The Book That Made Your World: Book Review

Published 20 June 2011  |  
This book by Vishal Mangalwadi is fabulous, timely, relevant and contemporary reading for Postmodern world. It rightly evaluates the present thought pattern and reminds the origin of original ideas that transformed West made it as the best civilization in the history of humanity. The author rightly says that Christian professors in India and America have very little idea about the importance of the Bible and its contribution for making the modern world. The book has seven parts: The soul of Western civilization; A Personal pilgrimage; The seeds of Western Civilization; The Millennium's revolution; The Intellectual Revolution; What made the West the Best?: and Globalizing Modernity

Kurt Cobain a rock band singer who created Nirvana committed suicide. The hurt from divorced parents could not be healed by music, fame, money, sex, drugs...etc. He accepted the noble truth of Buddha that life is suffering hence did not have emotional, social, spiritual center that led to his suicide. Many teenagers are committing suicide because of lack of this spiritual anchor. Buddha's rejection of self appealed to skeptics like Pyrrho of Elea (360-270 BC) who travelled to India and started teaching that nothing is truly knowable. So people stopped paying to philosophers for teaching nothing. This led the decline of education, philosophy and science in Greece. West like ancient Greece is embracing Buddha's pessimism. If nothingness is ultimate, it cannot do anything positive. So Cobain committed suicide.

A pessimistic religion cannot appreciate music, so did not leave music tradition or instrument, as Buddhist monks goal was silence of their tongues and their thoughts. St. Augustine introduced music in western education and worldview. Since, the essence of music is mathematical numbers; saw scientific basis for music. The longest book in the bible is Psalms. Western musicians assumed that the world is cosmos and not chaos. Benedictine monks built the world's largest pipe organ in the cathedral of Winchester, England that required seventy men and twenty-six bellows to supply wind to its four hundred pipes; which was most advance machine until the invention of mechanical clock.

The author shares his experience in serving the poor in rural India. The absence of effective law, order, and justice created an idea that it was unwise to be wealthy. They feared robbers and rulers. They dug and hid it in field, wall or floors. Our history was frozen. The author writes: "Dreaming, investing and changing the status quo takes courage; but the courage to melt an ice age does not grow in all cultural climate." Only astrologers, fortune-tellers, witch doctors, and sorcerers thrive on such glaciers.

West believed that logos (divine logic) was the power that created and governed the universe and the human mind is made in the image of a rational God. Unfortunately, intellectuals today believe that with human reason we cannot know the truth but meditation could provide mystical experience of truth. Thus concur with Buddha who believed that human mind as source of ignorance that cannot discover the ultimate truth. It is amazing: Professors think, they can talk, but not the creator; they can write books, but creator cannot present his view.

Vishal writes: "If Genesis is right, then I am both a creature (made by God) and a creator (made in God's image). I am a creative creature." A dog does not invent light, if it is dark. Human beings rubbed stones to create light. A dog accepts the situation as it is, while human beings transcend nature and environment. A dog cannot create light as it does not have the gift of language. Language is creative and it enables human beings to be creative.

India's non-rational, non-verbal mysticism can only produce mantras and magic not nuclear power as it requires equations and engineering. Human beings can make value judgement. A dog can have preference for steak or left over bones, but cannot make out whether the giver is good or bad by what he gives. For Hindu philosophers, all value judgments – right or wrong; beautiful or ugly; true or false – were at best subjective and at worst harmful. It is not possible to change, unless we judge what is not good or right or true.

One thousand years ago Islamic civilization had surpassed Europe almost in every aspect like wealth, army and intellectual. However, now, Spain translates so many books into Spanish in a year as Arabs have translated books in Arabic in one thousand years. The West's discovery of humanity during renaissance is the reason. A girl was starved to death as their parents saw her as liability. Her parents held traditional Hindu world view of fatalism that they cannot change or transcend fate and karma, nature and culture. In Hinduism, individuality is an illusion. Salvation is dissolution of individual soul in universal consciousness. Krishna encourages to Arjun to kill his cousin in Gita because reincarnation means that death for a soul is like changing clothes. Reincarnation trivializes death as well as life. Islam denied the right for God to become man. The author rightly says: "Far from violating God's dignity, the incarnation was to be the ultimate proof of man's dignity."

Bible created a peculiar religious person; schoolman or scholastic. The Bible inspired West to become a thinking civilization. Atheism made reason as by product of blind chemistry and logic was accidental. The Buddhist monk rotated wheels instead of reading the books as they believed in silence attained through sound-without-sense: mantra. Prayer is rational conversation with God. For Buddhists, there is no god, hence prayer is mindless mechanical prayer by rotating cylinders with written prayers on flags. One Hindu philosopher Swami Dayananda of Haridwar, said that they use logic to destroy logic. Because for them the creation is a cosmic illusion – maya.

Ultimate reality is not silence, but word – logos. The way to know the truth is to cultivate the mind and mediate the word of God. Since incarnations are mythical not historical in Indian philosophy, Greek Platonism, they are suspicious of time and declare it as illusion. However Jews believed in time and God intervenes in history.

King Henry VIII allowed English bible and expected English men to be docile and obedient. But, opposite happened. Biblical spirituality led England and Holland to be better than other Catholic nations in politics, economics and thought. John Wesley urged his followers to study Bible and 50 other titles. Such revivals lifted protestant nations to come of poverty that was chronic in the world. Not just hard work helped these nations. They allowed mind to direct muscles to involve in many things and one them being technology. Biblical rationality helped West to develop freedom and prosperity.

Technology is the magic of the mind. Author is right in writing: "The problem was that the engineers who made pyramids to honor the bones of kings and queens did not bother making wheel barrows for their slaves." The Chinese had technical ability to make clocks but they were neither keen to know time or organize time, so clock making did not become an industry. The Judeo-Christian view of reality and destiny nurtured technology in four ways: Bible emphasises craftsmanship in world's design; Human beings participated in the workmanship by being artisans; We follow divine examples when we use the physical universe for righteous purpose and Bible challenges to use time wise, because it is valuable.

Technology arose because Christianity destroyed classic animism. Unfortunately, Hollywood is trying to bring back that idea by making machine as spirits in a series of movies. Christian spirituality emphasized compassion, service, and liberation to establish human dominion over creation. Buddhism requires its monks to beg for their food, while Christian monks had to work. So, they invented labor saving devices while Buddhist monks did not make technology for welfare of people. In the author words: "The Bible distinguished 'work' from 'toil'. To work was to be like God, but toil was curse on human sin. Toil was mindless, repetitive, dehumanizing labor. This enabled Christian monks to realize that human beings should not have to do what wind, water, or horses can do. People should do what other species and natural forces cannot do – use creative reason to liberate human beings from the curse of toil."

Western technology predates modern science by five centuries and was nurtured in Christian monasteries. Industrial revolution was a result of the Western 'invention of invention'. Science grew in Christian universities. A culture that values human dignity can use technology for human emancipation and empowerment. Inventions like Eye glasses enabled the Western scholars to do more study and research. In East, perfect eyes were closed to do meditation. Why invent aeroplanes when you can fly by daydreaming closing your eyes? Technology is wonder of mind, integration of mind and muscles and breathing reflection (soul) into physical action (matter). Is it possible for people who built Taj Mahal to build dams for peasants?

Heroism depends on what is valued in a culture. The value of self- sacrifice of Messiah is more valuable than conquest and knightly prowess. Crusades were religious barbarism and it also denoted the Islamization of Christianity. For many heroism implied the capacity to fight back, trace enemies and taking revenge. The core idea of hero for Hindu is power, universal power. So, only many criminals win elections in India. The knights in the medieval period were not disciplined. There was no political law to control them. The church played the role to a certain extent. Biblical Heroism is a robust faith that refuses to bow before evil and falsehood as modelled by Lord Jesus Christ.

Western civilization has had at least five different sources of cultural authority: Rome, the Pope, the Bible, human reason, and the current individualistic nihilism. In place of Caesar and his myth the barbarians brought chaos; church took absolute power. The new Reformers were killed as heretics as they replaced papal authority with the Bible. Martin Luther mocking the idea of 'transubstantiation robbed the priests of their magical power to turn ordinary bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Wycliffe disowned his class and sided with the 'swine' and 'underdogs'. According to Tyndale the biblical illiteracy was the source of corruption in Europe. Tyndale translation was a threat because it transferred the power from leaders to people. Jesus taught in Aramaic and not in Hebrew. New Testament was written in Koina, common Greek. AD 405 the bible was translated to Latin – vulgar Latin so known as 'Vulgate'. When bible was given in German, French, and English, intellectual tunnel was prepared through which spiritual and secular knowledge could flow. When Europeans became literate, the only book most families owned was the Bible, and it became the source of their language and their worldview. The modern free-market economy succeeded because the languages of the people became strong enough to be the languages of law, technology, and the market place. Rev. Henry Martin made Urdu a literary, modern language. Rev. Gilchrist and Rev. Kellogg made Hindi as literary language. Hinduism's sacred language Sanskrit became private property of Brahmins that they did not even allow their own women or other caste people to learn. Their language required them to treat their neighbours as untouchables. Buddhist monks rarely studied their own scriptures as enlightenment for them emptying mind of words and thoughts with the goal to reach absolute silence. Persian and Sanskrit excluded most Indians from power. Classists among English men wanted to promote Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian while some championed for English. Lord Macaulay favoured English for liberate Indian mind, while Hindu intellectuals accuse him that he colonize Indian minds. Missionaries created seventy three modern literary languages in India according to Babu Verghese thesis submitted to Nagpur University in 2005.

The author writes: "Biblical nationalism was different from Germany's secular nationalism. The former was God-centered rather culture – or – race centered. Being a product of God's promise and law, it had to remain self-critical and repentant. Old Testament characters like Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah and several of the prophets powerfully exhibited this peculiar, repentant nationalism." Nehemiah rebuilt the physically, psychologically and morally ruined nation. Bible inspired the English national identity and also inspired International human solidarity. In India each tribe and caste had a distinct god and its own dharma or religious duty. Therefore they could not be united as equals before one law from one God that applied equally to every people group. So, it could not produce neither nationalism nor internationalism.

"The Bible's direct and indirect influence on English literature outstrips Homer's influence on the development of Greek and Latin literature." Homer's heroes were exciting and entertaining. However, John Banyan's hero starts as a pilgrim with burden of sin on his back...hundreds of millions meditated and sang about his quest...became pilgrim themselves.Indian myths and Greek myths were about aristocrats. Bible was about ordinary people who sinned, blundered. Biblical heroes also change and develop their character. Biblical characters change as God calls them to follow him and not the culture. Rama and Krisha preserved – dharma – status quo. Ram led an army of monkey and destroyed Sri Lanka when Sita was kidnapped unlike Abraham who was timid and let God fight his cause.

Roman and Greek literature failed to give foundation for positive cultural change. Their world view was fatalism under petty gods. It did not give faith to move mountains. In the age of never-ending war, Homer's hero Odysseus home coming was heroism. Bunyan hero goes towards celestial city not with sword but with bible. Pilgrim's Progress drove biblical spirituality deep into the soul of Western Civilization and this book has been translated in over 200 languages. Enlightenment came from writers who expounded the Bible.

Secular writers have bias and give credit to Adam Smith for free trade than Lilburne's discussion of the Parable of Talents. They would give credit to John Locke and not Anabaptist preacher for the principle that all men are free and equal. In contrast to Eastern fatalism, Bible teaches genuine freedom and teaches that we are not slaves of fate or external forces such as stars. Bible is the source of cultural authority of the West, its rejection would be moral and intellectual anarchy.

Author rightly says: "Neither colonialism nor commerce spread modern education around the world. Soldiers and merchants do not educate. Education was a Christian missionary enterprise. It was integral to Christian missionary enterprise. It was integral to Christian missions because modern education is a fruit of the Bible." Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim civilizations did not establish a single significant institution of learning in India. Schools built by Hindus were not inspired by the Hindu worldview, but as response to Christian initiatives. Education has moral, political and commercial undertones.

Bengal famine (1769-70 that killed millions motivated Charles Grant to reform British administration to transform the Indian mind, agriculture, industry, and economy. William Wilberforce and his considered it was immoral to leave India to the mercy of traders and soldiers. Parliamentary battle for mission was won in 1813. The aim of the evangelicals' educational mission was to end the British rle in India. Christian education mission birthed, financed and nurtured hundreds of universities, thousands of colleges and tens of thousands of schools. Greeks and Romans produced excellent writers but they never created institutions or libraries or scholarly guilds. Monks studied to seek knowledge of truth, not for employment. Luther argued that reform in the university would take place when Bible is placed at the center. The Word of God, not the state, the donor or the Church had authority over minds of people.

Robert Raikes (1735-1811) began the Sunday School movement for the poor, run by volunteers challenged the snobbery of English elite. Louis Braille, a blind church organist, invented six-dot system of embossing letter in 1834. Michael de l'Epee, a priest in Paris, developed the sign language in 1754. The Bible directly inspired the first 123 colleges and universities in America that taught secular subjects. Secular universities have survived because the large culture had retained the biblical outlook. Now having rejected bible, West is seeking meaning from myths. Britain gave universities to set minds of Indians free, but now West is giving its youth myths that would enslave them. The Chinese monks and Hindu sages did not lack ability but lacked philosophical motivation. In twentieth century, science became intertwined with technology and industry. The scientific method of studying nature grew out of theology. The pioneers of science believed that the material realm was real, not magical, enchanted, or governed by spirits and demons. Science has to reject two extremes; 1) reductionistic view that man is merely part of nature and 2) human life was the divine self. God and nature cannot be one, if so, nature has no Lawgiver, nor laws of nature to be discovered. Only in Europe did astrology turn into astronomy, alchemy into chemistry and mathematics into the language of science.

The Church is guilty of burning bibles, translators and theologians. India never persecuted a Galileo because the Hindu, Buddhist or animistic India never produced one. The church and state failed to invent independent judiciary. Science blossomed in universities governed by the Church. Nature was considered as pictorial book of God. When church read bible literally not allegorically science was born. The Bible reaffirmed the the Greek confidence to the human mind, the irrationalism inherent in animism. Redemption means, restoration of God's likeness, including recovery of his creative and ordered knowledge of the natural word and power over it.

There is co-relation between corruption and poverty. Political and economic elite pay lip service to eradication of corruption. Least corrupt countries are the protestant countries with only exception of Singapore. The Bible taught the people of Holland that even though no human being may be watching us in that dairy farm, God, our ultimate judge, is watching to see if we obey his commands to neither covet or steal. A tiny nation like Holland gives surplus money to India and other countries because they work hard, pay taxes and tithe. No tithing is robbing God. Bible freed entire nation from corruption and gave freedom. Communist who deny anyone is watching over you, is most corrupt, so or other Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim nations. Tyrants, bureaucrats, business person...function above the law. Dictator can prevent taking bribe, only Lord Jesus could change the greed in the heart.

Allah is too majestic to come into dirty man's heart. If God is not involved, then tyrants and dictators have to do the dirty job of restraining evil. Jesus cleans from inside. Deism taught that God was not involved in the affairs of the world. It progressed to rationalism, scepticism, atheism and finally cynicism.

The strangulation of Biblical spirituality in England and Europe led to slave trade, inhuman treatment of workers, inhuman treatment and mortality of children. The Bible became a closed book and there was ignorance, lawlessness and savagery. In 1739 John Wesley preached open air that thus began The Great Awakening and he preached for fifty years. For three decades Wesley was hounded, persecuted, intimidated but he never lost his temper, but continued preaching wiping off blood when hit. He wrote 330 books and created a taste for reading. Charles Simeon brought lasting evangelical tradition in Cambridge.

Alexis De Tocqueville, author of Democracy of America (French who visited US in 1831-32) concluded the superiority of women in America was reason for growing prosperity and power for the nation. Monogamy was not the Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Islamic conception of marriage. It was a peculiarly Christian idea. In the name of traditional morality, women are enslaved. The root is men do not trust their own brothers or their wives, that bring veil system. "Morality without liberty is slavery. Liberty without morality is destructive." Feminist movement began not because they were not empowered. An anemic body cannot fight. Women in US were simultaneously empowered and discriminated against.

American Christians believed in practical, social and temporary hierarchy of husbands and wives while affirming their inherent, intrinsic, or metaphysical equality. Hindu sages taught that poor karma made women to reincarnate as female to serve males. It is unfortunate that some American churches believe that women can lecture in nation's Congress and not in the local church. The quest for equal dignity became an aspect of seeking salvation from the consequences of sin. While girls were married as children in pagan culture, the biblical sexual ethic gave Christian girls the time to grow up and become better wives and mothers.

Easy availability of sex without commitment took away men's motivation to be married. Promiscuity, child marriage, mistreatment of women, divorce and fear of marriage led Rome population to decline. Unwed mothers, insecure wives (who feared divorce) chose abortion and infanticide. In the first millennium Catholic Church emancipated the women. Luther argued that sex and marriage were means of holiness and family was divinely ordained for character development. If a man is not married, he may plant crops but not trees for coming generation. Christianity required men to be faithful, committed and loving – making marriage harder for men. "The only way to make monogamy work is to value love above pleasure, to pursue holiness and humility rather than power and personal fulfilment, to find grace to repent rather than condemn, to learn sacrifice and patience in place of indulgence and gratification. The modern world was created by countless couples who did just that."

"By keeping his vows to a woman, made before God and community, a man learns to keep his word. In other situations when keeping ones word becomes strong cultural value, then trust becomes the foundation of social life. This foundation is being shaken by the proponents of easy divorce." Leadership in a team is not given because the person is stronger, wiser – but responsibility.

Serving others at personal cost is an amazingly high value in the American church. Compassion institutions are the outworking of the Holy Spirit. Greek, Roman, Indian and Islamic civilizations produced great physicians and surgeons, however, they did not develop modern medicine party because they could not create caring cultures. Hippocrates practiced rational medicine that relied on critical questioning; he brought professionalism and ethical standards. However, the Greek medicine did not produce a culture of care. Roman culture developed a culture of cruelty that killed for entertainment. Romans built gymnasium, sanitary system, garbage disposal and hospitals.

Christ's followers preserved, transcribed, and translated Greek medical manuscripts. Medieval universities in Europe, that were arm of the church refined and taught medicine received from Islamic and monastic sources. Indian medicine did not develop because: in the culture knowledge was seen as power and authority – so guarded as secret; did not build academic communities; problem of caste – only low caste women could be midwives; doctrine of karma did not allow the empathy to develop as institutions.

Cyrus McCormick invented two horse driven reapers that was able to cultivate twenty acres a day. This technology pioneered Industrial nations to grow more food in small areas. This invention was possible because of a theological, spiritual, moral and legal environment created by the Bible. India did not lack creative genius. They created monuments to gods, goddesses, kings and queens but never invented labour saving devices. No holy man started an institution of peasants in Allahabad while, Sam Higginbothams started Allahabad Agriculture Institute, with funding from Nancy Cyrus McCormick.

Reformers embraced the idea of dignity of labour and considered calling of mason or peasant as high as that of priest or a monk. God's command to work was unconditional. 'Protestant work ethic' was the product of such teaching. Ambition becomes greed when separated from moral absolutes. Greed explains look of Alexander the Great, Nadir Shah and others but not creativity of industrial capitalism. In traditional cultures, people who had wealth hid it, gambled with it, displayed in buildings. McCormick saved and invested to multiple wealth. In traditional cultures they cannot save wealth for fear of robbers and rulers.

"Wealth accumulation via hard, creative work, and reinvestment was a modern habit and a key feature of capitalism." Jesus taught more about money rather than about rituals, meditation, mystical experiences, asceticism, or what many call 'spiritual' disciplines. Franciscan monk in Venice, Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli (1446-1517) invented the double entry book keeping system. That helped to minimize expenses and maximize income. Chinese had larger ships, men and material than Europeans but could not colonize the world, because they did not keep their accounts. They elevated prestige before profit – they abandoned ship building. Communists worked for the glory of State and not glory of God. Communist refused private property rights, intellectual property rights, stole from citizens and did not reinvest.

Japanese learning culture learnt from the West and imitated the West. But Japan does not have spiritual resources to stop corruption, non-observance of Sabbath, workaholic men frustrated their wives who did not bear children as they alone have to bring them up, declining population, introduction of robots (that do not pay tax or for social security) made it decline. Japan did not create a transparent, trustworthy moral society to sustain economic progress. India failed to produce Bill Gates as Indian markets are filled with pirated software; he survived because it was honest moral culture.

Alexander conquered the known world that spread Greek language, literature, art and culture but never inspired democratic freedom. It is a myth to say that modern democracy was derived from Greece culture. Moses demonstrated – durable freedom is possible only under the rule of God, the rule of law and the rule of elders (representatives). "Reformation viewed theocracy and democracy as necessary complements: human rule flowed from God's rule." Checks and balances are features of democracy derived from examples: Nathan confronted King David; Samuel – Saul and Elijah – Ahab. Assuming absolute power is dangerous. When Kings did not allow political dissent and popes did not allow religious dissent, hell broke loose. Unalienable human rights make no sense without the biblical principle of the unique worth granted to all individuals by their creator.

Relativism is now the only virtue. "Relativism is the only value a truth less culture can dictate." Secular universities have blocked the West from the truth. American culture is like a fish in a tank, denied access to food, later believes it cannot get food. It dies because of that belief.

My comments:
The book has several insights, new perspective of interpreting history, incisive analysis of world views of different religions, and providing progress of civilizations. I recommend that thinking Christians around the world should read, to be equipped to defend the biblical values in a secular environment. The author has been fair and neutral to list some of the moral and spiritual failures of the Church and its leaders. The author instead of providing chronological order of progress, he randomly switches from one to another, which could be confusing for some readers. In certain sections, the author has listed to progress by the contributors which could have been done as progress by ideas. There seems to be repetition of ideas that could have been avoided with good editing help. This has to be acknowledged as journalistic effort, and there is a need for more in depth studies with more evidence and data presented to affirm the conclusions. The author could have given his diagnosis of today's problem of the West, but fails to provide the prescription and surgical process in clear terms.


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