Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

This is a video of Vishal Mangalwadi’s plenary address titled “Corruption and the Culture of the Cross” from the 2014 C.S. Lewis Summer Institute.

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Lecture on the topic of ” The Cross and the healing of Nations ” on 16th Jan 2016 at YMCA New Delhi.

Fatalism, 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.

Corruption 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.

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 [1620], “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.

Why was modern Science born in Europe, not in China or Egypt? Why did the scientific revolution take off from the 16th Century?

Sociologist Peter Harrison studied the lives and writings of every pioneer of modern science. He came to some surprising conclusions. Some atheists, for example, believe it was godless rationalism that led to scientific thinking. Actually, rationalism is precisely what kept science stuck in a medieval rut.

No scientist today believes one sentence of Aristotle’s Physics, because he used logic, not empirical observation, as his method of finding truth. His book on Physics is philosophy, not science.

Aristotle said that if you drop two balls from a cliff, one twice as heavy as the other, the heavier ball will fall twice as fast. This seemed logical. Therefore, for two thousand years, no one tested it until Galileo actually dropped two balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Muslim intellectuals such as Avirroes followed Aristotle and taught that if Observation contradicts Logic, something had to be wrong with observation. Jesus, on the other hand, asked skeptics to observe his works.

Francis Bacon is called the Father of New Science because he proposed that logic must submit to the authority of observation. If the heavy and light balls fall at the same time, then Logic had to be revised. Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity met that need.

Galileo, Bacon, and Newton pioneered modern science because they put observation above logic and followed the Bible’s teaching that God reveals as well as conceals truth [Proverbs 25:2]. Science is God’s treasure Hunt. He wants us to seek truth.

The Bible says God existed before Creation. He created the logical laws we observe, but He is not bound by them. God is free. If He wanted to, He could incarnate as a human baby through a virgin. Our logic cannot pre-determine what God can or cannot do. Instead, we must go out and observe what He has in fact done.

As a Sociologist, Peter Harrison wanted to understand why this new scientific attitude became a revolution from the 16th Century. He learnt that the single most important factor behind the scientific revolution was the inductive method the Reformation employed in studying the Bible. The Medieval Church could not produce science because it followed Plato’s subjective, allegorical method of studying ancient texts.

The Reformation changed the science of interpreting a text because the Bible called the Church “the pillar and ground of the truth.” [1 Timothy 3:15] The church was not the source of Truth. It was to be the truth’s student and teacher. Truth had greater authority than the church.

The Scientific Revolution took off when this Protestant hermeneutic of reading the Bible literally was applied to the study of nature. Christian scholars, both Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, knew that God had written two books. The Bible was the book of God’s word, while nature and history constituted the book of God’s works. God was the author of Scriptures and nature, therefore, both had to be studied “literally”, inductively, objectively.

This worldview inspired Christian universities to study nature. That is why at the entrance of the world’s first scientific laboratory, the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, is inscribed Psalm 111:2: “Majestic are the works of the Lord. Those who delight in them study them.”

That desire to study the works of God produced modern science.

Did you know that you owe your ability to read and write to a 16th century European movement called the Protestant Reformation?

500 years ago the child of a fisherman, shepherd or carpenter could not go to school in Europe. Education was in Latin, mainly for those who wanted to serve the church.

The Protestant Reformation took education from the elite and gave it to everyone. Why? Because the Bible taught that ignorance and deception was the kingdom of Satan (in Revelation 20), but that God wanted all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. [1 Timothy 2:4]

In order to reform Europe, Martin Luther demolished elitist education. In 1520 he wrote a letter to the Christian nobility in Germany, expounding the Bible’s teaching that every child of God, whatever his colour, class or gender, is a royal priest [1 Peter 2:9]. He called this doctrine the “Priesthood of all believers.”

Every priest needs to know God. That requires studying God’s word. That, in turn, required the Bible to be available in the languages of the people. Luther himself translated the Bible into German. But people who spoke German dialects did not read their language. That required schools.

Who will pay for building schools? In 1524, Luther wrote another letter to the Councilmen of all Cities in Germany. Using Scriptures such as Psalm 78, Luther argued that City Councils were responsible to build and maintain schools.

God is our “Father” means that a man has to be more than an animal. He has to nurture and teach his children as does God.

By 1530 Luther realised that parents were a part of the problem. They could not see why children should go to school, if their life was to be spent milking cows, chopping wood, or bringing up babies.

Therefore, Luther asked parents to send children to school and keep them there. His appeal rested upon God’s Word. Poor peasants wanted their children to help with the family’s meagre income. Luther asked them to trust and obey God’s Word: to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. [Matthew 6: 31-33] That would be God’s way to improve their economic life

Did it work?

By the year 1600, at least 300 German cities and towns had established schools. These were so effective that, as early as 1537, a political opponent, the Roman Catholic theologian John Zwick, stated that if he were a boy again, he would attend a Lutheran school. They imparted better education because the schools were not established to make money. Their purpose was to help every child seek God’s kingdom.

The education of illiterate masses was God’s idea. He gave a written text, the Ten Commandments, to Hebrew slaves who were shepherds and brick-makers. They were oral learners. God wanted to transform them into a great nation. Therefore He required them to learn to read, write, think (meditate) and teach His written Word.

Turning oral languages of the masses into literary languages makes printing and publishing commercially viable mass media. Making the language of the common man, the language of learning, literature, and law democratises knowledge. It is the foundation of modern democracy. You cannot have a government of the people, for the people and by the people unless it functions in the language of the people.

The Bible turned dialects into literary languages. It inspired the missionary movement to translate and publish the Bible into every major language. That has globalized the Bible’s idea of universal education.

Why did the Reformation liberate whole nations from political tyranny?

The Sixteenth Century Reformation began as a spiritual movement in the heart of a university professor. When Martin Luther nailed his 95-Theses to the door of his University’s church, he was protesting against the corruption of religion. So how did the Reformation create the political system that the Enlightenment later labelled democracy?

In 1999, friends took me to see the Huguenot Monument in the village of Franschooek in South Africa. The Huguenots were French Protestants who fled persecution. Their monument explains modern political freedom more meaningfully than the Statue of Liberty in New York. The Huguenot woman is not wearing a crown, for she is neither a queen nor a goddess. She represents ordinary people. She wears a broken chain in her right hand and holds an open Bible in her left.

Why was this sixteenth-century European woman holding the Bible instead of Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Politics?

Muslims and Europeans had been studying the Greek classics for centuries, yet they were ruled by tyrants. A French woman holding a vernacular Bible could have been burnt at the stake. Tyrants had good reason to fear the Bible. It presented a God who delivered the Hebrews from the slavery of Pharaoh.

Why did the woman hold the Bible? Because it was the Bible that fired the modern quest for freedom. Martin Luther was the first to write a treatise On Christian Liberty in 1520. The monument honors the cross on the very top because the Cross empowered the French Protestants to accept suffering, exile, and even martyrdom in their quest for liberty.

The Huguenots’ murderers were nurtured on Greek and Roman classics. These gave them no notion of the freedom of conscience or belief. No concept of freedom of speech or assembly. Everyone was a subject – without a right to life or liberty.

Democracy in Greek city-states never worked for more than a few decades. They always degenerated into mob rule. Plato experienced Greek democracy as the social chaos that murdered his mentor Socrates. Therefore he condemned democracy as the worst of all political systems and promote rule by a “Philosopher King”. This inspired Aristotle to train Alexander the Great – one of history’s most ruthless conquerors.

Alexander’s conquests Hellenized much of the world by spreading Greek language and culture. Yet nowhere did Hellenization inspire democratic freedom.

Europe’s democratization began when the Reformers returned to the Bible and asked: How does God want us to govern our nations?

Scottish reformers implemented the Bible’s teaching that the Lord Jesus shed his blood to set us free; to make us priests and kings. This doctrine of the Kingship of all Believers was called “Popular Sovereignty.” Later, the Scottish Enlightenment renamed it “Democracy.”

I became aware of the gospel’s power to liberate nations when I heard our first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He began, “Fellow citizens, I have come to you as your first servant, because that is what the term prime minister literally means.” I was amazed. No ruler in India’s long history had ever seen himself as a servant. Pandit Nehru did so because he studied the Bible’s political thought in Britain.

The Gospel is that “Jesus is Lord”. That abolishes the lordship of men. The Lord Jesus himself washed the feet of his disciples and taught, “Whoever wants to be first among you, must become your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

In Britain, the Gospel made the First Servant (Prime Minister) more important than the king.

Five hundred years ago my country, India, had more wealth than Europe. Then, suddenly, some countries rapidly overtook us. What happened?

It is tempting to credit the West’s success to greed and guns, germs and steel. These did play a role. A responsible analysis, however, cannot overlook the impact of the Protestant Reformation.

Economics has become such a complicated subject that it is difficult for many to understand a simple secret of the West’s progress. That secret was a woman — Mrs. Katherine Luther.

Katherine von Bora was a runaway nun who married a monk, Martin Luther. She began the change that Sociologist Max Weber discussed in his classic, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

The newly married nun and monk had no money to buy a house. Therefore the local Prince, the patron of Luther’s university, gave them the empty monastery.

But how was Katie to maintain a large house on her husband’s meagre salary? She turned her home into a paying guest-house for university students. That required her to feed 30-40 people every day. How do you feed so many people?

Katie started growing her own fruit and vegetables. Then she turned her home into an animal farm. The money she saved was invested in a second, third, and fourth piece of land. One had a creek flowing through it. Katie turned it into a fish-pond!

By 1542, the Luthers owned more real-estate in Wittenberg than any other citizen. As soon as she bought land, Katie began developing it. Farms needed buildings for agriculture as well as housing her employees, so Katie became a builder, too.

Back then, cities did not provide clean drinking water. Therefore, Katie ran a brewery. One can still buy “Luther Beer” in Wittenberg.

Martin taught the Bible’s work-ethic. Katie practiced it.

Had Martin Luther followed the Buddha as his guru, he would have remained a religious ascetic, begging for his food. But Luther followed the Bible. It condemned laziness as sin. God’s commandment, “You shall not covet” meant that people must create wealth. The eighth commandment, “You shall not steal”, meant that every person had a right to his property. While the state was responsible for protecting a citizen’s property, the family and church were responsible for producing citizens that would not steal a neighbour’s produce.

I grew up in North India. The land and climate were perfect for all kinds of vegetables and fruit. This could have created vibrant agro-industries. But the average peasant did not grow them, because upper-caste men would come to his farm in broad daylight to help themselves to his produce. If he left his wife to protect his farm, she would be raped.

Had Katie lived in the Soviet Union, she would have had no motivation to buy lands and develop them. Atheism does not believe that “You shall not steal” is God’s command. That gives the powerful the right to take your land.

Katherine Luther did much more than feed a few dozen students. Every day, Katie helped her husband disciple Germany’s future spiritual and intellectual leaders. She transmitted to German pastors the Bible’s spirit of economic enterprise: the art of making money with whatever little you have.

At dinner, the boys would often ask her husband questions and take notes. These discussions applied the Bible to everyday life, including the economic life of ordinary families. They were published as Martin Luther’s Table Talks. They enabled scholars such as Max Weber to understand how Luther’s exposition of the Bible created Europe’s spirit of Capitalism.