Here is a pertinent observation and question left by one of our blog readers recently:
I have been told that this generation of children will no longer use an actual Bible, but rather a tablet or phone, and that being able to use a Bible is not as important as it was ten years ago. The same goes with concordances and other Bible helps. Do you agree? What practically do you think is the best way to teach children?
Great question! And yes, I do have some thoughts about this. But before I give my opinion, it’s first helpful to reflect upon the nature of the Bible itself. For example:
- The Bible is “God-breathed” and divinely inspired.
- The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
- The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
- The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.
- The Bible is God’s one Word to us, communicating one main, unified, overarching message, through its diverse 66 books.
With these truths in mind, it is readily apparent that the Bible is utterly unique and separate from any other story or book. That is why I still love the designation “The Holy Bible.” That said, I fully believe the Bible’s words are authoritative and true whether we read them to our class from a Smartphone device, iPad®, or in “old-fashioned” printed form. God’s Word is God’s Word. The medium we use does not change or alter that. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. What do I mean? Here is an example:
My five-year-old grandson knows how to use his parent’s iPad®. With it, he can access educational games, videos, family pictures, and more. That same iPad® can also be used to access God’s Holy Word. In his mind, the device is a smorgasbord of options. Is God’s Word more or less likely to stand out to him as unique and holy when it is among these other fun options? So, one reason I prefer using a printed version for teaching children is…
- A printed Bible helps remind our children and students that the Bible is utterly unique, “set-apart,” holy.
Here are some other things to consider:
- Using a printed Bible helps reinforce the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Every time we look up an individual text, we are reminded that it is tied (and literally “bound”) to the whole of Scripture and occupies a certain historical place (i.e., Old Testament and New Testament).
- A printed Bible lends itself to a better understanding of the permanence and unchanging nature of Scripture. Digital devices lose power, get viruses and bugs, and are constantly being improved upon. Yet my husband still has his grandfather’s Bible from a more than a century ago. Will the device your child uses now to access the Bible still be usable in even 20 years? It will be a dinosaur!
- A printed Bible can assist our children and students to make a more personal connection with Scripture and, by God grace, embrace it. I still have the Bible my parents gave me 40 years ago. It has underlining, notes in the margins, and other personal reflections. It records a testimony of how God personally fed and nourished me with His holy Word during those early years as a Christian. Printed Bibles offer this same opportunity for our children and students.
Because of these reasons…
I advocate primarily using a physical, printed Bible for teaching children and youth.
Please note the word: “primarily.” I do believe there is a place for using a digital form of Scripture, whether it be on a device, PowerPoint®, etc. There are definitely times and situations where digital may be preferred and beneficial. But in the classroom and for our children’s personal study and devotions, I believe that the printed Word is preferable. Even if you use a digital device to prepare your lesson, I would encourage you to read from a printed Bible in the classroom and encourage your students to do the same.
Finally, I would encourage you to read Matthew Barrett’s article, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church.” Although it is directed at pastors, all the principles are applicable to teachers. Here is his conclusion:
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.
(found at www.thegospelcoalition.org)