The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, by Vishal Mangalwadi is a bold analysis of the powerful influence the Christian Bible has had on the development of the western world.
Mangalwadi is an extremely erudite and lucid scholar, who has combined academic learning with political and social action, even at the risk of his and his family’s life. Through his many books and his international lecturing programme he seeks to open the eyes of a world that seems to have forgotten its spiritual heritage.
This book is a mixture of personal experiences and philosophical statements. The author delves into teachings of influential thinkers and artists throughout the ages (Buddha, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas à Kempis, Francis Bacon, Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kurt Cobain, etc.). He also refers to significant historical documents (the Qur’an, the Magna Carta, the Geneva Bible, the Huguenots’ “Trilogy of Freedom”, etc.). And he cites specific examples from his own home country of India, as well as Europe and North America.
Selected contentions and quotes
Some of Mangalwadi’s key assertions:
- God communicates with us, so we can know Him. He created human beings in His image, so we are creative. Human beings can roll back the curse of sweat and toil and reestablish their dominion over nature. God revealed Himself as the Logos, a rational entity, thus validating logical thought. Biblical rationality was the key to the development of the West’s freedom and prosperity, e.g. technological advance. Only a society with a theological climate that values human dignity begins using technology as a force for human emancipation and empowerment. The Protestant Reformation, based on the Bible, awakened popular interest in discovering and knowing truth, and that boosted science
- Francis Bacon’s exposition of the Bible instilled a non-fatalistic philosophy in England and America
- Prompted by the Bible, Martin Luther and others introduced education for the common people. The Bible directly inspired the founding of universities in Europe and America that included teaching secular subjects, because God commanded human beings to establish their dominion over the earth
- God is love and inspires His followers to show compassionate love to those in need. Faith in Christ’s incarnation inspired many Christians to give up their comforts and risk their lives to serve the poorest of the poor. Biblical theology behind the Wesleyan revival in England prompted the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of industrial workers, factory schools, ragged schools, the humanizing of the prison system, the reform of the penal code, the forming of the Salvation Army, the National Children’s Home and Orphanages, evening classes and polytechnics, YMCAs, the Boy Scouts, the Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the list goes on
- Man and woman become more like God when they become one in marriage. If a marriage is biblical, then selfishness begins to be replaced by self-giving love, for God is love. A spiritual revival that fills people with personal joy and purpose, that gives them staying power in the midst of severe trials, and that enables them to love those who ill-treat them, would save much more than the Western family
- The biblical teachings on love and compassion are not matters of private piety. They are culture-shaping forces because they move believers into the public arena of social protest, civil disobedience, and positive nation building. The belief in the immortality of the soul was a huge factor behind the West’s respect for the inalienable rights of every individual. God loves freedom and it was Bible-believers who promoted democracy. The Huguenots held the Bible as their authority because they believed God’s Word superseded the authority of both the king and the pope. French Protestant ideas reformed the political life of neighboring countries. The nineteenth-century “Indian Renaissance” began with the arrival of the Bible. India’s freedom was a fruit of the Bible
- As brilliant but amoral graduates from secular universities such as Harvard gain control of America’s economic and political life, the world has every reason to cease trusting America. Any nation that refuses to live under truth condemns itself to live under sinful man.
The Book that Made Your World is an inspiring, thought-provoking book. Although very readable, it tends to be long-winded and somewhat repetitive in places. Not everyone will appreciate the digressions into Indian history and Malgalwadi’s personal experiences in a book about the development of Western Civilization. It would profit from radical revision and trimming.