the World,” or you can always say, this is my ipad, among its many apps are angry birds and the bible

  • H. A.

    Very interesting article, Matthew. I think that you make some excellent points. Having said that, I must add a “Wow!”, for you seem to have struck a nerve or two, as well. I confess that I would love to have something I said or wrote generate such a “firestorm” of response! (he said, with tongue firmly planted in cheek). At any rate, keep on thinking, and keep on writing! You have some good things to offer. :-)

  • Josh

    That is 6 minutes I’ll never get back. What a waste of time…

  • Crowd Surfing

    First it was King James only. Now it is physical Copy only. Wow. Find a real problem. The kids in Africa with no Bible I am sure would “settle” for the digital version. This article is akin to (BEGIN SARCASM) “Why every Church should have blue shag carpet.” or even better “How the air conditioned church coddles sinners into believing they need no savior: a defense for the shed as sanctuary because it reminds us of the manger.” (END SARCASM)

  • Crowd Surfing

    BTW. I am pretty sure this article was just to troll us in hindsight. For older people that means to post something so inflammatory or utterly ignorant you know 1 million people will respond and the person doing the trolling gets some pleasure out of all the angry attention.

    He probably wrote this on his ipad during a sermon instead of taking notes that was about Justification by Faith Alone.

    Martin Luther and his 95 theses, Jean Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, R.C. Sproul and the Holiness of God and Matthew Barrett and with his church paradigm shattering Dear Pastor Bring your Bible to Church. hahah. Yes. He is totally trolling us. This is on a website no less. Wonder why he did not post this on a physical bulletin board?

    How about writing an article about the freedom in Christ from Galatians, oh no, haven’t read that have you.

    Why not focus on the GOSPEL?!?! Your physical Bible is not saving anyone on the plane, its the Gospel through Jesus Christ. It is not the sight of a physical Bible that convicts a sinner, it is the job of the Holy SPirit. But you knew that, your a seminary assistant professor.

  • Alex Guggenheim

    How much we might be communicating and modeling to the youth or anyone impressionable that on their tablet or ipad they should have the Bible.

  • Sean Carlson

    I don’t know. Biblical illiteracy seemed to be getting along quiet nicely, though a zillion published bibles were out there. By this reckoning we are so much ahead of the early church because we can all bring our bibles to church. The argument seems captured by time rather than history. We must not make the bible less than it is nor more than it is. We must exalt Christ whether thru old fashioned print or the latest technological gizmo.

  • Trey Rowzie

    I might have missed this point in the article. But, it is also about branding. The Bible is not an Apple, Google, or Microsoft product. The Bible is the good news for all people; no matter their preference of operating systems.

    OK, this is the absurd end of the point. But when a pastor reading from an iPad could someone be thinking, “Oh, this is an ‘Apple’ church; but I have an Android tablet… will I be shunned?” Sounds strange until you find yourself talking to pastor who is a fervent Apple supporter; AKA an Apple evangelist.

    Also, think about a pastor wearing a Nike hoodie, Ray-ban glasses, and sporting Bose headphones around their neck. They are broadcasting an statement. Avoiding judgments on their fashion sense, they are also saying that they support each of the labels they are wearing.

    In recent years, the news streams articles on the poor labor conditions of Foxconn workers making iPad and now new allegations of child labor violations at another factory making Apple products. So, how can a pastor with all integrity preach the message of equality and freedom while standing behind a symbol that seems to have nothing to do with such a message? It seems, at best, counter-productive.

  • ruel

    I only agree with the truth that when I bring a tablet to the pulpit when I preach, it sends a message OTHER THAN I will read God’s Word from it.

    As a pastor, I should be conscious with it and pray that God will help me guide the congregation to focus on God’s word rather than on the tablet.

    Thank you for writing this article Matthew. We are brothers in Christ even if we don’t agree :) Greetings from the Philippines!

  • Tom VanderPloeg

    I read in this article the lament of an academic over the declining place of “books” in our society. But to take the word of God and elevate it to the place of idolatry is not appropriate.

  • Tony Felich

    I very much enjoy Gospel Coalition and this blog. I mean no disrespect to the well intentioned author of this post.

    I am, however, super disappointed with this post. It has little to do with Gospel, that’s for sure.

    I don’t recall a passage in Scripture directing Christians regarding what particular medium they read the bible from, so why on earth would someone write this kind of thing on this site? So, I only bring my bible to church if I bring it in the form the author things suitable? A Christian not reading his/her bible because I use my IPad to read Scripture? Seriously? Wow.

    You can do better Gospel Coalition.

  • Richard

    I agree with the points made in this article. I have both, a paper Bible(s) and an Ipad one, as well as lot of other Christian stuff on the pad. Technology is great!
    When I’m away or on holidays I’ll use the Ipad with it’s huge volumes of sermons and books etc, but at a coffee shop I would prefer to use my paper Bible (as more of a witness tool). The saying ‘Horses for courses’ springs to mind. There is a time an place for both.
    I believe the day will come when Bibles (and other religious books, tablet or not)will be banned, especially in public, it’s only then that many Christian will realise the privilege and gift they have lost.

  • BunchesofOatz

    While I prefer the Bible in book format to be used by a pastor when preaching his sermon; I don’t believe it’s necessary to make it exclusive so long as he’s using a good translation on whatever other platform.

    The fact that some of these products (including Bibles in book form) are made in a nation that has put people for believing its contents to death or has persecuted them is a more weighty matter to me.

  • the Old Adam

    I’d rather have them leave their Bible home…and make sure that they bring the gospel Word in their sermons.

    Many of them just dress Moses up as Jesus and smack you in the head with the law. The law has it;’s rightful place, but not to make us right with God,

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  • John Lawless

    First let me state, I am retired now but worked in the computer business for 35 years. I was pounding on keys before most people even knew or cared what a computer was. I see several scenarios being discussed and some that are not being discussed.

    Does the absence of a physical Bible send a message of some type? Yes it does. Does the presence of an electronic device send a message yes it does. Do all people receive the same message in both conditions? No they don’t.

    I see a major addition to the worship experience with the tablet. I can have multiple versions of the Bible open to compare what each one states. I can have my Greek or Hebrew text open to compare to the English version. Here is a biggy. I can take annotations or notes and attach them to the passage for the morning. Finally if the Pastor talks about something I need some clarification I can tweet my question to him and hope he includes it in his blog for the week.

    I believe the tablet greatly enhances the whole worship experience. Some people like seeing the physical Bible. My wife agrees the Kindle is harder to use than the book version. I find Logos system is much easier to use.

    • H. A.

      You bring out some excellent points. Thanks.

  • Murray Hogg

    What a great discussion!

    Some time ago, I presented a short paper on how new technology impacts Biblical literacy .

    In that paper I concluded that we shouldn’t seek to denigrate new technology, or to resist it’s adoption but rather “to understand it sufficiently that we may adopt it as part of a comprehensive approach to presenting the Christian gospel and fostering Christian discipleship.”

    I think it’s discussions just like this one that help us do just that!

    I’ll be chewing on Matthew’s post and all these great comments for a while!

  • Matthew Morizio

    As stated before, with all due respect: Bible, tablet, or whatever… preacher, please, please bring Christ to the pulpit!!! Brother, we don’t care in what format you bring Christ, just bring Him! Not you. Not me. But, Jesus and Him alone. You study Him and preach Him in grace and truth, and by this Glory we shall all be conformed.
    “Dear pastor, bring Jesus to the people of God! And, feel free to use whatever means needed to fix our eyes upon Him!”

    Folks! Remember! It’s not a touch not, taste not, handle not approach that God would have us to take.

  • David Phillips

    I think it is desperately sad that nowhere in any of the comments regarding Matthew’s post has there been an application of Colossians 3:15-16. Others have openly utilised sarcasm, although its use is denounced in James 3, and still others have used the posting facility to shamelessly personally lambast someone who has a genuine point to make about the way we present ourselves as ‘Biblical’ leaders. The word ‘Bible’ is coined from the Greek tà biblía, “the books” and its use as a means of visual focus in a crowd of people is well-known to evangelists and preachers of all ages; waving a book-shaped Bible around creates far more impact than waving any kind of technology around – not many people do it as it makes them distinctive and a target for ridicule (‘Bible-bashers’ and so on); so let’s not disregard the points being made by throwing the baby out with the bathwater and jumping to conclusions rather than taking some time out before God and coming back to the discussion ‘with all wisdom’ and ready to ‘teach and admonish’ from hearts filled with ‘the gospel of Christ’.

    • Andy Shafer

      “waving a book-shaped Bible around creates far more impact than waving any kind of technology around”

      Hopefully, when we deliver sermons, we are relying more heavily on the Holy Spirit and the message of the Bible than “waving it around”. If our impact is only found by external means, we are doing something wrong.

  • Candydawn

    Though a lot about this … Basically we are commanded to memorize God’s Word, to write it on the tablets of our OWN heart. The Bible doens’t command to use a certain size/weight, with pages, on scrolls, or electronic, with pictures or without, annotated or not, ……. but it does say to hide it in your heart. Our Bibles are not a badge of spirituality, (it can be a source of pride in wearing it out.) time spent in the Word will show in our life as we yield to the Spirit and are conformed to the image of Christ.

    Letus examine our motives, for if you memorize only to win a prize, or carry a large worn bible for someone to notice, or flaunt you many electronic downloads for approval from man, I think we are missing the point.

    The Bible is precious and real. I teach a Sunday school class of young children and always use my printed Bible. It helps my students understand and put into context the fact that God saw fit to comunicate through the Word. After my class is done, I walk to the sanctuary and listen to a message using my iPad to refence my electronic Bible and keep notes. At home I study out of my printed Boble and read from my electronic version. I sometimes even listen to recorded version.

    It is God’s Word that is living and active, not paper and ink, or even screens…… Memorize and meditate and let’s not be contentious about the rest.

  • Michael

    I understand both sides of the argument. In my estimation pastors should use whatever copy of Scripture (electronic or print) that they use personally and are most comfortable with using. I think this should extend to people in the congregation as well – pastors should encourage people to bring with them the copy of Scripture that they are reading during the week regardless of whether it is electronic or print. Our desire should be to get people into the Word!

    On a side note, I believe Paul would have been ecstatic had Timothy brought him a loaded down iPad with Scripture and commentaries when he instructed him to bring the “books and above all the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13)!

    • Paul Ellsworth

      “Our desire should be to get people into the Word!”
      Exactly. The form isn’t particularly important; the important part is the content.

      Some people will say things like “I just like holding a book in my hands.” But some people don’t like that and actually like holding an electronic device in their hands. I don’t think there’s inherent merit to either one just because one is old and paper and the other is new and electronic. But the important part is *what* they are reading (and how), not in what format. The Word of God is not a collection of sheets of paper nor a collection of transistors :)

  • Wind

    I read the article and found it thoughtful, not necessarily legalistic. For me personally, I’d rather see my pastor use a hard copy bible, but have no problem with his using electronic in his prep. I bring my “hard copy” bible with me, and I underline, highlight and write notes all over it. The older couple next to me bring their electronic versions, Aps I guess is the proper name for that. It’s a hoot! I have two different bible versions on my Kindle which I do use, and I use on-line software to aide my study. Anyway, what I got from reading all the comments is this: We sure love our gadgets, maybe too much, and we are easily offended, wearing our feelings on our sleeves. Yes Jesus is our true shepherd but our pastors are accountable to God for their flock. Let’s just love each other, the world treats us with disdain already, we shouldn’t teat our brothers and sisters the same way as the world.

  • Nathan

    I don’t take offense at the prospect of thinking through what we do. However one of the author’s arguments is basically equating preaching from an iPad to performing a sacrament without the physical symbol or doing so in private. No offense but that is an absolutely ridiculous comparison and I feel like it demonstrates a lack of understanding around sacramentology. I would suggest the author at least revise that point if he wants his article to carry more weight or be taken more seriously. Kind regards

  • Greg M

    Disclaimer here, I have read many of the comments on my cell phone and am writing this comment on a computer. I understand that electronics and modern ways to communicate is real and all are affected by those devices. My thought on all of this is that it does not include a right or wrong answer. Most all the comments have been well thought out and sincere. My concern is that the gadget becomes more important than the content. “Oh he has an IPad, I only have you version on my phone”. My concern includes that the app becomes the force and not the Word of God.
    The first time I saw someone using a tablet from the platform, the lights were dimmed and every once in awhile he would advance the page and the screen would light up. I thought, “Oh cool, Jeremy is in tune with God this morning, look how he glows”. I was thinking wouldn’t it be interesting if he went to advance the page and Angry Birds popped up on the screen.
    I just think the gadgets take away from the message.

    • Paul Ellsworth

      “I just think the gadgets take away from the message.”
      And yet, doesn’t a “you can’t use gadgets for God” attitude also take away from the message?

      Or, more realistically, it adds to it. It possibly says to people who happen to like gadgets that in order to be faithful to God, you can’t use your (new) gadgets for Christ.

      I don’t think you’re saying that; however, by arguing that pastors need to use a printed book and not a tablet, I think the message may indeed come across. Conversely, of course, if people argue that everyone should use tablets (which I don’t think anyone is) and not a printed book, the exact same problem occurs.

      If a pastor finds it better, more convenient, easier to study, more stable, or whatever to use a tablet … I have no problem with it. And I have no problem with him telling others about the advantages. But I do have a problem if he were to go out and say that every pastor needs to use a tablet because this or that. :)

  • Father James Bozeman

    Excellent article. The author’s point seems to be getting lost in the background noise of defending one’s technological habits. The fact is that there really is no replacing a nice, proper, solid actual copy of the Holy Scriptures. Simultaneously, there is nothing wrong with smartphone bibles and tablet bibles, but the simple fact that we use those same devices for so many other things— Netflix, bank account, the news, etc— automatically should cause us to pause and consider how we are treating the very text in which, through which and by which Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is revealed to us.

    I am an Eastern Orthodox priest, and in our services we lift up what we refer to as the “Gospel Book” (or “Gospel” for short) and bring it into the altar space of our church buildings in a actual procession. This book contains only the four Gospels of the New Testament (though we read from both the epistles and the gospels). This book is also very often gilded with gold, silver or brass, and sometimes has jewels and icons (holy images of the saints and of Christ) on its cover. In other words, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which we find transmitted to us by His apostles and preserved in those words about the Word of God, is venerated and “lifted up” for all to see and is marched into the altar in a solemn procession, attesting to the royal nature of the Prince of Peace. It is made beautiful on the outside, reflecting the glory and beauty that lies within it, on its pages. It is an actual book, which is used for one thing, and one thing only: to be read to the people and to be honored by them for revealing Christ to us all. It is held high for everyone to see, in order that everyone might know exactly what “gospel” it is that we are proclaiming and which “Christ” we worship (because there are many “christs” but only one Lord, Jesus Christ).

    So for us and our Tradition, an iPad will never do. We may read the scripture on them or make notes on them, but you will never find a “digital, downloadable Gospel” sitting on one of our altar tables.

    For Eastern Orthodox Christians, who are accustomed to a sacramental approach to the world, things have meaning. I think that this is part of what the author is trying to convey. Not that iPads are sinful, but that they are perhaps largely (even grossly) inappropriate for use by pastors as they preach. The most appropriate way to engage the scriptures in a proper worship setting is to put aside the touch screen and pick up a proper, actual and tangible Bible.

    Certainly this cuts across the grain of people who are not accustomed to such suggestions, but then again the full implications of the very Gospel that those iPads contain suggests that the Christian faith demands much of us. Not the least of which is that we consider every jot and iota of our lives in order to determine what will make us holy and what will drag us away from that holiness.

    • David Phillips

      Very interesting thank you for this; I think a point which is being completely missed in a lot of these replies is that a ‘Bible’ – as in a bound book of the Word of God designated as such – is a ‘Bible'; and an ‘Ipad’ (or any other tablet etc.) is an ‘Ipad’ and NOT a ‘Bible’. An electronic tablet is a box in which we carry a Bible along with Cosmopolitan, Cycling Weekly, Gardening Monthly, shopping lists, invoices, messages and so on… so what’s being shown when we use the tablet to preach from is a box full of stuff, NOT a ‘Bible’.
      Now, if someone produced an electronic version of the Bible, as in a Bible and solely a Bible in electronic form and identifiable as such without all the extras that tablets carry, that would then give the reader some identity as a reader of a ‘Bible’. Anything else is just delving into a box to select reading matter from amongst lots of others; not really the focus needed at the time I think, and which potentially creates considerable distraction; I can’t be the only person who has had to hold up a Bible study to wait for a tablet user to answer an urgent email which popped up on the screen…

      • Paul Ellsworth

        [the Bible is] “a bound book of the Word of God designated as such”

        Where is this definition from? I’ve never heard that the definition of a “Bible” includes the binding and medium. A cursory look at some definitions seems to show that dictionaries define it as the collection of canonical texts of the OT and NT Scriptures… without mentioning the book/paper medium. :)

        • David Phillips

          Hmmm, I had hoped that within the context of the debate my simplified explanation would stand as being clear enough; I apologise for misleading you – it is not a definition meant to officially define all instances of the Bible’s existence, merely an example of an obvious visible Bible against a carrier of many books…

          • Paul Ellsworth

            “I apologise for misleading you”
            No problem, I don’t think you mislead anyone… I just misunderstood, perhaps :)

            “it is not a definition meant to officially define all instances of the Bible’s existence, merely an example of an obvious visible Bible against a carrier of many books…”
            So the point is simply that a printed and bound Bible is exclusively a Bible (and some related material … notes, concordance, etc.)

    • H. A.

      Father James, David: Some good thoughts. Thank you. I think the crucial point for me (and only me! only my opinion! lol…) is a Bible that is only a Bible, standing alone, unique, exclusive. This is why I like to see the Bible, and like to see the pastor bring it to the pulpit.

      • Curt Parton

        For those of you bothered by a pastor using something that includes more than the Word of God, would you be equally offended by a pastor using a study Bible that includes human commentary and opinions?

        David Phillips described a tablet user interrupting a Bible study to answer an email. I’ve never seen this happen, and it is by no means necessary when using a tablet. Anyone can be inconsiderate and disruptive, with or without technology.

        _Every_ medium is going to have positive and negative characteristics, and this will contribute to differing preferences. Preferences are fine, and it can be helpful to discuss a medium’s pros and cons, but we must not try to turn our personal preferences into normative principles.

        • Marlon Hollis

          “Preferences are fine, and it can be helpful to discuss a medium’s pros and cons, but we must not try to turn our personal preferences into normative principles.”

          @Curt Parton. Exactly right. I think most folks who object to the article (at least me any way)is not because of the author’s Bible preference(paper or screen)while preaching but that the article isn’t just discussing the pros and cons of the two mediums (ink or pixels) but saying a bound paper book must be a normative principle when preaching.

          Digital etiquette is of course a must in public settings where bloops,beeps and bright screens are an annoyance to the people around you (in movie theater, for instance, or during the service. I personally turn the ringer off on my iPhone and turn off notifications on my iPad during church services. But I agree, etiquette in general is must with or without tech.

    • Andy McCullough

      “The fact is that there really is no replacing a nice, proper, solid actual copy of the Holy Scriptures.” That’s the point you’re trying to establish – you can’t simply claim it’s a fact. The Bible on a tablet is nice, proper and actual. It’s also solid, at least until holography becomes affordable. It can also allow you to carry the Greek, Hebrew and English versions, or 30 different English versions if you want to compare and contrast to try to get the truest sense.

      I’m certainly concerned that one of the reasons you feel a digital Bible isn’t adequate is because it can’t carry graven images of the saints – whether or not that’s permissible, it’s certainly not something that a lot of Christians would like to have on their Bibles. But that’s a much older division than this artificial one being introduced on this blog.

  • Wayne Stocks

    I have made several comments thus far on this post both of my own accord and in response to other comments. Generally, I have found the discussion interesting and engaging though I do get a little worked up by the idea that disagreement with the author somehow equates to idolization of technology.

    Anyhow, in rereading the article this morning, I noticed something that hadn’t really stood out to me before but which I think underlies much of the objection to the thought process behind the article. In the opening paragraphs, the author states:

    “I am finding that cutting-edge, 21st-century technology is subtly but quickly changing important, even indispensable aspects of Christianity.” then defines “a physical, visible Bible” as one of these “indispensable aspects.” The indispensable aspects of Christianity (Christian being defined as “follower of Christ”) are pretty clear from scripture (Romans 10:9, Acts 16:31, 1 Cor 15:3-4). One wonders if the resurrected Jesus was carrying a leather bound copy of the scriptures on the road to Emmaus when “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Being a Christian is about the Gospel…it is not about a book or a tablet or a scroll. Those things are important, but they will one day disappear. Christianity is about a historical person who came and died for my sins to pay the penalty I deserve.

    The problems is, that no matter how important symbolism, and rituals and routine are to us, they are (with the exception of the those symbols ordained by Christ) indicators of religion. When they become more important than the subject of our worship (Jesus Christ), then we have moved away from a relationship and into religion. I need not remind you of Christ’s attitude towards the religious.

    I believe we need to have a high enough view of God, and of His Scriptures, to accept that our preferred means of delivery are irrelevant. God’s Word is like a double edged sword. I do not believe that scripture distinguishes between paper cuts and bright lights.

    While the discussion is welcome, I think any “line in the sand” diminishes the power and glory of God by placing limitations on the effectiveness of His Word based upon its presentation.

  • Larry Shannon

    Dear Pastor, Bring Your [Scroll/codex] to Church

    Where’s your [Scroll/codex]?

    Let not the Technologist despise the Hard Copyist, and let not the Hard Copyist pass judgment on the Technologist.

    Romans 14:4 (ESV) — 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    I think the proper view of the Bible is more important than what medium the pastor use.

    I hope TGC pay attention to the comments of Chris Nicholson and George.

    Do we need to invent more division?

  • Jon Youngblood

    There is a time and place for everything. This post makes some interesting arguments, and I would have to agree that there is something special about holding the printed bound Word of God in your hands. While technology can be convenient it isn’t appropriate to use it in all circumstances. I’ll give you an example; A co-worker of mine was married in Jamaica over a year ago, and as part of the ceremony they put the hands on top of a bible as part of their oaths to one another… only it wasn’t a bible, it was an iPad. Really??

  • Chris Linzey

    When I was in seminary I was actually docked points in a preaching class because I had put the Scripture in my sermon notes and printed it out. Reading from anything other than A BIBLE was worthy of a lower grade.

    If we’re talking about print, what difference does it make if the print comes from a professional printing press or my office printer? It’s still the WORD of GOD – regardless of the medium. Any other point of view becomes bibliolatry. But then, the Bible is the Evangelical’s favorite idol…

  • Chad Johnston

    Wow. Really? Up next: Why Jesus is disappointed in you because of your YouVersion reminders. Shhesh.

  • Andrew Naugher

    Applying this logic, watching sermons on TV or listening via radio is also wrong because it’s not in a church building, and depends on technology to deliver these messages? This is why organized religion has such a hard time meeting people where they are as Christ did in the Bible (an unorthodox method of ministry as well). The idea that God’s Word can be diminished because it’s read from a digital device seems to trivialize its power. What a shame this topic even commands a moment of thought from a pastor.

    Let’s focus on living the Word of God and not on the mundane, irrelevant merits of using an Ipad on the pulpit.

  • Steve Mowery

    This is also true of hymnals/print music being replaced by lyrics on the screen. This adds to musical illiteracy in the church.

  • Hugh G Wetmore

    I agree – there is value in carrying them Bible as a book, for sall the reasons mentioned. I add another: Congregants who are bored with the sermon are tempted to use the i-pad for other purposes, entertaining themselves while looking pious in the pew.

  • Pastor Doug

    Excellent comments! And I whole-heartedly agree!

    Now, for our many brothers and sisters who are fans of the “multi-site” campus (via video broadcast) model for church growth (which I hate, by the way)…, I wonder: do many of the same arguments above apply to that situation as well? Is it not hypocritical to argue for a paper and ink copy of the Bible, but not a flesh and blood preacher thereof? Just thinking out loud.

    Pastor Doug

    • Paul Ellsworth

      Well, we were told to “assemble” together. I have a hard time believing that what Paul meant was an assembly where you couldn’t actually interact easily and “great one another with a holy kiss” and “lay hands on” (etc.).

      However, there is not a whole lot of difference (is there any?) with commands about the Scriptures (reading it, preaching it, meditating on it, etc.) whether you use a digital or paper copy.

  • James

    You have a Point with your article. However, the Net and its application devices have allowed me to search the Bible (digitally speaking)more thoroughly. I do more reading and Research with the tech devices now available (think Kindle) than with the written text. Be that as it may, the tech world is here and each individual must come to his or her own conclusion as to how his use of Technology will enhance or disminish his use of the written Word.

  • SelahLee

    Sorry, but this is misplaced, outdated, baseless sentimentality. A sure – fire way to dis the younger generation. The early church read from individual scrolls, than a codex [book] that bound them all together. My brother must have just awaken from 20 centuries of “iced sleep.” We need to do a thorough study of what “the word of God” means. “KJV Only, here we com!” :-)

  • johnny

    When I see a bible, I know its a bible. when I see an ipad, it could be anything.

    I know the pendulum could swing the wrong way and some preachers may get very legalistic and proud for having a “real” bible, but I think the preacher with sincere reverence for the word of God does well to set the visual tone of worship by having his bible in the pulpit.

  • Riley

    There is a valid point here, but I think it is exagerrated. The spatio-temporal nature of the text of Scripture is present mainly through the audible voice which reads it, not through getting a glimpse of the book the pastor is reading from.

    Incidentally, in our church there are 2 old pulpit Bibles usually open and on display up front. One an English KJV, and the other German.

  • Heather

    The scriptures are illuminated to me by the power of the Holy Spirit. I recieve reproof, correction, encouragement and wisdom no matter the medium in which I read them. Anything else is peripheral preference and I don’t think pastors need to be admonished otherwise.

  • Kevin Glenn

    This borders on biblotary. The scriptures are the words about The Word. Jesus even said “you search the scriptures thinking that in them is life, the scriptures bear witness to me.” The Bible points beyond itself to Jesus, the true Word of God made flesh. This article is at best…very disturbing.To confuse the Word as flesh with the word as book is more Muslim than Christian.

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  • Fraser Jackson

    I agree with some of the modern day problems the author raises, but I don’t see how any of them can be blamed upon the use of new technology. (I speak as someone who was accused of sending texts in church 10 years ago because I was using my PDA as a Bible.)
    If using a hypertext link to get to the correct verse encourages biblical illiteracy, then so does the use of thumb indexes and tables of contents, which helpful publishers have been providing with leather-bound Bibles for a number of years. My own experience has been that if people care about learning the order of the minor prophets, they will learn them – if they don’t, they will use the table of contents, whatever form their Bible happens to be in.
    The only other point I want to make is that anyone who abuses any book by licking their finger to turn a page ought to have it amputated (preferably at the elbow!)

  • John Rallison

    Hmmm. Always good to think about these things. My opinion (without any study or data, which is the weakness of this article as well): I think preaching from a tablet sends the message that God’s Word is for today, not just retro-romantics who love the look and feel of old leather and the look of gilded pages. Nothing against paper books, mind you. But I always study electronically now. I am intentional about contextual study, of course, but I find the access to cross-references and external sources so much faster and easier that I can’t imagine going back to a paper Bible. I am a mid-40’s pastor.

  • Caleb W

    You’ve gotta love middle class American Christians – addicted to their gadgets and quick to accuse dissenters of being against new technology and what they consider to be progress. Many of you accuse the author of making an idol of the print Bible but seem to miss the much more widespread idolatry of Apple and the like (or of anything that is new). You might also consider the class implications of the pastor toting around his expensive device.

    I agree that many of the points in the article are thin (though the retort about the shift from scrolls to a bound book is silly in its shallow relativism – perhaps the bound book, as a technology, has something to recommend it above other forms?), but I commend the author for referencing “The Shallows” and “The Dumbest Generation.” There is research being done (by young, technologically savvy people at that – gasp!) about the relationship between forms of media and our ability to learn/engage with a text (broadly defined). And there is plenty of reason to be wary about the universal digitization (and its pushers who argue that the process is ‘inevitable’) of our reading and thinking experience. If you do not think that there is a difference with attention and retention between digital and print media, then you are not being honest with yourself and/or you are all incredibly naive. David Foster Wallace saw this coming years ago. I’m not saying that we should reject the digital, but a little more care about how forms of technology effect our minds would be nice.

  • Greg Memberto

    I guess I am totally missing all the points from all of the posts on this topic. This is largest string since the bury or burn debate. I just take it as being mindful not to allow the gadgets to get in the way of the message. I tease people in my small fellowship about then bringing their Ipads to studies instead of the Book. But they are Godly servants who I learn from each and every week. Again, is the gadgetry, such as big screens with the words to the song, having scriptures on the screen so no one, electronically savvy or “old school” binding inclined, needs to bring their Bible to church, smoke machines and dancers, awsome light shows or laser penned speakers more imporant than the message?
    There was a time that the entire deacon board looked down on us when we introduced guitars, and later even drums, to the worship times. New is not bad unto itself. However if innovation is the draw, then we are in trouble.

  • Kevin Glenn

    I agree fully that one must mindfully critique the manner of delivery for the message. I too have concerns about technology and its impact on how one gathers and processes information, how one analyzes research, its impact on social behavior, as well as other substantive concerns raised by the author.

    I believe the author is right to express his preference for using a physical copy of the Scriptures when preaching, studying or riding a public bus. I respect this preference, and believe it to be a wise choice within one’s context. However, he seeks to make a principle out of a preference and grossly overstates his case, focusing on the physical object through which the living Word is proclaimed.

    In doing so, the author makes the medium equal to the message, confuses the signifier with the signified, and confuses the physical object (book) with the personal subject (Jesus). If I were to say that only tablet users are adequately incarnating the Word to modern culture, I would be overstating the preference for a tablet just as much as the author overstates his preference for a physical book.

    I think that our context can help us make wise decisions on what medium best communicates the Word. But exalting one particular medium over others, and making sweeping generalizations on the motives of those who use a non-preferred medium is inappropriate.

  • splod

    There is no loss of the grand narrative nor a loss of understanding the scriptures in context when using digital media.

    The experts quoted in the article hold to the false notion that truth is determined by what is believed and what is believed is determined by what is accepted and what is accepted is determined by the manner in which it is delivered, not in the content of what is delivered – i.e. the false statement that the medium is the message.

    The medium is not the message.

    The author binds the message to the medium and says all manner of ill-advised and dangerous things could, and do, happen when the message is separated from a particular medium. That is a completely false idea when applied to the word of God.

    Digital media does not take away from the content of the message nor does it inhibit a full understanding of the message, which is a work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit can, and has, used any and every manner in which the message has been communicated over the years.

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  • Eric S.

    Your post ignores the fact that the printed, bound Bible itself wasn’t always available or used readily within the context of the local church. The church in the New Testament didn’t even have the written word completed, yet they were able to preach and worship together. Even after the completion of the writings of the New Testament it’s not like they were readily available for a church leader to carry with them as they preached.

    Just as the printed bound book changed the way the Bible was made available to people, so now the digital tablet is taking the evolution of printed communication to the next level. Perhaps instead of resisting this new evolution we should consider how we might embrace this technology in a way that would increase biblical literacy and engagement. Otherwise we will just add to the perception that already exists in the world of the church and Christianity…that we are increasingly irrelevant.

  • Russ

    1) ironically, this article’s argument isn’t biblical.
    Jesus wasn’t carrying the OT scrolls around – nor were the disciples for that matter.

    2) consider the printing press…
    as a Protestant, this seems parallel to Catholic arguments that were advanced when the printing press hit (it’s not in Latin, vernacular Bibles are profaning the sacred, this will confuse the people, etc.). remember, for 1500 years, no one in the pew had “their own copy.”

    3) this is an opportunity, not a setback.
    yes, new technology can be misused, but did we stop flying because of 9/11? do we really consider it a bad thing that our people could potentially have greater access to their bibles than ever before? the problem is not the medium, but the same it’s always been: our sinful hearts.

  • John Bishop

    This article reminded me of another recent article that had my attention as an educator: the question as to how e-readers affect retention, etc. ( according to a recent University of Washington study, “The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.”

    I love my Bible apps (iPad, Android, Kindle) but don’t believe Matthew Barrett did anything more than provoke us to think about what we’re doing instead of just thoughtlessly rolling with the flow. There just could be some undesirable consequences to which we might ought to give some consideration instead of torching a thoughtful writer.

  • Richard

    Electronic media does not really exist. I’ll take the physical over the digital any day. But then I’m a Luddite … and being dragged kicking and screaming into the present.

  • Joseph

    I think Dr. Barrett makes many good points. Thank you.
    BTW, for a iPad or any electronic devices that has Bible in it: we cannot say this device is the Bible, can we? We say it is a iPad (or whatever) that contain a Bible (or 10-200+ translations of Bible). People can use iPad any way they want.But a printed copy of Bible can represent one thing and send one message: this is the Bible that all Christians value. Does iPad(or whatever) have the same idea?

    Look, we can use whatever medium we want. But for a pastor, he can use a Bible to send a message to people, this is the Word of God. Nothing more. Is this idea so hard? (Maybe it is judging from many comments….)

    BTW, to argue 1st century church had no Bible is irrelevant. The given condition is now we do have a Bible, not without it. The question we face is: Given the condition that we have Bible, what a pastor to bring to the pulpit? A printed copy of Bible or a iPad?

    • Curt Parton

      I would say the question we face is: Should I try to establish _my_ conclusion regarding the use of tablets in the pulpit as some kind of normative principle and then urge all pastors to adopt _my_ view? Every medium (including leather Bibles) is going to have benefits and problems. Tablets are not exclusively dedicated to Scripture, and that’s a great topic of discussion. I don’t see anyone here defending their precious gadgets for the gadgets’ sake. We should discuss pros and cons of new methods and innovations. That’s healthy for us as pastors and leaders. But when someone equates traditionally printed Bibles with an “important, even indispensable aspect[s] of Christianity,” and implies that pastors who use tablets are not ‘bringing their Bible to the pulpit,’ he’s going to receive some vigorous push-back, and deservedly so. It’s this extreme rhetoric and attempted establishment of one’s own view as normative for all that makes this dangerously close to legalism. By all means, let’s have discussions about the comparative merits of different media of Scripture. But let’s resist “laying down the law” for each other about which medium we must use in the pulpit, and let’s not exclusively equate _our_ preference with the Word of God.

  • Thomas Dawsey

    As a Pastor I appreciate this article. I use an iPad to preach for my notes and I embed the Scripture I read into my notes. I find it easier to read as I am nearly blind. However, with that said I always take a physical copy of the Bible up to the pulpit with me b/c I want my people to see the authority from which I speak. I understand the God’s Word is more than ink on pages and can exist in a digital copy, but when people see me reading form an iPad they have no idea what I am reading from. I could be reading from a Bible app or the internet or anything. I want a visual reminder for my people of the authority for our lives. When I have a physical Bible in my hands there is no question. I think this was the authors point and I think those who claim he was taking a legalistic approach have over-read into what he was saying.

    • Fernando Villegas

      I respect your opinion and have no issue with it. But when you write, “when people see me reading form an iPad they have no idea what I am reading from,” the same thing could be said of a preacher using a study Bible in the pulpit. The people have no idea if you’re reading from the notes instead of the Biblical text. So, no, a physical Bible in a preacher’s hand does not guarantee that the authority of the sermon comes from Scripture, thus invalidating the author’s point.

      And is it not possible that it is perhaps the author himself who is over-analyzing the differences between using an iPad or a physical Bible?

      • Thomas

        I agree that holding a Bible does not magically make your sermon biblical or based on the authority of the Word, however I do my best to make sure all of my sermons are such and thus I want a physical illustration of my goal, which is carried out by having a physical Bible present. I think it is silly to assume that people look at an iPad and think “Scripture” as much or more than someone who holds a book that says “Holy Bible” on it. Again, I am not arguing the Bible is more impactful in one form over another. I am simply saying it serves as a visual illustration. As Christians we are people of the Word and this is visually backed up when a physical copy of the Bible is present with a preacher. Are we “more people of the Word” with a physical copy? No and that is certainly not my point. I am simply saying that is is clearer visually. I agree both are earthly vessels and neither holds any mystical or supernatural power as they are simply vehicles. There is a difference though when one vehicle is used for one purpose alone. It is like seeing Air Force One. Air Force One is just a plane, but when you see it you know the president is on board. When you see any other plane you have no idea who is on board unless told. I think there is value in holding a physical copy of the Scriptures as people see it and identify it with God’s Word, which they don’t when they see an iPad.

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  • Kevin Allard

    3 big factors that make pornography addiction such an issue are availability, anonymity and affordability. All of these are present with i-Pads and any laptops too. We should be able to assume that pastors who do all their work on i-Pads have learnt how not to give in to the temptation to look at pornography (because if they haven’t they should not be using them to the extent they do). Therefore one of the first things that any pastor using an i-Pad should do is to teach and train his congregation how to overcome temptation to look at pornography using his own life as an example.

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  • John Allen Bankson

    I’m a pastor, and I never “bring my Bible to church.” I read the Scripture lessons from the pulpit Bible. It has always seemed odd to me to go into a church which has a perfectly good, large pulpit Bible open on the pulpit and then see the preacher flop his smaller, personal Bible on top of that and start reading. It makes the pulpit Bible into a worthless, meaningless prop. If you’re not going to read from it, don’t have one up there. I’m still old-fashioned enough to like the old instructions that say the lessons should be read “from a volume of appropriate size and dignity.”

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  • Andrew

    This is a sad, but expected view to come out of our American theological culture. We’ve made so many secondary things unnecessarily important as a means to occupy our intellect. When you waste a point of your argument by saying that reading from a tablet isn’t spatio-temporal and then try and tie that into the baptism or communion it makes me wonder how much you time you’ve spent in messy ministry making disciples. Shady legalism is still alive and well.

    • Thomas

      Your missing the point and over-reading into what the author is saying. He is not implying that a physical copy of the Bible is more the word of God than a copy on an iPad or some other medium. He is saying that a physical copy of God’s Word leaves no doubt in people’s minds what your authority is when you preach. An iPad is a container of almost anything and when you read from it you could be reading from anything. Surely you would call out verbally that you are quoting the Scriptures, but holding a physical Bible gives a visual reminder as well. This is simply a tool to show the authority of the Word of God. It is not a mechanism to find more favor with God (which is true legalism) or a good work of any kind. It is a smart preaching idea. We use illustrations in sermons and even visuals at times to help people grasp ideas. This is simply another tool to remind people of the absolute authority of God’s Word.

      • Fernando Villegas

        “An iPad is a container of almost anything,” but so is a book. Just like an iPad, a book can contain all sorts of things other than God’s word. Is it inferior to use a Study Bible when preaching? After all, when you read from it, you could be reading from the notes, instead of from the Biblical text!

        This is not to say that the form (iPad v. book) is completely irrelevant, but rather simply that one form is not inherently better than another. They are all simply “earthly vessels,” whereas the true treasure is the Word itself, in whatever form it comes in.

        “[H]olding a physical Bible gives a visual reminder as well.” Sure, but that is completely subjective. Not everyone will see it that way. If I’m listening to someone preach, whether or not one uses an iPad, a physical Bible, or even simply quotes the Scripture from memory, does nothing to add to or detract from my confidence that the preacher is basing his sermon on the authority of God’s word. It is the content of the sermon itself which will determine that.

        Personally, I prefer to use a physical Bible when preaching. And I think the author makes some valid points. But we really need to be careful about not elevating one earthly vessel over another.

        • Thomas

          I think the big difference between an iPad and a study Bible is perception once again. I am not arguing the Bible is more impactful in one form over another. I am simply saying it serves as a visual illustration. As Christians we are people of the Word and this is visually backed up when a physical copy of the Bible is present with a preacher. Are we “more people of the Word” with a physical copy? No and that is certainly not my point. I am simply saying that is is clearer visually. I agree both are earthly vessels and neither holds any mystical or supernatural power as they are simply vehicles. There is a difference though when one vehicle is used for one purpose alone. It is like seeing Air Force One. Air Force One is just a plane, but when you see it you know the president is on board. When you see any other plane you have no idea who is on board unless told. I think there is value in holding a physical copy of the Scriptures as people see it and identify it with God’s Word, which they don’t when they see an iPad.

  • Nathan

    I find the book selector in the ESV Study Bible App to have actually improved my mental map off where certain books are in the bible. The Glo app even more so.

  • Fernando Villegas

    You make some good points. Your concerns are not without merit, and I understand what you’re trying to say.

    Having said that, we need to be careful that we do not ascribe theological motivations to what may in fact simply be personal preferences, and thus make one form (a physical book) inherently more “holy” than the other (an e-book); leading us to legalism and idolatry.

    For example, you wrote that “this tablet contains the digital text of the Bible, but visually that tablet represents so much more. It is an icon of social media and a buffet of endless entertainment.” Point well taken. On the other hand, visually, a paperback is an icon of harlequin romances and Tom Clancy novels. So, by that logic, should we not use paperback Bibles either? Visually, a hardback book is an icon of textbooks and encyclopedias. Should we not use hardback Bibles? And continuing that logic, we are eventually left with a large, cumbersome, worn, black leather Bible as the only acceptable Bible to be used in the pulpit; an image which might be meaningful to people like you or me, but which is completely meaningless to our kids and grandkids. Which then leads us to communicate a different, unintended message: the word of God is meaningless and irrelevant to anything in my “real” life.

    Furthermore, one could argue that a physical, hard copy Bible sends the wrong message when compared to what Jesus and the apostles had: scrolls that were kept in the synagogue. People did not have access to their own individual copies of the Bible back then, like we do. They memorized the Scriptures, and they gathered together in community to have the Scriptures read, since most were illiterate. The use of an individual copy can unintentionally send the message that Christianity is primarily an individual matter, and thus downplay the importance of the Church and community. In fact, can we not blame the use of individual copies of the Bible for the current fad among many, especially millennials, of “forgetting the church” and just following Jesus? Would not more Christians be encouraged to attend church if it was their only access to the Bible?

    Of course, I was playing Devil’s Advocate in the last paragraph. But the point is that any form, whether it be scroll, physical books, or e-books, will have both advantages and disadvantages. Yes, we do need to be aware of the disadvantages of e-books, the subtle shifts in paradigm they represent and the unintended consequences they may carry. But we cannot be so blind as to deny that physical books have their own disadvantages as well; and the Christian church has survived for over five hundred years of using those, after having survived thousands of years using scrolls, which had their own disadvantages. There is no perfect, ideal form for the written form. So let us be aware of the limitations without elevating one over the other.

  • Katherine Coble

    This sounds perilously close to idolatry of the Bible.

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  • JAM

    As I read through the 211 comments, here, I was impressed as I have not been before with the large inroads gnosticism and docetism has made among evangelical Christians. It’s bad enough that the Bible is worshipped in place of Christ, the Lord of the Bible and the Church, but the idea that virtual “reality” can take the place of and be considered the equal of “real” reality, the physical, flesh and blood reality with which all of God’s creation subsists is a bit disturbing (“Send me twenty dollars and then touch the TV screen and I can send healing power through the ether.”) It’s our physical bodies that will be resurrected, not some virtual clone, and a new physical heavens and physical earth will be created, not a virtual clone. But then, protestants have to the very largest degree believed that Christ is only present spiritually in the bread and the wine, so I suppose a turn to gnosticism with computers can be expected.

    But, should the congregation even be reading scripture along with the lector instead of *listening* to the spoken Word of God? Hearing and reading the Bible are two different experiences, the latter good for private study and the former crucial for public, communal worship. The public worship of a living, fully present Jesus is not a theological classroom where he can be dissected and studied as an abstraction. The early reformers understood this; so many evangelicals have lost all sense of this.

  • Deed

    Personally, what concerns me most about the use of iPads/phones as bibles in the church (not just by pastors) is that many members use their gadgets for other purposes during the worship service. It’s too tempting to open an app or check emails during a long sermon. I’ve seen too many teenagers (and church leaders) casually bring out their phones to send text messages during a worship service. Why? Because they can get away with it – they know people will assume they’re reading their Bible. Unfortunately, the old-fashioned, tech-wary twenty-year-old observer catches them (and is distracted from the worship service too). I think, if only for our weak brothers, we must consider asking EVERYONE to use a much less distracting medium as their Bible – be it book or scroll as many have sarcastically suggested. :P It doesn’t take much effort to bring a physical Bible to church. I wish we’d stop complaining, and without being legalistic either way, think of what’s really good for the entire body of believers and the consequences of our choices on the next generation.

    • Thomas

      Good thought!

    • Andy McCullough

      When I was a teen, I used to hide a small book inside my Bible, then no-one knew I wasn’t reading the Bible.

      Seriously, if people choose to be distracted by Twitter in church, maybe the preaching leaves something to be desired. The word of God and the gospel message should grab you by the throat, not be a close second to Farmville.

      • Josh Dear

        Andy – While it’s certainly true that preachers should preach God’s Word with fire and passion, and should seek to inspire the listeners to love God’s Word more deeply and obey it more faithfully – it’s also true that the pastor’s primary job on Sunday morning is NOT to entertain the congregation. The pastor is called to preach God’s Word, for the purpose of “feeding” the people of God rich, biblical truth that, IF APPLIED BY THE MEMBERS, will lead to greater spiritual growth and, ultimately, greater Christian obedience. No special tricks should be necessary in order for this to happen.

        The pastor is to FEED biblical truth, and the congregation is to FEAST upon that truth. So, just as the pastor has a responsibility before God to teach well, so does the congregation have a responsibility before God to listen well, and to apply what is taught to their lives.

        In truth, the only person responsible for your own spiritual growth is you – the pastor is simply called “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). So, if you truly feel that your pastor is failing to faithfully proclaim God’s Word with zeal and conviction (regardless of his particular “style” of preaching), then – by all means – move to a church where the pastor does so, but once you are satisfied that you have found a loving, Christ-centered church where God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed week after week, then you become responsible for your own commitment to the church, your willingness to actively serve there, to tithe appropriately, to demonstrate love to the other members, to help build up the church in any way that you can, and – yes – even your own personal ability to listen to and apply the sermons that are presented.

        It’s certainly true that – in some cases – pastors fall short of preaching God’s Word as they are called to do (and, of course, no pastor is perfect). Still, EVERY member of the body of Christ has a responsibility in the worship services – not just the pastor! Members are called to “worship God in spirit and truth”, by keeping Christ at the center of our thoughts as we pray together, sing hymns of praise to God, and certainly as we listen to God speak to us through the (perhaps imperfect) proclamation of God’s Word by the preacher.

        Just as every pastor will have to stand before God and give an account of how faithfully and well they expounded Scripture to the church, so will every other believer have to give an account to God for how well they listened, and what they did with the truth that was shared. “Boring preaching” won’t be a good enough excuse for ignoring what God is trying to teach us – we had all better listen well!

  • E R Nagy

    August 3, 1860

    Dear Pastor

    Sto bringing that Newfangled Bible to church. Or at least during one of your sermons, have a scroll or two lying around. The Word of God was meant to be read from a scroll, just like Jesus did…….hmmmm…sound familiar?

  • Kristy

    To me, I wouldn’t care what they preach from, Bible as a book, an iPad app, a scroll, a 3×4 note card, or memory, as long as they are preaching the Word (& not some sad excuse like The Message). The problems with illiteracy & ignorance of the Bible in churches today have little to do with the format the words are written in & more to do with the people not reading it, the pastors not preaching it, & those who are not holding the others to account. There are places in the world today that may only have a page of the Bible or only have what they have memorized. Those people are more serious & in love with their Savior than most of the people sitting in the pews. I really don’t think that the method we use to read/preach from the Bible matters; what matters is that it is being read & preached.

    I do understand the aversion to churches looking more like the culture today but, like I said above, I highly doubt that has anything to do with whether the pastor preaches from a Bible with paper & bindings or from one that comes from an electronic device.

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  • Matt Dabbs

    This is a really strange article that does have a legalistic tone to it. A few thoughts…

    Different Message:
    This assumes the congregation doesn’t have a clue or any discipline to not think of the latest app or movie the moment they see a tablet in the pulpit. If you are hungry for God you can find him in the same words in a tablet, ipad, chalk board, written on a dirty napkin or wherever else the words are placed. You know what, they might read 50 shades of gray or any of a number of other books but no one is saying stop using books because the audience is too dumb to not think of books other than the Bible when they see a bible.

    Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew
    Some time ago I had the same problem with the digital text that people don’t know how to find a book of the Bible but that just isn’t true…they do know how to find it and find it faster and spend more time reading it as they aren’t spending all their time looking for the book of the bible.

    Flesh and blodd
    Seriously, what is missing? How does a tablet make the text lifeless?

    Visual reminder
    A tablet is still visual, right? What is he talking about? How is this removing the presence of the Word of God from the people?

    Nonverbal communication
    About the only decent point in the whole article. Just get a cover for your ipad that has Holy Bible on it.

  • Wayne Stocks

    The comments here have slowed down, but I have enjoyed the conversation. As I was reading a new comment this afternoon though, I had a thought in the form of a question I would pose to people who worry about what the congregation might think if you preach from an iPad:

    “If your congregation has to wonder what book your are preaching from or reading from, what does that say about your preaching?”

    Should the way you preach and what you preach make it abundantly clear that you are preaching from the Word of God? Food for thought…

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  • Rachel

    I think a real simple solution is to get a cover for your ipad that looks like a bible. Problem solved.

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  • Bryon

    The problem I have with relying on a digital version of the bible is: What if words in the text are changed with the latest update? What about weak translations that undermine the doctrines of scripture? If you have a digital NIV, did the latest update switch it to the new politically correct translation?
    I want the Word of God translated and promoted in every medium possible, but more than that I want it preserved as accurately as our language allows.
    It really comes down to the question, if the electricity was out could you still have church?

  • Josh Dear

    Dr. Barrett – I am amazed at how many of the people posting comments here seem to have completely missed the point to your article, thinking that you were “attacking” electronic devices and accusing you of legalism (Apparently, they skipped over your first paragraph.)! I didn’t see any of that in your article. What I did see was a very insightful and thought-provoking commentary on what we might be losing should this trend (of pastors bringing electronic devices to the pulpit instead of printed Bibles) continue, and how it could potentially have a damaging effect on the spiritual (and intellectual) growth of our congregation. I completely agree with you, and share in this concern.

    As you clearly explain in your article, it’s not that electronic devices are bad or inferior, or that the people who prefer to use them are less spiritual in some way – but rather that the failure to use a physically observable copy of God’s Word in preference for a machine which is not exclusively identified in our minds with God’s Word (but which also offers us news, entertainment, etc.) just might be sending a far weaker version of the message that the Bible is of supreme importance among the people of God, and that no other book in all the world compares to the significance, the power, the reliability, the effectiveness, and the worth of God’s holy Word. Again, I agree with your argument, and I think you articulated it quite well in the article above.

    The abundance of critical remarks that have been left in response to your article (which you actually predicted in the article itself!) only goes to show that you’re exactly right – and that, in fact, the problem may already be much worse than we imagined! People would apparently prefer to stick to their favorite technological media, no matter what wise counsel a respected and biblically-informed theologian such as yourself might offer against it.

    As a pastor myself, I will always preach and teach from the physical Bible, and will always prefer to carry a printed Bible with me rather than a tablet or pad of any sort where I might have a Bible saved in electronic format. As you explained in the article, there’s much benefit to be gained from people seeing a printed Bible in your hands and knowing – beyond doubt – that your book of choice is the Bible – the book which God gave to us, the book which numerous martyrs died to protect and to circulate, and the book which tells us of God’s love, forgiveness, and the offer of eternal life.

    The last thing that I want to do is “hide” (whether intentionally or unintentionally) the fact that I trust in Christ, or that I read his book! Of course, I don’t want to take the opposite approach, either, by using my Bible to be obnoxious, to impress people, or to make them believe that I’m more spiritual simply because I carry my Bible around. I simply choose to use a printed Bible rather than a downloadable one, to remind both myself and others (in a visible way) that we are, in fact, a people of ONE book – the book which is God-breathed, and which is sufficient, in the power of the Spirit of God, to guide us into all truth.

    • Chris Pryor

      I share the same sentiments, Josh. In perusing the various comments, I am astounded at how Dr. Barrett’s thought-provoking article has not only apparently failed to do so among those who may need it most, but how the “straw man” fallacy has been emotionally employed- the problem is indeed much worse than imagined! We live in a culture that for a higher convenience factor will accept anything, failing to take an objective look at long term consequences while simultaneously displaying a nonchalant attitude to preserving the intangible virtues that are inseparable with doing something the “archaic” way.

      I liken it to the extinction of another archaic device: the checkbook. Yes, writing out transactions by hand was bit tedious, but the virtues instilled by this deliberate approach were all too quickly cast aside in favor of a casual swipe. Who really wants to sit down and balance a checkbook? Just e-mail me my statement please! However, now we have a generation of young people, future leaders mind you, who in large part are oblivious to managing their finances and operating within a budget. We are now headed for what I would describe as “financial runaway”. And only the wisest among us could have predicted this fate. Prudence is the only wise approach to technological advancements. As Christians, you would think we would be especially diligent in watching for the hidden long-term consequences that come with ease and gratification. Just saying.

      The backlash is simply further evidence that this article is spot-on. Any preacher who doesn’t compromise and stave conviction from his messages should be very familiar with the general sentiment displayed in this comment section. Of particular humor to me are the responses that seek to marginalize the points made by Dr. Barrett by referencing ancient times when scrolls were used. Although cute, it is an unfounded allusion that misconstrues the very point of the article; the technological progression from scrolls to text blocks and bindings simply does not correlate with the modern “progression” from books to iPads. The former improves upon design without removing what is tangible. However, the latter does just that while removing so much more.

      I think it takes a certain level of spiritual maturity to prayerfully consider any viewpoint that contradicts what is common, cool, and convenient. To me personally, one of the biggest reasons I continue to read and carry a hardcopy of the Bible is that doing promotes a subtle yet vital reverence for the scriptures, and not in a ceremonial or idolatrous way. The Bible to me is much too important to be thrown onto my Ipad along with a myriad of other books and trivial apps. It relegates the word of God to “one of” the many things in my life. I believe the Bible should not simply be a part of my your life like e-mail or iTunes; it IS life and picking up a Bible demands that you mean business. When reading it, you shouldn’t even want the POSSIBILITY of being distracted by a notification or a fingertip notion. Maybe I’m the only one who experiences spiritual warfare when trying to secure undistracted devotion to God’s word. Why give the enemy tools to use against you? The beauty of a tangible Bible is that it has one purpose ONLY. But when modern Christians have such a flippant attitude towards the biblical precepts of consecration and sanctification, what do you expect? Consecration? Of course not! Don’t be so legalistic!

      I agree, the medium itself is not of direct importance. But I believe the point is that when one considers the underlying virtues, the medium is indeed of indirect importance! To cast aside older practices in favor of new ones without question is extremely foolish. We must remember Satan is the god of this age and this world is heading toward unrighteousness and perversion at an alarming speed. The newest thing is not always the best thing. Unfortunately, sagacity is even more rare outdated than scrolls and hymnals.

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  • Chris

    I think when we spend too much time focusing on the external of the practice of our worship and ministry before God we then create systems and structures that are not found in the Holy Text of Scripture. If the scriptures were written TODAY they would be crafted and compiled into a digital text because the Apostles, disciples, and believers would see the importance of immediate and fast dissemination of the message of the Gospel. I think in the end this subject is all about personal/traditional preferences. Whether covered in micro chips and glass digitizers or leather bound with the crimson red satin bookmark… what difference does it make? Do we select a medium that makes the tithers happy or do we use new and relevant tools that convey to people that we are ministering in a modern time. Besides, it’s not the interaction with the ink, paper, leather, screen, or app that changes a person it the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that does. To each his own… what does it matter how someone came to grace? Does anyone bicker about the path they followed to God’s grace? Or does it only matter that he found grace through faith in Christ alone? I think this is an “American” and first world issue. The believer in North Korea who only has a few scraps of paper scriptures that he copied himself… since it’s not published with a Zondervan logo… do we say the truth he holds is “not enough” or a “bad example”. If you access and teach God’s Word from your family’s 1611 KJV or from the NIV Bible App… what does it matter? The people should be focused on the truth of what they are hearing and not on the tool or instrument being used. There are bigger issues in our modern American church.

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