By Lisa Miller, Special to CNN
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, and Bible publishers are ostentatiously commemorating the landmark by producing an abundance of gorgeous doorstops. Leather bound Bibles. Two-volume sets. Replicas of the 1611 version complete with “original” illustrations.
The hoopla is entirely justified, since the King James Bible revolutionized Bible reading, bringing Scripture into a common vernacular for the first time for the English-speaking world.
It is not too much to say that the King James Bible – mass produced as it was, thanks to a new technology called the printing press – democratized religion by taking it out of the hands of the clerical few and giving it to the many.
Today, another revolution in Bible reading is underway – one that has nothing to do with gilt-edged paper. If the King James Bible brought the Bible to the English-speaking masses, today’s technology goes a giant step further, making Scripture – in any language and any translation – accessible to anyone on earth with a smartphone.
Just like the 500-year-old Protestant Reformation, which was aided by the advent of the printing press and which helped give birth to the King James Bible, changes wrought by new technology have the potential to bring down the church as we know it.
In the face of church leaders who claimed that only they could interpret the Bible for the common people, Reformation leaders like Martin Luther taught that nothing supersedes the authority of the Word itself.
“A simple layman armed with Scripture,” Luther wrote, “is greater than the mightiest pope without it.”
In that vein, digital technology gives users the text, plain and simple, without the interpretive lens of established authorities. And it lets users share interpretations with other non-authorities, like family members, friends and coworkers.
With Scripture on iPhones and iPads, believers can bypass constraining religious structures – otherwise known as “church” – in favor of a more individual connection with God.
This helps solve a problem that Christian leaders are increasingly articulating: that even among people who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and savior, folks don’t read the Bible.
For growing numbers of young people, a leather-bound Bible sitting like an artifact on a stand in the family living room has no allure. It’s not an invitation to exploration or questioning.
Young people want to “consume” their spirituality the way they do their news or their music. They want to dip and dabble, the way they browse Facebook.
Thus the almost-insane popularity of Youversion, a digital Bible available for free on iTunes and developed by a 34-year-old technology buff and Christian pastor from Oklahoma named Bobby Gruenewald. He conceived of it, he told me, while on a layover at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, wishing he had a Bible to read.
“What we’re really trying to address is, how do we increase engagement in the Bible?” he said.
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Article courtesy cnn.com