The Reformation, Printing Press And Smart Phone

One aspect of the Reformation I had not thought of until recently was the role of increased literacy at the time. It was not only Martin Luther who knew things were wrong but a growing percentage of the laity. For a thousand some years only a small slice of the elite had access to the written word. When literacy and the printing press began to infiltrate the broader society, things inside the clergy club started to change.

To understand the archaic rules inside the Catholic Church, we need to remember they were drafted at a time when only 1% of the population was literate. Thus, the rule the clergy only, not the laity, is qualified to interpret the written word which is also the will of God. As long as few could read this worked well for the clergy. Who could argue indulgences were wrong if he/she was illiterate. Martin Luther criticized other Catholic clergy, but the general public was ready to go after them too.

Clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, held onto the reins of power even after the Reformation by claiming they were better trained and knew more than the laity. The computer, followed by the smart phone, has had the same effect on these reins of power as the printing press did at the time of the Reformation. Laity now has access to historical and analytical religious material previously only available in seminary libraries. People are leaving denominations.

Perhaps this is only the beginning of Reformation II.

6 Responses

  1. Paul Overby

    Yes, the printing press was critical to the spread of the Reformation. I read recently the Luther, in addition to translating the Bible into German so it was available to a larger audience, realized the benefit of “pamphlets” to explain Biblical truths. As such a local printer went from producing just 28 publications up to 97 publications in one year! Of course, you will disagree, but I think that the timing of this restlessness and the invention of the printing press were not coincidental. By the way, some of those Catholic priests, like Menno Simons, had been ordained without ever reading the Latin Bible! It was only after the awakening that they started digging into the Bible and were led by the Holy Spirit to discover the truths that had been hidden by men for nearly 1000 years.

    1. Catcher

      @ 7;00 re. Luther; Yes, in fact Luther wrote two catechisms. one was the ” small”, “As should be taught to the children by the head of the household”. The contents were; The Apostles Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Ten Commandments, with brief explanations; “What does this mean?”. Initially presented in essentially a flash card form.
      The second “Large Catechism” was developed upon discovery that the converted priests had little or no knowledge of the Bible, or it’s content. In book form. As in the “small”, it contained the Apostles Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and in addition, explanations of Baptism, and Communion.
      An interesting quote of Luther in the preface to the large is; “Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake to get it into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think. What they need is to become children and begin learning their ABC’s which they think they have outgrown long ago. I implore them not to imagine that they have learned these parts of the Catechisms perfectly or at least sufficient., even thou they think they know them ever so well.”

      1. Catcher 9:51 “Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellied and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake to get in into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think…”

        It seems to me something similar is going on in today’s smart phone era. A part of the faith has joined skeptics to say something similar to branches of the faith that take anything in the Bible literally. Taking literally that “Jesus died for your sins” or “Jesus arose from being dead” is scoffed at as lazy intellect. Better to study the world of that time for an understanding of the influence societal values had on those who made up those Bible stories.

        1. Catcher

          @ 1;29; “Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellied and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake to get into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think”. Included ..”A part of the faith has joined skeptics.” and the skeptics themselves.

  2. Juan Ruiz

    What set Luther apart was his ability to read Scripture in its original languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This was a time when the Church proclaimed that Jerome’s Vulgate translation was not only the official text, but better than the originals. His German translation went back to those texts. It also established his dialect of German, Hochdeutsch, as what would become the national language, much like Chaucer did for English.

    Still, literacy in Europe was about 2-5% at the time. Which meant most could not read Luther’s Bible. But, it was an improvement over the mionority who could read the Latin.

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