As the coronavirus spreads in China, so does fury at the government
Probably all of us have given in at some point to clickbait—provocative but often misleading internet headlines designed to generate online advertising revenue by drawing readers. So is it time for “The Clickbait Bible,” as tongue-in-cheek proposed by Nancy Bynum on thebookofnan.com? Here are her sample headlines:
“Showdown at Mount Carmel: The Prophets of Baal Insult Hebrew God … Prophet Elijah Immediately Shuts Them DOWN.”
“Think This is Just a Normal Stable in Bethlehem? Just Wait Until You See Who’s Inside …”
“Here’s What Happened When Peter was Confronted After His Friend’s Arrest.”
“Jewish Prophet Runs from God’s Calling to Nineveh and then THIS Happened! I Can’t Believe It!”
“Pharaoh’s Daughter Found a Basket in the River. She Decided to Look Inside and …”
“This Man Took an Ordinary Jar of Water at a Wedding Celebration and Proceeded to Blow Everyone Away. What He Did = Epic.”
“When You Find Out What Jael Did to the Man Who Asked Her for Something to Drink, Your Jaw Will Drop!”
Bynum also offered a serious lifestyle critique: “We may have a half dozen Bibles at home (in different translations, which is how we know we’re extra holy), but most of us would prefer a sound bite from our favorite celebrity pastor du jour, or better yet, one of those short and oh-so-digestible Bible verse quotes wallpapering my super-spiritual Facebook feed. You know the ones. There’s a pensive-looking woman in the background. She’s rocking her scarf and moto jacket and her Pinterest braid, delicately cradling a soy latte. … We are so drawn in by the quick and the flashy and the shallow.”
That’s true: We call Scripture the Holy Bible and then cherry-pick verses so as to recreate God in our own image. Niche Bibles that emphasize particular verses have been an easy target for more than a decade, yet I can see their usefulness for people facing life-and-death pressures—Military Wives’ New Testament, The Law Enforcement Officer’s Bible, The EMS Bible—and needing a quick-hit reminder of God’s sovereignty and compassion. But is Surfers Bible a wave too far?
Quick. Flashy. Shallow. If we get a Bible specifically designed for our demographic, with specific verses highlighted as bait, are marketing gurus trying to replace the Holy Spirit, who sometimes draws us to verses our natural pride would lead us to skip? Serious Bible reading pushes us to conform to God’s teaching, but marketed verses often suggest that God should conform to our will.
Publishers send me all kinds of Bibles in the hope that I’ll praise them and increase sales. Beautiful Word Bible is “packed with inspiring, full-color art that will encourage you to have a deeper and more authentic quiet time.” (Why did God rely on words to communicate His message when He could have drawn pictures?) Beautiful Word Coloring Bible: Hundreds of Verses to Color. (Note: This is for grown-ups.) The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible. Minecrafters Bible. The Berenstain Bears Holy Bible.
Quick. Flashy. Shallow. Some Bible publishers say they need clickbait of sorts to get young people to click, so in my mailbox appears NIV Bible for Teen Girls: Growing in Faith, Hope, Love, which inserts a devotional every few chapters. One describes Sarah’s excitement about God’s Genesis 15 promise of descendants (“I’ve so got this! … Too many children to count. … Woohoo!”) and her discouragement as years pass by (“Maybe he forgot his promise. Or maybe—and here’s where it gets dangerous—maybe God just needs a little help to get started.”)
Paul explained to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” That’s God’s promise, and it requires us to submit to training. Instead of relying on clickbait urging and fancy graphics, we need to practice reading and thinking through long passages. When we think God needs a little help to get us started, that gets dangerous.
Theologians debate red letter Bibles: It’s fine to pay attention to what Jesus said, while remembering that all of Scripture is God-breathed and given to us, as Paul told Timothy, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Does The Green Bible, with verses on the environment in green ink, lead readers to emphasize those and de-emphasize others, so we’re equipped only for some good works?
A Bible and a Bible set that recently arrived impress me. Thomas Nelson has a Journal the Word Bible in both King James and New King James translations. They present the Bible without pictures and with big, lined margins perfect for note-taking and thought-writing. Crossway has taken its ESV Reader’s Bible, which presents the text on 1,825 pages without headings, verse numbers, or footnotes, and turned it into six small books with bigger type.
Many fine study Bibles already exist, and I can recommend them also when they point to God’s Word, not to pictures or musings extraneous to the text. Bibles, like our lifestyles, should point to Christ, not supposed substitutes.