My dad devoted his life to studying and preaching God’s word. He was kind of an old-fashioned guy, with fundamentalist leanings. He’d gone to Bob Jones until he got chased out of the school, but he never completely shook off his old-school ways. He spent hours daily studying his Bible (I mean 8 hours, 10 hours, every day) and this was before anyone had ever heard of computer software. He died believing that demons inhabited computers, except for MLB.com which allowed him to watch Yankees games. He wore out Bibles quickly. It shocked a lot of people, then, when one day in a sermon, he said something on this order.
“When one of my Bibles gets old and worn out, you know what I do with it? I throw it away. The Bible is God’s word – perfect, inerrant, infallible, Jesus Christ in written form. (He would have waxed eloquent about the glories of God’s word at this point.) But it is not the paper and the ink that is holy, but the message. The words. The truth. We do not worship ink and paper, we worship the truth that is revealed in the Bible and the Jesus who is that truth and is revealed there.”
That is a loose (very loose) paraphrase of dad’s words, but they stuck with me. He was a Conservative Resurgence loyalist (though, like me, he often disdained the tactics of some of the more strident warriors in the cause). He loved God’s word and believed in its power. I did not even know other forms of preaching existed than verse-by-verse exposition until I grew up. Still, when a Bible got old, he tossed it. (Another truth moment – he didn’t always do that. When he and mom died, we had to figure out what to do with about 537 of their Bibles.)
One of my friends posted a video of throwing away a Bible. The details of that Bible-tossing are debatable, and not germane here. I just want to ask a question, based on some of the reaction. Some considered throwing a Bible away as “disrespecting the word of God”. Was it because this was a newer Study Bible? Is there ever a time when it is permissible to throw away a Bible? To some, throwing away a Bible was clear evidence that God’s Word had been disrespected. Case closed. Some claimed they would never throw away a copy of the Bible. The conversation stunned me.
I was shocked to find out that throwing away a Bible was de facto evidence of disrespect for the Bible. Is there a museum where we can send all our old Bibles? Are we required to save Bibles that are falling apart? Have we imbued the pages and ink of physical Bibles with magical and mystical power that elevates them to iconic status? Are old Bibles like slivers of the cross or the Shroud of Turin? I do most of my sermon prep now on my computer, using Logos. Does the same mystical power go to my laptops? Must I keep my old laptops since they are my “Bibles?”
Obviously, most of this is tongue-in-cheek. I have a question for you, dear readers. I am interested in what the common practice is.
Do you think it is a sin to dispose of an old Bible? Are we required to keep all our old Bibles? When one is worn-out, falling apart, and more raggedy than Ann, am I insulting the Author to toss it? My dad said no.
What say you?