You Can Get with THIS, Or You Can Get with THAT
January 25, 2016
I’ve been a little outspoken about my apprehensiveness when it comes to niche Bibles. We have done an MoS podcast on the topic even. Many of them tend to trivialize God’s Word in my opinion, so we need to use discernment when we are looking at this market. I’ve recently encountered a new trend among women to do some “artistic” journaling in their Bibles. Take a look at this link to see what I am talking about in detail. For this new fad, women are buying particular journaling Bibles that have blank columns either on the outside or inside of the page. There’s a whole line of Bibles one can purchase now for “creative journaling.”
And before I critique this, let me just say that I’m all for art. It was actually part of my major. I even like doodling. I think there are some talented doodlers out there and that is pretty cool. I understand being inspirited to paint, draw, or sculpt after spending time in God’s Word. I am pro-art. I even understand there is a place for creative journaling. I've seen some impressive note-taking and reflection using this genre, even sermon notes. But what I am talking about is more like turning your Bible reading into craft time.
Women have begun Pinterest and Instagram-worthy doodling in these Bibles. So while reading the Sermon on the Mount, you may feel inspired to paint yellow and green swatches all across the page of your Bible and stencil “consider the lilies” with your markers. Maybe you’d want to do a mini collage of flowers and birds on that page with magazine cutouts. These women read their Bibles with stamps, stickers, decorative masking tape, watercolors, acrylic paint, patterned scissors, decorative paperclips, glitter, and artist brush pens. The opportunities are endless! It’s like scrapbooking on crack!
Now, I love to doodle, but I think it’s highly inappropriate to doodle all over God’s Word. And this is doodle-for-show. I get it when people like to add a visual element to learning, but this is not really a method that would help someone truly study God's Word. So you paint an abstract scene of lilies in a field over a whole page of the Sermon on the Mount. You've then made a serious sermon, given by the Son of God himself, pretty. I don't think that gets to the thrust of God's Word there, not even if you mark it with a decorative tabby that reads “worry less” in calligraphy. But it's a great way to sell more specialty Bibles, along with "Christian" art supplies, and get women excited about gathering together to show off their creative godliness. It guarantees they will be posting shots of their “quiet time” on Pinterest and Instagram. It’s hard enough for women to carve out time to read their Bibles regularly. This seems to add to the supplies and expectation rather than help.
Do we really want to trivialize God’s Word in such a way as to play dress-up with it? And what are we really learning? This creative art Bible journaling is all about me! Now most of us will never become seminary students, but do we want to remain in a perpetual elementary state of growth in the Word? It’s not cute!
Do This, Not That
I think there is a good reason the Bible doesn’t come with pictures. But maybe writing down your thoughts, questions, or personal study notes does help you learn while you are reading Scripture. Those Bibles that have empty columns for note-taking can be helpful. I’ve said before that I like using Reformation Heritage Books’ Journibles, where I can write Scripture word-for-word on one page, with a corresponding page for note-taking.
Crossway has recently sent me their new Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition, that offers a whole blank corresponding page of space for journaling your notes while studying Scripture. It’s not a Bible that I would carry around with me to church, as all the blank pages make it twice as big, but it can work nicely for doing a study at home. The quality of the Bible is good, so if you are fine with the big size it would travel well. And this is something that would even be interesting to return to later to check out my notes.
So there are other options that seem much more appropriate if we want to journal while reading Scripture and still treat God’s Word with reverence. But even with journaling, we need to make sure we are handling God’s Word seriously and not just customizing it to our own little stories. We are the ones who should be shaped by the Word, not the other way around.