ADVERTISING
 
Wednesday, October 23   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Charlee New
 

Devotional reading in the digital age

Digital reading, often by design, makes meditation difficult, because hyperlinks outward, continually refreshing newsfeeds and flashing ad banners are constantly encouraging us to move.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Charlee New 29 NOVEMBER 2017 16:03 h GMT+1
Many use the Bible app. / Rawpixel (Unsplash, CC)

In the 16th century, Western culture experienced a massive shift in how the general population engaged with the Bible. With the rising literacy rates, developments in print production and the translation of the Bible into vernacular languages, biblical literacy was on the rise—and the medium of engagement was the printed page.



The last several decades have seen the rise of a new medium, and a new form of literacy. For many of us, the initial response will be that reading on-screen often offers little difference to reading on the page, offering simply a representation of paper. However, the web-page and print-page are two fundamentally different mediums and as we do more and more of our reading digitally, it is shaping our reading practices. And since Christians have long-focused on the Word of God, we must be astute as to how our technologies affect our devotional reading practices.



 



1. Hyper-reading vs Meditation



What is hyper-reading? It’s a form of reading developed and evolved in the digital sphere, it relies heavily on practices such as filtering and skimming. The practices of hyper-reading have developed precisely because they are hugely helpful to the reader, who is often processing and assessing huge quantities of information, jumping from blog to newspaper to site, filtering advertising banners from articles, seeking relevant menu options, following links and more.



This type of reading is often held up against what is termed close or ‘deep’ reading, reading that involves ‘the slow and meditative possession of a book,’ it’s ‘a way of holding the self apart from the crush of the outer world,’[1] in effect, the type of reading that we would associate with biblical devotions.



So why do the different modes of reading matter? Because, as Psalm 1 tells us ‘Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.’ Digital reading, often by design, makes meditation difficult, often because hyperlinks outward, continually refreshing newsfeeds and flashing ad banners are constantly encouraging us to move, as opposed to pause. And we are re-wiring our brains to normalise moving swiftly though content.



 



2. But what about my Bible app? Is it really that bad?



In many ways, no, it’s not. The most popular Bible app (by YouVersion) has a clean interface, limited number of links, and a good reading mode. In many ways it acts as a simulation of paper Bibles. Not to mention it’s portable, you can access multiple translations and text-to-speech. It’s a uniquely helpful pocket Bible version for quick reference and easy-reading.



However, can we truly embrace a deeper, meditative mode of reading, one which allows us to reflect deeply with God on His word (and interweave that reading with prayer) on a device which is constantly connected and on which we engage in so much fast digital reading? Can we experience ‘depth’ when our practice on our phones is more often to skim in the shallows? Can we resist temptation to switch apps or look up notifications whilst reading the Bible?



Our paradigm for our relationship with God is Jesus, who frequently withdrew from the crowd to be with his Father. Today, the crowd is on our phone. Can we expect intimacy with God when reading via a device whose purpose is mass connectivity?



 



3. Let’s not be luddites



Use your paper Bible. Separate deep times of prayer and reflection from more ‘general’ reading or study, for which a Bible app is helpful and convenient. And as we learn to separate different mediums for different practices, we must pay particular attention to the next generation, the ‘digital natives’. If we, as adults, are grappling with issues of attention span, intentionality in Bible reading, meditation and reflection over the noise of contemporary media, then we at least have the memory, experience and training of being ‘unplugged’ readers. Many of them will require wisdom and guidance to inhabit ‘traditional’ devotional practices.



Finally, we must ask, what unexplored possibilities are there in the digital reading? This shift might well allow us to explore creative new ways to experience God. After all, we were not always a print-dependent culture. There were devotions and learning before mass-literacy, often through visual forms and community learning. Perhaps these might be areas in which we can re-learn forgotten practices.



Charlee New, Communications and Marketing Officer at the Jubilee Centre.



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.



 



[1] Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (1994), quoted in: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/reading-digital/0/steps/16832



 


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Devotional reading in the digital age
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Algerian Christians worship God as police arrives to close church Algerian Christians worship God as police arrives to close church

Video of the moment police officers enter a Protestant evangelical church near Tizi-Ouzou to close it. Church members do not stop singing, and peacefully resist later.

 
Porn exploits victims of human trafficking Porn exploits victims of human trafficking

The European Freedom Network launches a new anti-trafficking campaign: “You have no way of knowing if the porn you are looking at is from someone who chose to be there or not”.

 

 

 
What makes humans different to artificial intelligence machines? What makes humans different to artificial intelligence machines?

David Glass, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Ulster University (Northern Ireland) analyses whether a computer can have emotions or a conscious experience.

 
A tent of hope for Venezuelan refugees A tent of hope for Venezuelan refugees

Thousands still cross the border to Colombia every week, and many continue on foot into the interior. Christian young people have set up an aid station along the road.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.