Accra, Jan.18, GNA – « You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is of heaven above… you shall not bow down to them nor serve them; for I the Lord your God, I am a jealous God, » so says the second Commandment as written on the clay tablet and given to Moses.
This, however, does not only include superficial idol worship but also encapsulates an extreme addictiveness to anything that serves to draw or substitute the object of our attention and time from the Lord – be it any (carved) image or gadget.
As foretold by the Holy Scriptures, global proliferation of knowledge is an indicator of the prophetic end times. This spread of knowledge is what has culminated in a number of inventions that have changed the face of Christianity in this era.
The advent and invention of cellular phones and related gadgets, is a major determiner in the lives of many in the society. Indeed it is a ‘necessary evil’ in the lives of many Christians.
A companion that many can’t do without, mobile phones and tablets (small computers) can perform limitless functions with tailored applications like economic, social and religious apps to suit the needs of users.
The use of bible apps or ‘electronic bibles’, as I refer to the bible on such devices, has drawn ample attention to its viability and as a substitute to the traditional voluminous book.
Pastor Nathaniel Agyei of the Seventh Day Sabbath Church of Christ sees nothing untoward with using virtual bibles on cellular phones: « The phone is just a device that has a number of applications on it, the bible app included, which is one of the benefits of technology.
« It is, however, more advisable to have an actual bible with you anytime because the phone can break down, in which case you can’t use the bible on it, » he said.
Responding to arguments on whether the bible on the mobile phone is holy or not, Pastor Agyei said all applications on a cell perform different functions, if one did not open up an app, one could not use it. Just as the bible app is an application on the phone, so are any other applications. The presence of one does not negate the sanctity of the other.
Ms Deborah Enam, a Communications Consultant, said bibles on these gadgets were just softcopy versions of physical hardcopy ones.
« I think there are no significant differences between bibles on phones and the book in your hand, after all it’s the same word of God, delivered in a medium to suit one’s convenience and portability.
« Due to the size of my preferred bible, I can’t carry it around, especially when I’m with just a purse, but as my phone is portable enough and contains the exact version of my preferred bible. I have no problem at all using it and that notwithstanding, I still use my old bible. »
The question, however, is whether or not one can resist the temptation to swipe onto other appealing apps while feeling the urge to read the bible on the phone. And what if one’s attention is driven away by an intrusive call or messages from people who cannot tell whether the receiver was reading or meditating on the scriptures?
Ms Cecilia Diesob, a writer, notes that while she usually prefers using the bible on her phone more than her bulky hardcopy, even at church, she sometimes gets distracted with notification pop-ups from social media applications such as facebook, WhatsApp, and other installations.
Much as she tries to fight the urge to ignore the notification pop-ups and continue reading the bible, the latter often gets the better of her, she claimed.
Explaining why she prefers a cellular bible to the book version, she points out: « I can quickly locate books, chapters and verses without exerting any effort, and this is unlike flipping through a number of pages of the book version, and besides, I can flow with a sermon at church.
« Moreover, I have a number of bible versions on my phone and I can make the necessary comparisons. Bible apps on phones are quite easy to use. I believe more people use it now because of its relative convenience, » Ms Diesob said.
Mobile bibles apps are easily downloadable. Nearly all hardcopy bibles have online or cellular versions as alternatives for their consumers. Such bibles come with the flexibility of reading, listening and watching various contents. Not only are there online bibles but bible-related commentaries that come in audio and video versions as well.
Phones with varying operating systems like android, windows and the iOS (for iPhones and ipads) have assortment of bibles designed for beginners, children and adults.
These, notwithstanding, some ministers of God disagree and have rejected the claim that the use of electronic bibles on mobile phones and tablets at church services enhances worship.
They claim that the use of modern technologies such as the mobile phones and tablet for reading scriptures is a vulgar disregard to the word of God as one’s attention could be distracted during worship.
They are also unhappy with the increasing trend of Christians going to church armed not with a hard-copy bible but with mobile phones or tablets, which carries many versions of soft-copy bibles with some even describing it as « a devilish means of disturbance ».
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA), Reverend Joseph Oti Nyametease of the Revival Church of God, Akweteyman in Accra, said the bible is a sacred book that carries spiritual power to save Christians in times of difficulties and it is a symbol of salvation for the Christian.
He said even though, the electronic bible as argued by many, helped readers locate scriptures faster, it could pose numerous challenges when in use as it was filled with many other social applications.
Rev Nyametease quoted Luke 4: 16- 17 which read « And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the Prophet Isaiah… And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written. »
Premised on this, he contends that the word of God has always been in a hard-copy medium and any other medium is inappropriate.
He, therefore, cautioned Christians to adopt the ways of Jesus Christ as he did at Nazareth using the Holy Bible to preach the word of God than to use a tablet.
Rev William Akotua Opare, a Senior Minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, at Adiebeba, Kumasi, however, disagreed with members of the clergy who are opposed to the technology, explaining that, the distraction caused by the use of mobile phones or tablets for scripture reading could be avoided through self discipline.
He was quoted in the media saying it was necessary for Christians to stay holy by ensuring that their mobile phones or tablet did not contain any unhealthy information such as pornography.
He said mobile phones or tablets should be switched to flight mode to prevent any intrusions by calls during scripture reading adding: « If you know you cannot turn your network off, then, it would be necessary to use a hard-copy bible. »
Coming to think of it; is one’s attachment to a mobile phone, computer or even social/fictional books idolatrous? Or is it rather a vehicle to facilitate understanding, communication and thereby help to improve one’s lot in this fast changing world?
If the habit is idolatrous, then how would one consider one’s attachment to something like the pen, watch or even the reading glasses, which can be used to view worthy or unworthy things?
A national service person at the University of Cape Coast told the GNA that both the electronic bible and the hard copy contain the same word of God, more so the book version came from tree products and in these days of global warming and climate change, the world needs to be mindful of the destruction of the ecology.
The 10 commandments as given by God to Moses were written on clay, and this together with the narratives of the people of Israel were initially copied on animal based materials and when it became feasible, plants and tree based materials were adopted.
Electronic bibles are the future, I think we ought to embrace them, after all a determined and well focused mind in any given environment can achieve its stated goal.