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.
This is a really good piece exploring the possible impact of electronic bibles in the contemporary church. I was talking yesterday with some people about the sacred nature of the Bible. We were exploring whether we need to do an experiment where we analyse the psychological impact of destroying a real bible vs. deleting an app. The latter will have much less of an impact than the former. We associate sacredness with bibles - they are sacral objects. But apps aren't. But some muslims treat iQu'rans with much higher dignity arguing that the phone containing the iQu'ran must be treated as a Qu'ran itself - placed highest on the table, not covered, carried near the heart and certainly not in a back trouser pocket. In other words, the sacrality of the sacred text is transferred to the electronic device. I am not yet aware of any Christian who would take that view. Not that may be because Christians do not have the same understanding of the sacredness of their sacred text (Christians tend to see Christ as the centre of faith rather than the text - so Islam tends to give the Qu'ran the same dignity Christians give to Christ - much debate here!). But that is not the whole story since if we were to destroy a Bible text in public, we would be sanctioned. CODEC have tried to get a Digital Bible exhibit in a sacred place and its been turned down because one of the potential exhibits does just that!
Intriguing to ponder what is really going on here...
p.s. Another insightful view on online vs paper books/bibles can be found here: http://sipech.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/why-i-prefer-a-paper-bible/
p.p.s. Bryan Bibb, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Furman University, has also written on this, here: http://bryanbibb.com/archive/2013/09/13/sacred-texts-and-digital-bibles/