Because of technological advancements within society, the evangelical community faces a dilemma as people begin to undergo the effects of the “twilight of print book culture.” In his lecture discussing what the future holds for the Bible in the modern age, Dr. Timothy Beal addressed the issue that today may be “the end of the word as we know it.” This expression emphasizes the fear that preservation of traditional Bible reading may begin to fade as the digital world becomes more of a reality. Take for example the differences between someone’s Bible and their grandparent’s Bible.
Today easily accessible apps are used instead of leather-bound Bibles; and cross references can be looked up instantaneously from online concordances whereas that may not have been the case several years ago. Furthermore, anyone’s education may not have readily prepared anyone for reading an Anglo-Saxon text or a similar literature style. However according to Matthew chapter five, verse eighteen which asserts “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” this concern becomes irrelevant. Instead of focusing on circumstances beyond one’s control, Dr. Beal presents three truths which serve to offer someone an alternative to the present situation. Three realities that he explores include that this “may be the end of the word as we know it,” thus “there is no going back,” yet everyone can look for “a way forward.”
In order to understand the condition presented by Dr. Beal regarding the concept of the “end of the word as we know it,” “the word” must first be defined. What are the holy scriptures specifically? The book of second Timothy explains in chapter three, verses sixteen and seventeen that “All scripture is given by God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” As discovered in his duration, this means that the Bible is a “dependable guide” and book of authority which overflows like a “well-spring of knowledge.”
Why then is there a declining interest in reading or exploring the scriptures? Dr. Beal explained that often times, “everyone’s iconic idea of the Bible does not match their experience,” which leads to a lack of interest. Society becomes more concerned with what is appealing and popular instead of reading the Bible the traditional way. This is a growing concern for the Evangelical community as technology begins to advance. Consequently, what does this mean for the Bible?
This leads to the second point which the speaker made, and that is this “there is no going back.” The question then becomes why not? Dr. Beal explored the idea that maybe the balance between “popularization and preservation” develops into an ongoing battle which results in a “distress-crop situation” instead of a “bumper-crop” one. Unfortunately, because of all these outcomes “the only constant becomes change.” What is the alternative then?
The alternative is found in the final option to look for “a way forward,” but how is this done? Someone wise once expressed that “Perspective is a small thing which makes a huge difference.” In the same way, the proper approach for moving forward is to look at situations like the ones that the Evangelical community faces and asking, where society should go from here? Instead of simply asking why, everyone should ask what to do now? Identifying an issue is insignificant if one cannot contrive a solution. It is beneficial for everyone to come to a place where someone can view the word as a “river instead of a rock,’ and discover the “library of questions” that it truly is to those who meditate on it.
Finally President John F. Kennedy once explained that “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Although these three truths are real that this “may be the end of the word as we know it,” thus “there is no going back,” yet everyone can look for “a way forward;” there can be many methods for reading the Bible, but spiritual maturity is what is important. It is not all that important what the approaches are for Bible reading, or how they have progressed since the age of anyone’s grandparents’ youth. In the end God’s word says “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth” (King James Version, Psalms 119.89-90).