Please Turn in Your iPads to John Chapter 1…


Perhaps one of the upsides of iPads and other tablets being incorporated into Christian worship services is that it draws attention to the details of worship services that are often overlooked. For centuries, Christians have taken for granted that a worship service will include some sort of reading or reference from the Bible–in the form of a book. Introducing iPads, tablets, and other e-readers into the worship service provokes somewhat of a cognitive dissonance in the worship experience.

“The tablet as a replacement for a hardcopy of the Bible sends an entirely different message to the congregation,” says Matthew Barrett, in his recent post, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church” for the Gospel Coalition. He argues that the physical presence–or absence–of the Bible in book form makes for a different worship experience and may send a mixed message to the congregation:

When the spatio-temporal nature of Scripture is replaced with a digital, even ephemeral, cyberspace text, there is an awkward inconsistency at play given the physicality of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the lineage of the Reformation, evangelicals have long affirmed at least three marks of the church and means of grace: the proclamation of God’s Word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Why not perform a baptism in private or take the Lord’s Supper alone? There is an essential corporate dimension to these somatic means of grace, as the church witnesses the gospel in the waters of baptism and together partakes of the flesh and blood of Christ represented in the elements. The materiality of these means visually remind us that we are accountable to this gospel and to one another.

Likewise with God’s Word. The Scriptures, preached and read, teach us, reprove us, and train us in righteousness so that we are equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If baptism and the Lord’s table become lifeless when we disintegrate their materiality, do we not risk a similar danger when we remove the spatio-temporal presence of the Word of God for the people of God? And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?

Evaluating the message that using an iPad or other tablet in a worship environment sends is an important step to understanding the underlying media environment that we live in. It raises interesting questions about the nature of Christian worship, ethics and living with a heavy emphasis on an incarnate Deity to a discarnate world.

Full Article at the Gospel Coalition: Dear Pastor, Please Bring Your Bible to Church

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Second Nature is an online journal for critical thinking about technology and new media in light of the Christian tradition. 


  1. martin cooke says:

    Logically we would all be bringing in scrolls? No – there would be one scroll at the front and the rest of us would be expected to know some bits off by heart. Pass it on orally.

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