an ipod for a Bible: yea or nay?

Tim Challies (with whom I often agree) wrote this article, “Don’t Take Your iPod to Church.”  

I’m having a hard time agreeing with his reasoning.  

He asserts that,

“the method we use to convey information is inseparable from the content of that information. And even more so, every medium carries with it both content but also a worldview. When we read the Bible electronically, we read the very same words, but in a way that influences us toward a different worldview, a different way of understanding the reality of those words.”

So, to recap, he is saying that reading the Bible electronically influences our worldview and even influences the way we interpret or understand the Bible.  

He sums it all up with this: 

“So where does this leave us?  It leaves us wondering what ideological bias, what predisposition, is carried in the book and in the electronic book.  It causes us to wonder what skill or attitude is amplified in the book and what skill or attitude is amplified in the iPod.”

As much as I love real books, (meaning printed-with-ink, pages-bound-together books) I just can’t agree with him.  At least not yet.  He promises to follow-up this article with another one next week offering (I hope) more logical and foundational reasons as to why the printed Bible is better than the e-Bible.**

The point of the Bible is the message it provides.  Not the medium by which the message is given.  Is the Bible less powerful in oral form?  Does it’s worldview change when read from a scroll?  

The power of the message of the Bible, cannot be in anyway subdued or watered down by the medium it is presented in.  It is the very power of God.  Printed ink on pages holds the precious message, as do spoken words, as do pixels on a screen, as do tablets of stone.  

Confusing preference and worldview is a bit dangerous.  The assertion that medium guides and influences worldview I could swallow if it were in regard to anything other than the Bible.  But the Bible contains God Himself, the glorious Gospel.  

It is a message that cannot be bound by medium.  No, it cannot even be influenced by medium.  If it is the unadulterated message and Word of God, medium is of no consequence.  That is the beauty and power of the Word.  

The worldview of the hearer is already in place when he is using an iPod to read God’s Word.  As is the worldview of the person reading it in ink.  

The medium doesn’t shape the worldview, it is an indicator of it.  

And the power of the Word of God reaches through that medium to radically transform both the worldview of the one reading pixels and the one reading ink.  Whether I read it on a screen or a page these words contain the same persuasive swaying power, “God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

So, as much as I love Challies’ blog, I’ll go ahead and say it: bring your ipod to church and let the Word of God in pixels transform your iPod-loving worldview.  And bring your printed bible to church and let the Word of God in ink transform your ink-loving worldview.  

The Word of God has the power to shape and change our worldview and will not be influenced by or secondary to pixels or paper or preferences.

**I am looking forward to hearing his next article on the topic.  I went ahead and responded to this first one because I had some foundational disagreements.  But I’m willing to listen and be open to his forthcoming arguments for the negatives of an ipod Bible in church.  I could agree that the ipod Bible might be distracting and would entertain not using it for that reason, but that isn’t the premise he’s working with.

What say you?  Do you read the Bible on your ipod or blackberry?  Do you think doing this has influenced your worldview in “understanding of the reality of those words”?

7 thoughts on “an ipod for a Bible: yea or nay?

  1. I’m with you but will be interested to hear your further reflections when he expands on his argument. Rach usually wakes between 5 and 6 and comes to bed with me to nurse and sleep some more. I usually do my Bible reading on the Blackberry because it has a backlit screen so I don’t disturb Anthony or Rachael.

  2. “Don’t Take Your iPod to Church.”

    crap.. that was crap..

    Many Churches use overhead projectors, computers for hymn books these days..

    I have used the computer for decades to read my Bible.. and it has also a great tool too.. I can immediately write down what God has taught me and next share it with others.

  3. I’ll be interested to read follow up articles, as well.

    No, I don’t think it makes a difference whether we read the Bible on a book or on a screen.

  4. One interesting comment I read on Challies’ article said that all the talk of medium differences between printed ink and pixels on a screen is misplaced.

    The commenter said that reading written words whether in a book or on a screen is the same medium. That a real medium difference would be print versus oral or something like that.

    I thought he had a good point.

  5. One question to pose might be why change brings so much fear on the part of some. iPods are neutral, in and of themselves. Scrolls in the protective hands of those who could read aloud was once the norm. Printing multiple copies of the Holy Scriptures brought much consternation to church leaders. What would the ‘people’ do with their very own copy of God’s word kept in their homes? Today we have Bibles, translations, versions, leather, paperback, hardback, big, small, cheap, expensive and yes, electronic. For those who are going with iPods, (and perhaps ESV with study notes!) I would make a challenge to give God’s word on that device the respect it is due and take a good hard look at anything else you might have on your iPod. May your iPods glorify God…every single app, email, song, movie, game, text message and website. What are we bundling in with our beloved Bible?

  6. I can certainly relate with the nostalgic sentiment of a book in hand, (hence my stack of books that I’m “about to read”) but I think that’s as far as I’ll go.

    This strikes me as similar to the “drums in church” style debate. Most churches that reject contemporary worship are fine with/prefer, piano or organ led worship. These instruments are widely accepted now but there was a time when they were just as “edgy” as your typical punk rocker. As you mentioned, Ab, the bound, ink on onion skin books we know as Bibles today are a far cry from the oral tradition that marked the first half century of the church. I will be interested to read his clarification and your analysis of it. Until then I’ll be pondering the relationship between my worldview and whether I listen to the Best of Manilow on vinyl or .m4a.

  7. Great points all.. thanks for contributing.

    Tim Challies posted “Don’t Bring Your iPod to Church 1.5” today. It’s tangential thoughts on the information age. Worth reading.

    He’s going to hit the main point (iPods and church) in the 2.0 version, perhaps later this week?

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