Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20, 2012

The Printing Press and the Protestant Reformation

God always knows exactly what He is doing. When the printing press was first utilized in the mid-1400s, it was an incredible development that people of the day could scarcely believe. Its true importance and convenience was discovered with the advent of the Protestant Reformation. Word spread quickly to the people. A number of pamphlets of both the Calvinist and the Lutheran persuasion were quickly mass-produced and propagated throughout Christendom, leading to the theory that the printing press was the most influential component in the spread of the Protestant Reformation.

Imagine how it must have been in Europe during the first half of the 16th century. Many people were discontent, ill-at-ease with Church teachings they had never fully understood or accepted. Then, suddenly, there was a flood of pamphlets that taught freedom. There were people who believed just as they did. People who were willing to band together to make the truth known. The entire world was opened to them, and these soon-to-be-Protestants read voraciously, examining the pros and cons of the Catholic Church for themselves. Free and untethered. They were able to make conscious decisions based on their own hearts, not simply believing what others said they must believe.

"Institutes of the Christian Religion," one of the
John Calvin's most influential writings.

Today it is impossible to imagine the influence that the printing press had on the Reformation. Without it --- without writings by Martin Luther and John Calvin, without the Holy Scriptures translated into various languages, without the pamphlets that outlined "saved by grace through faith," this newfound faith might never have been discovered. Martin Luther had a high opinion of the printing press and recognized the effect it had on the Reformation: "God's highest and extremist act of grace, whereby the business of the Gospel is driven forward," he called it.

One of Martin Luther's works, published in 1581.

In 1522 --- nearly five centuries ago --- Martin Luther's New Testament rolled off the presses in the language of the common people of Germany! Thousands of these testaments made their way into German homes, becoming the family's most cherished possession. The Protestant Reformation refused to die. It utilized this newfound press in all ways possible, bellowing the truth of the Gospel throughout the known world to anyone who would listen. And even though many could not read, there were always learned family members or friends who would read aloud while the illiterate would raptly listen. "The just shall live by faith." A flash of realization. A recognition. An unbinding of the soul, a relaxation, a relief.

All due to Johann Gutenberg who, at his death, had only the slightest idea of what a wondrous thing he had created.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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