God, Profits, and Book-Burning

From Reformation tactics for Reformation 500 and beyond

The printing press was the internet of the day, getting vital information and new ideas about Christian freedom and responsibility out to millions of people globally.

This was accomplished, not because someone decided to increase his quiet time by ten minutes in the morning, not because he built a church with a rock climbing wall and Play Stations and built-in Starbucks, not through yet one more sermon series on obeisance to sermons and contributing to the building fund, but through genuine business entrepreneurship. Gutenberg did not have in mind lofty ideas of spirituality or reforming the church at all. He was a goldsmith and an inventor; he was what today some leftist would call a greedy capitalist: he was trying to find a way to print more stuff faster and make more money—which is perfectly, biblically sound as long as it is done within the realm of God’s law.

The future does not lie with the Marxist, thirsting for more power and control over other people’s wealth.

It lies with the entrepreneurial capitalist.

As Albert Jay Nock said,

There are two methods, or means, and only two whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the un-compensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.

The Hard-Leftist Dream of the Total State belongs to the 20th century: let it rot there.

The Soft-Leftist Dream of the Welfare State will not survive this century: it may die before we even get to 2040, depending on how the various defaults and national bankruptcies work out.

The future belong to the free man, using his skills as best as he knows how to lawfully enrich himself… and society as well.

(For if he did not benefit other men, he would get no repeat business – which is where all the profit is – and would die poor and forgotten.)

Now, back to American Vision!

He used his skills as a goldsmith working with metals to create moveable type; he put these together with a screw-press to do the printing. Along with advances others had made in production of paper and oil-based ink, he created the Facebook of his era and revolutionized human communication. He did this not from within the walls of the church, but from the workrooms and offices of business. The people who reprinted Luther’s pamphlets hundreds of thousands of times may have done so less out of a concern for piety than for profit, but in doing so they “ran the race,” and I suspect a good number of those among them today sit among the great cloud of witnesses.

Good to see old friends. I also expect to see quite a few businessmen I know there, too! Very few academics or politicians, though…

We should not fear to gain business savvy. William Tyndale, for example, was as much a businessman as a theologian. He encountered great opposition with his English translation of the New Testament, especially in England where it really counted because they spoke English. The account of his first edition runs thusly:

A curious tale is related of how he contrived to turn the devices of his foes to advantage. The Archbishop of Canterbury [Whalem at the time] was buying up his translations for burning and commissioned a certain Packington to scour the continent for more. The man went straight to Tyndale himself and informed him that he had discovered a merchant who would clean out his stock.

“Who is this merchant?” said Tyndale.

“The bishop of London,” said Packington.

“Oh, that is because he will burn them,” said Tyndale.

“Yea, marry,” quoth Packington.

“I am the gladder,” said Tyndale, “for these two benefits will come of it: I shall get money from him for these books and bring myself out of debt, and the whole world shall cry out on the burning of God’s Word, and the overplus of the money shall make me more studious to correct the said New Testament, and so newly to imprint the same once again; and I trust the second will much better like you that ever did the first.”

And the account concludes: “And so forward went the bargain: the bishop had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money.”[3]

As it should be.

The work of translation itself did not go without an ironic legacy: after Tyndale was betrayed and executed in the Netherlands, the King of England ordered the Bible to be translated into English for the churches. He assigned this task to Myles Coverdale who was not proficient in Greek and Hebrew, nor did he have time to meet the strict deadline the king put on him. As a result, Coverdale essentially copied most of Tyndale’s translation.

“Fast thinking keeps the head attached to the body. And… what the King doesn’t know, won’t hurt him.”

In the heritage of the English Bible that followed, Tyndale’s laid the foundation of Coverdale’s, Rogers’ “Matthews” Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishop’s Bible, and the King James. The Chicago Divinity professor E. J. Goodspeed writing in 1925 said, “None of these is more than a revision of Tyndale,” for which Tyndale contributed “more than all others combined. He has shaped the religious vocabulary of the English-speaking world.”[4]

Gutenburg and Tyndale, Christian businessmen, made their mark.

You should make your mark, too.

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