The Bible unbound

"The Bible unbound" Continued...

Issue: "The other campaign," Feb. 9, 2008

Most industry leaders echo Mitchell's call for innovation. Stephen Johnson, an engineer at Olive Tree Bible Software, sees a future of Bible programs functioning seamlessly across disparate mobile platforms. In such an arena, translation publishers stingy with their content could get left behind.

Sean Boisen, an information architect for Logos, envisions new Bible study tools building on the concept of zoomable user interfaces. He has developed a prototype for approaching text in the same manner that Google Earth navigates the globe. Laying out all of Scripture on a single canvas, Boisen believes, would allow users to zoom in or out for varying degrees of detail without sacrificing visual context as when flipping pages or reloading screens.

But, again, such innovations raise questions: Might software that promotes individual mastery of Scripture diminish the need for community study? And should Christians even contribute to the culture's obsession with multimedia input, offering yet another stream of the kind of continual technological noise that threatens the discipline of silence?

Mark Miller, the director of communications at City of Grace church in Mesa, Ariz., doesn't see it that way. He views digital technology and web applications as an unstoppable force in which Christians must participate to remain relevant. Miller embraces social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to enhance community between believers and reach out to the unconvinced.

City of Grace envisions a web presence where Christian copies of pop-culture videos and entertainment sit alongside Bible software and sermon podcasting. Miller believes the interactive nature of web 2.0 technology "adds features to the Christian life."

Taking a more critical approach, Zack Hubert, pastor of technology at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, cautions Christians against adopting the new definition of community popularized with online social networking sites: "The whole 'friending' structure is a violation of core community principles. Nobody has 20,000 friends. If some people have their life on Facebook, as many college students do, and they've stopped there and aren't forming the real physical relationships where they can challenge each other, then that is a major detriment to the gospel and to culture."

Hubert's vision for web 2.0 in the church is built on connecting people in their local contexts-a neighborhood rallying to care for a single mom, a group of carpenters joining to learn how the Scriptures bear on their vocation.

Most ministers, including Miller, agree that the church should use technology differently than the secular world. Whether that difference is limited to content or includes structure is a point of some disagreement. Technology is morally neutral. But to the extent that it delivers the word of God, it is good.


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