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I’ve noticed something lately. People just don’t bring physical, print Bibles with them anywhere. I’d guess most people exclusively read the Bible on their smartphones. In worship, Bible study, and youth group, I see youth and adults staring at their phones. Just like we’re always staring at our phones all the time.
As I noted above, I’m no technophobe. I have Bible apps, and I’m certainly not against those. I listen to the Bible on an app, and I use the Treasury of Daily Prayer on my phone. But I think we’re missing out on something great when we exclusively stop reading from a physical print Bible. I sense something in the air. In a digital world, I predict many will simply drift the way of giving up their digital Bibles without even thinking about it. So, here’s my defense: my top ten reasons to use a print Bible in a digital world, in order, from least to most critical.
10. It Requires Some Work
This may seem silly, but hear me out. Not pulling out your print Bible is the easy thing. It’s easy to stare down at a phone screen. We stare at screens all day. Sometimes, especially with the important things in life, doing something that requires some intentional work subliminally tells us that what we’re doing is important. It’s different. Bringing a Bible to church with you or opening a Bible for personal study requires you to do something different.
9. It’s Reliable
You know what’s in a print Bible. It won’t shut down with low battery power or a bad WiFi connection. It won’t automatically update or become obsolete in a year. This is good.
8. Notes and Memories
Ask to see the print Bible of someone who has used it for a long time, and you’ll see something cool. It will be filled with notes both new and old, as well as memories like bulletins or study guides or bookmarks from special people. All these help make your print Bible a legacy of your baptismal life.
Any tool used over time will grow familiar to you. We see this with our phones. With a print Bible, if you use it year after year, you’ll find you can look up passages and familiar verses very quickly and easily. You won’t even need to remember chapter and verse—you’ll just instinctively know where to turn.
6. It’s Closed
The digital world is an open expanse of information. God’s Word, however, is final. It’s done; we don’t need any more than God has given us. An opened print Bible on the table in front of you is a physical reminder of God’s epic salvation plan for His creation in Christ.
5. Wandering Eyes
Our eyes wander. Even when we’re focusing on a Bible passage during devotions or a Bible study, they will. On a phone, our eyes are likely to wander to other apps (you know you check social media if you’ve got your phone open). In a print Bible, our eyes will more likely wander elsewhere in the Bible. This is good! Let’s drift, daydream, and follow rabbit holes in God’s Word. You never know what you’ll find, especially with notes and asides in a study Bible.
4. It’s Yours; Take It with You
Like we said in point 6, a print Bible is reliable. But more than that, there’s something profound about holding a closed book in your hands. It’s yours to read, mark, and inwardly digest. In addition, if you use a Bible with study notes, you’ll know the source of the notes and nobody can change them on you without your noticing. Yes, phones are more portable, but you never feel like you’re actually embracing God’s unchanging Word the same way as you do with a book.
3. No Notifications!
Phones and tablets push notifications at you all day. Don’t you want a break from that? Try a print Bible that won’t automatically interrupt you all the time!
2. Sacred Space
Having a special book that you open for devotions, meditation, and study is very different from reading the small screen you use for all the other aspects of your life. Setting aside the screen to open up a book creates a sacred space for a time. In our busy world, it’s important to put the craziness aside for a while and just dig in. Fix your eyes on a page; read and reread it. Let go of the distractions and focus on God’s unchanging Word.
The greatest loss we’ve suffered from moving more exclusively toward digital delivery of God’s Word is a lack of context. When we only pluck out the verse or section we need for the study, we begin to lose sight of something. The Bible tells the story of God’s plan to restore creation through Christ. This plan happened in space and time, with real people, sinners called to repentance and granted forgiveness through God’s amazing promise. This is recorded in this library of books we call the Bible. This is God’s Word—sixty-six books written over hundreds of years. When we only pull this or that snippet out when reading, we miss how the books are connected. In addition, we easily lose sight of God’s salvation plan in its context. But something amazing happens when you open to a section and then flip back and forth through the pages with your fingertips. Yes, pulling out a bulky book isn’t the simplest option, but you can’t avoid the totality of the Bible. You gain perspective through paging through the genres, and you simply have to learn the order of things. In other words, when you use a print Bible you more easily engage the totality of God’s epic plan of salvation. As such, you can then better understand your place in it.
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