Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A New Reformation?

What did Martin Luther have that John Huss didn't have? Approximately 100 years before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door, Huss was burned at the stake for espousing some of the same beliefs. Indeed, when John Eck debated Luther at Leipzig in 1519, his coup-de-grace in the debate was getting Luther to refute the Pope and side with John Huss. This put Luther into the camp of an executed heretic who was condemned by the Catholic Church.

The easy answer is that it was the providence of God that caused Luther's reformation to spread where Huss had less success. That's certainly true, but I believe that it would be a mistake to overlook one of the means that God used to effectively spread the gospel of salvation by faith alone: the printing press.

I am not the first to point out the radical nature of the printing presses invention nor its tremendous impact on Reformational teaching. The press made books more abundant, cheaper, and it increased the capacity for copies astronomically. Who knows how many thousands of Christians were affected by the writings of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli? (The latter were directly influenced by Luther's publications as well.)

My point is that I believe that we have a similar technological marvel today that is comparable to that press. You're looking at it right now. Obviously, I'm referring to the internet. The internet, for all the evils that have come with it, is a virtual treasure trove of free information in an easily accessible format. If you can peck the words "John Calvin" into a Google search bar, you can essentially access anything that he wrote.

Flash back 40 years to the average bi-vocational preacher in the mountains of Alabama. Such a man would not have had the means to travel to seminary to study. The only tools he would have had to learn from were other uneducated preachers. Certainly, many of these men were steeped in Scripture, and they were used greatly of God. But I have never in my life met a saintly, uneducated pastor who did not greatly esteem sound theological education, and most wished that they could have had such training in their younger days.

Today, a pastor in that same position does not have the same challenge. He can read the brightest minds, hear the most wonderful sermons via podcasting, access inexpensive education online, find a wealth of free commentary, and he can network with other pastors like no other generation before. All this adds up to some very profound changes in the theology of the modern pastor. To put what I'm saying in perspective, I will confess that I probably own five times the number of books that Jonathan Edwards owned when he died. (I think I read once that he only had a hundred or so, someone correct me if they have the exact figure.) That may mean that I'm wrong about all of this, and that the access to books and information doesn't necessarily help. I prefer to marvel at what Brother Edwards could have done if he had the access to the things that I have been privileged to read and see.

I am greatly encouraged by things I am seeing and reading here in the blogosphere, and I am awed by the depth of knowledge that many "young people" have today because of all they are reading. I hope that, whether I am right or not, this trend continues and we see genuine revival here and around the world.


Daniel said...

I hadn't thought of the internet as the next printing press - but immediately I agreed. The wealth of information is staggering, and the speed by which it is made available equally staggering.

Great post, and wonderful hope.

ann_in_grace said...

So true. My own experience says yes to this view.

It grieves me, however, that there are some who refuse to use it, for the sheer stubborness of old-fashioned views.

Lisa writes... said...

Do it, Lord! Renew Your wonders among us, and revive us again!

DW said...

What Daniel said. Good stuff.
I wanted to drop a note as I found this blog by accident. I read some of your posts and see that it appears you hold to the doctrines of grace. As I do not have much fellowship with others who think this way, I just wanted to say hi to a brother, especially one who hunts and fishes. Greetings from a Baptist in north central Texas.

Sista Cala said...

Until recently, I would not consider the idea that the internet could be just a good and worthwhile as it could be evil and detrimental. Now that I am a part of the blogging world, I have found what you shared to be true.