Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Bible. . . Paper Book vs Tablet Screen. . . Is It An Issue? . . . .

There's a spirited and healthy discussion going on underneath a post I stuck up on my Facebook page the other day. I shared Matthew Barrett's thoughtful weigh-in on whether or not pastors should use a paper Bible or a tablet when they preach: "Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church." It's something youth workers should ponder as well. I thought the article was timely, thoughtful, insightful, and needed. That's why I passed it on. (I did, however, struggle a bit with some of Barrett's last point on "non-verbal communication" as it seemed to lean towards the kind of problems with showy praying in public that Jesus challenged in the Pharisees.) Still, I want people (parents, youth workers, pastors, etc.) to read Barrett's post because it's the kind of thoughtful speculation and pondering that needs to take place in a world where technological change is doubling every two years.

I'm more convinced than ever that when it comes to technology and how we embrace it, we need to ask the difficult questions. You know. . . stop. . . take a deep breath. . . think. Marshall McLuhan was right when he said "We shape our tools and then our tools shape us." And we don't find out how they shape us until years later. That's when we lament our lack of wisdom and foresight when we first shaped and embraced our tools. We didn't stop. We didn't take a deep breath. We didn't think. As a result, we didn't proceed with caution.

Do our tools shape us? Let me share something that I saw the other day that really got me thinking. I was in the last few miles of my bike ride on one of my most-traveled and familiar routes. After heading out into the farmland I came back through our town as I always do. As I'm laboring up the last big hill of the route, I saw a couple of middle school kids speeding down the hill on their bikes. They caught my attention for several reasons.

First, this was the same hill I was climbing three years ago on a hot summer afternoon when I took note of a huge, elaborate, wooden playhouse/swingset in a backyard. What struck me that day was that the playset was empty. Not a kid to be seen on it or near it. No noise of screaming, laughing, playing neighborhood kids. In fact, I realized that I hadn't seen or heard a kid on or near that thing the entire summer. Kids don't play outside like they used to. Could it be that they are inside on computers, video game systems, etc.?

Second, I was struck that I was even seeing kids outside and on bicycles. It's not the common sun-up to sundown reality that it was in a pre-digital world. (Am I sounding old yet?!?).

Finally - and here's the amazing thing - was that these two boys were flying down the hill with their hands off their handlebars. OK. . . we all did that when we were kids. But these kids weren't going "no-hands" for the thrill of it. In fact, they were also going "no-eyes." Both of them had smartphones in their hands and they were texting. The thought crossed my mind that I should grab my phone and snap a picture. . . but they went by way too fast. Maybe next time.

"We shape our tools and then our tools shape us." As Christians, we are called to be thoughtful. We are called to be God-honoring. We are called to be transformed, renewed, and counter-cultural. We do so because all of life is to be lived "coram deo". . . before the face of God and in the presence of God. So, let's take the time to stop. . . take a deep breath. . . think. . . talk amongst ourselves. . . debate. . . and do so in ways that save us the agony of future lament.

(We're working hard here at CPYU to think through these issues and offer helpful resources through our Digital Kids Initiative. Here's a link to a short list of helpful written resources that I'm recommending if you want to read further and hear what some very thoughtful folks are learning about technology and how it's shaping us."


Walt Mueller said...

Here are 3 additional books not yet listed in the link I provided above. I read these this summer. . . all excellent!

Boers, Arthur. "Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions." Brazos, 2012. The rapid growth of technology our willingness to engage with it around the clock has hindered our ability to be quiet, to reflect, to listen, to relate to one another, and to rest. Arthur Boers offers a convincing and engaging invitation to slow down and develop what he calls “focal practices.” This is a book that will help adults not only live their lives focused on giving glory to God, but will help them teach the young people in their lives to do the same.

Schuurman, Derek C. "Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture, and Computer Technology." InterVarsity Press, 2013. If our Christian faith is to be integrated into all of life, what does faith have to say about technology and how we use it? Schuurman looks at technology through the flow of biblical history – creation, fall, redemption, restoration – and offers sound advice on how to live with technology in ways that promote the Kingdom of God. This is a great book for anyone wondering what a Christian worldview has to do with computer technology.

Dyer, John. "From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology." Kregel, 2011. This book serves as a thoughtful and challenging primer on how to think Christianly about technology: how to use technology to the glory of God, how technology shapes us without us even knowing it, and how to manage technology while not allowing technology to manage and shape us in ways that are contrary to a biblical world and life view. This is a great book for youth workers and parents to read as you ponder how to speak intelligently about technology use with your kids.

Marcel said...

I absolutely agree with this article. Nothing like a paper Bible you can write in, highlight, and hold in your hand and against your chest. I am a youth pastor and I have never been comfortable pointing to my smartphone saying "you should live like the Bible says." Keep your reading books digital but your BIBLE paper. It makes a powerful statement.

Menno Jones said...

The printed bible shaped us too. In the days of the early church they were oral written bibles for the individual. They had to gather together to hear the word of God. Then the printed bible for everyone came on the scene and has contributed to the individualistic and fragmented church.