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Book Review: “The Book That Made Your World – How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization” by Vishal Mangalwadi

Book Review: “The Book That Made Your World – How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization” by Vishal Mangalwadi

This book was superb. I think it should be making it’s way around every family in every church in North America. At a minimum it should be in every church library.

This book is so good, that for the first time in my ministry, I’m interested in taking the material from a book, this specific book, and adapting it into a message or a series of messages. I believe the content here, every believer in North America would be profoundly encouraged by.

Here’s how I got it.

At first, I ignored the episode on the Jordan B. Peterson podcast, (YouTube) where he was interviewing a scholar from India talking about the Bible. But, eventually, I ran a bit short on episodes I was interested in and decided to listen to it. I was blown away from the beginning of the conversation all the way through the end. I couldn’t believe that Dr. Peterson had invited someone on his show to just talk about the Bible, and speak of it in almost purely evangelical terms.

Dr. Peterson invited him on his show because someone had recommended this book to him, he enjoyed it, and wanted to have a public conversation with the author.

The angle was important. Vishal Mangalwadi is a scholar from India, and he’s showing how the Bible created modern India. In order to tell that story, he had to also talk about how the Bible created the societies in North America. The devil is always in the details, and the miracle of our society is displayed when it’s put up in contrast to other major societies including historical ones.

I picked it up from the local public library. But, I wish I had a copy of my own. Don’t be surprised if I invest in one shortly.

What the book is about.

Dr. Mangalwadi wrote the book in answer to a fellow public intellectual in India named Arun Shourie who had publicly criticized the Bible. He wanted to answer his criticisms.

And, boy, did he give us a tremendous gift. When I got to the credits and acknowledgements, it was obvious that there was an enormous team behind this book, including multiple people that did a lot of research for the various chapters.

That shows, as Dr. Mangalwadi opens the book by contrasting the culture that produced Kurt Cobain with the culture that produced Johann Sebastian Bach. He talked about the philosophies that inspired their lives and music and the message that their lives conveyed. He also compared them and their respective cultures with the culture of India. Since India is the product of Eastern culture, Asian culture, Muslim occupation, and Greek and Roman occupation the reader has the benefit of the full spectrum of ideologies.

From there, he tells his own personal journey. I found the interview with Dr. Peterson a better version than what was written in the book. But, still, again, he’s comparing and contrasting the Christianity of his childhood with his experience in university among secular atheists, Buddhists and devout Hindus.

From there, he begins to describe the unique contribution that the Bible has made in these various realms of life. Helpfully, they are each contrasted with the cultures of India, Asia, Islam, Ancient Greek/Roman, and Europe. They are:

  • Humanity – what the Bible says about the human being and their worth and role.
  • Rationality – how the Bible produced a culture that valued logic and rationality.
  • Technology – how the Bible produced a culture that technology was made available to every member in society.
  • Heroism – how the Bible shaped the Western idea of the hero.
  • Revolution – how the Bible inspired political science.
  • Languages – how the Bible created a culture that developed languages and by extension human thoughts and ideas.
  • Literature – how the Bible inspired the vast array of literature styles and quality.
  • University – how the Bible fuelled education for the masses.
  • Science – how the Bible developed a culture of scientific discovery.
  • Morality – how the Bible ensures anti-corruption.
  • Family – how the Bible shaped the nuclear family and what effect that had on the individuals and society as a whole.
  • Compassion – how the Bible gave us ambulances
  • True Wealth – how the Bible truly benefits a society beyond financial prosperity.
  • Liberty – how fundamental views of the Bible produce free people.
  • Mission – why we should give stone aged tribes that are cannabals a copy of the Bible in their own language.

He closes the book with an arousing appeal for people like you and me (English-speakers) to not lose hope for Western Society in it’s obvious decline, but, actually, take heart, and not lose sight of how powerful the words in the Bible actually are. A

And, then there’s an appendix where he discusses how the Bible could be God’s Word.

What do I think?

My favourite chapter was the one on the family. The whole book was superb.

This is a catechism. It’s a fellow believer that is discipling fellow believers through the pen (or word processor). And, it would not only answer important questions of many believers, it would also deepen their faith. In addition, it would embolden Christians to share their faith confidently.

I may have just talked myself into a copy…

Have you read it? Have you heard of Vishal Mangalwadi? I have a friend who told me that his dad is friends with Vishal.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2022 in Book Review

 

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Book Review: “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Book Review: “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

If we went for coffee today, this is what I would likely bring up. I just finished reading this book and it stretched me.

How did I get it?

I kept seeing this title referred to on Twitter among some of the accounts I follow for political commentary. I saw it referenced enough, and with enough direct encouragement to read it, that I put my request in at the local library for it.

I was like 10th in line. When it finally was available, I was away on a trip and couldn’t get it. So, I had to put my name in again, this time like 4th in line and finally was able to pick it up.

And, I can’t renew it, because there’s people waiting for it. And, I just finished it, 1 full day before it was due.

All that to say, I’m grateful for the local library, as this book is almost $30 new, and it’s obvious that it’s a popular book by how many people are in line to read it.

What’s it about?

Well, the author is a professor of psychology and a self-declared atheist liberal. In the book, he attempts to understand how two good people people can have such strong feelings about an issue that are completely opposite. Specifically, he can’t understand conservatives and wants to.

The book is a journey of discovery. He starts with the state of psychology about these things when he entered college and the prevailing paradigm that they worked under. He then shows how that was completely wrong, and how they discovered that people aren’t that way at all. I don’t recall what those things were, because they were wrong anyway.

Then, he has this epiphany of sorts, that people make these moral decisions based on their intuitions and then their reason will justify it. The metaphor he uses is like a rider on an elephant. The elephant really isn’t controlled at all by the rider, the rider is like the “press secretary” for the elephant, just telling other people why it’s so good whatever the elephant happens to be doing at the time.

But, then, his world gets upended because he took 6 months in India to do some field work. While he was there, he was immersed in a culture that prized authority and attributed a sacred value to objects. He scoffed at it in the beginning, but the longer he was there, he began to see the value of having these values in the culture.

That helped him to revise his entire thought process towards moral dilemmas, and quite frankly, gave him a tremendous amount of respect for conservatives.

That whole process was interesting as he was doing these surveys of ethical questions with people, and as he broadened the kinds of people that he would ask, it helped him to see the world the way that others see it. It rescued him from mocking and having a disdainful attitude towards others.

Lastly, he spent some time talking about “the hive insect” and the way that we humans have the capability of being like bees in this one respect. We have this ability to lose ourselves into a group, into a whole. The illustrations were amazing, as it’s something every human has experienced. Typically, for us in North America, it’s by being at a concert, where the beat and the rhythm and the singing, flips some switch in our brains and we become one massive group, and our sense of belonging and identity with everyone else is activated. That was wild to read about.

He closes the book with an appeal for people on both sides of the ideological aisle to attempt to understand each other, and recognize that we have different values, and those values, when understood, can be respected. The tension is good, and will help us make better political decisions.

What do I think? What’s my takeaway?

Well, I was astounded to see in black and white and even in diagrams how the conservative thinker actually has a broader and more developed palette of values. It made “my elephant” even more interested in people and what they think and believe and why. If you can believe it, it might make me more interested in a wider variety of people on a deeper level of topics.

This “hive mentality” thing is explosive. This is what is happening in some church services on a weekly basis. And, this is what some in our generation are really craving. They don’t have strong connections in their families and among their parents and grandparents and communities. And, so, being in a worship service, the music, the rhythm, the words, the singing, can bring such a powerful sense of belonging and oneness to the whole thing. No wonder I’ve walked away from some of those kinds of times, especially at the SouthEast Calvary Chapel Pastors Conference and the International Calvary Chapel Pastors and Leaders Conference thinking… “these are my people.” They are! And, that sense of oneness in our meetings is highly motivating. The “hive instinct” button got hit.

I think conclusions derived from the section on evolution would be way, way, easier to get to with creation. There would be a lot less guessing, and it would save a lot of embarrassment when someone comes along in a few years and shows how ridiculous all the speculative reasoning actually is.

Finally, I know this author didn’t intend this, and would probably cringe at my synopsis of his book earlier, and if I was his student would not giving me a passing grade, but he really did make the liberal atheist look ignorant, uninformed and immature. There was a big section in the book where he discussed the practical benefits of religion. It’s more than a foregone conclusion that humans thrive best in communities of faith. Beyond that, over and over, he explained how there’s really only one value that motivates the liberal and that’s care/harm. It’s off the charts. And, until this book, they had no way to understand a conservative other than as a heartless person.

Closing thoughts…

This is definitely a college-level book. It’s big, and parts of it are easy to get lost in. What he does really, really well in his writing, is his introductions to each chapter, and then the “In Sum” section at the end of each chapter. That’s a brilliant and helpful feature of his writing style.

His illustrations and stories are easy to follow. Without them, I would have been lost like a ball in high weeds!

How about you? Have you read this? Have you seen or heard people discussing it? What do you think of this “hive instinct?”

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2022 in Book Review

 

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