Why You Shouldn’t Use Your iPhone as Your Bible
- Kelly O'Dell Stanley Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2016 26 Sep
I adore my iPhone. I’ve had at least five or six different ones over the years. In fact, I’m a Mac girl through and through. As a graphic designer, I use a big desktop Mac Pro, an iPad, and a MacBook Air. I love the latest technology. I’m lost without my iPhone, and I use it almost constantly.
And yet I’ve discovered that there are several compelling reasons not to use your iPhone as your Bible.
There are some times when it makes sense to do so—like when you’re quickly looking up a specific verse reference. When you want to use the app with the built-in concordance so you can see the root of the word in its original language. When you are sitting in the school pickup line and have five minutes to kill. When you want to read a verse in a different translation. Or when you simply run out of room in your bag and decide not to carry your big, heavy Bible with you. There’s no question that a Bible app is convenient and compact. There are benefits to using them.
But when my mom was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer, and I was alone in my empty church, praying in front of the altar, I didn’t want an iPhone. I needed the comforting heft of my worn study Bible. The way it flopped open in my lap and sat there, filled with compassion. The softness of the pages turning as my hands softly fanned the corners, over and over, the gilded edges dull and faded. The words I’d penciled in the margins. The notations about answered prayer and scriptures God led me to. I sighed, wiped my eyes, cried some more, and flipped through the book, letting my eyes linger on words like hope and love and victory.
When I had exhausted my words that day, I lay on the floor, tears still flowing, my Bible serving as my pillow. I literally rested on the promises of God, needing the comfort of this object that represented so much of my faith.
Sure, the same words that comforted me in my Bible are in every Bible phone app. And yes, God speaks through His word, whether it’s spoken, written on a page, or programmed into an app. But consider these reasons why you might want to reach for your physical Bible instead.
Your Bible can serve as a chronicle of your personal faith journey.
If you jot down meaningful insights from lessons, write the names of those for whom you’ve prayed a certain Scripture, or circle verses that resonate in your soul regarding a specific situation, the Bible becomes more than a book of God’s word. That would be enough, even so. But with these notes, the Bible becomes a tool to help build your faith. To remind you of all the times you’ve seen God be faithful, all the ways you’ve experienced the reality of God’s love. So every time you open it, you are reading a tangible record of your faith, proof of God’s active presence. Those are things that are sometimes difficult to measure.
You rarely open the Bible to the exact verse you’re looking for—and that’s a good thing.
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It may be frustrating trying to remember where 2 Kings is or recall what order the books of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians are in. But as you turn the pages to find a specific verse, you will pass by a bunch of other pages. What that means is you may discover other meaningful verses as you search. A word might grab your attention, making you start to read in a different spot than you planned, and that might very well be exactly the message God wanted to convey to you. When you search through your Bible, your hand-written sermon notes or printed annotations may expound on a verse or topic. You may start with one verse but then keep going, reading the whole chapter and ending with a better understanding of the context. You can do some of these things with an app, but the process isn’t as seamless or as open-ended.
Our minds retain the content from a physical book better than what we read on-screen.
Studies have shown that this is true, most likely because our brains see the devices as temporary and because screens eliminate the physical context of the words (how it looked and where it is on the page). We’ve trained our brains to be comfortable scrolling through our newsfeeds and glancing at headlines, so when we read the Bible in that context, the words in the app don’t have the same impact. We get the most from Scripture when we let our minds and souls absorb the concepts—when we dwell on the meanings of the words, the nuances, and what God wants us to do as a result. And that takes time.
Setting apart an object designates it as important.
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A common definition of the word “holy” includes the idea of an object being set apart. If you’re like me, your iPhone is a critical part of your daily life. It may be your scheduling device, alarm clock, favorite diversion (games), communications device (email, phone, text), banking facilitator, to-do list, and camera.
Of course, God is present in all areas of our life, whether we access them on-screen in the midst of a crowd or experience them in the wilderness where no phone signal will ever reach. But when we make an effort to separate God’s Word from the clutter and busyness of life, we’re telling God—and reminding ourselves—that it is special. Important. That He matters to us. God speaks to us even today through the Bible, and when I read His words out of a physical book, they become weightier. Stronger. More permanent. More tangible.
And, as an added bonus, when we read our Bibles, we won’t be interrupted by Facebook notifications, texts, or the email a colleague just sent. Instead, if we’re fortunate, we’ll hear from the One who directs us on this journey. The One who longs to plant deep within us the truth of His love for us. The One who is holy, magnificent, and set apart. The One we’ve been seeking all along.
Kelly O’Dell Stanley is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. A graphic designer who writes (or is it a writer who designs?), she's also a redhead who’s pretty good at controlling her temper, a believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith. She blogs at kellyostanley.com and calls small-town Indiana her home.
Publication date: September 26, 2016