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Bible Engagement and Technology

Have you ever wondered what the impact of technology will be on Bible engagement in the future? When Star Trek visualized the holodeck, holosuite and holoprograms it opened the eyes of my imagination. I pictured a hologram with me in the crowd watching Elijah face off with the prophets of Baal. I envisioned bringing him a bucket of water to drench the offering and altar. Then, as God sent fire to consume the offering the sensors in my holosuit ignited feelings of heat, causing me to involuntarily shield my face.

Far fetched? Maybe not. Technology is developing by leaps and bounds. Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired, believes our technological advances will make the previous 20 years pale in comparison (cf. Business Insider).

Twenty years ago computers and the world wide web were in their infancy. E-commerce was being launched and CD-Rom drives were replacing floppy disks. Smart phones didn’t exist. Their forerunner, the IBM Simon, was available at a cost of $899 (US). It had a battery life of one hour.

Twenty years ago the Bible was mainly accessed as a printed document. Bible Gateway, a website for reading and searching for different versions and translations of the Bible, was in the early stages of making the Scriptures available online (started by Nick Hengeveld in 1993). Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) existed but it was only in 2004 with the creation of Facebook that we could easily share Bible texts with multiple friends via social media. The YouVersion Bible App didn’t exist (Bobby Gruenewald launched it in 2008).

Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corporation, in a 1965 paper, observed that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. “Moore’s Law” is still proving true. In 15 years, at the current rate of Moore’s Law, the average laptop (if they still exist) will be computing at the same rate as the human brain. This will potentially pave the way for synthetic human brain transplants.

iRobot and friends will soon be impacting society in an extraordinary way. Robotics and artificial intelligence technology is advancing rapidly. We’re presently living in the decade of biotech, but the next decade will certainly be the decade of AI and robotics (cf. Mashable).

In the next 10 years “big data” (the new buzzword) will release data from language to make it machine-readable and recombine it in an infinite number of ways that we’re not even thinking about (cf. Kelly). Universal translation will become commonplace in mobile devices.

Augmented reality glasses, ultra thin flexible OLED screens and self-driving cars are on the way (cf. NBC News). A Sony engineer told me last year that televisions will be replaced by small projectors that form their own virtual screens against any physical background. And, according to two analysts with the IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters; solar power will be the largest source of energy on the planet, electric micro-commercial aircraft could serve as taxis, and research into quantum teleportation will be underway (cf. Pacific Standard).

So will there be a holographic Bible? Maybe! Oculus Rift Technology is exploring “immersive cinema … with real time story-driven VR experiences that let the viewer step inside and become part of the story.”

Microsoft’s existing technology, HoloLens, also holds potential. It enables texts and images to be placed on real world backgrounds (cf. Christianity Today). But the technology has a long way to go. Software design is outpacing hardware development. Existing holographic glasses are in their infancy. Yet even in these early stages it’s speculated that HoloLens could usher in “widespread, transformative, digitally assisted Bible study” and “a holographic Bible or Bible study library” (cf. The Christian Post).

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5

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Bible Engagement and Evangelism

In Canada in 2002, 34% of 15-29 year olds said religion was important to them. Seven years later it had dropped to 22% and continues to decline (Statistics Canada General Social Survey). This isn’t something new – faith in Canada and the USA has been on a significant downturn since the early seventies. In fact disaffiliation by generation continues to rise exponentially. The painful reality: 29% of Canadians born in 1987-1995 say they have “no religion” compared to 4% of Canadians born in 1946 or earlier (cf. Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Centre).

I wish the news was different. For decades I’ve prayed for a revival of faith. My heart yearns for the salvation of the lost. But as the years march on the ranks of secularism swell.

So for those of us who long for a resurgence of faith, is there something we can do? Well that depends on when you ask me! On my down days I tell God it’s not my problem, it’s His! He’s sovereign. He’s the only One who can incline people to know and love Him. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). I have a part to play. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 (NIV).

“Someone preaching to them”. We rarely do this outside our church buildings and sometimes don’t do it inside! Alarmingly, evangelism seems to have fallen on hard times. Our churches elevate preachers and teachers, but where are the evangelists? We say the Gospel is important, but who are we evangelizing? We have marriage seminars, pot-luck suppers and fun events for youth, but to whom are we proclaiming the Good News of salvation?

Questions are vital precursors to dealing with problems. Why is it that only one in three young people, who attended church as children, still do so today? (cf. Hemorrhaging Faith Report, 2012). Ed Stetzer says, “The young adults who do drop out of church often lack a firsthand faith – a faith of their own – and a relationship with Christ that matters deeply in their own personal life apart from their parents’ pressure.” (cf. The Real Reason Young Adults Drop Out of Church, LifeWay Research)

A “firsthand faith”. While there are other reasons for young adults leaving church, this must surely be the one that demands our immediate attention.

So how do we help children and youth take ownership of a “firsthand faith”? If I understand the essence of Douglas Hall’s theology (cf. Thinking the Faith), faith isn’t faith unless it’s an informed faith. Faith that is Christian must begin in, live with, and be nurtured by the Scriptures. In order for children and youth to take God seriously, to own their faith, they must connect with the Word.

The biblical mandate is explicit: “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it: “Get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside of your children” (Msg).

Whatever way we look at it, Bible engagement is integral to evangelism and evangelism is integral to Bible engagement. To embrace a relationship with Christ that matters deeply requires a deep commitment to the Scriptures. Simply stated, if children and youth are going to develop a faith of their own, we must do everything we can to help them listen to and submit themselves to the Scriptures.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5

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