Gutenberg’s Heresy and the Metaverse Precursor

June 23, 2022

As near as I can tell, Helen Keller first said, “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” To be honest, it surprises me a bit to read that from Helen Keller. I have much respect for her and what she overcame, but I didn’t realize this theological bent in Helen Keller.

What’s interesting is that we see this pattern historically. The church often fights against cultural shifts, claiming the shift as heresy. At least in modern history, rarely will the church win, eventually adopting the heresy into the church. The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.

The church often fights against cultural shifts, claiming the shift as heresy.

Examples? Well, church online in this COVID season, for one. Most churches in America pre-COVID thought that broadcasting church services online was a distraction and possibly a violation of God’s physical law for his Church. In December 2019, a lead pastor told me that I should confess my sins before God and repent for working to separate people from God’s physical Church. Around four months later, I received a phone call from the same lead pastor begging me to help the church get its services online in the middle of the pandemic. My pastor friend’s view of church online went from heretical to borderline orthodoxy in about four months under the right circumstances.

Gutenberg’s Heresy

In his day, some considered Gutenberg a heretic for his work on the printing press and the eventual printing of the Bibles. Putting scriptures in the hands of the people devalued the work of the Priest and was said to be very disruptive to the established church in its time. Hundreds of years later, we recognize Gutenberg’s work as the catalytic invention that started a movement.

Some considered Gutenberg a heretic for his work on the printing press.

Did you know that Gutenberg’s printing press was the prerequisite for Martin Luther’s Reformation? Gutenberg’s press produced Luther’s 95 Theses, which were distributed around neighboring towns and cities. In many ways, the printing press technology allowed Luther’s ideas to multiply and scale at an unheard of rate. Without Gutenberg’s printing press, would Martin Luther’s Reformation have had the impact? Victor Hugo, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, references this:

The sixteenth-century shattered religious unity. Before printing, the Reformation would just have been a schism; printing made it a revolution. Take away the printing press, and heresy is enervated [weakened, destroyed]. Be it fate or providence, Gutenberg was Luther’s precursor.

The Metaverse Heresy

Just as Gutenberg’s printing press went from heresy to revolutionary to orthodoxy, we too are poised for the next disruption: the metaverse. Most church leaders today would view the Web3 technologies as heresy. Some have even said the Antichrist would be born in the metaverse and that all new technologies come from the devil. Sadly, church leaders may not currently have the best perspective on the metaverse.

Here’s what I know: Apple, Microsoft, Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, Nvidia, Unity, Shopify, Roblox, Qualcomm, Disney, Adobe, and Nike are all spending billions on the metaverse. And while these corporations are building their tech, the Church is at a crossroads with a decision. Do we continue to look at these Web3 technologies as heresy or recognize, like Luther did, that this technological leap is in fact the beginning of something different? Just as the printing press was Luther’s precursor, Web3 will bring the necessary cultural disruption in our churches.

Most church leaders today would view the Web3 technologies as heresy.

Was Helen Keller right? Will today’s heresy become tomorrow’s orthodoxy? Time will tell, but we’re going to have fun in the meantime. 

Jeff Reed

Jeff Reed

In June 2000, Jeff led his first online Bible study, taking 75 people from around the world through the book of James using a text-based system called Ultimate BB. He was doing digital ministry way before it was cool. Founding THECHURCH.DIGITAL in 2018, Jeff’s passions have evolved into helping churches (and individuals too!) find their calling through digital discipleship, releasing people on digital mission, and planting multiplying digital churches. This pursuit will expand as Jeff (and others) create the DigitalChurch.Network, an organic, decentralized network for digital expressions of church, globally. Jeff also serves as the Director of Metaverse Church NEXT for Leadership Network, and works closely with Exponential and other globally facing, multiplication-friendly, gospel-centric organizations. Jeff married his high school sweetheart, Amy, and has two kids and a dog. They live in Miami, Florida.
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