I recently had the opportunity to read Passages by Brian Hardin. The subtitle is “How reading the Bible in a year will change everything for you” and that pretty much sums it up. Hardin is the creator of the Daily Audio Bible podcast, wherein he reads a few passages every day so that if you listen every day you will have heard the whole Bible in one year.

If you have ever gone to church, you know that Christians are very into reading the Bible, or at least talking about reading the Bible. (And, possibly, feeling guilty for not doing so.) Passages explains why this is an important practice and gives a lot of examples from the lives of Daily Audio Bible people of how making Bible-reading part of their everyday lives changed their spiritual lives.

But, honestly, I have a few problems with this book. The first – and this is nitpicky – is that I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where it specifically says that it is important to read through the whole Bible in one year. I am not arguing that making the Bible a part of every day will benefit your spiritual life, I think that is very Biblical. I just think the important part is the “every day” bit, not the “whole Bible” bit. I mean, you could just sit down and read through the whole thing in one go and not touch it again for a year and technically you would have read through the whole Bible in a year but the results will not be the same. If you have never read the Bible before I think it’s more important to start, and stick with it, even if you’re only doing a little at a time, than to feel it’s necessary to keep up with an in-a-year plan. The second problem that I have (possibly even more nitpicky) is that Hardin does talk about keeping Scripture in context – which is very important to me – but if that’s the case it seems that he would favor a chronological reading rather than the one he uses (a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, and a little bit o’ Psalms and Proverbs). A chronological reading provides the historical context for why God said what He did when He said it. Which should, in turn, lead to a better understanding.

The third and biggest problem that I have with Passages is the emphasis on community (there is a forum on the Daily Audio Bible site). Now, don’t get me wrong, I think community is very, very important. And I agree that it’s very, very important to read the Bible in community. But in my opinion a huge failing of the modern church is the idea that “virtual community” is the same thing as community. It is not. I say that as someone who has lived overseas and has been/am very, very grateful for podcasts and webcasts of sermons and Skype and Facebook (well, I’m not grateful for that one anymore, that’s a different topic) and email and blogs. All those things are wonderful for providing a sense of community for people who feel isolated in real life…and they are also wonderful crutches for those people. (I say this with experience.) Without exception, all of the examples of community in the early church are very physical – they were eating together, going to each other’s houses, meeting each other’s physical needs for clothing, etc. I know the internet wasn’t around then but my point is that very few of those things can be accomplished in a forum. And participating in a forum where everyone else listened to the same podcast is not the same as reading the Bible in community. Reading the Bible in community is reading the Bible with other real live people. If you do not know real live people nearby, STOP LISTENING TO YOUR IPOD AND GO MEET SOME. Invite your neighbors over. Join a club. Say hi to the other mom with a little kid going crazy in the grocery store. The friends you make in a forum cannot come sit with you in the waiting room of a hospital when you are both desperate for and dreading news. They cannot bring you dinner after you have a new baby. They cannot take your kid to the park so you can have a break for an hour. They can’t give you a ride to work when your car breaks down. And you can’t do those things for them. Physical presence is, I believe, a deeply important part of community and it is a grave mistake to believe anything that happens on the internet is a satisfactory substitute. One of the personal stories in the book says of moving, “Rather than being terrified about having to find a whole new support system, I am now excited to move, knowing that there is still a community with me” and when I read that I felt really sorry for the girl who wrote it. Sure, you will still have online friends but that’s just not the same as meeting up with a real-life friend after a crappy day at work. And yes, finding/building community is a long and difficult and sometimes lonely process…but God is putting you in that place for a reason, get off your computer and go find it.

Those things aside, Passages is good motivation to do something you know you ought to be doing or inspiration to start if you’ve never thought about it.

Read the other reviews on the blog tour here.

This book was provided for review by the LitFuse Publicity Group.