UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: The iPod
The iPod The iPod
Thinking biblically about... (Connect Bible Studies)

Brian Draper
ISBN 9781844272808 (184427280X)
Scripture Union, 2007 (32pp)

Category: Internet and Technology

This is the latest in what one of my colleagues describes as Scripture Union's answer to Grove Booklets: the original series was launched in A4 magazine format but the new series (which aims to cover six subject areas: Arts & Entertainment; Education; Health; Politics; Science & Nature; and Technology) has been formatted to A5 booklet. It's been a successful formula for Grove and it's not surprising to see another Christian publisher adopting a similar approach.

In this volume Brian Draper, a graduate of London School of Theology and lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity — as well as a frequent BBC Radio 4 'Thought for the Day' presenter — offers us a selection of thought provoking and biblically focused reflections on the iPod, divided into six sections:

  1. What's on your iPod and why? Passive and active listening
  2. The soundtrack of our lives: music as self-expression
  3. Jukebox jury: you and your playlist
  4. Turn off, tune in: the spiritual art of silence in an iPod age
  5. OK, computer? Getting intimate with technology
  6. Use it up and wear it out: Music, commodity and communion

Before we get to these a brief introduction sets the scene, expanding the brief beyond the iPod to explore "what it might mean to think biblically about music and its role in our lives, and what, therefore, the implications might be for the way we use our iPods or other MP3 players." (p.7, author's emphasis).

The series is described as designed for use by either individuals or groups but this particular booklet is, like the iPod it venerates, perhaps best suited to individual use. Brian asks dozens of questions as he's going along:

If music has a function, then it's important to ask ourselves, before we proceed any further, how do we use it? When we put our iPods on, what are we listening for? Are we tuning into something — or tuning out the world? Are we turning to music for inspiration — or using it as a brief release from desperation? Is it connecting us to someone, or something greater, beyond ourselves? How does it change our moods, our minds, and our hearts? (p10)

These are ideal questions for personal reflection, but my feeling is that they'd work less effectively in a group setting: I suspect that working through the booklet in a church Bible study group would require more preparation from the group leader than many would be able to give. That's not to say that the booklet couldn't be used in a group setting: groups are as flexible as the individuals that make them up; some would, without a doubt, connect immediately.

A concluding chapter looks briefly at "The iPod and Discipleship", which is ultimately what this series is all about: helping us, as Christ's disciples, to connect with today's world. If you're concerned about music and where devices and services such as the iPod and iTunes are taking it — and where they're taking us as listeners — this is a booklet you're sure to appreciate. It's also available as an eBook download (£3.99, same price as hard copy), but, somewhat ironically, only as a pdf: it hasn't been made available in audio format... yet. Come on, Brian: let's hear you with this on iTunes!

Phil Groom, July 2007

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

Connect Bible Studies: Series Information and Sample Downloads (pdf)

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