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How The Bible Shaped The West

How the Bible Shaped the West

A speech by Vishal Mangalwadi in Budapest (May 2011), in which he exposed his vision for the Schuman Centre for European Studies to become a force contending for the soul of Europe.

The story of Robert Schuman and of how the European Union began is sobering because it was sixty years ago. The European Union was established so that there would not be another war but rather unity in Europe.

This month’s Foreign Affairs magazine has several articles on the question whether the rise of China would lead to a Third World War. One of the backgrounds of these articles was Niall Ferguson’s book The Ascent of Money.This British historian, who taught at Harvard University,is gaining a lot of influence in the intellectual community. He is the intellectual guru for many of the anchor persons of leading media such as CNN. In the Time Magazineof March 2011, Fareed Zakaria argued that America was in decline and should be destroyed as the only basis for a possibility to rebuild it, a sort of creative destruction. In the Ascent of Money, Ferguson argues that the stage is set for another war, because of the globalization of finance. He argues that the First and the Second World Wars were a result of the globalization of finance. A similar stage is set today.

Schuman and his two other Roman Catholic friends were able to talk about rebuilding Europe, building peace, thankfully because they were not contaminated by Protestant eschatology, and particularly by American eschatology. They could not have dreamt of rebuilding Europe if they had studied at Fuller Theological Seminary, because American evangelicalism cannot even define what a nation is. When God says ‘I will make you a great nation’, if that means that you’ll have a lot of children and therefore a nation means a people group or ethnicity, then this vision of steal and coal production, of having cooperation across the borders and building a great and prosperous Europe, a land flowing with milk and honey, doesn’t fit that picture.

Recovering the European dream

The Schuman Centre for European Studies begins to face this reality and aims to recover this dream of sixty years ago, of building a great and peaceful Europe, being a blessing to Africa and to all the nations of the earth. This was God’s promise to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation and through you I will bless all the nations. I will make all the nations great” (Genesis 12:2). That vision requires an understanding of what a nation is. Thankfully, the other facet of the fact that it was three Catholics who had a vision for the EU was that their understanding of a nation was quite different.

The Protestant Reformation didn’t simply break up the Roman Catholic church. It broke up the Holy Roman Empire. The concept of the nation-state was born (e.g. the Seven Provinces of Holland became a nation-state named the Dutch Republic). Was that a biblical understanding of what a nation is? If so, could that be applied for all the states of Europe? Also, can a nation be redefined not simply to build a great Europe but also to build a great Africa? Those are nations that the Schuman Centre for European Studies needs to study indeed, because even if a war would not happen, an economic collapse can happen. 

The collapse of the American economy would have devastating effects on Europe. In this case, many of the fundamental assumptions would have to be redefined. These would not be simply the secular assumptions. Theological discussions would have to happen. Eschatology would have to be rethought. We would have to rethink whether Martin Luther’s assumption, that the antichrist would be coming from Rome was correct or not. And therefore we’d have to rethink whether or not the Protestant tradition was right in that matter. Those issues would have to be honestly discussed and debated if a new Europe is to be built.

The Book That Made Your World

My new book The Book That Made Your World should have been dedicated to Prabhu Guptara who is present here. He has been my older brother, mentor and a constant source of support and guidance for 12 years or so that I have been working on this book. However, I chose to dedicate it to Arun Shourie, and I believe that Prabhu would agree with that. He is an Indian Member of Parliament and was a minister for the militant Hindu Party that was ruling for several years. He was also the head of the largest newspaper chainin India. 

Arun Shourie launched the fiercest attack in India against Christian missions, seeing them not as an attempt to bless but to subdue India. He also launched the fiercest attack on the Bible, claiming it to be an irrational book full of absurdities and contradictions, a work only for fools. I therefore decided to dedicate this book to him since he did shake up the confidence of many Christians in the Word of God in India. I also thank Os Guinness here present who was one of the first to encourage me to start this book and to do a television series of it, which has not yet happened.[1]

I began to study this question seriously because in 1980, the superintendent of police in my hometown, a district where I was working with the poor, invited me to his mansion dating from the colonial times of Bangalore. He offered me tea, biscuits and other Indian specialties while he was on the phone, talking to police officers and giving them orders. Then he sat down and told me that he had read great reviews of my first book The World of Gurus. He had heard many elites in the district telling him that I was doing something for the poor, which no one had done in India before. Then he said: “with all the due respect for who you are and what you are doing, I have called you here to ask you to cancel the prayer meeting that you have planned for next Wednesday, and I want you to understand that if you don’t cancel it, I will personally kill you!”

Now there was a contradiction between the way he was treating me and what he was telling me, so I couldn’t take him seriously. And he understood that I was not taking him seriously because he spent an hour telling me about how many public figures he had killed during his career as a police officer without trial, no judges nor courts involved. He insisted that if I did not cancel this meeting he would kill me. I answered: “Well let me go and talk to my wife and ask her if it’s okay for her to become a widow and then I will decide.” So we talked about it and prayed with our community. We decided that there is a Word above the word of man, of kings, of governments and of offices, and we have to obey that Word, we must do what we have to do and the state can do what it wants and what it needs to do. 

Thankfully the local press supported me so finally I was just thrown in jail. That raised the question to know whether he would kill me when I would come out. Those days in prison became an excellent time of retreat, when I was able to really think about how the West had been able to create just, free and prosperous nations. As I was working with the poor, trying to change their destiny, I wondered how we could bring such a change? What could I learn from the West? At that time I had assumed that the West was a civilized place that had successfully established the Rule of Law, where a police officer cannot simply kill an innocent public servant. Some of that is changing now. 

Righteousness and justice

When the U.S. President Barack Obama just had Osama Bin Laden killed, he said that justice had been done. Well it certainly was not civil justice. It was not even a just war. If Osama Bin Laden had been shooting back at a soldier who was shooting at him, it would have been a just war. But he was unarmed in his bedroom. Was it right? Yes! Osama Bin Laden launched a war and that war killed him. That is what Barack Obama said. That would be right and correct. But was it just? Had justice been done? 

The problem is that universities such as Harvard can no longer talk about justice. The term ‘just war’ is an invention of European medieval theology and even North African theology (through Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine and others). It presupposes that there is a God whose Law and whose Word should rule: that right should rule over might. So while President Obama’s action was right even if it was not justice, what can we say about what Britain and France are doing in Libya when they kill the grandchildren of Muammar Gaddafi? Is the Western mind really not able to distinguish between justice and injustice?

In the film Avatar, James Cameron shows the possible future of the world (avatar is an Indian word meaning incarnation). Before that film Hollywood heroes used to save the world from villains who came from outer space to destroy this earth. Now Cameron is saying that one will need an incarnation to save the world and the outer  space from America, because this land would become the greatest terror for the world, a greed driven secular economy backed by a technologically invincible army. 

The antichrist of the 20thcentury was given by Europe, by the first Protestant nation Germany. Could America give the antichrist of the 21stcentury? Cameron is saying it can and it will unless there is an incarnation, a moulded human, because no political or military power can really stand up against America. So these are serious issues.

European unity

I am so glad that you, the Schuman Centre for European Studies, are taking up the challenge to wrestle with these issues in building up a think tank. Here is why: studying and thinking about it is in fact the first primary responsibility before action. American evangelical theology would not be interested in these things because it is waiting for the antichrist. It is an invention of American eschatology but it is not a biblical idea. 

American evangelical theology is waiting for the rapture, that is that we have to be raptured and therefore should not build a peaceful Europe which can transform Africa, Asia and other nations. That is the sort of challenge that you are taking and it will require very conscious decisions. Is this really God’s mission? Did God actually mean it when He said: “I will make you a great nation and through you I will make all the nations of the earth great”? Is that what He wants to do?

In doing so, both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism will have to change. People like Robert Schuman will have to come to terms with understanding a Biblical definition of what a nation is and what it would look like in the future. It was a good thing that he didn’t have it but it is a weakness in Roman Catholicism. The reality is that before the Reformation, Catholicism made unity to much of Europe. Then the Reformation broke it up. And now the European Union has now become an attempt by secular humanism, modernism and postmodernism to unite Europe on the basis of rationalism and economics. That is a problem. Secular humanism cannot sustain Europe simply because secularism cannot create a church. Secularism cannot even create or sustain a family. The culture of entitlement will destroy both American capitalism and European social security, pension and healthcare systems. 

The ultimate answer to these issues is the fifth commandment: ‘Children honour your father and your mother’. This presupposes a view of family, of parents having and nurturing children and children honouring their father and mother. These are issues that secular humanism cannot sustain. The kind of economic system that has grown up in the last sixty years in America and Europe must collapse. But if it has to be rebuilt, these issues, which have deep philosophical, theological, moral and ethical issues, have to be talked through.

Nailing our theses

So what is my vision for the Schuman Centre for European Studies? By 2017, when the 500thanniversary of the Reformation will be celebrated, the battle for the soul of Europe will be really on. Who will shape it? What will constitute it? Where will its DNA, its core philosophical, ethical, moral and political ideas come from? What will be its philosophy of war and justice? Where will it come from? 

It is not enough for the Church to be teaching biblical worldview and evangelizing. Luther was not teaching a Biblical worldview. When he nailed the ninety-five theses on the Castle Church of Wittenberg, he was not just teaching dictums like justification by faith alone or grace alone or Scriptures alone. He was challenging everything that his university was teaching as well as all the universities of Europe were teaching. He was challenging what the Church was teaching and what the state believed. 

In these coming years, as your think tank works, you must master the courage to take on your rivals, nail your theses, and I think that it has to be done on the internet. I propose that you create a sort of Wikipedia in which everything that every professor is teaching in Europe is written down. This library would explain to the students what is wrong with the teaching of their professors, what kind of questions should be raised and what the truth is. It would help students to know how to discuss and find the truth. 

Imagine a classroom where a professor is giving a lecture on economics, history or any other topic. While the professor is teaching, a student is on his cell phone or iPad, having already listened to the same lectures given by the same professor the previous year, and also read the comments related to this topic from your think tank. The student would know what kind of questions to ask the professor. He would then raise his hand, ask questions and challenge the professor. 

This is the sort of thing that Luther did, which fired up students to question the wisdom of universities. This is the sort of thing The Book That Made Your World is doing. And that is what I would propose to you as a challenge for the Schuman Centre for European Studies, if you want to be a force contending for the soul of Europe. You should create an intellectual revolution in which every student in every classroom can begin to demolish secular thought, pagan thought or postmodern thought, and then access the truth in order to become a great Europe and a blessing to the whole world.

Vishal Mangalwadi

Indian Christian philosopher, lecturer, reformer and columnist. Author of The Book That Made Your World and This Book Changed Everything.


[1]Six years later in 2017, Vishal Mangalwadi created a series of podcasts. For more information check truthmatters.tv

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