Monday, December 19, 2011

6th Book of Christmas: "The Book that Made Your World."

Twelve Books that show how Christmas changed the world.
On the fifth day of Christmas, our True Love gave the world: Renaissance in India.

"The Book that Made Your World," Vishal Mangalwadi

I have to confess something about this book: unlike all the others in this series, I'm not entirely sure I've read it.  The reason I'm uncertain has not, I hope, to do with any premature senility.  Rather, I've read seven or eight books by Vishal, one of which he sent me not long ago in pre-publication form.  Since I didn't see the cover, and didn't look at the title every time I read the thing (and maybe helped edit it a little), I am not sure this is the book I read.  

However, this is the recent, well-deserved "break-out" book for Vishal, and it probably the best place to begin exploring his detailed and powerful argument for the revolutionary charcter of the Bible. 

Vishal was born in India, and in most of his books, argues primarily from that perspective.  He is a particular fan of the great Baptist shoemaker William Carey, whom he and his wife Ruth have argued launched a sweeping revolution in Indian history.  Vishal argues that ideas really matter, and that the ideas in the Bible are the ones that have ennobled the human race more than any other.  Several of his books describe in detail the effect those ideas had on the great Indian renaissance that began in the late 18th and 19th Centuries. 

We westerners have all heard of Mahandas Gandhi.  Some of us know that Gandhi was influenced not only by the Bible directly, but also by Western thinkers, like Tolstoy, who were themselves deeply influenced by the words of Jesus.  Mangalwadi reminds us, in effect, that a long history of reform had already taken place long before Gandhi even rose to prominence, and that the teachings of Jesus, and the example and reformist work of great missionaries, spurred that reform. 

But this book is not, I believe, primarily about India, and Vishal is not just an Indian philosopher.  Mangalwadi argues that the Bible is the source of reform in the Western world. 

Sometimes Mangalwadi may overplay his cards.  But it's a good hand: the historical facts of how the Gospel transformed India are remarkable enough.  His arguments deserve to be taken seriously, and the truths he describes need to be taken into account by secular and Christian thinkers.  These facts have the capacity to dramatically change how the world reads history. 

Other books: I recommend all of Mangalwadi's books: Truth and Transformation, The Legacy of William Carey, Missionary Conspiracy, When the New Age Gets Old, World of the Gurus.  His arguments are not the full story or the last word, but they tell an important part of history and deserve to be read.  J. N. Farquhar's books, The Crown of Hinduism, and Modern Religious Movements in India, tell more of the story, in a tone that is somewhat more positive about Indian religions. 

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