In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
Mangalwadi’s book ranges effortlessly though history, politics, economics, theology, sociology, and philosophy. His conclusion is cultures that are rooted in the Bible, provide the best environment for human flourishing.
Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World (Thomas Nelson), is by any measure an extraordinary read.
Growing up in the Indian city of Allahabad, Mangalwadi sensed a disconnect between the predominant interpretation of Christianity, and his experience. Hindu academics such as Arun Shourie described the presence of Christianity in India as a “conspiracy of British Imperialism”, yet Mangalwadi observed that Christianity differed substantially from the colonial legacy. Furthermore, wherever this Christian influence occurred it seemed to foster benefits to the whole community. Seeking to understand this dichotomy, Mangalwadi embarked on a massive research project, exploring the effect that the Bible has on cultures and societies. The results, which are brought together in this volume, are profound.
Mangalwadi’s book ranges effortlessly though history, politics, economics, theology, sociology, and philosophy. His conclusion is cultures that are rooted in the Bible, provide the best environment for human flourishing. He argues, for example, that Indian science was held back by the prevailing belief in “maya” (the irrelevance of the material realm), and only prospered under the influence of a biblical worldview which affirmed that God had created.
In education, he traces the successes of “Western” schooling to their biblical founders, who believed in knowledge, language and equality. He argues that Bible-rooted societies are more just; and presents remarkable evidence correlating such societies to low levels of corruption – which in turn facilitates economic growth.
In the face of human suffering, Mangalwadi argues that religions which present a distant deity, and those who teach “karma”, are relatively indifferent to it; whereas the Bible inspires repeated assaults upon it.
Politically, he argues that it is only the biblical notion of humanity made in the image of God, which has made functioning democracy and a free press possible. “Nonbiblical cultures only pay lip-service to a free press,” he states. Likewise, it is societies with roots in the Bible, that have lead the way in women’s rights, he notes.
The book concludes with a plea to “the West” not to abandon the source of what has made it great. His argument is that our society will wither, and we will be inordinately diminished if we abandon the biblical worldview that nurtured our gains.
Western readers will be stirred, not just by these cultural observations, but also by a book that doesn’t limit the effect of the gospel of Christ to the individual, as we are peculiarly prone to do. Mangalwadi might at times appear to be a little more pro-Western than any European or American author might be comfortable with, but is free from any suspicion of being nationalistic or ethnocentric in this regard.
It is routinely assumed that Christian mission was a mere prop for colonialism. We are told that the biblical worldview is responsible for environmental exploitation, and that we should cast our eyes eastward for a more enlightened view. Likewise, the Bible is referred to in popular culture as a repressive or dangerous book. That such views are simplistic and misleading is axiomatic; but Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World shows just what is wrong with them, and develops a strong case that where the Bible has been taken seriously, human societies have made some of their greatest and most significant advances.
Mangalwadi has provided a book of massive scope with huge implications, which should be read and reckoned with by both the Bible’s admirers and detractors alike.
Gavin Matthews is a writter, blogger and Bible-teacher.