The Bible and the 21st Century…
… there’s an app for that
As we become exponentially busy in our lives, it can be difficult to make time to engage with the written Word of God. Some of us have Bibles gathering dust on our bedside tables, so we have downloaded a Bible app on our smartphone or laptop. To help us get back into God’s Word. But no app really engages in a way that makes use of smartphone’s cutting edge visual technology.
Philosopher Karl Barth famously said of the theological practice of merging the everyday with scripture: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” What he means is that we are required to engage with our everyday, doing-and-being lives through the lens of the Bible.
Chris and Andrew Breitenberg have conceived a smartphone app that does what Karl Barth recommended. Called Parallel Bible, the app enables users to reflect on everyday life through the lens of the Bible.
In this age of constant visual barrage, the Breitenberg brothers have developed a reflective practice on the very device we use every day. It slows us down, makes us think creatively about how we interact with scripture.
Modern times, sacred message
The brothers began by asking the question: What can we do to represent the Bible in a way that engages our modern communications desires, expectations, patterns and imaginations?
“Our vision was to create a new social and visual tradition of the Bible — an entirely unique way of conceiving and sharing the word of God; putting it into new hands and ultimately of changing lives,” Chris explained recently about how the idea came about for the app.
“The Parallel Bible is a smartphone app with a really simple concept. You take an image on your phone, you tag it to a verse, and put it in alongside a caption and then you share it in a social network.
“A couple of years ago I was talking to a 15-year-old. I held up my iPhone and I held up a printed Bible and I said ‘What would you prefer to spend your time with’ and you can imagine the response was ‘I’d like the iPhone please’. And why wouldn’t we? It’s sleek and colourful, active, engaging. It’s social, it’s visual.”
When developing the app, Chris reveals “it was about presentation for us. The Bible hasn’t really changed to suit the information landscape of the 21st Century. We are living in a social and visual age. There are a lot of Bible apps, but we don’t have Bible apps that really change the medium. Because when the medium changes, it changes the way we engage with the material. And we know the material is powerful, so when we change the medium, we change our interaction and we ultimately are changed.”
Parallel Bible is a smartphone and Android app that uses the connectivity of social media by creating a community of like-minded people who share their stories alongside scripture. As Time magazine noted: “It’s silicon valley, meets the Sermon on the Mount.
The Story + your story
Parallel Bible has all the same functionality of social media apps like Instagram. One of the main differences from many social media platforms is that people’s everyday reflections interact with the sacred text of the Bible. Your pictures, your stories, right alongside scripture.
As a user, you can carry in your hand what amounts to a daily devotion. As you post alongside others, daily reflections appear alongside your posts. This enables a spiritual community of people to share, reflect and comment on each other’s posts.
While interpreting scripture isn’t a new idea — in churches, small groups or Bible studies everywhere, we have always considered how scripture relates to our everyday lives — the Parallel Bible app is a fantastic way of interacting with the Bible through your everyday life.
“The idea is to deepen the links between the Bible and our everyday lives, creating a dialogue between the two and allowing us to more fully participate in both. The app creates deeper, more elegant links between people and their stories and scripture. It’s the platform we know with the content you want, the Bible.”
“Our hope is that we can create new ways to research and explore the Bible. We are visual people who desire to be in relationship so the process of doing Parallel Bible can be a creative spiritual discipline. It’s something you can do every day. Creative reflection on the Bible can be transformative.”
The Breitenberg brothers’ core belief is the theological principle that the Bible is inherently more than a book; it is a shared, lived and creative experience.
“Our vision is to create a new social and visual tradition of the Bible – an entirely unique way of conceiving and sharing the word of God… This is a way of helping people tell their stories, slow down and have time to see and feel and understand God’s part in their lives.”