In The Book That Made Your World, Vishal Mangalwadi argues that all the hallmark movements and achievements of Western civilization in the last millennium emerged from a worldview based on the Bible. He presents his case by means of a thematic history of ideas interspersed with contrasting tales from the history of his native India (hence "your" in the title) and his personal experiences there. Though as heavily annotated as a history book, this is not an academic enterprise but a call to the Western world to realize and return to the source of the values we hold dear.
In Dr. Mangalwadi's view, the widespread signs of cultural, political, and fiscal distress in Europe and the United States indicate the failure of secularization's attempts to maintain the fruits of a Biblical worldview without the theological foundation.
From his vantage point as an Eastern beneficiary of Western institutions and endeavors, he sees what we have taken for granted and acts as a sighted guide through our history. He describes the birth of modern technology in medieval monasteries, the Reformation and its attendant emphases on standard national languages and universal literacy, modern medicine and hospitals, and democratic ideals. All these and more he attributes to Christians seeking to glorify God by living according to biblical truth and to non-Christians whose basic presuppositions had likewise been shaped by the Christian Scriptures. The Bible's view of God, humanity, and the physical world contrast sharply with the fundamentals of other world religions. In Dr. Mangalwadi's view that explains why significant scientific and mathematical discoveries which occurred much earlier in China, Persia, or India never impacted those cultures as a whole in the way the same discoveries impacted Europe.
This perspective on history intrigues me. Despite my familiarity with the idea that worldview shapes culture and that Western culture was shaped by a Judeo-Christian worldview which has been rejected in recent decades, much of this historical detail surprised and delighted me. My public school education neglected to mention that Luther established the principles of modern German, uniting the various dialects in his Bible translation. A similar phenomenon occurred centuries later in India, with modern Urdu and Hindi developed by Bible translators and promoted by colonial governors in need of a common language for judicial and administrative use. Likewise, I had never before encountered the concept that, while John Locke heavily influenced America's Founding Fathers, Locke's ideas in turn found their genesis in the earlier writings of English Puritans. This makes sense, since the Mayflower Compact predated the Enlightenment philosopher, but I had never heard the correlation pointed out before (and supported with Puritan primary source material).
The contrasting anecdotes and historical detail from India's history unsettle me. That so many in the author's homeland reject proffered improvement to even material circumstances, not to mention spiritual, is hard for me to comprehend. If the cultural analysis here is correct, nothing but another Great Awakening will stop the West from progressing down the same path.
The book seems to extend hope that if we in Europe and North America return to the old ways, the truth in the Book that made our world, we can halt or reverse the damage that has already been done to our institutions and culture overall. I agree with the author that the Bible is God's breathed-out revelation of Himself to our humanity, that Western culture is in crisis because of our rejection of the Bible and the God who gave it, and that we need a prophetic call to return to it. I am less confident that such a return would restore Western culture to flourishing health, but that would make it no less right a course of action. Being made by God's book is an end in itself, not just a means to an end.
All in all, The Book That Made Your World provides a fascinating historical survey and illuminating cultural perspective. It remains to be seen whether Dr. Mangalwadi's challenge is heard or heeded by those who don't already share his convictions. May God grant that it would be.
Disclosure of material connection: Through their BookSneeze®.com blogger review program, Thomas Nelson Publishers provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest (not necessarily positive) review. The opinions expressed are my own.
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