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The Power and Permanence of the Printed Page

Did you know that God is a writer? God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments. Why did He write them? Word of mouth is changeable. It becomes distorted. The printed page stands. God wanted the basic moral code in writing.

Thirty-two times in the Bible we find the command to write. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book” (Exodus 17:14). Chapter 6 of Deuteronomy commands parents to write, in the context of their own homes, so their children might be impressed with the truth.

“Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen” (Isaiah 8:1). “Write it in their sight.” Why? “That they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them” (Ezekiel 43:11).

Jude “gave all diligence to write.” There is a sense of urgency in the way he found it needful to write. And this urgency does not diminish. Twelve times John, in writing the Book of Revelation, was commanded to write. What would we know today about the teachings of Jesus and the apostles if no one had written?

The power of the pen is proven by history. Civilizations have been molded and shaped by literature. Their moral standards have risen and fallen with their literary diet. Empires rose and fell, borne on the waves of their writings. The Dark Ages were dark partly because of a dearth of good literature. And we dare not overlook the influence of the Bible in ending this dark period. Wycliffe’s Bible in the language of the people appeared about 1382.

The Reformation was certainly carried forth on the wings of literature. For years Luther averaged a book or pamphlet a week.

If our Anabaptist forefathers would have been as indifferent to Christian writing as most of us are, we would hardly know there were Anabaptists. All we would have today would be the distorted views of their enemies. Twenty-five years after the Anabaptist movement began, five Anabaptist hymnals had appeared. When the authorities raided the print shop at Lubeck in the early 1550’s, they found ten tons of books. From 1536 to his death, Menno Simons wrote numerous books and pamphlets. Most of this time there was a price on his head and a death penalty for aiding him in any way. What dedication!

Consider the permanence of the printed page. The printed page preserves precious pearls, perilous propaganda, and pertinent doctrine. Foremost of these precious pearls is the Word itself. The tables of stone on which God engraved the Ten Commandments are a classic symbol of permanence. “Now go, write it before them . . . in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever” (Isaiah 30:8). The Bible is a miracle of preservation. It is a proof of God’s interest in the written Word.

Printing also preserves perilous propaganda. Do false teachers use literature to better advantage than the children of light? Each year Jehovah's Witnesses spend about 1.2 billion hours distributing WatchTower publications. The blasphemous Da Vinci Code has sold over 40 million copies. What a challenge to meet these lies with Christian literature!

We need to produce Christian books and periodicals to develop and stabilize our own Biblical faith and to win others to the faith of Christ. Johann Gutenberg, the father of modern printing, wrote: “God suffers because of the great multitudes whom His sacred Word cannot reach. Religious truth is captive in a small number of manuscript books which guard the treasures. Let us break the seal which holds the holy things, give wings to that truth that by a means no longer written at great expense by the hand that wearies itself, but multiplied by an unwearied machine, it may fly to every soul born into the world.”

Too long our literature interests have lagged behind. We let the psychologists write our “meeting emotional needs” books. We let the world write the textbooks for our schools. We may not have much time anymore. Our prospect for the future is the Second Coming of Christ. While we wait, let us publish and promote literature that builds the church. We will pray, preach, write, and proclaim until Jesus comes. Maranatha!


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