Continuing our conversation from the last two episodes (episode 274 and episode 275), does this digital revolution, and the abundance of Bible apps we can access today, undermine our need for Bible memorization? If I know there is an important verse in the Bible about a vine and a branch, but I can’t remember the details, I don’t need to memorize the details, because I can just pull out my app and do a quick search just for those two keywords in a verse, and I can find it. Do you think digital Bible access will undermine Bible memory? And should it?
Absolutely not. That argument would proceed on the assumption that the only or the chief motive for memorizing Scripture is the functional availability to use it in some context. Well, that is a good motivation. It is just not the only one, or I would say, not the main one.
Renew Your Mind
The main one is what happens to your mind when it is structured — and here I think things go very deep. I don’t know. I am not a neuroscientist. I don’t know how the synapses and chemicals and electricity in the brain work, but I know enough to know that the memorizing of anything or the habituation of the mind to anything is a physiological and a spiritual phenomenon, and the mind is being shaped.
So when Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2), that is amazing. I mean, that is one of the most powerful statements in the world that your mind that God has given you is to be renewed. And I would say that the primary way that happens is immersion in the mind of God. And one of the primary ways immersion in the mind of God happens is through memorizing the Scriptures.
A Timely Word
Back to the practical part: It is far more powerful. I have seen this again and again. I have seen it in worship. I have seen it at the Lord’s Table. I have seen it at the hospital bed. I have seen it in the counseling room. If, as you are chatting with somebody, or as you’re leading in the Lord’s Table, or as you are standing at a bedside, the Lord brings to mind a precious part of the Bible, and you could look a dying man right in the face and recite to him the last five verses of Romans 8, it is just so much more powerful than if you say, “Well, let me reach in here and get my phone, click, click, click, click, click. At that moment, that just feels so distant and so artificial.
But if it is brimming within you with power because God has put it there and he has woven it into your brain, then there is a kind of authenticity and power in the delivery in the hospital bed or at the Communion Table. I remember one time at the Communion Table I recited all of Isaiah 53 from memory. One of the pastor’s wives came up to me afterwards so moved and she said, “I love that chapter, and it has never had such power for me as when you simply looked at me and said the whole thing.” And I know that is true. When I am around somebody who can look at me and exhort me eye to eye with the Scripture, there is more there than if he is reading it to me.
So my answer is no. The digital revolution will not — God, please — replace memorization.