In a recent blog, I was warning about the dangers of overusing cell phones (see here). In that blog, I made this passing comment about using cell phones for Bible study:
When I preach and ask people to follow along in their Bibles as I read a section of Scripture, I often see multiple people in the audience holding up their cell phones. They are reading the text on their phones. I do not like this trend. It is hard to underline or highlight or jot notes on your phone screen. Please bring your actual Bible to church.
I have received multiple responses from people over age sixty-five who disagree strongly with that statement.
The author of this blog doesn’t know Bible apps on cell phones. You CAN highlight and make notes on some apps. I am old, and my Bible app allows me to see far better than my paper and leather Bibles. My Kindle allows me to change backgrounds to increase legibility. It is NOT a negative thing for folks to use devices.
I seldom disagree with you, but this time I must. I frequently cut and paste pieces of your blogs and attach them to my phone Bible as a note to a given verse.
I am an avid Bible underliner, highlighter, and note taker and have completely worn out many Bibles through the years. I’m well into my seventh decade, and for several years now I’ve been creating my own personal study Bible on my iPhone. It syncs, by the way, with my larger iPad—automatically!
Many hours each day I’m doing screen time in my Bible app, where I’ve got commentaries, dictionaries, lexicons, concordances—the works. I’ve got GES books (including the newly revised commentary) downloaded to Kindle, where I’ve figured out how to snip out small portions of comment and paste them as notes into my (yes!) personal iPhone study Bible—easily and with no writer’s cramp, and not a single, underlined, note-heavy page has fallen out so far.
I’m currently going through Zane’s commentary on 1 John (which I took from him as a class back in the day). Taking notes during a Sunday sermon is never a problem. I can type to my phone screen much faster than I can write with a pen.
I take long several-mile walks each day, and guess what goes with me? I’m so embarrassed to say – my iPhone, and while walking I listen to favorite speakers, Bob Wilkin, Zane Hodges, my old classmates Bob Bryant and Tony Evans.
So, if I’m ever sitting in an audience where you’re doing the speaking, I’ll be the blushing one taking notes on my iPhone.
Love you, bro.
I was incorrect in saying that it is hard to highlight or make notes on your screen. While I find it more difficult than doing so in my physical Bible, I realize others have a different experience.
I should have indicated that my personal preference is to use an actual Bible (or journal, or commentary, or any book).
I have expensive Bible software (Logos 8.0) which allows notes and highlighting. But I prefer to make notes and highlight in the hardcopy Bible. I have never made a note or highlighted on Logos except during a training session.
Also, I see the text in a giant–print Bible better than I do the words on a phone app or my Kindle or Logos on my laptop.
Jane and Doug both illustrate that it is possible to read your Bible on a cell phone or tablet and get a lot out of it. The Bible does not forbid reading it on an electronic device! I imagine that Jane and Doug and others like them will have eternal rewards for using their cell phones or tablets to grow in the faith and to teach others God’s Word.
However, not everyone is like them. There are lots of people like me who get much more out of holding and reading a physical book.
Another problem with cell phones and church is that not everyone who is looking at his cell phone during the sermon is looking at the text of Scripture. Some, possibly many, are texting. A friend of mine who read my blog commented that he has noted many times in church when the people ahead of him are texting. He finds it distracting to watch others text during the sermon. And, of course, the person texting is distracted.
Use you own judgment on cell phone usage for Bible study, even during sermons. I may be the weaker brother here (Romans 14), but I do prefer that people in church use hardcopy Bibles and not electronic Bibles, whether I am the one speaking or someone else. But my preference is not a law. Our church, Victor Street Bible Chapel, does not forbid the use of cell phones during the Bible teaching hour or the Lord’s Supper. (I could see churches banning the use of cell phones for anyone under twenty-one. Many middle schools and high schools in the U.S. ban cell–phone use during class.)
One final comment. Last Friday night, I heard Dr. John Niemelä teach on Zoom. Part of what he said is that only 5% of the people in the first century were literate. He said that 95% of the believers in the first century only received God’s Word by hearing it read. And, of course, almost no individuals had copies of the OT or NT in their possession. Churches possessed the Scriptures. Today we have a wealth of God’s Word. We can own interlinears of the Hebrew OT and Greek NT. We can own many different translations into English (or most of the languages of the world). These resources can not only be paper copies, but they can be electronic as well. Elon Musk wants to go even further. He wants to put a computer chip in your brain. It probably is not more than a few years away when you will not need a laptop or tablet to make phone calls, text, or access books. You can have the Bible on a chip in your brain. You probably will be able to do Bible study in your head, with no device needed.
I will not be getting a chip in my brain. Call me old-fashioned, but I like reading and learning the old-fashioned way.