Gutenberg, Reformation and the Internet

Although some might dismiss it as a lucky coincedence that Gutenberg’s original printing press was invented just a little more than a half a century before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg in 1517, any Christian should clearly see God’s Providential Hand in the matter.

Could the Reformation have even happened were it not for the printing press?

Consider just the simple act of translating the Bible into the language of the common people. Rome deemed it a crime to translate the Latin Vulgate Bible into any other tongue. The pope was uneasy about allowing the Word of God to be in the hands of the people, as they might begin to develop ideas different from those wielded by Rome.

For example, when William Tyndale completed his first English translation of the Bible in 1535 (less than a century after the invention of the Gutenberg press), drawing from Greek and Hebrew texts (rather than simply translating from the Latin Vulgate as had been done in bits and pieces in earlier centuries), Rome branded him a heretic, put him on trial, and ultimately burned him at the stake.

Tyndale’s translation became the primary source for the Authorized King James Version of the English Bible.

Considering Rome would burn as many copies as they could obtain of “unauthorized translations” of the Bible, would Tyndale’s translation have even survived to be carried forward into the King James Version had not the printing press existed?

Would we still be in the darkness that characterized the church in the pre-Reformation era? Would we still be dependent upon a local priest to tell us what God wants us to know, without any ability to read His Word for ourselves?

Would we still be buying indulgences, staking our salvation on a lifetime of good works, never resting in the “salvation by grace, through faith,” that God showed us in Christ?

What does any of this have to to with the Internet?

Is it possible that the Internet, and all it’s trappings — including blogs, social media, podcasts, etc. — has come along at just the right time to help Christians return to Biblical teachings and to help them learn to turn away from the health-wealth-prosperity gospels that are sold on TV?

Social media makes it easy to share posts from solid, reformed theologians with friends and family. Maybe some of those articles about the challenges that are common to all of us — like marriage issues, raising children, or navigating difficulties at work or with friends — can resonate with them, and maybe they will continue to browse on the site and begin to learn things they haven’t heard before. After all, if your only exposure to “preaching” comes from Joel Osteen or big, concert-hall-style churches, you’re probably not hearing the Gospel at all.

Without a doubt, since the advent of the Internet, there has been a mighty return to reformed doctrine. I recall when I first came to grasp what God’s sovereignty actually meant, and in that time, I have had many other friends and extended family members who have also come under the umbrella of the reformed faith. By the grace of God, I see that continuing to grow exponentially, and like the Gutenberg printing press was at the turn of the 16th century, this incredible Internet has come to us just in time.