We stand on the shoulders of the giants that come before us. Perhaps you’ve heard a variation of this statement before. It’s easy to take for granted the accomplishments that others have made before us that pave the way for our own work. Right now it’s possible for you to compose an email, send it to someone on the other side of the world and receive their response, faster than you can get in and out of a diner for breakfast. We take advantage of this everyday, but seldom stop to acknowledge the advances that made this possible.
Kindling for the Fire
It’s unlikely to hear someone talk about the Reformation without mentioning Luther. Gutenberg, on the other hand, doesn’t always get the tip of the hat that he deserves. It was his invention of the printing press that provided the kindling upon which Luther’s ideas would blaze. Gutenberg’s contribution to the Reformation was not just printing and distributing Bibles, but actually providing the technology that served as the vehicle for ideas to spread. Just as the automobile changed society from one that had to live, labor and leisure in an isolated location to a global economic market, the printing press aimed to pull the common man out of collective ignorance by making God’s Word widely available.
While many people in varying camps still debate some of the finer points of the Reformation, they do so only because they have access to the Scriptures and for that they can thank Gutenberg and the printing press.
Another Reformation of Sorts
Much like the printing press made the Bible widely available and paved the way for the Reformation, the Internet now serves as a vehicle for a second sort of “Reformation.” The doctrine called “the Priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:5 is where it is most clearly taught, although Jesus’ fulfillment of the priestly office makes this teaching prevalent throughout the whole Bible) was, in part, what motivated the first Reformation. As Creator, God has bestowed upon every man the capacity to know Him. Without access to a Bible knowing Him is impossible. It is now possible for anyone with a laptop, tablet, smartphone or even dialup to download a Bible app or access God’s Word in HTML format. Additionally, centuries of Christian literature are now available at our fingertips in electronic formats. If the printing press made it possible for everyone on the ground to have a copy of the Bible, the Internet made sure God’s Word would always be looking down at us from above in “the cloud.” How should this affect our everyday lives?
Last week I caught up with an old friend who lives on the other side of the country. He’s known me since before I started following Christ. After sharing the Gospel with him I asked if I could buy him a Bible. He informed me he wouldn’t read it, but he would read an app if there was one available. Simple. Easy. Now he has a copy of the Bible right at his fingertips. Jesus commissioned us to be His witnesses “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As the Internet creeps into every village and every home, so too does the potential for the Gospel if Christians steward over these technological tools wisely and invite others to open God’s Word (if only on a smartphone).
[Image of arms typing in germ-free environment via life of pix [http://www.lifeofpix.com/]