My attention was drawn today to an article by Matthew Barrett (Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, and executive editor of Credo magazine) on the Gospel Coalition’s website. It’s titled ‘Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church’. Barrett argues that it’s unwise, perhaps even wrong, for pastors and preachers to use an iPad in the pulpit instead of a classic hardcopy Bible. You can read his article HERE.
I found myself disagreeing with Barrett’s arguments almost at every point. The digital revolution is huge. The change it is bringing about in the world of books is similar to the great shifts that occurred in the past. Just as we moved from the stone or clay tablet to the scroll, and then from the scroll to the codex, so we are now moving from the codex to the e-book on digital tablet or phone. Like the previous shifts, this is just a change of medium. The word of God is not the medium on which it is printed. The word of God is the words that convey the Word, whether they are inscribed by a chisel, written with a quill, printed by a laser printer, beamed by a projector light, or present in an app. That’s why the title of Barrett’s article is perhaps unfair and misleading. If a pastor brings an iPad into the pulpit, he is still bringing the Bible to church. The Bible on iPad is no less the Bible than a printed hardcopy. Barrett’s article should probably have been titled ‘Dear Pastor, I want you to bring a Bible codex to church’.
In any case, with the Bible on your tablet, you’ve still got something physical in your hands (something Barrett demands), and you usually glimpse the various books of the Bible in making your text selection (something Barrett says promotes biblical literacy). If we want a seriously authentic experience when preaching, why don’t we just go back to having a repository of biblical scrolls in our church buildings, and the pastor can go pick the relevant scroll and unfurl it at the pulpit. This is what happens when the Torah is read in the synagogue. In fact, you could even argue that the iPad offers a more ‘original’ experience than a codex because you can actually ‘scroll through’ the Bible. I suspect Barrett just needs to get used to the new medium, as do the rest of us. It is quite a revolution after all, but we are also reading more than ever. Why, we could even think about using the Bible on our iPads as a means of ‘redeeming’ the new medium!
If the person in the pew has an issue with a pastor using the Bible on iPad in the pulpit, then perhaps the pastor should think twice. After all, a pastor needs to care for the flock. But in and of itself I see no problem whatsoever in the use of the Bible on iPad. I’m happy to hear other people’s views on this and open to being convinced otherwise, but I really can’t see what the fuss is about.