This is My Bible: Paper beats Rock!

Image result for charles spurgeon's bible“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”- Charles Spurgeon

(pictured: Charles Spurgeon's last Bible)

I am going to do a short series called "This is my Bible." I intend for this series to introduce and show off my Bible collection, and introduce a new reading method. But before delving into the cool shelves of my office, I'd like to handle a very serious topic. With the proliferation of the Bible App, people are utilizing their Bible less and less. These apps, though useful in getting the Gospel to closed countries, are taking a toll. I see this toll happening among every demographic; teens, mid-agers, parents, and even Senior adults. In fact, none of our teens come to church with a Bible, and many of our Seniors don't either! Let me say, these apps can be utilized for study in a magnificent way, and I'll cover that in my new reading method post. That being said, I want to encourage all of you to put your phone down and pick up an "old fashioned" Bible, for four major reasons: 

1. Digital is Indistinguishable

Image result for kindle reader vs booksI remember when Kindle made its debut. I was in college and my friends were ranting and raving over the luxury of carrying around all of their books in this slim electronic device. Within their myriad of books, they all owned a Bible. Yet, at that time none of us utilized a digital Bible for we recognized what few are saying today, the Bible deserves reverence and a unique handling. By comparison, now even elementary children are given books in digital form. Maybe one day libraries will go the way of T-Rex, but there is an inherent flaw in digitizing Bibles. Reality is, your brain cannot distinguish one page of text from another page of text, other than the story contained therein. Thus, the Bible just becomes "another story." Atheists have been trying to convince the world to believe this mantra, and behold the digital age has aided them in their conquest of undermining Scripture. 

2. Digital is selective

Image result for Bible app searchDuring my PhD studies, I've encountered many famous old scholars and even pastors who refused to read portions of Scripture. The famous Marcion completely cut the Old Testament out of his Bible, and even any New Testament references to it! Maybe the believer will read the whole of the Bible, but few pastors preach the whole of the Bible! Here lies the second problem with a digital text, you select what you want to read. "But Mario, don't you do that with a paper Bible!?" Yes, I selectively turn to passages of choice, but I will always read the entirety of that Book that week. I believe that if I'm to preach or teach on a topic, then I must have handled the whole book first so that I keep whatever I'm reading in context. By way of illustration, when was the last time you read John 3:14-15, and 17-21? When we handle a paper book our eye wonders and is sucked into other sections on the page. Why do you think Newspapers go to great lengths to make each section on a page look unique? It is so that you will be enticed to read that section in addition to yours. I encourage you to handle a paper Bible for you never know what surrounding sections you may be sucked into reading, and how it could impact your life! 

3.Digital doesn't teach you the Bible

Image result for bible tabsLet me begin by saying that you can indeed memorize Scripture via a digital Bible. What I desire to articulate is that you do not learn Scripture! I often joke with my congregation that I know what the house looks like, but I couldn't tell you the street address (I memorize Passages, but often forget the exact reference). Few people dedicate themselves to the discipline of memorizing Scripture, thus a paper Bible will allow you to remember it. (Reading is eyesight learning, handling a Bible is actually more kinesthetic) As a result, some may say, "Hey I remember reading a verse in Romans that was toward the beginning on the left-hand side that fits this topic...." If you have a Paper bible I suggest you mark it up, it'll be even easier for you to recall the passage you just read. [Check out my Bible marking system!] Notice I did not say memorize but recall. While some apps permit you to highlight a text, it will be difficult to find that highlight because it isn't in kinesthetic memory, just eyesight memory. Furthermore, no verse is in the same location with the same layout in digital Bibles, further adding to the problem.

Another thought regarding the layout is that a paper Bible teaches you the books of the Bible. As a Minor Prophets scholar, I can't tell you how many people think I'm lying that Obadiah or Nahum are actual books in the Bible. Growing up, my fundamental Baptist church had what is known as "sword drills." Two kids use their bibles, and the teacher calls out a reference. The first kid to get there and read the passage wins a candy. Since the advent of Bible apps, I have not heard of these sword drills in decades. You learn a book not only by reading it but by opening it up. Flipping through pages. Exploring it. Feeling it. Digital Bibles don’t lend themselves to any of this. As a pastor and lover of the Word, I believe people who exclusively utilize a Bible app will never know the book, the structure, and the theology, like those with a paper Bible do.
3. Digital Is Not Treasured
Image result for stephen olford and billy grahamI went to Union University, at the Stephen Olford school of preaching to study for my masters. I remember like it was yesterday walking into Dr. Olford's office and seeing all his handwritten sermon notes, and his shelf of Bibles. Many worn beyond use, and then the one that he was reading the day he died lay open on his desk... The family and the School took pride that this was one of the Bibles that Dr. Olford taught many greats to preach from: Charles Stanley, Adrian Rodgers, Billy Graham.... etc. These great men, also learned from Dr. Olford to treasure God's Word. When we read Psalm 119, in the Bet section we learn that Gods Word is not only the way for a young man to keep his way pure, but also something to be treasured! How are we to grow fond of God's word, when we don't have something to grow fond of? It is ok if you own numerous Bibles, but grow fond of at least one and live in it daily! (Pictured: BACK: Martin Burch, John Stott, Alan Neech, Eric Alexander; SECOND ROW: John Pollock, Mrs Hugh Orr-Ewing, Cecil Bewes. Billy Graham, Richard Bewes, Hugh Orr-Ewing, FRONT: Stephen Olford, Ruth Graham, Festo Kivengere)
4. Digital Is Not Personal
The current top means of communication are text, email, phone call, and facetime. These means are all digital! When is the last time you sat next to a person and had a wonderful conversation? I love visiting my granny a couple of times a week. We simply sit next to each other and talk... sometimes retelling the same stories, but it is sweet and emotional. On the other hand, I rarely see my brother in-person. When we talk once a quarter it will be on the phone and does not have the same emotional effect. I know we both are continuing chores or work yet while speaking to each other on the phone. In the same way, there is an emotional connection when we handle a paper Bible versus a digital one. This may sound like an old man rant, but the feel and smell of a book is like the feel and smell of a person sitting next to you. There's an emotional connection that forms when you read and handle the tangible text. Do you get that with a digital app? I doubt it. Scripture tells us to touch, taste, see, smell and feel the presence of God in the Word... maybe it is nostalgia on my part, but I don't get that with a digital book. 

So next time you’re sitting in church or teaching children or going to a Bible study, consider leaving your phone in your pocket and hauling out that old, deep, powerful book instead. If you're like me and already prefer the paper, then why not buy a case of paper bibles to give to the teens and adults you see without one? 
Remember what Spurgeon said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” Maybe this is why our churches and Christians are falling apart more now than ever?

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