10. Can Nations Be Reformed? - Truth Matters - Vishal MangalwadiFatalism, pessimism, and escapism have paralysed many cultures. The key to the West’s amazing progress was optimism. Where did it come from?
Thomas Hobbes, an atheist philosopher, described life as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Gautam Buddha, India’s most influential sage, believed that “Life is suffering.” The only way to escape suffering is to escape life into the Nothingness of Nirvana.
The West became different because something enabled it to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” What was the secret of that optimism?
2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Communist Revolution in Russia. Hardly anyone is celebrating it even though that revolution was immensely influential. Its aftershocks continue until today, creating havoc in many nations.
Before Communism came the French Revolution. Its ideals were high: Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. It replaced God with the goddess of human reason - but degenerated into a Reign of Terror before ending in the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Russian and French Revolutions were the outcome of the Enlightenment’s faith in man. They taught us that when man tries to become the messiah, he becomes a monster.
A decade before the French Revolution, Americans began their Revolutionary War in 1776. They succeeded in building one of history’s greatest and freest nations. Prior to the American Revolution, the English Civil War had also succeeded in changing Britain. Historian Jacques Barzun pointed out that the English and American Revolutions were ripple effects of the German Reformation.
He wrote that the Sixteenth Century Reformation was the most influential revolution of the last millennium. It reformed nations and created the modern world of freedoms and progress.
The German, English, and American Revolutions succeeded because they began as spiritual movements. The reformers sought the purity of their own hearts before seeking the reform of their nations. They did not fight for power and positions for themselves. They fought for principles, for truth.
Communists call religion “the opium of the masses”. The historical fact is that the Christian hope of Heaven was not just consolation for hardship in this life; it enabled Christians to endure hardship now. Because Christ had given them eternal life, they were not afraid to die. They stood up to tyrants. Eleven of Jesus’ twelve Apostles were martyred for what the Reformation saw as the “freedom of belief”. Christians continue to brave death for their faith in many countries today.
Ideologies such as Communism, Fascism and Socialism put their hope in man. They were disappointed. The Reformers put their hope in Jesus, because he conquered sin and death. Reformers did not fight because they wanted to rule this world. They fought because they prayed, “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God’s will was to be done in the hearts of believers, as well as bring healing to every sphere of life. One of the Reformation’s chief legacies is that corrupt, cruel and poor nations can be reformed. They can be freed from intolerance, superstition, and oppression.
The Reformers would have agreed that religion is the opium of the masses. But faith in a living God results in hope.
9. Why is the West the Least Corrupt? - Truth Matters - Vishal MangalwadiCorruption costs the world about 1 trillion dollars each year. It transfers wealth from the powerless to the powerful. A corrupt people cannot trust their own society. Globally, corruption is the norm. I was surprised that some cultures found a CURE.
My first experience of a culture of trust was in Holland. My host took me to a dairy to buy milk. I had never heard of machines milking cows. No one was selling the milk. My friend just opened the tap and filled his jug. Then he grabbed a bowl filled with cash. He paid in a 20 Guilder note, took the change, and started walking away with his milk. I was stunned. I said, “Man! If you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money!”
He laughed. In a flash I understood a basic cause of my nation’s poverty. If customers took the milk and the money, the dairy owner would have to hire a salesgirl. But if the consumer is corrupt, why would the supplier be honest? He would add water to increase the quantity of milk. Frustrated by watered-down milk, the consumer would ask the government to appoint Milk Inspectors. But why should the Inspector be honest? He would take bribes and allow adulterated milk to be sold. The consumer will have to bear the cost of the milk, water, the sales-girl, the Inspector, and the bribe – none of which add any value to the milk. In paying for them, the consumer pays simply for his sin.
Paying for all this means that you don’t have money left to buy products that actually add value, such as milk turned into ice-cream or cheese.
How did Holland create a culture of integrity? Medieval Europe was as corrupt as India is today. Holland’s Reformation began in the soul of a German monk called Martin Luther. He struggled to find purity of heart. He followed all the religious rituals of his Church, fasted and prayed; went on pilgrimages; confessed every sin he could think of. But none of these gave Luther an assurance that all his sins were forgiven or that he was accepted by God.
The light dawned on Luther when he read New Testament writer Paul the apostle. Paul had also tried to become righteous by following his sect of Judaism. Then he learnt that our religious works or karma don’t make us righteous before God. They can make us religious bigots.
The Bible reveals a God who is very different from gods who want bribes in exchange for blessings. God sacrificed His own Son to save us. Our religious efforts cannot earn salvation. It is a gift received by faith. When the resurrected Christ came to live in his heart, Luther’s inner darkness turned into light. That enabled him to oppose the corruption of his church at the risk of his life.
Luther knew that protest does not eradicate corruption. Transforming a nation requires cultivating character. That is why God gave us the Scriptures. Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by God’s inspiration, and is profitable for correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” [2 Timothy 3: 16-17].
The desire to reform his nation inspired Luther to translate the Bible into German and promote a national educational system built upon God’s word.
Poverty does not cause corruption; corruption causes poverty. To combat both, our nations need more than aid, investment or protest. They need hearts and minds that are transformed.
8. Why Monks Created Technology - Truth Matters - Vishal Mangalwadi“Why don’t English women haul water on their heads, like many Indians and Africans?” I asked, in a class in London.
“Because . . . they are lazy,” answered one of my African students.
Actually, the answer is more complicated. I asked because in Uganda I had seen hundreds of women and children hauling water on their heads right next to a hydroelectric plant at the source of the River Nile. The abundance of water and electricity made me wonder why women were bringing water on their heads, morning and evening, 365 days a year. That wasted millions of hours of labour. Worse, it meant eating poorly washed food from badly washed dishes with unwashed hands. That infected people with easily preventable diseases that drained their energy.
By using their minds, a handful of people can supply more water to a million homes than a million people hauling it on their heads.
My experience in Uganda refuted the proverb that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Every family needs water. If a wife cannot bring enough water, men forced their children to work, took additional wives, or bought slaves. They didn’t invent.
Many scholars, such as Stanford’s Professor Lynn White Jr., have documented that humanizing technology came out of biblical theology.
Why did Christian monks develop technology?
Buddhist and Christian monks shared the same problem: they could not take wives to haul their water or grind their grain. Buddhism required monks to beg for their food. But the Bible said that a person who does not work should not eat. [2 Thessalonians 3:10] To work was to be like God. He is a worker, not a dreamer, dancer, or meditator like in some other religions.
But the monks had come to the monastery to pray, not to grind grain. The Bible resolved their tension by distinguishing “work” from “toil.” To work was to be like God, but toil was a curse on human sin. [Genesis 3:17–19].
Toil is mindless, repetitive, dehumanizing labor. This theological distinction between work as godliness and toil as curse enabled Christian monks to realize that human beings should not have to do what wind, water, or horses can do. Creative reason should be used to liberate human beings from the curse of toil.
“Gospel” means good news: sin brought upon us the curse of toil. But the Saviour took our sin, its curse, and punishment upon himself. The Lord Jesus died upon the cross to save us from sin and its consequences, including the curse of toil.
This is in marked contrast to every other worldview, for example Hinduism teaches that this world is Maya, not real; and Buddhism teaches that engaging with this world is the CAUSE of suffering rather than a solution.
Francis Bacon made this point most strongly in his New Science, [Novum Organum , “By the Fall, man fell from both his state of innocence and from his dominion over creation. But even in this life both of those losses can be made good; the former by religion and faith, the later by (technical) arts and sciences.” (Nov. Org. II 52)
The Bible birthed technology in monasteries. The Reformation took it out of that closed environment and taught it to everyone. That made available to the world God’s gracious gift of salvation, including salvation from the curse of toil through humanising technology.
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