by Viggo Sogaard, editor
This manual effectively addresses a critically important issue—how can those who are functionally illiterate have access to the Bible?
United Bible Societies, Reading Bridge House, Reading, RG1 8PJ, England, 2001, $35.00.
—Reviewed by Donald K. Smith, distinguished professor of Intercultural Communication at Western Seminary, and co-director of WorldView Center, Portland, Ore.
This manual effectively addresses a critically important issue—how can those who are functionally illiterate have access to the Bible? In showing how the word of God can be given in audio and video formats, this work redraws the boundaries for discussion of mission strategies. For centuries the assumption has been that literacy is essential for grounding in scriptural truth; without literacy the Bible cannot fulfill its role as the essential foundation for the church. Now that many technologies do not depend on literacy for their usefulness, spiritual growth and stability do not need to be tied to literacy.
The United Bible Societies are to be commended for the significant effort underlying this manual to truly make Scripture available to all, literate and non-literate, and to partner with churches and parachurch organizations that share the vision. Major difficulties are addressed with concrete procedures, stressing the importance of evaluative research at every step. The many case studies from widespread areas of the world are not only interesting and inspiring but provide practical models. Models of inter-agency cooperation and guidelines are included to use in developing relationships.
Detailed information is included in step-by-step guides for developing recordings that can be used in different formats for distribution, such as radio, cassettes, CDs and video. The steps include often overlooked areas in audio/visual presentations: faithfulness to the biblical text, cultural appropriateness, distribution and use of the materials by the intended audience.
The manual is very usable, clearly written and presented in a very attractive and comprehensible format. But it is unfortunately built on some communication assumptions that have been significantly modified in recent years. These underlying ideas are still broadly useful, but in some important areas lead to a flawed approach, for example, the audience is viewed as a target rather than participant. That means we transmit rather than communicate. True and effective communication is always a two-way process, described as participatory communication. Recognition of the audience context and needs is important, as the manual shows repeatedly. But what we see from “outside” is seldom the same as the view of those within the culture. Thus, “inside” participation is essential for effective communication.
Despite weaknesses in current understanding of the communication process, this is an important work. It will serve as a guide for those who want to break out of traditional patterns that tie the gospel to literacy and Western forms of learning, helping them to utilize the immense potential of advances in electronic and digital technologies.
Check these titles:
Klem, Herbert V. 1982. Oral Communication of the Scripture: Insights from African Oral Art. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.
Primrose, Robert. n.d. Discipling Non-Literates: A Study Report. Nairobi, Kenya: Daystar University.
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