Hard copy and electronic bibles: The Christian and the challenge of new and emerging online technology


By John S. Quaisie

In today’s world, where new and emerging technology enables us to do business in more efficient and smarter ways and promote more efficient communication and documentation, Christians are confronted with the challenge of how to make appropriate and wise decisions, as we seek to promote the Kingdom business in more creative and innovative ways.

The Christian iIdentity

One day, in 1994, I had an interesting interaction in the United States of America.  I was on an official trip to the Head Office of World Vision International in Monrovia, California.  A couple of days after my arrival, on a Sunday morning, I set off from my hotel room and headed for the reception area, to meet a Ghanaian Christian friend, who had invited me to his Church. As I walked towards the reception, I heard someone shout behind me,

“Praise The Lord.”

I turned to look at the person.  It was an African-American lady.  I asked her how she was so certain I was a Christian.  She smiled, expecting me to have known the answer.  She pointed to the Bible in my hand,

“But you are holding a Bible!”

She informed me that she and members of her Christian group had come to California to attend a Christian programme.  We engaged in a short time of interaction and shared our Christian experiences.

The case for hard copy bibles

The incident cited above brings to mind one important question:

  • How can the Christian make effective use of the hard copy Bible and also take advantage of emerging online technological tools and devices to interact meaningfully with the Gospel message?

In our modern time, many Churches and individuals tend to rely solely on the electronic version of the Bible, in their daily interaction with the Word of God. The excuse is that the e-version of the Bible is easier to use and has more options for reference study.

Recently, at a family event in Accra, I met a Ghanaian Christian lady who is an active member of an evangelical Church in the United States of America.  She had come to Ghana to visit her mother.  I had a good time of interaction with her on the subject of information and communication technology and the application of digital devices in the Church.  She stated that her Church makes regular use of modern technology in its programmes and activities.

I asked to know about the percentage of members of her Church who bring their hard copy Bibles to Church.  She hesitated, in attempt to recall to memory how many people had carried hard copy Bibles to Church in recent times.  Finally, she concluded,

“I don’t remember seeing any member handling the hard copy Bible in Church in recent times.  The congregation would always have the advantage of the digital screens, and individuals easily make Scripture references on their phones or tablets.”

I ventured to ask about members of the clergy and their use of the hard copy Bibles.  She replied,

“In the pulpit, our pastors make use of the hard copy Bible”.  It was quite refreshing to hear that.

I proceeded with another question, “Would you advise your friends in the Church to take their hard copy Bibles to Church?”

She answered, “Most of my friends don’t even have the hard copy Bibles at home.”

Is this going to be an emerging reality in the global Christian community?

My recent observation at some Christian gatherings – including Sunday Service, anniversary celebrations, weddings, funerals – paints an emerging common practice:  A great number of young people who attend Church and other Christian gatherings leave their hard copy Bibles at home and make use of the e-Bible on their phones and tablets.

There is no doubt that today’s internet resource offers us an ideal opportunity to access a wide range of Biblical materials and references, at tremendous speed.

On the other hand, some believers find it spiritually refreshing to relate to the hard copy Bible.  They can write important notes in their Bibles and refresh their memories with critical verses which they highlight in the Holy Word.

Advantages of electronic bibles

Today, in normal times, the internet facilities serve us in exciting ways.  Some time ago, the time space and effort we allocated to referencing, in terms of applied study and research, were quite enormous.  If we needed books which could not be found in private and public bookshops and libraries in our communities or in the country, we would direct our search overseas.  Quite often books ordered from abroad would take a long time to be delivered. Today, the story is totally different.

Increase in knowledge

On the subject of new dimensions of knowledge, the prophetic message in the Book of Daniel states,

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4 KJV).

We find this Scripture very much applicable in our age and time.  The Lord God has blessed us with knowledge and skills which we can apply to improve our lives and our environment.  When we hear scientists state, in a mood of excitement, “we have discovered that…”  it points to the fact that what has been discovered was already in existence before it was discovered.  God Himself decides when to reveal what knowledge to humankind.

In the Book of Habbakuk, we read,

For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry” (Habbakuk 2:3 NKJV).

In God’s own time, He decides to reveal and make available for our use, additional knowledge, talents, skills and new ways to enable us carry out our mission on this earth. The important lesson is for Christians to use all God-given knowledge, skills and talents in a way that will glorify The Name of The LORD.

In our world today, the use of the internet, helps us gain easy access to important information needed for critical study and research, within a very short time space.

  • Scripture referencing has now become quite easy. We can move from one version of the Bible to other versions – eg. King James, New King James Version, New International Version, Good News Bible etc. – with relative ease.
  • Using the online tablet, some preachers are able to make references to different versions of the Bible right from the pulpit.
  • The Church’s ICT Team is also able to project Bible passages in different versions and languages within a short time space.
  • We can have direct access to a variety of Bible Commentary Books online without much difficulty.

Emergency and challenging situations

On the other hand, times and seasons seem to be changing the course of world events.  Situations such as conflicts and regional wars, with their devastating effects, do occur in some parts of the world, from time to time.  During such times, many people are denied critical resources, including food, shelter and clothing, as well as access to modern online communication facilities.

  • When power (electricity) is turned off for a long time and access to data becomes impossible, we realize how important it is to keep the hard copy Bible with us as a treasured item.
  • In prisons, where there is limited access to online channels of communication, the hard copy Bible would be very helpful to inmates.

The modern and future world, with its unpredictable events, calls for Christians to be well-equipped at all times, with both electronic and hard copies of the Bible – the precious Word of God – the Christian’s critical resource.

Documentation and record keeping

It is amazing to read detailed records of events, documented by individuals and groups of people in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  We can see examples such as the Ten Commandments and the genealogical record of important personalities.

  • Good documentation and effective record-keeping saved Mordecai, Esther and the Jewish population from destruction by their enemies (Esther Chapter 6).
  • Luke presents a systematic record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, dating back to the creation of the human race, beginning with Adam (Luke 3:23-38).

The need to diversify

Considering the unstable nature of times and seasons, with their unpredictable events, it is important to diversify our approach to information processing and record-keeping.  In times of emergencies and crisis, when the unexpected happens and we are deprived of critical online resources, we should be able to have access to hard copy records and documents which will help us, in our desire to live consistent Christian lives and enjoy fellowship with The Lord.

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Various views have been expressed by believers, on the use of Soft Copy Bibles in Church and at home.  In his internet blog captioned Newton Paul’s Blog, Newton Paul shares his views on the subject of Hard Copy Bible and Soft Copy Bible.  The author acknowledges the importance of new and emerging technology.  On the other hand, he expresses serious concern with regard to Christians trying to move away from the use of hard copy Bibles.

“Swag on the other hand is a major reason why we have decided to leave our hardcopy Bibles under the shelves at home and go with a tablet while some people are shy of being seen with hard Bible.” (Newton Paul’s Blog October 10 2014).

Newton Paul reminds Christians of the need to identify with Christ Jesus and stand up boldly for Him in all situations. He brings to focus Jesus’ warning in Mark Chapter 8.

“…Whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels”(Mark 8:38. NKJV).

On the subject, “Soft Copy Bible vs Hard Copy Bible”,  Gavin Aleogho states, in his online blog,

“Change in life is inevitable. As believers, I believe we shouldn’t be afraid of change. We must learn to embrace change as it comes and use it to our advantage.” (Newton Gavin Aleogho’s World – May 16 2016),

He goes further to state,“I tend to hold the opinion that carrying the hard-copy Bible, shows your level of commitment, seriousness and dedication to your faith, especially in such a time, when many so-called Christians are ashamed of carrying their Bible in the public, so as not to be tagged religious and zealous.”

The end times

The Bible warns us about the evil and deceitful plans of the devil, as we move closer to the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  In this age of digital dictatorship by a small minority of powerful elite, we Christians must exercise great caution and make informed choices, when it comes to the use of online tools and materials.  We should certainly avoid the unwholesome consumption of online materials which tend to do more harm to our faith.

It is important for Christians to make use of the opportunities which modern and emerging technology offers in the area of Biblical resources and Christian research.  On the other hand, we should, as believers, also have available hard copy versions of the Bible and make serious use of them at regular times. In our desire and determination to take advantage of modern and emerging online tools and resources, we must also ensure that the materials we source from the internet respect the authentic and undiluted Word of God, the Holy Bible.

The writer is a Member, Bethel Methodist Church, West Adenta.

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