As an “old-fashioned” teacher (P.C.E.—Pre-Computer Era), I have become increasingly concerned about the use of digital media in the classroom. Please don’t misunderstand. I do believe there are numerous benefits in using video, PowerPoint™, etc. in the classroom, especially with older students. However, there is one area in which it seems that going “digital” in the classroom is more harmful than beneficial—that is, in using and teaching from a digital Bible instead of an actual, printed, and bound Bible. That is why I so appreciated Matthew Barrett’s thoughtful article, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church” on the Gospel Coalition website. Although it is directed at pastors, all the principles are applicable to teachers. Here are some of his main points:
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
- …the tablet as a replacement for a hardcopy of the Bible sends an entirely different message to the congregation. Yes, this tablet contains the digital text of the Bible, but visually that tablet represents so much more. It is an icon of social media and a buffet of endless entertainment. Ask my children. The sight of an iPad screams instant access to Sesame Street on Netflix.
- …the tablet may, oddly enough, unintentionally and indirectly encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew…One of the severe limitations of a digital text, as you sit there with your iPhone or smartphone, is the unnecessary task of passing by books of the Bible as you find the sermon text. When the preacher says, “Turn in your Bibles to…,” the layperson simply clicks on a link or enters the text into a search box.
- …the tablet may undermine the spatio-temporal nature of church. When a member stands before the congregation, reading the sermon text from a tablet, there is something missing, something lifeless at play…Surely this should rub us wrong, as physical beings who gather together as an assembly in a tangible place. We see with our own eyes a standing, breathing minister preach about a God who is, yes, invisible, but is really with us as Lord of space and time. This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.
- …when the smartphone or iPad (or name your mobile device) replaces a hard copy of Scripture, something is missing in our nonverbal communication to unbelieving onlookers. When you walk to church, sit down on a bus, or discipline one another at a coffee shop, a hard copy of the Bible sends a loud and bold message to the nearest passersby about your identity as a Christ follower. It says, “Yes, I am a Christian and I believe this book is the Word of God telling us who we are and how we should live.”\
The conclusion to his article:
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.
(You can read his entire article here).