The Invention That Changed Everything

The Invention That Changed Everything

Many of us completely take for granted our access to Bibles and good books. The purchase of a physical copy of a Bible or a theologically sound book is just a few clicks away, or at most, a short drive to a bookstore. This is not the case for a majority of the world. Many regions suffer from a great lack of biblical resources. Because of this, church leaders and God’s people often fall prey to biblical illiteracy, false teaching, and weak churches.

Six Centuries and Counting

If I were to ask you to name the most important invention of the last thousand years, what would come to mind?

If you are considering our current era, you would probably say the internet. But if you are thinking about the previous era, you might say the internal combustion engine. And other nominations would likely percolate toward the top: electricity, antibiotics, and air travel.

Speaking of inventions, I also asked ChatGPT to give me its top ten inventions list. It told me that the rankings are subjective but still took a stab at it. Its number one choice confirmed my hypothesis: the printing press.

Of course, books existed before the printing press but were tediously limited by hand copying. Then the year 1450 saw a technological explosion. At that time, Johannes Gutenberg broke through the barrier with the introduction of his movable type printing press. It quickly transformed a snail’s pace process into mass production. The impact of this invention has rocked the world, right up to our day.

We are now approaching six centuries since that pivotal moment, and you would be hard-pressed to come up with a more important invention when you consider that all subsequent technological advances have depended on that breakthrough. The resulting rapid dissemination of information paved the way for the democratization of knowledge in the modern world.

In the providential wisdom of God, the printing press arrived on the scene just before the Protestant Reformation. It is hard to imagine the latter without the former. Without copies of the Scriptures, as well as theological books and pamphlets, the Reformation would likely have been relegated to a regional event in history.

By God’s design, the printed word continues to be one of the most effective vehicles for spreading truth geographically as well as historically, down to subsequent generations. Mass-printed books have been crucial to the widespread fulfillment of 2 Timothy 2:15. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Or, as the King James Version translates the first part of this verse, “Study to show thyself approved . . .” (my emphasis).

As Johannes Gutenberg is said to have proclaimed, “It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow inexhaustible streams. Through it, God will spread his Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star, it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.”

The Role of Books

Over the years, I’ve collected quotes recognizing the important role of the printed book as it relates to spreading gospel-centered truth. Here are a few:

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