Sunday, August 25, 2013

iPads in the altar

From the Bible Design Blog a post entitled iPads in the Pulpit. I'm actually a long-time reader of this blog as it rather reliably enjoyable reading on what many would think to be a dry, uninteresting topic.

Writing for the Gospel Coalition blog, Matthew Barrett shared the concern earlier this week that the replacement of physical Bibles with iPads in the pulpit, while a “subtle shift,” comes with several potential dangers. His post –– "Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church" –– got a lot of people thinking, which is to say, it got them riled up.

An iPad in the pulpit, Barrett contends, sends a different message than a physical Bible to the congregation, because people associate the iPad with media consumption. The physical book we now think of as the text, whereas we still distinguish between the e-reader, a technological device for consuming the text, and the text itself. When the pastor flashes his iPad, we see the device, not the Bible.

Barrett also shares the concern of many culture critics that the use of e-books contributes to the problem of illiteracy. The way we experience the text via a Bible app leaves us with less of a sense of the big picture, how the whole book fits together. And because the virtual text is disembodied, its symbolism seems at odds with Christian theological values: “as physical beings who gather together as an assembly in a tangible place,” isn’t it strange to replace the physical book with a multi-use e-reader? Might not the physicality of baptism and the Lord’s Supper be set in uncomfortable relief when the proclamation of the Word loses its physical touchstone? Not to mention, the use of e-readers removes the physical proclamation inherent in carrying a physical Bible into the world. People see your printed Bible and react to it very differently than they do to your iPad...

Complete post here.


  1. I will admit that I too read the Bible Design Blog, and I enjoyed this post when I read it a few days ago. My immediate reaction was, first, I really would rather not see e-readers in the altar. There's just something inappropriate with that. The medium is the message. That being said, I suppose it's only a matter of time before I see someone doing it. God grant that it not catch on. A Kindle on the Holy Table . . . just inconceivable.

    Second - while I enjoy using my e-reader for the occasional novel, that's about all I can use it for. Novels are linear, and linear works well with an e-reader. Most of my reading seems to involve having four to ten books out at once, along with a scattering of lexicons, etc. You just can't do that on an e-reader.

    This is particularly the case with Bibles. I just can't read the Bible on a e-reader, because it seems too linear. The only page that "exists" in any practical way is the page in front of your. I want to see everything at once, to have everything at my fingertips at once. Now maybe if I had ten e-readers . . .

    E-readers also don't seem to work so well for slow, meditative reading, "ruminatio," as the Latins called it. A page of paper, or a page of vellum, is just a better medium for deep reflection.

    1. BTW, if you haven't read it already, I highly recommend Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death.