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This past Sunday, I did something generally considered verboten in conservative evangelical circles.

I went to church without my Bible.

No, I haven’t cast aside the primacy of the Word in exchange for platitudes, and my reading of the Scriptures was no less than on any given Sunday.  The only difference was that this time I did all my reading on my phone.

Reading the Bible on an electronic device is not a novel idea.  Bible apps for the iPhone have been around since the device began, and before that, as far back as two decades ago electronic Bibles could occasionally be seen in the pews. But sightings of the Franklin Electronic Holy Bible were as rare as the taped eyeglasses, short-sleeved dress shirts, and pocket protectors worn by its users.  And even today, at least in my circles, people overwhelmemingly use the traditional codex.

This wasn’t my first experience with using an iPhone or Blackberry-based application to read the Scriptures. I’m currently reading through the Bible daily using the Logos Bible app for the iPhone, and I’ve previously used my iPhone as a substitute text when in a pinch, like when carrying my kids precluded toting a leather bound Bible safely.

This time, I wanted to see what it was like to go all-in, and attend the Sunday morning service codex-free.  My app of choice was Crossway’s new ESV iPhone app, which has a navigation system better suited to virtually “flipping” back and forth through the text than the Logos app, which has better readability but an awful navigation system.

I used it both for teaching in my Sunday School class, and for reading along during the worship service.  Within such contexts, if felt odd, but that was mostly due to the “first time” factor.  Here are a few observations:

  • The temptation to check email, the internet, etc. wasn’t much of an issue, but the potential for distraction remains, and should not be ignored.  I’ve actually heard of pastors asking people to text them questions during the sermon  —- something even a technophile like me can’t understand.
  • A codex is still faster for navigating through the Bible.  If you ever did Bible drills as a kid, and you’re at least somewhat familiar with your Bible, you’ll find the passage you’re looking for faster in a bound paper Bible nine times out of ten.
  • I don’t usually write or take notes in my Bible, but this could be an issue for someone who does.  The ESV app and others do allow you to take notes, but I can’t see how this would be quicker than pen & paper.
  • The nagging feeling that people around you might think you’re checking your email rather than reading the text is, well —- nagging.

Have I converted?  No, not yet.  I’ll have my codex with me this weekend, but I do see myself increasingly using PDA Bible apps. I do wonder, however: if the PDA bible isn’t more traditional than a bound book?  After all, Jesus didn’t turn pages when he read the Scriptures, but, shall we say, scrolled.

What do you think? Will the days of Bible-thumping be succeeded by Bible-tapping?

More on: Books, Bible

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