The newly released Oxford Companion to Christian Thought echoes the bias of untold scores who think being religious means being skeptical of media technology: "Religious institutions and churches have responded slowly and grudgingly to … mass media. … Opinions may differ as to whether the press belongs to the world, the flesh, or the devil, but not many Christian voices have been raised suggesting it belongs to the realm of the Spirit, even less that it has a place in building the Kingdom of God." Don't believe it.
Less than a century after Johann Gutenberg invented movable type, John Calvin remarked that the presses in Geneva were able to produce copies of the Bible and his Institutes of the Christian Religion so rapidly that they could be shot out as ammunition. Calvin understood that simple advances in technology could put the full force of the divine Word at the disposal of every individual, so he dispatched emissaries throughout the countryside to distribute Bibles as well as his own writings.
Martin Luther also understood the power of the press, which he used to propagate his evangelical ideas throughout Europe. At Luther's behest, Albrecht Dürer developed a form of engraving that would enable him to communicate relatively complex doctrines in the form of easily accessible illustrations, thereby harnessing technology to the service of the gospel.
In addition to Dürer's woodcuts illustrating biblical themes and evangelical theology, Protestants also put evangelical lyrics to existing tunes, which they printed and dispensed to the masses. In England, people took songsheets like these and made them into a primitive form of wallpaper that, once again, heralded the gospel—even ...1
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