This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Book that Made your World

Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization is a wide-ranging look at the impact of the Bible on Western culture. After hearing the Bible attacked by Arun Shourie, a prominent public intellectual, Member of Parliament, and governmental minister in India, Mangalwadi decided to study the impact of the Bible on culture. In particular, he wanted to find out if God’s promise that all the nations would be blessed through Abraham was true. His conclusion is that not only did the Bible create the modern West, but it is also responsible for creating modern India.

Mangalwadi looks at a tremendous variety of subjects (music, language, literature, human rights, concepts of heroism, technology, science, family, economics, freedom …) and demonstrates that modern concepts in all of these areas have their roots in the Bible and the worldview it created. While I did something similar in Why You Think the Way You Do, Mangalwadi goes into far more detail than I did and engages the historiography of the subjects far more directly. What is particularly illuminating is the impact these ideas had in Mangalwadi’s native India, a subject about which I knew nothing.

Although I found myself disagreeing with some of Mangalwadi’s details—his historiography is sometimes dated, and I have a higher view of medieval Christianity than he does on some issues—overall the book is superb. If you are interested in understanding what the Gospel of the Kingdom looks like in practice, this is a great place to start. At the same time, it is a sobering read, since it shows the degree to which the West has turned its back on its roots and highlights some of the dysfunction that has resulted. For those committed to living out a full-orbed vision of the Gospel touching all areas of life, this book is a wake-up call and a reminder of what is at stake for us today.