To clear, I am a fan of iPad (Steve Jobs never said an iPad or the iPad just iPad). I am a fan of reading books, blogs, articles, magazines, and journals on iPad. I am a fan of bringing your iPad to church and using a Bible app to follow along and takes notes during the sermon. I use iPad daily for work, notes, and reading.
You get my point.
The one thing I am not a fan of using iPad for is reading the Bible on a regular basis. If iPad is your primary means of reading and studying the Bible you should repent now! Just kidding. I am not that serious about it. But let me share with you a few reasons why I’ve abandoned iPad as my primary means of reading and studying the Bible. I read the entire New Testament in 30 days using iPad and I’ve tried just about every Bible app available, so I speak from experience.
I am grateful for the people who’ve worked hard to provide the Bible for iPad, especially Crossway for the ESV app and YouVersion, both of which I refer to and recommend regularly. The benefits of reading on iPad are many. There is the convenience, the quick access to verses or chapters, and the pristine look of the words on the screen, to name a few. Again, I am totally for using the Bible on iPad, just not as the primary means of reading Scripture. With that said, here are my reasons for suggesting this.
Lose Touch With History
People bled and died for the Bible to be translated, copied, and put in the hands of ordinary Christians. There is something about reading the Bible electronically that, to me, loses touch with this. Being able to hold, touch, hear, and smell the Book connects us with thousands of Christians before us who either did the same thing or longed to do so. Reading primarily on iPad puts the Bible on the same level as any other book or blog you happen to be reading. While I don’t think dipping yourself seven times in the Jordan River is required to read the Bible, I do think there should be something that sets it apart from how we read other books. Again, just my opinion.
You Can’t Throw It
I must confess that during times of wrestling with God and begging Him to move in my life, I’ve gotten aggressive with my Bible. I’ve rolled it up. I’ve slammed it down. I’ve folded it open. I’ve tossed it aside in frustration. I’ve spilled coffee on it. While preaching I’ve lifted it up, squeezed it, slammed my hand on it, and probably turned the pages way too quickly. You can’t do this with iPad!
You Can’t Mark It
I know you can highlight and makes notes in Bible apps. But you are limited. You can’t actually take a pencil and write down notes or prayers. You can’t circle words or underline them or draw arrows to other words. Writing with your hand makes you slow down, think, ponder. Handwriting forces you to process what you are writing. Typing allows you to write more rapidly and increase productivity. But Bible reading is not about productivity, its about receiving, listening, and soaking in God’s Word.
iPad alerts you for almost anything, emails, texts, news, tweets, messages, etc. Reading the Bible is spiritual warfare. Anything that can distract us, will distract us. I have enough distractions to fight through when I am reading Scripture. Reading from iPad gave me more so I put it down.
Most Bible apps have social networking options for Facebook and Twitter. You can share or tweet verses as you read them. Of course I don’t want to assume that every tweeted verse is done from wrong motivations, but sometimes we can immediately share something too quickly and not ponder it ourselves. We can tweet or Facebook verses to remind others that we are reading Scripture, or perhaps use the Word to purposely offend someone we know will be reading our timeline. This can be dangerous.
No One Knows You’re Reading Scripture
If you are in public, say Starbucks or your office, reading the book of Romans from iPad, no one will know that you are reading the Bible. In some cases this can be a good thing. But a visible Bible can often stir up conversations from either non-Christians who might be wrestling with faith or with Christians who need encouragement and exhortation. iPad makes Bible reading incognito.
You Can’t Tear It Up
A missionary cannot tear iPad Bible apps into different sections and distribute them to Christians hiding from authorities in countries where Christianity is illegal or under severe persecution. I am not sure how often this happens, but I’ve heard stories similar to this.
You Read Too Quickly
iPad makes for quick reading. I can scan through blogs, Twitter timelines, and news apps at lightning speed. When I pick up iPad, I plan on doing something quickly. I noticed that when I read the Bible on iPad I did the same thing. My finger wanted to keep scrolling down the page at a pace my eye could not keep up with. Some people may be able to meditatively pick through chapter and verse, but not me.
You Can’t Learn Layout of Bible
An actual Bible allows you to see large portions of Scripture in a few pages. This way you can see what comes before and after a passage and the overall layout of the book. iPad limits how much of a chapter or book you can see. This makes it difficult to recall where certain passages are if you’re a visual person like me. I can’t always remember the exact verse or chapter where a particular phrase or sentence is found, but I can usually visualize where it is on the page in my Bible. Of course we want to memorize all we can, but the Bible is a big Book!
Your Children Can’t See You Reading Scripture
My son gets up pretty early in the morning and often he finds me in my chair reading the Bible. I realized one day when I was reading from my iPad that he had no clue I was reading Scripture. He knows what a Bible looks like now and I want him to see his dad reading God’s Word on a regular basis. I want him to know that no other book is more important than the Bible.
You Can’t Go Outside
The fatal flaw of iPad is that its terrible in sunlight. This makes reading the Bible outdoors very difficult.
It Probably Won’t Be At Your Funeral
This is perhaps the biggest argument of all. I want my worn, torn, and marked-up Bible to be used by the preacher at my funeral. I cannot imagine him using my iPad! I want a lifetime of Bible reading to be the legacy I leave to my children and grandchildren. As much as I like my iPad, it just won’t cut it.
The Bottom Line
I am sure there are objections to what I’ve said here. My goal is not to offend but simply to provoke thought. The main issue is that we are to be in the Word as much as possible. If iPad or some other electronic device is what works for you, then by all means use it. Perhaps what I’ve said here has been helpful though. Feel free to comment, critique, or commend. Just be nice.