Logos 6 arrives

The friends at Faithlife were kind enough to send me an advance copy of Logos 6 to play around with. Current users of Logos will already have a pretty good notion of what they are dealing with. New or prospective users might consider the composite review of Logos 5 here, here and here for a basic overview, with thoughts on its utility here.

So, what's new in Logos 6? Of great relief might be the answer, "Not too much that's too obvious!" The overall appearance is similar, the home page has been redesigned, and there are a few new gizmos, but - while it's a smooth new look, and as attractive as ever - I do not spend much of my time on the front page. There, options to strip down some of the extraneous detail and advertising can be well-employed. It is in the meat and bones that the real benefits are found, and there are plenty of them. I may get round to putting some pictures up, but the Logos website has temporarily folded under pressure, and they are hard to bag! Until then, here's a video.

I confess that there are some interesting perspectives that lie behind the intended use of some of the tools provided. For example, I am not sure in what way Logos 6 will enable a pastor to 'take back his Friday,' as the press releases encourage us to believe. From what, I ask, and for whom or what, and to what ends? It strikes me as a somewhat empty statement that betrays a rather narrow perspective on the world of re pastoral labour. Means are provided to jazz up your presentations - there is a danger that the preacher might be envisioned as an unpleasant amalgam of a busy CEO, a cheesy marketer, and a third-rate motivational speaker. Sermon preparation or even effective Bible teaching is not just a matter of efficient collection and slick communication of data. No user of Logos can ever afford to forget that. It is, perhaps, a more minor gripe, and a shame, because Logos really markets itself without much need for that kind of guff.

So, if you get away from such perspectives and assertions, there is much to appreciate and enjoy - truth made readily available to soak in, that it might soak into you, with a view to its accurate and earnest and prayerful communication. As I go on using Logos, I am increasingly impressed by some of the technical tools available to me, tools that I am still discovering. These add, if not vast swathes of usefulness to my study processes, at least some real and helpful insights and nuances. On principle, I almost never use audio-video aids in a sermon. Even so, some of the materials available for Bible study and lectures are breathtaking in their scope and facility, and a real aid to preachers in quickly discerning helpful historical or technical or geographical detail during the preparation process. In addition, there are no end of forums in which such aids might be appropriate and helpful, such as Sunday School classes, Bible studies or academic lectures. For those who never had or who have lost some of the more technical skills of scriptural exploration, Logos goes some way to making up the lack.

Among the new tools, the new Atlas feature is great for checking out the precise locations and physical dynamics of certain events and episodes. The potential when considering the life of Christ, for example, is great. I am also hoping that we will soon be able to track the journeys of Paul (though that may be in another volume). Also fascinating are the before and after shots of locations, with sliders overlaying graphic representations of historical buildings on to the present-day environment. Other new features include the Factbook, a powerful collation of all the data relating to individuals, events or objects. Using this tool, you can follow any number of connections to develop or trace a full-orbed perspective on a person or place or thing. Again, there is a lot useful here in providing short-cuts to a fairly complete study. There is a new top-level search that, as far as I can tell, prioritizes results to give you an overview of a topic. Inline search of individual resources adds an extra dimension to grappling with a particular text or pursuing a particular phrase or section. There are new datasets within the programme itself (e.g. Cultural Concepts) and new collections, libraries and bundles readily available on the main Logos site. Some of them will feel delightful, others will take a little getting used to. Those who keep wishlists of material on the Logos site might need to do a little reviewing and assessing to see what's still current and what needs to be adapted.

Working with a beta version, I had a few issues in the download, and a few rough spots with what was, perhaps is, a work in progress (e.g. copy and paste, smart tags), but I hope that these have been and will be ironed out. As ever, much helpful advice was available on the Logos forums and through the Logos technicians, for those with the technical expertise and time to faff around behind the scenes of our computer screens.

The connections woven into the text will always need carefully employment. Self-control is required to remain undistracted by the sheer wealth of information available. Logos is sufficiently extensive, especially with some of the bigger packages, that it can become a little like the web itself, with all kinds of enticements to draw you aside from your chosen track. It is important to be travelling and not merely wandering if you want to use your time and your energy wisely.

For committed Logos users, Logos 6 is, on one level, more of the same, and that will probably be exactly what they are after. On another level, it continues to add facility and flexibility, streamlining what already exists and providing more and more readily-accessed material produced to a high standard, with tools to handle it. It looks as clean as ever, and feels even slicker in performance. For me, Logos helps primarily in Bible study that is profitable and fascinating in itself, study that forms an element of sermon preparation. It is not, in and of itself, a complete sermon preparation tool, because it cannot supply the fruit of prayer and meditation. It also puts at my immediate disposal a vast range of material that I can read, search, copy and - most of all - appreciate, profiting from the labours of some of my most treasured friends, mainly past, but occasionally present. These are the things that lie back of any given sermon, the steady accumulation of truth and wisdom over time.

In sum, and taking into account all the pros and cons, profits and dangers of this kind of resource, this is as good a time as ever to plunge into Logos Bible Software with Logos 6. To be sure, there may be a few glitches to iron out as the whole thing beds down, but existing Logos users will doubtless be delighted with some new and effective tools, and new users will find much to instruct and assist as they get to grips with the Word of God. So long as the technical never overwhelms but rather informs the spiritual, it is likely to be of profit. Dive in to Logos 6, and I trust you will find and store up treasures galore.