Customer Reviews: The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization
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on September 27, 2011
The broad-brush thesis of this book is this: without the Judeo-Christian worldview, there would be no Western civilisation as we know it. The Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament have contributed more to the development of the West than any other single factor.

In over 400 information-rich pages the Indian-born scholar documents how the Bible directly and profoundly contributed to the rise of the West. And not only has the West benefited immeasurably - so too has the rest of the world. Indeed, he argues that the "Bible was the force that created modern India" as well.

Of course this thesis is not new. One thinks of the recent works by Rodney Stark, Jonathan Hill, or Alvin Schmidt. Also recall the two volumes by D. James Kennedy: What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? (1994) and What if the Bible Had Never Been Written? (1998).

But here we have a masterful presentation of the data in a finely written and cogently argued volume. As Mangalwadi reminds us, the Bible first of all transforms individual human beings, who in turn transform entire nations. In every area of life we see this remarkable record of personal and social transformation.

In whatever area we examine, we see the hand of Scripture all over it. Be it science, or health care, or literature, or learning, or liberty, the biblical worldview touched and transformed entire societies. Mangalwadi very capably discusses the big picture as well as the many individual cases.

Consider the area of technology for example. A quote from Marburg historian Ernst Benz sets the stage: "Christian beliefs provided the rationale, and faith the motive energy for western technology." Says Mangalwadi, "Benz had studied and experienced Buddhism in Japan. The antitechnological impulses in Zen led him to explore whether Europe's technological advances were somehow rooted in Christian beliefs and attitudes. His research led him to the conclusion that the biblical worldview was indeed the key to understanding Western technology."

While Indian sages presented God as a dancer or dreamer, the biblical God was a Creator God, the architect of the cosmos. And the incarnation of Jesus reminded Christian philosophers that matter had a spiritual purpose in its creation. Thus Biblical cosmology had a direct bearing on the rise of Western science and technology.

But as Mangalwadi notes, Christian compassion was an equally important factor: "Christian spirituality has emphasized compassion, service, and liberation far more than the need to establish human dominion over creation." That is indeed a vital element here.

He reminds us that India and Africa did not lack in ingenious minds; but how they were deployed matters greatly. "The Egyptians living along the Nile built the pyramids while barbarians inhabited Western Europe. The problem was that the engineers who made pyramids to honor the bones of kings and queens did not bother making wheelbarrows for their slaves."

Speaking of slavery, he reminds us of how early on anti-slavery sentiment arose in Christian communities. Christians were the main ones responsible for ending slavery in the West. He cites Professor Stark: "A virtual Who's Who of `Enlightenment' figures fully accepted slavery. . . . It was not philosophers or secular intellectuals who assembled the moral indictment of slavery, but the very people they held in such contempt: men and women having intense Christian faith, who opposed slavery because it was sin."

Or consider the rise of the modern university and education. Mangalwadi asks why his university in Allahabad had a church, but no Hindu temple or Muslim mosque: "Because the university was invented and established by Christians." We are reminded that while there were brilliant Greeks and Romans, they "established no permanent institutions, no libraries, and no scholarly guilds."

All that basically came from Christians. The medieval monasteries were the seed bed of the European universities. Indeed, many of these monasteries and cathedral schools developed into these great universities. And almost all education back then was in fact Church education, something which atheist H.G. Wells even had to admit.

And again, it was not just the West which has benefitted from all this. In South Korea the education of women was mocked and discouraged, until Western Christian missionaries came there and brought about radical change. As a result, today the largest women's university in the world is located in Seoul.

Even the education of the blind and deaf was a Christian initiative. Says Mangalwadi. "The Greeks often used blind boys as galley slaves and blind girls as prostitutes. Jesus, however, restored their sight." Christian missionaries the world over followed in the positive example of Christ.

He continues, "Darwin's secular `survival of the fittest' philosophy would never pay for developing an education to humanize the handicapped. Every traditional culture left them to their fate or karma. Some deliberately exposed handicapped infants to death. The Bible alone presents a compassionate God who has come to this earth to save us from our sin and its consequences - including sickness and death."

Or look at the issue of literature. The truth is, much of the world's greatest literature is traceable to the Judeo-Christian worldview. Whether we are talking about the Book of Job or the sonnets of Shakespeare, the world is immensely richer because of the Bible. Of course the Greco-Roman era produced great literature, but in terms of the lasting transformative impact on the world, and the impact on English writers, the Bible is without peer

The greatness of this literature is due to the greatness of the Judeo-Christian worldview: "Indian myths, like Greco-Roman myths, are about aristocrats - the ruling elite and sages. The heroes of Genesis, by contrast, are ordinary people with feet of clay."

Indeed, nation-building literature is based on and all about ordinary individuals who found greatness, not in themselves, but by being made in God's image, and being the special objects of his compassion. Transformation of character is a defining feature of Scripture, and that in turn leads to the transformation of nations.

Simply consider as but one example how the Bible so soundly impacted Harriet Beecher Stowe, and how her Uncle Tom's Cabin so powerfully impacted Lincoln and the abolitionists in their fight against slavery in America. The examples are endless.

Indeed, the examples of so many other areas turned upside down by the Bible and those who have been transformed by it would fill hundreds, nay thousands, of volumes. But Mangalwadi here does a superb job of demonstrating how in one area after another, the impact of Scripture has been overwhelming, and overwhelmingly a force for good.

It is commonplace today to trash both Western culture and the biblical worldview which so powerfully and comprehensively led to it. This remarkable book reminds us of the overwhelming good of both. We are not spared the many faults of the West, nor how Christians have at times been a negative influence, however.

But on the whole, the very real benefits we enjoy today in the West, and in so many other parts of the world, are directly the result of the Bible, and the millions of individuals who have been radically transformed by it. Such transformed individuals have gone on to transform their world.

We so very much need to be reminded of all this, and this book performs this task exceptionally well. Every one of us needs to get this book, master its contents, and share it with others. We are all in your debt Vishal Mangalwadi.
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VINE VOICEon July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
THE BOOK THAT MADE YOUR WORLD is an intellectual Tour De Force arguing and illustrating the influence of the Bible on Western Civilization and its positive role in creating much of the good that many in the west take for granted, from the freedoms of women to simple respect for life.

He takes an interesting path to his thesis; starting with Kurt Cobain vs Bach and going on from there. His individual chapters take specific aspects of Western Culture from Humanity, Heroism, Science, Morality, Self and Technology and reflect how the biblical view not only shaped these and other aspects in a positive direction in the western world, but how the lack of the Bible and the biblical worldview caused other cultures to fall behind both in terms of technology and in what the west would consider respect for basic humanity.

Those who read the volume will be surprised at how little the Bible itself is quoted, instead it tells of cultures, nations and individuals driven by its message and how that makes all the difference.

Some of his arguments are stronger to advance, the points concerning corruption in office, the university system and technology are pretty easy gimmes. Most interesting is the semi random inclusion of individual stories from his own life and observations from India, including the violence he and his families and friends suffered due to his faith and actions.

He is unwilling to sugar coat the difference between the liberal laws of India on the books, a gift provided and influenced by British Common Law shaped by the Bible vs the practice (or rather non-practice ) of those same laws by those officials of different cultural background non longer overseen by a colonial power. Yet he managed to convey this wile condemning colonialism as an evil. He takes full advantage of his non-western background to make points that in this politically correct world a western intellectual would find himself cashiered for making.

His weakest bits are his near obsessive worship of Martin Luther and his jabs at the Catholic Church (while extolling particular Catholic Saints like Augustine and Aquinas) Catholic readers will particularly note his minimizing of Protestant violence vs Catholics during the Reformation and after while maximizing the reverse. While annoying even that can not take away from the distinct service that he performs with his general argument.

A few of his chapters tend to twist (his chapter on Medicine in my opinion is his weakest) but his details and his history is generally sound and the credit he gives, particularity of missionaries is significant. Over and over he notes how it is people of faith who have historically made the biggest difference to those in need and that it was the drive of that Christian witness that compelled them to act for the betterment of others.

Much of what he says would be basic knowledge a mere century ago, but in this politically correct and secular age we have forgotten either by choice or accident the basic facts that he reiterates. No defender of Western Civilization will every be unarmed in a debate if fortified by this volume's facts.

No Library should be without it.
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on March 22, 2012
I have questions about the thesis of Vishal Mangalwadi's The Book That Made Your World, but this book prompts me to first ask a few questions of myself.

Am I able to approach this book without bias? As a Christian, it is of course very pleasing to hear positive statements about the influence of the Bible. I would expect God's holy word to have a great and lasting influence on individuals, as well as on communities and cultures. I believe, after all, that the God of the Bible is the creator of the universe. His word is true.

However, I found within myself an oddly opposing bias, as well. As a westerner, I am regularly exposed to multi-culturalism, anti-western thought, and outright Christianity- bashing. The mere suggestion (among even Christians sometimes) that Christianity might be superior to other religions or philosophies is met with accusations of ignorance and ethnocentrism, along with accusations that I must think "America equals Christianity".

I actually hadn't realized how much this exposure had affected my worldview until I was reading Mangawaldi's book. While my faith was making me hopeful, the influence of my unbelieving culture was making me very skeptical. As I read, I found my biases tugging against one another, leaving me unable to either accept or reject the thesis of the book.

Am I learned enough to make a fair judgment? Some of the book's critics do claim to have some expertise in Buddhism, Hinduism, or Eastern culture. But I have to wonder if those same people are as well versed in what the Bible says. To do a little American-bashing myself, I find that many well-educated Americans are abysmally ignorant of the teachings of Judaism and Christianity. I am often left wondering if these people have actually ever read the Bible. Mangawaldi seems to have a fairly rare advantage of having been immersed in several different religions or philosophies.

But, back to my own ignorance... I was impressed with the breadth of Mangalwadi's source material and found myself wanting to learn more. I wish he had included in the book a plan for the systematic study of the Bible's influence on cultures. I will have to rely on the notes and bibliography.

Given his own education, was Mangawaldi expecting a better-educated reader? One, perhaps, who had already dealt with minor issues and could focus then on the major thesis? It is a very readable book, so it is accessible by the broader public, even if not intended for that audience. If the book was not written for scholars, then it makes too many assertions to be dealt with in so short a space. The topic is massive, and the influences on culture myriad. To isolate the Bible as the primary positive influence would require a much more thorough and systematic approach. Each section of the book would merit its own volume.

All my questions aside, I am happy to find a book that challenges my thinking and spurs me on to further study. By that measure, The Book That Made Your World is a success.
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on April 25, 2011
"The Book That Made Your World: How The Bible Created The Soul Of Western Civilization" by Vishal Mangalwadi from Thomas Nelson Publishing looks quite intimidated at over four hundred pages, but it covers a great deal of information.

The author, as you might tell from the name, was born and raised in India and brings an interesting perspective on Christianity and Western Civilization. He studied in secular university and Hindu ashrams and worked with the poor of India.

In this book the author takes the reader on a myriad of journeys covering subjects from music to family. The author guides the reader through historical narrative with his own personal story intertwined discussing how the Scriptures shaped the minds of America and other western countries.

Mandalwadi makes the argument that no one can ever truly know western culture without reading and understanding the Bible, even if they happen to disagree with what it says.

One of the more exciting chapters is his chapter entitled "Revolution: What Made Translators World Changers?" where he writes about the great trial in bringing the Bible into the language of the people with leaders such as Tyndale and Wycliffe. These are mean who may have been most influential of shaping culture by bringing Scriptures to the people.

This book is a wonderful reminder of just how awesome and powerful the Word of God is to people. It is truly amazing how many facets of our lives are touched by the teachings of the Bible. I would strongly encourage anyone who has a love of the Bible, culture, or history to pick up this book.
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on November 3, 2014
Mangalwadi’s hefty volume (442 pages) brings us a native Indian’s view of the history of the West. His profound knowledge of Indian reality enables him to overcome some of the political correctness and fear of being accused of ‘racism’ that chains some Western scholars hand and foot from revealing truth. Time and time again Mangalwadi identifies the Bible as the key library that has opened the mind of Western man to truth, and in the course of doing so has changed the world. Key to that changing of the world is a respect for human dignity, expressed in singular love and compassion found in the example of Jesus, that the rest of the world had simply not known.
By the 1960s philosophers realised that logic was incapable of discovering truth. Actually, logic arose as a result of revealed truth, says Mangalwadi in this fascinating book. The Bible being such, he tells us, as to suggest that the world is logical, became an encouragement for enlightenment thinkers to test its sincerity. That the greatest enlightenment thinkers were deeply Christian was no coincidence.
Contemporary Western man tends to assume that matter can exist independently of thought. Surprisingly, according to Mangalwadi, this is in global historical terms, a new notion. Most people around the world have always found ‘nature’ to be enchanted. The Bible, Mangalwadi tells us, has provided the foundation for its disenchantment. Christianity, and not atheism, resulted in the development of science. If it were atheism, then why didn’t the Chinese become the first to develop science? Before the time of science, many uses of technology arose from a Biblical high valuation of human dignity. Foundational technology was invented in monasteries.
Today’s understanding that a ‘hero’ is he who sacrifices himself for the good of others has not always been there. The mediaeval hero was the knight who provoked warfare so as to kill in battle. The church turned this around, linking heroism with compassion. Compassion is America’s speciality, according to Mangalwadi. It arises from a view of love that has arisen from the Bible.
The church took over a great deal of the original power of the Roman Empire. For all its weaknesses and problems, the church of Christendom achieved an unmatched legitimacy. Christian believers motivated by what God first did for them have for centuries been a massive force moving civilisations away from darkness and towards light.
Secularists have been, and are, deceiving us, suggests Mangalwadi. What our kids are learning in the Western school curriculum can be deception and lies. Giving secularism the credit for initiating great ideas like freedom and equality has been a deception. Secularism will in due course itself be seen as a transitory deception – a mere blip in the history of the world.
Those who credit the rise of logical and rational thought to Greek philosophers are only half right. It was only Christians who could interpret Aristotle and other great philosophers without the chains of animism. The same Christians could then utilise their insights to bring a real betterment to human existence. “Christian education … developed knowledge in small increments, like a puzzle, because God had already given us the big picture” Mangalwadi tells us (page 219). So then science was enabled by the Bible, because the Bible gives a preview of a natural orderliness waiting to be discovered. The primary transmitters of education and its benefits around the world have been those who have taken the Bible very seriously.
Not to do one’s utmost to share the Bible with them is condemning contemporary primitive people to live in the Stone Age, says Mangalwadi. What he knows of ‘the Stone Age’ is not pleasant. It takes a particularly callous person to say that tribe X should be left alone. It takes love and compassion to share the Word of God with them.
What of the future? Mangalwadi’s question regarding the West is: “will it relapse into a new dark age or humble itself before the Word of the Almighty God” (p401)? This book, while essentially historical, ranges widely over academic disciplines. It is a highly recommended read to historians, to Christians, and especially to who have been deceived by in recent centuries by the false hegemonic claims of secularism. Thank you Mangalwadi for being bold enough to speak out truth.
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on January 12, 2012
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.
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on May 1, 2012
Coming from a totally different culture (rural poverty in the American southwest), I was able to relate to this book, having experienced the transforming power of God's Word in my family. The book is well researched--fascinating reading. I had trouble putting it down and have incorporated it in lessons for my ladies' Bible classes. As a former history teacher in public schools and a retired English professor from a secular university, I wish it could be required reading for high school and college students--not likely in our secular society
kj Presley
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VINE VOICEon July 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
How did "Western Civilization" develop? What laid the foundation for the values and ethics that the West is built upon? And what will happen if we abandon that foundation? What has the Bible ever contributed to the world?

Vishal Mangalwadi's book answers these questions based on the thesis that the Bible laid the foundation for everything we take for granted in Western Civilization: scientific achievement, notions of liberty and equality, the right to an education, the idea of human dignity, compassion, and human rights.

Mangalwadi doesn't believe that everything the West has done throughout history is correct or honorable. However, he does believe that the values and ethics imparted by the Bible led to positive advances in science, technology, education, literature, and human rights. Divorced from the Bible, Western Civilization loses it's moral anchor and we fall into the abyss of fatalism and into the hands of business and political leaders who only serve themselves. If we relinquish this anchor, we risk losing the basic rights of honesty and human dignity that we take for granted today.

What Mangalwadi presents is the Biblical worldview and how it has sustained Western culture and is now being threatened or overturned. The Book That Made Your World is an unapologetic wake-up call.
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on December 24, 2012
Mangalwadi is completely convincing with his argument that the Bible has been central to the formation of Western civilization and beyond. He does so by relying on secular academic works of first-rate scholars--plenty of sources from Princeton University Press and the like--there's no reductionism from Liberty University or Bob Jones University. If his conclusion is wrong, then the scholarship of a large number of serious scholars is also wrong. What he has done is bring together the work of a lot of people in one volume. He also starts it off in a unique manner by assessing the worldview of Kurt Cobain. As an Indian, Mangalwadi brings a very helpful perspective with a credibility that a person from the West can't have. This book exceeds the likes of William McNeil and Gordon Wood. Those who refuse to take his arguments seriously because they are politically incorrect should read about themselves in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. I have not read a better history book than The Book that Made Your World.
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on April 18, 2013
I haven't finished the book, but this is intriguing in that the author establishes a good foundation for Western Civilization, and its downfall. It is an easy reading book (not too many words to look up) and is like a mini-documentary on the author's journey to Christ and how he is personally trying to facilitate literacy and technology to the Hindu lifestyle and why it's important to understand humanity of Christ and apply that toward your neighbor, neighborhood and culture.
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