I’m not against technology. I may be a little late coming around, but I generally embrace it. Which is why I have an iPhone, and on that iPhone I have a Bible app.
It’s convenient when I forget my Bible or just need to look up a verse quickly, but in general I prefer holding my Bible. I’m not against people who don’t. That’s just me. I still have a monthly planner in my purse and take notes in a real live notebook.
But I know plenty of people who would rather just use the Bible app on their phone or iPad than carry a Bible to and fro.
So here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: aside from the common cry of the anti-app crowd (wanting to hold it in your hands, write in it, feel it) I think there might also be another thing that’s lost with the app version of the Bible, and here’s why:
It has a search function.
I mean, it’d be weird if it didn’t. You’d waste half your life scrolling through thousands of iPhone-sized pages to get to 1 Thessalonians.
But because of this feature, we never have to know where anything actually is in the Bible.
I only came to this realization a couple weeks ago. It may seem obvious, but I didn’t make the connection that because I can use the search function, I never have to recall where any verse or chapter or book is in relation to any other verse or chapter or book.
This realization has stuck with me for a few days, and left me with a question:
Is there something important lost by having a searchable Bible?
I don’t have an answer; I’m asking.
It’s probably not as much an issue for us because we grew up learning the books of the Bible. When we search for Romans, we know we’re in the New Testament, after the gospels and Acts (Most of the time. If we sing that song we learned in 4th grade sunday school real quick in our head.).
But will the Bible eventually be primarily used in an electronic format, so that future generations don’t have to sing “Matthew, Mark and Luke and John, Acts and the letter to the Ro-mans…” over & over again to win stickers in Sunday School? (Will stickers even EXIST? I don’t want to think about a world where stickers don’t exist. Let’s not follow that rabbit trail any further.)
I think that’s a real possibility. (The electronic Bible thing, not the sticker thing. Hopefully.)
But I just don’t know if that’s a huge detriment or just part of adapting to the digital world. Is a general knowledge of Old vs. New Testament all we need?
I would think the most glaring problem would come with the chronology of the Old Testament stories. If we don’t know if Moses came before David, how will we understand the significance of Jesus?
Or should we just teach the order of the books of the Bible in Sunday School and church to form the foundation, but continue to use the electronic format in practice?
Would that approach still produce a sufficient knowledge of the grander story of the Bible? Or would we lose something in the process?
Again, I’m asking. I genuinely want to know what you think.
I’m leaning towards “yes, there is something lost in the ‘search’ function and we should fight to preserve the real-life book,” but that may just be my late-adopter still-uses-a-pen quality talking.
What do you think? Is knowing the order of the books and where verses are located within the context of the Bible important enough to outweigh the convenience of a Bible app?