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Durham e-Theses
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The People of the Screen:
How Evangelicals Created the Digital Bible and
How It Shaped Their Relationship with Scripture

DYER, JOHN,CHARLES,DICKEY (2019) The People of the Screen:
How Evangelicals Created the Digital Bible and
How It Shaped Their Relationship with Scripture.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (Final thesis with appendicies) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).



This study traces the creation of screen-based Bibles and examines how they are changing the way readers engage with scripture. This thesis explores the characteristics of evangelicalism that led evangelical technologists to become the primary creators of consumer Bible software, and it argues that these evangelical developers are introducing new ways of interacting with scripture that are reshaping Christian practices.

The findings of this study are based on qualitative and quantitative data collected in focus groups of engineers and managers working for three Bible software companies and “ordinary” Bible readers based in three evangelical churches in the southern United States. These results were analyzed using insights from a theory drawn from science and technology studies known as social construction of technology (SCOT) and an approach within digital religion called the religious social shaping of technology (RSST).

The development of Bible software is traced along a historical schema of four waves: the pre-consumer academic era, the desktop era, the Internet era, and the mobile era. Interviews with employees of Logos Bible Software, Bible Gateway, and YouVersion explore their perspective as producers of Bible software, and their views are characterized by evangelical biblicism and an orientation toward technology that is theorized as Hopeful Entrepreneurial Pragmatism (HEP). This orientation allows them to move seamlessly between their missional identity and the commercial realities of their respective business models.

The evangelical Bible readers in this study have adopted software into their Bible engagement practices, and they demonstrate a sophisticated heuristic for determining which medium to use for a given set of goals and social situations. However, their pragmatic bent often causes them to choose the Nearest Available Bible (NAB), which is often a phone or other screen-based medium. Smartphones are shown to increase the frequency of daily Bible reading, which is highly valued in evangelical culture, but also to decrease comprehension compared to print, suggesting that its effects are complex and multi-faceted.

This study contributes to understanding the role of technology in redefining religious experiences, and it offers a new avenue for examining the ways evangelicals navigate societal change.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:evangelicalism; evangelical; Bible; biblicism; scripture; technology; media; software; digital; programmers; Christian; app; apps; entrepreneurialism; pragmatism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Jan 2020 10:54

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