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iPad Ponderings

"Cool!"  That's what I told my husband. "I can't wait to get this thing!" This cool new iPad would look beautiful next to my iPod, iPhone, iTouch, iMac, PS3, PSP, DVR, and 4 TV's.  Yes, I could sit in bed and read a book with my iPad.  I could check my e-mails, my Facebook pages, and write a blog in between boring descriptions in the novel I am reading. As a consumer, I am giddy.  As a person who is supposed to be more analytical, I guess I need to stop and consider what this sweet-looking device means for the world.

First of all, Marshall McLuhan's voice rings in my ears...the medium is the message.  Well, the medium is a sleek, shiny gadget with a touch screen and colors that will make my book reading more toteable and certainly more sophisticated.  The message, however, may be that the multi-functional device will make my reading time multi-purposed. The upside is that I no longer need to spend my time JUST reading--imagine how much more productive I can be.  The downside, however, is that reading a book is one of the very few things I do that is concentrated, single purposed, and focused. The new iPad may be the next step in taking away what little focus I have left in my life.

The second possible problem is that this new gadget adds one more layer to the complexity and consumerism I like to call my modern life.  I hate to say it, but sometimes the simple things are the best.  As I search for more places to stuff my old phones, dead computers, analogue tv's, chords, adapters, and headphones, I can't help but wonder if I really need all this stuff.  After all, sometimes chopping an onion with a knife instead of a Ronco slicer-dicer might be the choice that simplifies my life. And sometimes reading in bed with a book--the old fashioned kind with real pages--may be the solution that keeps my bank account in better shape, my closet easier to use, and my life less complex. As hard as it is to say, sometimes I don't need the newest and the fastest and the best. Scripture has ALOT to say about how we spend our money.  (Something about where our treasure is our hearts will soon follow.)

So, does that mean that Steve Jobs has introduced just one more way to sabatouge our future and destroy our humanity?  Well, probably not. I guess it means, however, that I can wait a little while longer to see if this cool new toy will really add some value to my day or just clutter up an already overcrowded life.



The Changing Shape of Scripture: How Technology Impacts Our View of the Bible

I recently attended a lecture by Bible professor Dr. Michael Holmes at Bethel University.  He described how the physical form of the Bible has changed over history.  He left us with a question--how does the form of scripture impact how we use and understand it?  It is a great question highlighted by the attached Youtube video.

Take for example ancient tablets. These things were actual rocks with words carved on the flat surfaces.  Needless to say,  an entire set of writings would be pretty heavy.  As a result, very few communities had access to anything more than part of scripture.  The rest was communicated orally because most people couldn't read anyway. So the question is, how was their faith experience different? 

For one thing, scripture reading and teaching was a corporate event.  Individuals would have to depend on the priest to do the interpretation.  That gave a lot of power to the priest but also emphasized the community over the individual. Could you imagine never having the experience of sitting by yourself in a corner with your Bible and having a nice little quiet time? That contemplation happened in a group and it happened orally.  People had to memorize scripture if they wanted access to it ouside of the Sabbath.  In a certain sense, when someone memorizes and talks through scripture, it seems to stick. An oral approach to scripture certainly has some great benefits.

Once the printing press came, that oral culture began to change.  Individuals suddenly had access to their own Bible. Can you imagine how exciting that would have been to get your very own Bible? The Bible would be a precious thing.  Maybe that meant that each word was more precious than it is today, or maybe it meant that the Bible itself became something so precious it wasn't to be touched and certainly didn't apply to the trivial and dirty things of everyday life. The biggest change was that scripture reading became an individual event.  Individuals could read and interpret things on their own. It is possible that this one piece of technology did more than anything to move Christianity from a corporate to an individual experience.

So where does that leave us today? With the iPhone, we can read the Bible anytime and anywhere.  With Google and sites like, we have access to information about exegesis, archeology, history, translations, and various interpretations--all at our fingertips.  These new technologies certainly help us become more informed consumers of scripture.  I wonder, however, if they might not add to the fragmentation that seems to exemplify our culture. I know when I read my daily devotional, I often neglect to read more than a small passage.  I rarely put it in context with the overall flow of the entire scripture. It is also possible that when reading scripture takes the same form as Googling good Italian restaurants, the reverance of the Bible is lost. On the other hand, because the Bible travels with us, perhaps it will ultimately become more part of us. We don't have to stop and have a preplanned daily devotional time, we can have devotional time whenever we have a few minutes. Perhaps, as referenced in the Youtube video, the technology will just get in the way of the message. When it comes down to it, the Bible is an inherently text-based medium.  As our culture moves more toward images, I wonder how that will effect the discipline of daily reading and memorizing of words. Perhaps the ideas rather than the actual words will become more important.  Perhaps the stories will be more emphasized than the doctrine.

According to Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message.  If that is the case, the form the Bible takes really does make a difference. 

So where do you think we are headed?