Vishal Mangalwadi refers to the Bible as a “book” and as his title indicates, it is: The book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of Western civilization. (2011, Nashville: Thomas Nelson). Mangalwadi’s background as an Indian scholar and his depth of appraising history demonstrates conclusively that the main contributors to Western civilization have had their worldviews built solidly on the Bible.
In the foreword, J. Stanley Mattson, founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Foundation in Redlands, California, compares Mangalwadi’s book to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, in terms of its wide-ranging assessment of Western cultures and civilization. It is his contention that the research of Mangalwadi “establishes the fact that the Bible and its world view...combined to serve as the single most powerful force in the emergence of Western civilization” (xvi and xvii, emphasis in the original).
Mangalwadi documents his personal journey, growing up in a culture dominated by poverty. He chronicles his and his wife’s interactions with local leaders, many of them corrupt and dangerous, and how God led them to various community development projects to help the people. It was prayer, however, that both sustained his work and angered the authorities. It also led to his imprisonment, but the publicity benefitted him.
His pilgrimage “began in a moral struggle.” He stole and, knowing that it was wrong, somehow heard the good news of Jesus Christ, who “became the most precious person in my life.” Various questions confronted him when he attended University, and he began to read the Bible. Mangalwadi questioned Hindu philosophies, but in the Bible, he found not only the notion of freedom but also of nation.
The men who enabled the revolution of the Western mind were Bible translators and in England, chief among them was William Tyndale. Up until his time and afterward, “[t]he bishops had been burning people alive who possessed even fragments of its [the Bible’s] copies.” Rome was in demise, but the papacy took its place of power, and it was John Wycliffe who put “his pen against the pope’s sword.” and challenged the Roman church's authority. Up until then, the intellectual elite controlled the “Bible,” which was the Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome. They did not like “the idea that the Bible could be translated into a rustic dialect like English.” They liked, for example, Jerome’s translation of repentance as “doing penance.”
What Tyndale and Wycliffe did for English speakers, Martin Luther did for the Germans—give the masses a Bible they could read and understand.
The first Protestant study Bible was the Geneva Bible, published in 1660, with illustrations, maps, and other study aids. The King James Bible followed, although the King himself “opposed the Puritans who championed the Geneva Bible,” because he upheld the divine right of kings. The Geneva Bible used the word “tyrant” to refer to kings—the KJV never did.
Henry Martyn was most notable for seeing the value of the various Indian “dialects” and translated the Bible into Urdu. An Indian scholar, Dr. Babu Verghese documented the achievements of Bible translators and how they, using mostly illiterate Indians, “created seventy-three modern literacy languages,” including Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali.
The translation of the Bible into Hindi eventually promoted nationalism and helped to create a new national identity for modern India. And, although Gandhi and Nehru were nationalist leaders, they had no “nation” to lead without the biblical idea of nation that came...through the linguistic revolution initiated by Bible translation and English literature introduced by Christian education.”
Mangalwadi examines the effects of corruption, including that in England. It was into this country with its “spiritual and moral quagmire stepped John Wesley” in almost the same year as Jonathan Edwards in America. Wesley preached 45,000 sermons on the Bible and he “deplored the stupidity and futility of war, especially Britain’s war with the American colonies.” Wesley died as he lived, in humility and poverty, and his funeral instructions were that “six poor men, in need of employment, be given a pound each to carry his body to the grave.”
The biblical revival resulted in the formation of several missionary societies: Baptist Missionary, London Missionary, Wesleyan Mission, Church Missionary, China Inland Mission, the British and Foreign Bible, and others—all within a few years of each other. There are also social issues that were improved that can be traced to Wesley: the abolition of slavery, factory schools, the founding of the Salvation Army, and many humanitarian efforts as well.
Mangalwadi considers the future and asks, “Must the sun set on the West?” a question that we must ask as well. Because the value of “relativism” has been our prevailing worldview, the traditional value system of our Christian forefathers is not tolerated today. Instead, a variety of secular fatalism often prevails, and repentance and forgiveness do not. Not only is there a moral and spiritual bankruptcy in India, but it is in our nation (and others) as well.
Our own universities, once founded by godly men of moral courage, are now in dire need of resurrection from the deadness of a culture and life without God and his power. It does not look good for the West.