Must the sun set on the West?

May 24, 2010

As an Indian, Vishal Mangalwadi brings refreshing and penetrating perspectives to western life and values. Those of us who have grown up in the west often take for granted the fruit of the Biblical roots of our society.
For example, Vishal trashes the statement in the American Declaration of Independence which claims the idea that all men are created equal to be self-evident. Self-evident?! he asks. Go to India and look around, he suggests. Equality is anything but self-evident in India!
So where did that idea come from? It is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian Biblical tradition, and nowhere else, he says; least of all the Greco-Roman classical tradition. 
As fish only know their environment of water, so we westerners are often only familiar with life as we have experienced it in a social environment shaped by what Francis Schaeffer called the ‘fruit of the fruit of the fruit of Biblical truth’. That includes idea of the dignity of man, human rights, of history headed towards a goal, of solidarity, of love for neighbour, of tolerance and respect, and many more ‘western’ values.
Its healthy sometimes to look at our world through non-western eyes. That can expose our presuppositions in a disturbing way.
Vishal is a leading non-western commentator on trends in the West. The author of many books, he is called by Christianity Today ‘India’s foremost Christian intellectual’.
Vishal will be delivering a Schuman Lecture this Sunday in Amsterdam, at Christ Church, at 7.30pm, on the subject, Must the sun set on the west? This will be livestreamed, as well as available for download later, on 
(This is the first Schuman Lecture sponsored by the Schuman Centre for European Studies, lectures promoting biblical perspectives on Europe’s past, present and future.)
To give you a foretaste, Vishal recently wrote about the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, made in the slums of his own country. It is a world very familiar to Vishal, who, with his wife Ruth, was engaged in projects among the poor. Their attempts to effect social and political change, challenging the powers that be, led to his imprisonment. Which in turn led to his study of the causes of poverty in India, and of the relative prosperity, justice and freedom of the West.   

Brutalizing poverty
For those who can see behind the screen, writes Vishal, Slumdog Millionaire gives a frightening glimpse into the intellectual bankruptcy of Western secularism. Why is it that secular reviewers of Slumdog Millionaire don’t even notice that the film’s scriptwriters and director have no clue why life is so miserable in that slum in Mumbai, India? What causes such brutalizing poverty? Or what can be done about it? Why is the film totally devoid of any meaningful notion of heroism and of a hero who has any idea of what to do about evil and poverty?  Viewers feel good at the end of the movie because the slumdog wins the cash and the girl he loves. Who cares that the lead character displays no particular wisdom, virtue, or strategy that contribute to his victory? Or that his success does nothing to the slum? Secular gamblers are pleased that the slumdog is favoured by the god of luck; that his awful life experiences happened to have given him the answers to the questions the quizmaster happens to ask.

Not too long ago, Vishal continues, Mumbai was a “garden” where the wealthiest Indians liked to live. Secular experts can’t understand what turns gardens into slums because they choose to ignore the most important dimension of reality–the supernatural. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give us the clue as to why Jesus’ life and work were focused on the kingdom of God. While he fasted and prayed for forty days, the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’
Was Satan bluffing Jesus? The New Testament indicates that he wasn’t. In John 12:31, Jesus acknowledges Satan as “the prince of this world.” In Ephesians 2:2, the apostle Paul refers to the devil as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
The apostle John explains in 1 John 5:10, “We know that . . . the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” If there is a chance that evil has a supernatural dimension that seeks the glory, authority and splendor of the kingdoms of this world, then it is time to get serious about the question: how can our nations be freed from the kingdom of darkness?
You can hear Vishal online or in person on Sunday, or read more about his messages on

Till next week,
Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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