On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a priest, and professor of theology from The University of Wittenberg, nailed the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” on the gate of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. Within 2 weeks, it spread all over Germany and within 6 weeks, it spread all over Europe. Today, Luther is known as the father of the Protestant Reformation who forever changed the Church.
However, Luther was not the first person to preach against indulgences. Before Luther, there were numerous forefathers of the Reformation, such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, who also preached against indulgences.
The question is, why is Martin Luther known as the father of the Protestant Reformation, while Jan Hus was burned at the stake?
Many credit a disruptive innovation that was invented 25 years after Jan Hus was burned at the stake, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, as a key reason why Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses was able to gain traction and kick off a movement that ushered in the Protestant Reformation. Even though John Wycliff and Jan Hus were faithfully preaching similar content as Martin Luther, their scholarship did not gain traction beyond their small tribe. Wycliff and Hus did not have a content/quality problem. They had a distribution problem.
We are living amid the greatest disruption in communication and distribution since the invention of the printing press: the Internet. Information and ideas travel at the speed of light with potential to start new movements globally. Oddly, the publishing industry and the academy are stubbornly focused on sharing information using Gutenberg technology while the world continuously innovates and adopts new methods of distribution.
Not unlike John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, Christian Scholarship has a distribution problem.
Christian Scholarship is Discipleship
We are witnessing sharp division and alarming polarization within our society and within the Church. More than ever, we need Christian scholars and public intellectuals to step boldly out to the public square and be the thoughtful and prophetic voice that they are called to be. Your scholarship and your expertise deserve to be shared more broadly than with the 20 people within your guild. More importantly, the Church needs you to share your ideas generously and courageously speak the truth.
CSR is more than an inter-disciplinary Christian academic journal. CSR has a responsibility to serve beyond the academy and to serve the local church. The words and ideas you share through CSR are not just facts and stories, they are an act of discipleship. CSR has an opportunity to shape and guide generations of Christians to think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.1
CSR is Solving the Distribution Problem
I am grateful to have been involved in the CSR community since 2018. Initially, I was brought on board to solve a technical problem: to launch the ChristianScholars.com website and upload the archive of journal issues and articles online. But my motivation for getting involved was a bigger vision of helping create a space for Christian scholars to become public intellectuals and to solve the Christian Scholarship distribution problem.
With the full support of our publisher, Todd Ream, and managing editor, Todd Steen, and the leadership of our editors, Perry Glanzer and Margret Diddams, we embarked on an investment in growing our audience online.
In September 2020, we launched the Christ-Animated Learning blog with over 30 world-class Christian scholars as contributors. In the first month, we had over 11,000 views which blew us away. Incredibly, within a year, our audience and visitors grew 10-15% month over month, eventually reaching 48,000 visits in September 2021.
How You Can Support This Movement
It has been exhilarating to be part of this movement for the past few years. I’m deeply inspired by the long-time service of some of our Editors. I am grateful that CSR is becoming a digital platform for Christian academics to share truth and wisdom with a divided and contentious world. More than ever before, we need thoughtful public intellectuals and academics to share their work with the Church and the world.
Truth is, we need your help. If you believe that Christian Scholarship is important, here are several ways you can contribute to the movement:
Contribute to the Journal and the Christ-Animated Learning Blog
We need your active participation and contribution to the journal and the blog. We are always eager and open to considering new content. Please consider publishing your research and scholarship in the Christian Scholar’s Review.
Here’s how you can contribute to the journal and here’s how you can contribute to the blog.
Advocate within your institution
Advocate and share CSR with your colleagues and the leadership within your institute. CSR plays an important role within Christian scholarship, but frankly, we need greater involvement and support from partner institutions. Every year, we need our campus representatives to remind the value of CSR to institutional administrators so that the institution renews its financial support.
Engage and Encourage
Encourage and support our contributors by actively engaging with their content and continuing the conversation in the comments section and sharing their posts with your networks. It’s so important for contributors to know that people are not only reading their content but also know that readers are thoughtfully engaging with their work.
Write for the Church
CSR has a discipleship responsibility to serve the local church. We can collectively live into the vision of being the think tank for the Church. When contributing content, target the local church as the reader, not only fellow academics. We have over 48,000 views per month and growing. Publishing on CSR will be a great way to reach a broader audience of peers and the Church.
Become a Monthly Donor
Lastly, we invite you to participate in what God is doing amongst this community by donating this holiday season. Few places align so closely with the calling and vocation of Christian academics as CSR. Your donation and financial contribution will support paying for the infrastructure and support new initiatives like producing new media content and equipping Christian scholars to become public intellectuals.
John makes a fine point about Luther’s success after a host of failed efforts by the likes of Huss, Wycliffe, etc.
For a more detailed account of Luther and the printing press I recommend “Brand Luther” by Andrew Pettegree.
I would note this as an example of the interplay between the liberal arts, in this case Theology, and technology.
There are many others. Example: Dickens’s novels were originally published in weekly magazine which were printed on steam driven presses and relied on steam powered railroads for distribution. Without the railroads for distribution the weeklies (and related novels) would not have been viable.
When we deny the inter-play between the humanities and the world we engage in a type of gnostism.