Bi-Weekly Article Blog
Pastor Dan Hawn publishes a weekly article which is also emailed to members and regular attenders. Let us know if you would like to receive this weekly article via email. During the pandemic, the Blog will be bi-weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
An Analog Spirituality in a Digital World - Part 4
Note: Beginning this week, and for the remainder of the pandemic, I’ll have a Pastor’s Article on both Tuesdays & Thursdays.
We’ve been considering how technology is impacting our spiritual lives and the church. In this final article, we focus specifically on the effect of technology on the reading and study of Scripture.
Once again, it’s helpful to consider a bit of history.
The 27 books of the New Testament were written for communal reading; that is, for each Gospel or Epistle to be read out loud in its entirety to the gathered church.
With the invention of the printing press in the 1400’s, this paved the way for a more private engagement with the biblical text. The newfound accessibility and convenience meant that individuals could bookmark their Bibles and come back to it when convenient. The need to read and hear as much as possible at one time was gone.
In 1945, the term quiet time was popularized in a booklet published by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Having a quiet time usually meant focusing on a short passage of Scripture, often only a verse or two. By the mid-1950’s, this became one of the dominant ways Christians began to understand what effective engagement with the Bible looked like.
The Digital Age
The digital age has literally re-wired our brains, reducing our capacity for concentration and contemplation. This has reduced our engagement with the Bible even further.
Our tendency now is to read the Bible quickly and in bits-and-pieces, usually passages oriented toward personal comfort and encouragement. Certainly, the bits-and-pieces of Scripture have their place, but for many Christians, they’ve become the entirety of their spiritual diet. One author offers an analogy:
“Imagine a person who eats a well-balanced diet and takes supplemental vitamins to maintain health. Now imagine this person eliminates the well-balanced diet, which was at one point the primary means of her nourishment, and only takes the vitamins. No real food. Just vitamins. The results would be disastrous.
When it comes to the way Christians read their Bibles in the digital age, many are attempting to nourish themselves solely on vitamins; namely, through a series of disconnected morsels of encouragement and self-help suggestions. It’s as if you took the text of a Shakespearean play, cut the lines into short single-sentence bits, and shoved them into individual fortune cookies. Sure, you’d be reading the same words, but you’d also be missing the story.”
The earliest New Testament manuscripts were written in Greek, in all caps, with no spacing between words and minimal punctuation.
As you read these two lines, something was happening to you neurologically. As your eyes slowed down to decipher the text, so did your brain, thus increasing your comprehension and mental agility.
The bottom line is that we must recover the ability to read the Bible slowly and in larger sections. After all, how we read affects how we think, and how we think affects who we become.