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We’re in a “Reverse Reformation”

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

The invention of the printing press in 1436 was a revolutionary as the internet is today. But, up until then, the printing press produced only Bibles and other books – very expensive books, not available to the masses.

Then, 70 years after it’s invention, Luther nailed his 95 Thesis’ on a Wittenburg church door and the protestant reformation began.

Soon copies of his 95 Thesis’ and other short writings were being printed by the tens of thousands, inexpensively and the ideas in them went viral! People had an insatiable appetite to read. Literacy exploded as people desperately wanted to read these new ideas. In fact so many people became readers that the price of books dropped like a stone. People became better informed, thoughtful and more spiritual. They gathered in groups to discuss these ideas. It changed the world for the better. It changed Christianity.

But today we’re in a “reverse reformation!” Here’s why I believe that; What’s a reverse reformation? Bookstores are closing up daily. People are reading fewer books. Millenials get the vast majority of their information from YouTube, short blogs, podcasts, or in 144 characters or less. Just 20 years ago, when I had to fly somewhere, almost everyone on the plane was reading something. The last time I flew, I noticed that almost no one was reading a book. Everyone was looking at a video, checking Facebook or Instagram, or listening to music. So what?

When people write books, it’s “darwinian.” Generally only worthy books get published. A published book gets passed through many editors and fact checkers. Grammar, spelling and well-written sentences not only inform, but they teach readers how to organize their thoughts in cogent, rationale sentences. In fact, reading becomes a lesson in rational thought and how to understand and communicate ideas that have context and importance.

But, anyone can post a video, a podcast, or blog with absolutely no filters to sort out truth from fact. If I post on Facebook a well thought out blog, I generally have 500 people read it. But, if I post a photo of my grandkids that number triples! I’m honored that people have an interest in my family. However, I’d prefer they have an interest in important ideas and truths that shape their lives.

No one who watches only Fox News or CNN is getting “fair and balanced” news. Each highlights the facts that support their viewpoint, and often gloss over facts that are unhelpful. We have no “Walter Cronkites” anymore – “the most trusted man in America.”

How is this affecting Christianity? My father quit school at the 10th grade. Nevertheless, he could still intelligently discuss serious theological and political ideas because he was a reader of books and newspapers – not snippets of ideas – fully thought out ideas.

I am shocked at how poorly read, many of other 20-30 something men I meet with are. We are becoming less literate and less informed on ideas that have stood the test of time. Younger Christians are falling prey to teachers and pastors who are saying what their “itching ears” want to hear, with very little discernment.

The Solution? Buy thoughtful books or find thoughtful blogs. Give them to your children or grandchildren or to a person you mentor. Meet and discuss the ideas expressed in them. Teach them to ask thoughtful questions. Encourage them to question what is coming at them in tweets and videos. Teach them to be informed and discerning citizens of the kingdom of God on earth.

If spiritually mature adults do not champion reading, and the discussion of deeper questions of the Christian faith, the reformation begun 400 years ago will slowly grind into a new “dark ages,” drowned out by Instagrams of selfies and friends on a beach.

And if it’s been more than a few weeks since you’ve read a good book – start with you. If you’re not sure where to begin, ask your pastor. I’m trying to be an informed grandfather and elder these days on the most important social issue facing the church today – homosexuality. My favorite book on the subject is People to be Loved by Preston Sprinkle. Get a book – get informed.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

How following Jesus works in real life.

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