The Strange Value of the Internet Bible

As everyone who knows me well is aware, I have often not been a fan of the Internet. However, the Internet is very much like atomic energy. Used properly, there are great blessings. Used in a less than desirable fashion, it is accompanied by great sadness. Recently a student asked me the question, “Do you mind if we follow the Bible reading in chapel on our iPhones (I’m sure iPads and other contrivances could be included)?” My response might have startled him a bit, but I informed him that I was not in the least offended by such.

Why would I be a proponent of reading Scripture on an iPhone?

  • First, I can carry my Greek New Testament and two or three of my favorite translations on my iPhone without necessitating a horse and saddlebag. This is, of course, a substantive advantage in availability of resources.
  • Second, I can read all this in total darkness. The Word literally becomes light. Maybe not everyone needs this advantage; but when I am in a tent on a hunting trip or someplace else where lighting is not readily available, I could not read my Bible without the benefit of carrying it on my iPhone.
  • Third, when traveling I can carry an entire library of helps. Olive Tree, Logos, and other such programs make available to me more extensive resources than I ever had before. This advantage again assists me in the appropriate and helpful reading of my Bible, including access to lexicons, which I have always used extensively but now I am able to take them with me.
  • Finally, being able to view the Bible on my iPhone provides me with the opportunity for both memorization of the text and meditation upon it. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to suggest that both meditation and memorization are particularly enhanced by the availability of the Bible on an iPhone.

Does that mean that there are no downsides to the use of an iPhone to read Scripture? There are certainly liabilities. In former years, we gained a pretty good idea of the spiritual knowledgeability and indeed even the spiritual life of the church based on how many Bibles we saw when we walked into the sanctuary. The presence of Bibles in the hands of the parishioners was usually a sure indication that the preacher was following text-driven preaching principles, and it was also an indication that the members were studying the Bible and not some aspect of human behavior in Sunday School. Unfortunately, the substitution of the Bible in hand for the text of Scripture on the iPhone for the most part is not proving to be a positive factor in the future of our churches.

What is apparent is that there are clearly more advantages than disadvantages. So, just as I have always been an advocate of translation, though my endorsements of modern translations are few, so I am an advocate of the Bible on iPhone. But in the process of using this technology we must remember to distinguish the sacred words of Scripture from the technology and academic content of the iPhone. And for an old country preacher like me, there will always be on my desk and in my hand at church an actual leather-bound copy of God’s Word. God bless you as you read, study, memorize, and meditate on the Word on the Lord.


Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Follow him on Twitter @_PPatterson_.