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Thoughts on reading digital books from a lover of physical books

Is Kindle rotting your brain?
Is Kindle rotting your brain?
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

It's OK. You can read a digital book instead of a physical book.

I know the latest news report suggests that such an innocent activity can possibly rewire your brain. But that's OK.

Even without the news reports, you've certainly felt the vague and ephemeral hint that digital reading has some serious limitations. But even such limitations are OK.

You see, my fellow Christian, all kinds of things in life can rewire your brain. The real question is: are you aware of it? And what are you doing about it?

These news reports, studies and thoughts from deep thinkers about deep reading are good reminders that we ought to be self-aware of the impact of technology upon our lives.

Now, I am not only a bibliophile: I am a technophile. I have voice-activation on my desktop. I have a touch-screen, pen-input, convertible laptop. I have a smart-phone. And I use Google Books more than my local library.

But I also read books. Lots of books. And I read them deeply. In fact, most of my life has been around books. Part of that fact stems from growing up without a television.

As a pastor, teacher, writer and father, my house is full of books. Perhaps 2500 of them at last estimation.

Knowing that Christians are called to master technology instead of technology mastering them, the form of mastery differs per person and family. In other words, Christian liberty dictates that using a Kindle or interfacing through Facebook is not inherently evil.

It also means that we are called to be mature adults who know the limits of digital consumption like we know the limits of our alcoholic consumption. One person deletes their Facebook account, turns of the television, or sells their Kindle. Another uses Facebook, Flickr, Twitters, smartphones, and Google Glass (yes, I would like a pair for Christmas). Neither should condemn the other.

But the temptation is widespread. And the problem of superficial reading of digital sources is real. The digital medium can discourage deep thinking. The very form of television, for example, can shape the content of discourse. If you disagree, please read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.

In such a world saturated in sound-bytes, simplistic thinking and sloganeering, we are called to help one another. When all the digital media relationships replaces deep, personal, one-on-one relationships, an admonition is needed. A sermon reinforcing biblical moderation is helpful. An article calling us back to biblical priorities is required.

Today's greater temptation to skim or scan the written word stems from two sources in my estimation: weak analytical and reflective skills (deep reading) and a multiplicity of technological temptations.

The latter source can only be tamed by Spirit-wrought self-discipline: either through self-control or simply removing the sources of temptation. The former source is harder to overcome.

Strong analytical, reflective and facts-based reasoning is a dying art. The reasons are legion. But the solution is constant: learn to read. Not just the words, but learn to read analytically (and not merely emotionally).

Teaching your child to memorize Bible verses is a good start. But ask them questions about the text. Catechism training is important, since it is a systematic presentation of Biblical truth. This gives analytical categories of thought to the youngster.

Strong, well-thought-out, well-spoken sermons were the mainstay of deep thinkers of yesteryear. Even one course in critical thinking, logic or philosophy would do wonders for many 13-year-olds.

In other words: create and become part of a Word-centric culture. The Word demands a life of intelligence, thoughtfulness and reflection. It demands more, of course. And such demands are fulfilled by the power of the Spirit through the Word.

For those in a weak, visual-oriented or otherwise superficial church or family life, then technological temptation can be devastating. But if you are rooted in a family and church-life that is centered in the Living Word, then the siren call of the Digital Word will be less alluring.

So, please go and snuggle with a good book. But don't forget to check your Facebook.

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