We have entered into an age in which many people are leaving behind their printed Bibles in favor of digital equivalents. On one level that’s of no great concern. After all, people are not leaving behind the Bible altogether, but merely exchanging one medium for another. If Paul could say, “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice,” surely we can say, “only that in every way, whether through paper or pixels, the Bible is being read, in that we rejoice.”
But if on one level it’s of no great concern that people are migrating from printed Bibles to their iPads or iPhones, on another it does bear some consideration. That’s because it is true of any new technology that it introduces both benefits and drawbacks, that it brings about both positive consequences and negative. While nuclear fission gave us electricity, it also gave us Chernobyl. While the printing press gave us the Puritans, it also gave us Playboy. And while there are many wonderful features that come with our digital Bibles, there is this downside (among others): Our Bibles can no longer serve as a visible demonstration of our commitment to God’s Word.
It has long been the case that some of the holiest people own some of the most tattered Bibles. Placed on the gleaming wooden coffin of many a precious saint has been a Bible whose cover is worn, whose pages are falling out, whose margins are scrawled with lead and ink. As these people committed themselves to God’s Word day after day, as they carried their Bible to church week after week, as they read it and marked it and integrated it into their mornings and evenings, it began to show inevitable wear and tear. And as they went to be with the Lord, they left it behind as a precious artifact that attested to their love for the Lord and their long labor in his Word. As that Bible grew ever more beat up, their soul grew ever more cleaned up. Their Bible was a fitting symbol, a fitting relic, of their commitment to their Savior and of his work in their life.
Suffice it to say we are unlikely to see many apps placed on the coffins of today’s Christians. We are unlikely to see a family reverently lay their loved one’s iPhone upon his casket so all can see what he loved, what he prioritized. Suffice it to say, that while there are few moral concerns about changing from one medium to another, there may be practical concerns. Even as there will be gains, there will be losses, and even as there are benefits, there will also be drawbacks. As for me, I’ll miss seeing that moving combination of a coffin and a Bible.