Sunday, October 2, 2016

the instagram bible

Beware the Instagram Bible, my daughters – those filtered frames festooned with feathered verses, adorned in all manner of loops and tails, bedecked with blossoms, saturated with sunsets, culled and curated just for you.

Beware lest it become for you your source of daily bread. It is telling a partial truth.

I saw in my vision by night, and behold, I dreamed of a world in which every copy of the Bible was gone, except those portions we had preserved on Instagram. Consider this Bible, my daughters, if you will:

Its perfect squares are friend to the proverb, the promise, and the partial quote, leaving laws, lists, land-allotments, and long-stretching lessons to languish off-screen.

It comforts but rarely convicts.

It emotes but rarely exhorts.

It warms but rarely warns.

It promises but rarely prompts.

It moves but does not mortify.

It builds self-assurance but balks at self-examination.

It assembles an iconography whose artists, by spatial necessity, are constrained to choose

brevity over breadth,
inspiration over intellect,
devotion over doctrine.

Beware its conscribed canvas, where calligraphy conquers context.

Beware.

If the Prosperity Gospel offered us all the things, the Instagram Gospel offers us all the feels. It preaches good news in part, but we need the whole. It may move us in the moment, but it cannot sustain us through the storm.

My daughters, do not misunderstand. Like you, I do not wish to pull up my Insta account to find Levitical laws picked out in filigree and flowers. Nor do I desire genealogies superimposed on sunsets. I do not harbor a puritanical hatred of beauty, nor do I detest the illumination of a holy text by an ardent scribe. May I be the first to hit “like” on a timeless word of encouragement.

I do not ask the Instagram Bible to be all things. I can value, even enjoy it for what it is. But drawn by the glow of its inviting warmth, I must ask myself - and you -  to view it with care,
lest we love the part in place of the whole.

Lest we live as those in a vision by night, as those ensnared in a dream.

Beware the Instagram Bible, my daughters. It shines a partial light. We must know it both for what it says, and for what it does not.

43 comments:

  1. I attended the event in Merrimack, NH, yesterday. I'm so glad you shared this at the event and now in writing so that I can pass it on!

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  2. So true. And I love your illustration verse. LOL

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  3. Thank you for this truth!! Just this week I saw a verse shared by a popular Bible teacher. I though to myself, "oh I like that.". I pulled out my Bible to investigate and found that it was pulled very far out of context. It sounded nice, but was not being used in the way the writer intended. There is no substitute for the entire Word!

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  4. Hah, I wrote a post about a similar thing I saw on Pinterest a few years back. This is something that drives me bananas, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    http://eachpassingphase.com/index.php/2015/02/18/stop-getting-your-bible-lessons-from-pinterest/

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    1. Great post Rachelle. I will be passing this on...

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  5. abounding alliteration and awe-inspiring analysis, perfectly principled and persuasively put. ;) LOVED THIS.

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  6. You nailed it. So well put. Thanks for your ministry of truth. <><

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  7. So very well said and timely! Loved your vision. And your illustration verse!

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  8. Jen, this is so good. The elders of our church were talking about this yesterday while we were pressing into 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Thank you for putting it into words. The Precept family is cheering you on, lady! -Luca

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  9. I am guilty of this and had never thought it through. Thank you for this.

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    1. You're not alone. I've been doing the same thing.

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  10. Yes. Yes. Yes. We are so easily wooed as Proverbs 31:30 says - "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised", - and beauty and charms come from multiple places, not just in the human sense. Thank you for sharing this. The pretty and fun bible pages I see so much of now makes me worry more effort is in the adorning than the ingesting. It is a lacking substitute for the beauty of His Word.

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  11. Thank you!!!! So good and so needed to hear in our world of social-everything!
    Thank you Jen!

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  12. Timely and true! So thankful for your dedication and obedience to pointing women to the whole Truth!

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  13. Absolute so so true. Thank you for writing this

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  14. Thank you, for courageously and consistently seeking to point women to the full Gospel and not just snippets of it!

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  15. Wow, I could not agree more and yet in some ways I could not agree less.

    You are a writer and choose to express your life, your experiences and your walk with the Lord in writing. You are indeed gifted. You can read and study God's word and then use as many words as you wish to explain your interpretation, your ideas, and your experience through the written word. BUT what are artists to do? We have one shot, one visual to share our ideas, thoughts, and experiences in God's word, if we choose to use our gifting. I agree taking one verse or thought out of context is dangerous. It says very little about the artist who created it and their experience studying God's Word. It's hard! Try writing one sentence to describe your thoughts -- one well-written, non-run-on sentence that expresses your idea or ideas on a passage of scripture. It's not easy! And, it's especially not easy trying to share an idea, thought or passage of scripture with a photo, or a painting. Adding scripture to these is a way to express what God is saying to the artist. Yes, it's very easy this way to take a verse out of context, but I would also encourage you to look at bloggers who do the same thing, only with a lot of words. Are you as critical of fellow bloggers?

    Comparing these graphics to the prosperity gospel is unfair and unnecessarily critical. It casts a bad light on all of the graphics. Have you entered a dialog with the authors of the "Instagram bible." Perhaps you could be a light to them? Publicly criticizing them is doing little to encourage a deeper study of God’s Word. Personal care and a loving response to the creators of these images would be more beneficial. They are people, and the fact that they are publicly quoting scripture indicates they have a love for the Lord, else why would they in this day and age, take a risk and be public with their faith? Sure, you are encouraging your readers to be wary, but you are not hitting at the root of the problem. What about the people who do not read your blog? They still see these images.

    I would welcome a conversation about the graphics I create. I do not want to be heretical with the images and references I make. If my interpretation is wrong, please tell me! Let me take the images down to avoid further damage to the body of Christ. But, please let’s have a conversation about it. It’s never a great idea to talk about someone when you can talk to them. (I searched your blog for an email address to send this to you privately, but could not locate one. In lieu of a more private exchange, I posted here.)

    No one should make visuals their bible and just the same; no one should replace Bible reading, studying and meditating on scripture with blogs.

    There is no substitute for the personal study of God's Word!

    I am sure your intention in your writing is to cause your readers to read and study their Bibles in order to have a vibrant faith and a close relationship with the creator of the Universe. It might just also be the same for the creators of the graphics you criticize.

    If we see a graphic with Scripture or read a blog that speaks to us, we should look into it ourselves, going to the only actual source of wisdom and truth, the Bible .

    Thank you for your thought provoking post.

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    1. Friend, it's not the artist I am speaking to. The church has a long and important history of creating art. I value it! I value the illuminated texts that find their way on to Instagram, as I noted in my post. I'm simply asking those who use Instagram to consider the limitations of the medium. If every artist who posted a verse on Instagram did so from a pure heart and with excellence, those who view their art could still consume it from a wrong motive. I hope you will continue to strive to magnify the Lord in your area of ministry, as I will in mine. You said: "If we see a graphic with Scripture or read a blog that speaks to us, we should look into it ourselves, going to the only actual source of wisdom and truth, the Bible." I couldn't agree more. The problem is not with the images, but with how we employ them. No need for the artist to feel condemnation for her work.

      Warm regards, Jen
      p.s. You can find a contact email on both the writing and resources tabs of my blog.

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  16. Spot on. I actually made an Instagram account last month to this effect -- illustrating the uglier verses previously "unworthy" of floral decorations -- in order to point out what you do here. The account is @theuglybible, peruse at your peril! ;)

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  17. Well said…I always wanted to to put the scripture about a dog returning to his vomit on a t-shirt!

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  18. I think you are swatting at the wrong problem. The issue is simply taking one verse by itself, maybe even out of context. How many devotional books do just that? For that matter, how many just use devotional books instead of heartily digging into the Word for themselves? Do Pastors teach their flocks HOW to study the Bible or do the congregation assume his job is to pass out the milk every Sunday? I can understand why the artist felt picked on, and I think their query was better put here in the thread for us all to see and for you to answer for all to see. But better yet, as Jesus put it, we search the Scriptures and sometimes fail to see the One the scriptures speak of-the Bible is first and foremost the way we get to know and come into relationship with Him. If an Instagram verse strikes a spark in that direction, more power to it!

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  19. I love this sis! Ps. Your illustration picture led me to read Judges 18, 19, and 20! LOL

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  20. I completely understand where you are coming from and here's why...it's Gods heart too. its just more confirmation...thank you for this.

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  21. Preach!
    Some verses would even need an NC-17 rating.

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  22. This may be a stupid question, but what is the Instagram Bible? I appreciate you alerting the daughters of the King of this danger. Thanks for letting me know what the Instagram Bible is.

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  23. I saw a graphic of a verse that implied girl power, and it made me very uncomfortable.

    "The Lord is within her, she will not fail" just sounded odd to me, so I investigated.

    There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
    Psalm 46:4‭-‬6 NIV
    http://bible.com/111/psa.46.4-6.NIV

    Read in context, it's not about a woman at all, but about the city of God. Context is so important. Using scripture for our own purposes is dangerous. God doesn't like it.

    “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
    Eccles. 30:5‭-‬6 NIV
    http://bible.com/111/pro.30.5-6.NIV


    Let's strive to be those who rightly handle the word of truth.

    Thanks for pointing this out. I know I'm not alone!

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  24. WOW! We attack other Christians for their ministry, (comparing it to the prosperity gospel) because it is not as WE think it should be. Let's encourage each other to continue to dig deeper. But let us also dig deeper in our understanding of where other folks might be in their search for faith. An important thing I learned a few years ago is that not all folks are at the same place in their search or walk. Some are not there yet and may benefit from seeing a verse that encourages them to open the Bible and look deeper. All of our ministries have significance, but let's not degrade others ministry, they have purpose too.

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  25. “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
    Eccles. 30:5‭-‬6 NIV [The correct reference appears below.]
    http://bible.com/111/pro.30.5-6.NIV

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  26. Thank you Jen. I think you found the tip of a huge iceberg. Social media Christianity is growing and I don't think we are aware of all the dangers and pitfalls yet. I am looking forward to future posts on this topic.

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  27. Jen - Thank you for writing this, and for being willing to step out and speak truth in kindness. My first-born (35 years old) is a pastor and I had a very similar conversation with him a couple of weeks ago. I can't wait to share this with him. As a mature (older) :+) woman, I love keeping up with you young women, amazing writers and speakers. Y'all are such a blessing to me. Thank you again, God bless you and your family.

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  28. I agree with Connie and the artist. The pretty pictures trigger us to think deeper about the Bible....many people take things out of context. That is the issue. Not the artist or the T-shirt. The gospel is GOOD news...it should be shared as such and rejoiced in beauty. The pastor's, writers and people who take things out of context are the issue.

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  29. Using Instagram as your source of truth is dangerous definitely, and relying on it and verses in isolation isn't wise. But what I do love is that I can go on Instagram and be reminded of truth, that I can be pushed towards looking something up (in context) in my own Bible, that it can be a platform to encourage and remind people of the truth that does sustain when we approach it as our daily bread. I know often Instagram and the Internet can be more of my daily bread than his word, and I suppose there's grace showed in that his word can be found there too.

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  30. Hello! One of my Instagram friends suggested I look you up! I posted a blog post similar to this topic. Lovely post and great reminder. God calls us deeper! My favorite verse lately that presses on my heart is Isaiah 66:2. I'm subscribing to your emails!!

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  31. Very thought-provoking and challenging! Thanks for your insights.

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  32. This was great. A definite must share.

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  33. Because of the post, you have a new follower, a co-laborer for the journey. :) #OnwardSister

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  34. I just laughed so hard when I read the verse in the heart. :)

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  35. My sweet sisters in Christ and I have recently claimed, "Read it for yourself!" So many women have been captured by prosperity and quotes that they don't ready the word for themselves. Thank you for sharing! Looking forward to hearing you speak at our church soon!

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