One of my father’s books I brought back from New Zealand recently was a well-read and tattered volume he inherited fom his own father. I remember as a kid seeing the title in the family bookcase but doubt if I connected the name with the Wesleyan Chapel where I first went to kindergarten, as seen in the photo. It would be years before I began to have any inkling of the world-changing influence John Wesley had.
‘England before and after Wesley’ was written in 1938 by J. Wesley Bready as the clouds of war were gathering over a Europe still trying to recover from the Depression. At a time when many saw end-time signs piling up one upon the other, it was an opportune reminder of how bad things were in England before the revival associated with Wesley’s name.
I have just finished reading an advance copy of Vishal Mangalwadi’s significant book, The book that made your world. Thomas Nelson is publishing this book to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, to be released officially on May 10, when Vishal is in Budapest to speak at HOPE•II.
This too is an opportune book appearing at a time when many see end-time signs piling up one upon the other! It is a book that brings hope that what God has done before, he can do again. Actually, this book is well overdue. I know of nothing parallel. It is a personal tour de force showing how the Bible created the soul of western civilisation. As an Indian, Vishal exposes myths and false assumptions behind many western attitudes shaping our culture today.
He brings a prophetic eastern perspective to explaining why, for example, the West’s passion for science only began when the Bible inspired Christians to devote their lives to recovering God’s forgotten mandate for humans to take dominion over nature.
Ancient India produced great surgeons but didn’t develop scientific medicine. A fifth-century Indian astrologer suggested the earth rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun, but the East didn’t develop astronomy. An Indian mathematician introduced the zero, but Indian mathematics failed to become the language of science. Vishal explains that when you grow up, as he did, in a culture that believes the world you see and touch is unreal—maya, an illusion, a dream—you have no motivation to study that ‘unreal‘ world.
The first historian of the Royal Society of Science, Thomas Sprat (1635-1713), described the society’s objective as enabling mankind to reestablish ‘dominion over things’. Reality was neither Platonic shadow nor Hindu maya. The pioneers of science believed the material realm was real, not magical, enchanted or governed by spirits and demons. They invested time and effort studying the physical universe because they believed God created it good.
So what does this have to do with John Wesley?
After addressing questions including, what made the West a thinking civilisation? why did monks develop technology? and, what made Bible translators world changers? Vishal asks why are some nations less corrupt than others. Quoting from the Transparency International Index of Global Corruption, he notes that the least corrupt nations are those most influenced by the Bible.
‘The Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom,’ writes Vishal. He admits that Christendom was as corrupt as any other part of the world until, during the Reformation, it recovered the biblical gospel that Jesus makes possible inner self-government, socio-political freedom and clean public life.
Then comes the heading: ‘England before and after John Wesley’, leading to a whole section inspired by Bready’s book. It describes the transformation of Britain after morality and religion ‘had collapsed to a degree never before known in any Christian country’, according to one bishop at the time. That transformation resulted in countless conversions, revived churches, the end of slavery, a national interest in reading and learning, habits of thrift and generosity, a tradition of philanthropy and a global missionary movement.
‘One cannot understand nineteenth-century Britain until one understands Wesley and the Bible’, writes Vishal. National transformation is an inter-generational task, he adds, noting that Wesley’s life refutes the idea that history is doomed towards corruption.
Vishal will be helping us recover an awareness of how the Bible shaped Europe at HOPE•II. Why not join us in Budapest, 9-13 May? (see www.hfe.org)
Till next week,