For those of us who remember Amstrad and Spectrum computers (!) it is still an almost unthinkable thing that we carry around so much computing horsepower in our pockets and on our tablets. There is in our constant grasp a world of information, of connection, and of temptation which our forebears could never have imagined. Harnessing the great elements of technology to the healthy disciplines of Christianity is an urgent need in our day, if these items are not to become a microchipped Vanity Fair with all of its allurements and distractions. Apps like ‘Dwell’ (released today) go a long way to realising the true blessing that our devices can be to us.
Dwell is an audio app which provides users with the opportunity to interact with Scripture in a fresh way. Audio Bibles have been around for years, but Dwell brings something new to the table – a virtual space for authentic biblical meditation. The concept behind the app is that of reading plans which guide the hearer through themes, or through specific sections of Scripture. As far as I can discern these plans do not include options to listen to the whole Bible in a year, but that may actually be contrary to the concept of Dwell – the idea here is considered hearing and reading, of thoughtful interaction with what Scripture itself is saying.
The interface for the app is extremely pleasant. Clear controls and editable options are immediately apparent upon opening it, and a high level of customisation is possible. Listeners can select from four different readers and can elect to have a variety of ambient audio backgrounds or none. There are short plans which lead the hearer through a dozen or so verses, and others which work more extensively through books of the Bible – thematic options such as ‘The New Covenant’, ‘The Trinity’ are also included. The duration of these plans ranges from 7 days to 150 days. The reading voices are pleasant, and embody a good degree of tonal and colloquial variety. Most users will probably find their preferred voice and stick with it.
There are a few limitations to Dwell. It is a subscription service, which means that if you want to have the full range of voice options etc, and don’t want a periodic ad asking you to go to the ‘Unlimited’ package, then you’ll need to pay. To me, this is entirely reasonable, and the costs are low enough to be sustained by most people. The app is also only on iPhone at the moment, although the Android option will be released in the autumn time. Scripture readings are exclusively in the ESV which will be a drawback to some and an affirmation to others, but it is to be hoped that a variety of translation options might come online as the app secures an assured customer base.
I cannot recommend this app highly enough. We might paraphrase Wordsworth in saying that ‘the world is too much with us’, and that ‘little we see in Scripture that is ours’. Our work patterns, the social turntables on which family demands can place us, even our ministry, can be cluttering and clamouring influences on our thinking and engagement with what God has said. Finding time and space to think, to meditate, to dwell, are at a premium, and this app unobtrusively opens up a channel whereby we might do just that – slow down, listen carefully, apply personally, and worship privately.
(Details on ‘Dwell’ – subscriptions etc. – can be accessed here.)