As digital reading habits rewire our brains, how will we process the Bible differently?
Christianity is a religion of the Word. Christians are a “People of the Book.” These distinctives have defined the Christian faith from the beginning, even before the age of print that brought us books. As we enter what many are calling a post-literate age, pastors can help remind people that the essence of the Christian faith centers on the Word (and words).
From the carving of the Ten Commandments to the writing of the Torah to the copying and distribution of letters in the early church, God’s plan was for his people to read. However, as the way we read in this digital age changes, so too the character of the church will change. How will those reading habits affect the way we interact with the Bible? How will the way people read the Bible alter the church body?
A Unique Relationship with Words
Long before the printing press and widespread literacy, God was cultivating a relationship with his chosen people focused on the written word. The words God carved into stone at Mount Sinai included a caution against images, setting up a peculiar word-based relationship with his followers that contrasted starkly with the image-worshiping pagan nations surrounding the Israelites (an observation made by Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death).
This trend continues through church history, according to David Lyle Jeffrey in People of the Book. Medieval paintings frequently depict Mary, other biblical figures, and church fathers holding the Bible. Such images, even—or especially—when anachronistic (bound books did not exist when Mary bore Christ), symbolize the centrality of reading to Christian faithfulness and point out the concrete, tangible nature of the Word. In many of these paintings, the subject is …