“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15
Computers are efficient reference machines, more so than a concordance or a topical Bible dictionary. Useful Bible programs have advanced from large localized files, to online search engines and portable apps. The categorical capacity of these machines and processes has just recently been welcomed as an improvement in Bible study, advertising that anyone can access the encyclopedic contents of the Word of God in just a few clicks. As more of these inventions take their place on pastors’ desks and pulpits, congregations should be experiencing a leap in Biblical literacy and understanding. But are they?
Although most Bible readers still prefer a physical book, according to Barna Research State of the Bible 2018, the use of technology for Biblical interaction is steadily rising. Since 2011, the percentage of people that use their phone has risen from under 20% (in 2011) to over 55% (in 2018). These are not new Bible readers, but old ones giving place to the device-driven data that goes with them everywhere.
Before you erect your reactionary defense, please understand that I am not advocating the dismissal of valuable tools in a Bible student’s desk. I wouldn’t tell you to throw away your pencil, or get rid of your concordance. But I hope to warn, with a couple very poignant examples, of the dangers of reliance on technology alone to teach spiritual truths.
A few things to note about the digital world: things are not always what they seem. Behind every search there is a program built not to teach, but to learn what you don’t know. Behind every download, free or otherwise, there are personal privacies sold. There are processes that have a pre-set “normal,” and will quietly train your language to match theirs. An ‘authour’ may take pains to spell or parse words a certain way, such as ‘Saviour’ and automatically have his choice of spelling over-ridden. Understand that the Lord gave charge of His Word to His Church, and she is responsible for keeping His sayings (Revelation 22:7). How much more subtle (‘subtil’?) can you get than helpful “autocorrect”?
Therefore, please, take these three warnings to heart as you search the Scriptures:
- Computers are backed by a greed-driven industry: entertainment. Entertainment always seeks to become the train of thought. Computers went from a luxury to a necessity in an extremely short amount of time. Manufacturers want to see their product on the center of your desk, rather than be a tool in the drawer. For this reason, internet ‘surfers’ will ALWAYS find a new thread of ideas, or an illustrative story, (or a lecture, or a product, or a video, or an outline, etc.) that will thrill you with what you can know- for free! But in exchange it is limiting you to be reliant on it’s seemingly infinite self.
- Computers’ information is then confused for inspiration. Just because it’s new, doesn’t make it good, and if it’s good, it’s not new. “Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” Ecclesiastes 1:10 God is the only source of newness. He is the author. A computer is simply a recorder of old stuff. God’s book is the channel for living waters. Computers are regurgitators of stagnant puddles.
- The Word of God is pre-programmed to reject private interpretation. Paper and ink versus stylus and screen? Seems like an open and shut case. But God’s Book, the King James Bible, foresees the evils of modern devices, and subsequently has insulated itself with the King’s English against a vast host of SQL servers. Let’s observe as a fundamental, scientific law of hermeneutics (the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation of literary texts) called, “The Law of First Mention” interacts with a well known Bible App search function.
“Love” in the Bible
When a person wants to know the definition, sense, and polarity of any word, he can rely on the way God first uses that word in the text of Scripture. It may seem an overly simple concept, because it is. God does not withhold wisdom from any man humbly asking and seeking (see James 1:5). However, God will absolutely hide truth from a man looking for a shortcut to knowledge. (see Genesis 2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:” with John 10:1 “He that entereth not by the door of the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” and 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”)
So, I want to know about love, so I pull out my smartphone and search the word “love” in a well-known app. The results appear thus:
Listed first is Genesis 27:4. It records Isaac’s hunger for food, and his desire for a meal. “Love” is a fleshly lust in this passage. Hermeneutically speaking, we should now interpret love in the remainder of scripture this way. Can’t you feel God’s emotion toward us in 1 John 4:10: “Herein is love (a carnal desire akin to hunger for food)?” How evident now is the charity of God in John 3:16- “For God so loved (instinctively craved to satisfy an urge) the world?”
Now, don’t assume that either you or I know better than God. IF that is truth, we need to accept it, believe it, and study it for what it is. NEVER presume upon the absolute purity and authority of the King James Bible. But also, do not fail to “Search the scriptures.”
The first mention of LOVE in the Bible is cleverly disguised in ‘old, archaic’ (ie, the King’s) English to hide it from insincere eyes. Five chapters earlier, in Genesis 22:2, we read the actual first mention of love in the Bible: “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah.” The preeminent object of love is a son of the father, and the preeminent subject of love is a father for his only son. To accurately study love, you cannot cheat, you must READ the Bible. In reading, you submit your attention to the Holy Spirit’s direction, and only then can you know the meaning of anything.
“Obey” in the Bible
Next, we open up the trusty app looking for “obey.” Search results pop up instantly:
What a coincidence, we find ourselves in the very same chapter of Genesis, looking now at what Rebekah says to Jacob. Understand what is going on in the chapter, Isaac is getting older and wants to pass along the blessing of the Patriarchs to his son, Esau (provided he get’s the food he loves). Rebekah desires that blessing for her son, Jacob, and devises a clever plan to deceive and steal from her husband and older son. But in order to make it work, she has to have the compliance of her baby boy, and thus she commands him: “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice!” (27:4)
This kind of obedience is compliance without conscience. It is baseless function. It is slavery. I push the “8” key on my computer keyboard and it produces an “8.” It cannot think for itself enough to know good and evil, right and wrong, or whether “8” belongs in the context of what I’m saying. No question, just function. Jacob commits a sin because he obeyed.
Is that what the Gospel requires when Paul says, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name?” (Romans 1:5) Or is the obedience of God linked TO morality, rather than APART from it? See Romans 16:19, “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
Hidden once again ‘in the past’ is the first mention of ‘obey,’ parsed in such a simple way, yet obscured from ‘smart’ technology. Look again, 5 chapters earlier in Genesis, to 22:18, “And in thy seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
How different is Abraham’s obedience to God from Jacob’s compliance to his mother! What a precedent of Heavenly love surpassing earthly love, of God’s word excelling man’s word! These are just two treasures locked away for the man that seeks Christ through His Book, instead of man’s devices.
Dr. Peter S. Ruckman, in Theological Studies, Book 11, in chapter 1: “God, The Holy Ghost” predicted: “There is no computer, no matter how intelligent, that can find out anything about the word of God that a man can’t find out through prayer and reading the word. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a computer in the world that can figure out the new birth or identify the Leviathan of Job 40 and 41. It would be absolutely impossible. There isn’t any chance at all that a computer would tell you what Adam and Eve ate. The most brilliant men with IQ’s of 150 to 180, making the most excruciatingly intricate machine they possibly could devise, couldn’t figure out anything about the word of God one way or another. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) ” [Emphasis his]
That statement was published in 1985. God’s word is still beyond the slickest advancements in technology built 20+ years later. Stick with the Book.