My Journey: From Philosophy To Revelation - Revelation Movement

Described as “India’s foremost Christian intellectual” by Christianity Today, the author of 26 books recounts his pilgrimage from faith in human reason to skepticism and divine revelation.

University Started My Quest for Truth:

My professors wrote books, often with help from scholars researching under them. But they assumed that their Creator couldn’t possibly inspire His people to write down His view point!

The professors spoke, even though not one of them knew what language is. They assumed that truth had to be logical, but none could explain what logic is or why it must have authority. Is human reason a reflection of what the Greeks called Logos — the Word, the source of reason?

What are intuition, inspiration or conscience? How could chemical reactions in Einstein’s brain guess “truths” that no one had ever observed? How could his words communicate mathematical intuition that observation later confirmed?

Are intuition, inspiration, imagination, mathematics or language aspects of the soul, transcending brain chemistry and senses?

This was the intellectual problem that Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanuja (1887 – 1920) presented to Cambridge atheists such as Bertrand Russell. They attempted, for the first time in Western history, to ground mathematics in Atheism but failed.  Their failure was brilliantly unpacked by Matthew Brown, in the movie The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016). The movie explores the possibility of supernatural inspiration and communication.

Learning philosophy from learned professors made it very difficult for me to believe that the Bible was God’s Word. Doubting was easy, for skepticism integrated students into the University. The difficult problem was:

What then do you believe?

I decided to believe what the best philosophers and scientists thought was true.

Okay. So, what do they think is true?

I began reviewing my course to figure out the ‘truth” that the world’s greatest minds had discovered.

Philosophers Know That They Don’t Know

French philosopher/mathematician René Descartes (1596 -1650) began the modern ‘Age of Reason’ by offering what seemed to be a “logical proof” that he exists. “I think, therefore, I am” was his equation. It launched Rationalism, implying that Reason (logic/mathematics) could know and communicate truth without divine revelation.

Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) deflated Descartes’ confidence in human logic. For Descartes had not even attempted to prove that he exists as a thinking being, a self, soul or spirit. He had simply asserted that “thinking” exists.  Artificial Intelligence can write books and solve complex problems: does it, therefore, exist as a thinking Subject — a Self?

Hume proposed an alternative to faith in Logic. We know truth, not through “Reason” but through senses. Information and knowledge come to us through the data received by our eyes, ears, nose, taste, and touch.  What our senses cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch is not real. That means the soul, spirit or God, that is, the non-material realm of the spirit is not real. For the spirit cannot be accessed by our senses.

Hume’s faith in physical senses was demolished by German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804). The sensory data is always received and interpreted by the mind. We don’t know what “Mind” is. Whatever Self or Consciousness may be, it organizes the information received by the senses according to categories that pre-exist in our minds. We don’t experience reality (Noumena) as it is in itself. We know only the reality as it appears to us (the Phenomenon), filtered by the mind.

The realization that neither logic nor senses can help human beings know Truth, punctured philosophy’s self-confident balloon. It began the Age of Anti-Philosophies.

The West’s Anti-Philosophies

Losing hope of finding truth allowed Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) to assert that our job is not to know reality but to change it. Not truth but economic interests determine everything. Economics, said Marx, shape our philosophic ideas, ethics and religious faith. But is that, in fact, the case?

Max Weber (1864 – 1920) one of the Fathers of modern Sociology found that the historic fact was opposite of what Marx’s theory. Parts of Europe had prospered because of their religious innovations. Economic progress had followed changes in Faith. Ideas made the difference. Perhaps, Words create.

Weber, however, came after Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) who had taken Kant’s philosophical pessimism to a higher level. If neither logic nor senses can lead us to truth, then “God is dead.” Not truth but the “Will” must run the world. Nietzsche’s disregard for truth and championing of the ‘Will to Power’ produced Fascism.

I began reviewing history’s greatest philosophies in search of Truth and found that the Age of Reason had failed. Philosophy had reached a dead end: No Exit. Philosophy’s failure had driven Western intellectuals into a Post Truth era dominated by Anti-Philosophies such as Marxism, Fascism, Existentialism, Linguistic Analysis, Psychoanalysis, Deconstructionism, Relativism, and the Sexual Revolution.

Anti-philosopher Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) put sexual instinct above rationality and “Will to Power.” This made him the grandfather of the postmodern Sexual Revolution. He rejected the Bible’s exhortation that the spirit must rule over instincts (“the flesh”). For Freud, the spirit did not exist. Therefore, sexual discipline was harmful. Consciousness existed. But, in a cosmos without Logos, thought, logic, reason had to be accidental by-products of non-rational, non-moral brain chemistry.

Defeated philosophy made Atheism its creed. It was a confession that logic cannot know the truth or what a human being is, let alone who God is. Since senses cannot perceive the soul and logic cannot prove its existence, a human being must be nothing but another animal — a biological machine. Human “Will” must be driven by chemistry, hormones and instincts such as sex.

Deconstructing the West

If consciousness is nothing but chemical reactions in a the brain, then what is are language, grammar, or mathematics? That became the primary problem for Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), one of Europe’s greatest philosophers. With him, Philosophy stopped seeking truth and began a futile attempt to understand and deconstruct language.

Wittgenstein’s sad conclusion was that in a cosmos that came into existence without the Divine Word (Logos), human words and logic could have no real meaning. They can neither correspond with truth nor communicate it. Philosophers were left with no choice but to use words to tell us that words cannot communicate truth.

That hopelessness birthed the Deconstructionists. One of the most influential ones was Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). These intellectual pessimists assumed that language evolved by accident. Words were tools human beings use to have power over others. We don’t speak because we were made in the image of a Creator who communicates, but only to manipulate others.

A teacher’s job, therefore, is to help students deconstruct language. We must look for the quest for power hiding behind every proposition. The university cannot exist to seek truth, it’s purpose must be to expose evil camouflaged by words. For example, Robinson Crusoe, the classic by Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731) should not be read to learn how the Bible shaped the heroic character that endured hardship, making Britain a powerful nation. Students should read such novels to understand how the Bible made Britain a colonial power.

In Search of Self

Pessimism made Anti-philosophies frustrating. Therefore, thinkers such as Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) moved beyond logic and senses in search of the spirit.

Language, logic, mathematics, music, beauty, goodness are non-material “things” we share in common. Our experience of intuition, inspiration, telepathy or mind-reading, indicate that the Mind may be more than private chemical reactions in one’s brain. Jung thought that such shared dimensions of Consciousness indicate that our individual consciousness is related to a Collective Unconsciousness.

That intuition led Jung to explore the “Paranormal”: dreams, divination and drugs; myths and mysticism; telepathy, synchronicity, astrology, numerology, fortune telling, spirit-channeling, spirit-possession, even Flying Saucers, now called UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects). Jung explored the mystic’s claims concerning Yoga, Tantra and Meditation.

If our individual consciousness is connected to a universal, “Collective Unconsciousness,” then, could the same universal Mind or Spirit be running through us all? Is that what the Greeks called Logos — the Primeval Sense or Word; what the Bible described as the Divine Word or Reason that created everything and sustains all things; what the Hindus identify as Brahmanthe Universal Spirit: the One that appears as Many? George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars saga called it The Force — the essence of everything.

Philosophers like Hume and Nietzsche studied Buddhism and Hinduism. They, however, did not visit India. Carl Jung came to India in 1937-38.  His writings opened the doors for the hippies and youth icons such as the Beatles to abandon the West’s rationalist quest for truth in order to sit at the feet of Hindu/Buddhist gurus. They learned Meditation, Yoga, and Tantra. They experimented with psychedelic drugs, chanted “Hare Krishna” mantra, practiced Transcendental Meditation and Vipasana. They allowed the gurus to awaken their “Serpent Power” (Kundalini) through sexual manipulation and spirit-possession.

The Closing of the Western Mind

I wanted to believe what the best philosophers and scientists thought was true. What I found was that my professors knew that the philosophers knew that they did not know the Truth.

The University had abandoned the quest for truth. That failure drove Western youth to surrender their minds, bodies, sex, wealth, time and families to Hindu/Buddhist gurus. Professor Allan Bloom (1930 – 1992) explained what happened.

Bloom was a teacher in Chicago where philosopher Mortimer Adler (1902 – 2001) and Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899 – 1971) had started the Great Books curriculum. Students needed a standard or Canon of wisdom because the West had rejected its traditional standard — the Bible. Adler and Hutchins thought that the world’s great literature could become the Humanist canon, a substitute for the Bible.

So, with great fanfare the Encyclopedia Britannica published the first 52-volumes of the “Great Books.” This massive enterprise, organized mainly by Adler, attempted to substantiate the modernist myth that Western civilization came from Greece and Rome through the Enlightenment’s skepticism.

That myth had been invented at the University of New York. It was popularized by Will Durant (1885 – 1981) through his multi-volume series The Story of Civilization and The Story of Philosophy

Professor Bloom became a first-hand witness to the fact that by the early 1980s, the Great Books program was practically dead.  His 1987 classic, The Closing of the American Mind, reported that by the 1980s, students, parents and the university itself had lost interest in the West’s great intellectual heritage.

Why?

One factor was the students’ inability to comprehend the “Great Books.” Western classics had been informed and inspired by the Bible. The students could not understand Aquinas, Dante, Petrarch, Chaucer, Mirandela, Bunyan, Milton, Shakespeare or Dickens because they did not know the Bible. Within a year of Bloom’s book, students in prestigious universities such as Stanford and Berkeley marched chanting, “Hey, He, Ho, Ho, Western Civ Has got to go.”

Allan Bloom was not alone. In 1984, the creator of the Great Books curriculum, Mortimer Adler, himself converted to Christianity at the ripe old age of 82. He was born in a nominally Jewish family but saw that the “Great Books” that he loved were branches that had grown out of the Bible. The West and its wisdom made little sense without the Bible.

Once the universities rejected the source of Western civilization, the students had no option but to “cancel” their intellectual culture. Many of the young rebels came to India to prostrate at the feet of naked, drug-addicted ascetics covered with cow dung. They also followed highly educated, English speaking gurus. Their interest in Indian gurus triggered my study of the prominent gurus of the 1970s.

My study, The World of Gurus, was published by Asia’s largest publisher, Vikas Publishing House, in 1977. It became a recommended reading in many universities and inspired Hodder and Stoughton (UK) and InterVarsity Press (USA) to commission me to write a sequel on the New Age Movement.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Let me backtrack: the fact that the world’s best minds knew that they did not know and could not know the Truth, led me to conclude that perhaps the Gautama Buddha was right. We human beings were like the five blind men trying to figure out an elephant. Each blind man felt a different part of the elephant’s body and insisted that the elephant was like a tree-trunk, or a wall, or a rope. Each was right, relative to his particular experience of the elephant. They differed and disagreed because none of them knew the whole truth. They were as blind as the philosophers.

How then can a blind person know the truth? The five blind men can know if there is a sixth person who is not blind. He can explain the elephant.

Could there be someone who sees?

If blindness exists then sight might also exist. Otherwise, we would not talk about blindness.

What if a sighted person told a blind person that the elephant’s tusk was ivory? The blind man could pass on that information to the others.

“What is ivory?” A blind man might ask.

“That I don’t know,” would be the reporter’s response. “I’m also blind. I don’t know what’s red, green or yellow. But I know that the tusk is ivory because the sighted one told me.”

Can the blind man know the truth about something that he has not experienced personally? Yes, provided the truth is revealed to him.

Is Revelation Possible?

Once, in a university hall, I asked a group of students: “How many of you believe that the earth is rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun?” All hands went up.

“How many of you can prove that?” I went on to ask.

Not one hand was raised.

“That’s strange,” I joked, “I live on the earth but I don’t see it revolving or rotating. I see the sun rising and setting, but you don’t want me to believe what I witness everyday. You want me to accept your belief even though you can’t prove it! Why?

“Why do you believe that the earth is rotating and revolving?”

“Because, my grandmother told me,” winked a girl sitting in the front row.

“Can your grandmother prove it?” I inquired.

“No.” She was honest.

“Thank you. You’ve just demonstrated that most of our knowledge of truth comes through revelation. You believe your grandmother because your teachers and textbooks agree with her. If experts contradicted her then you might examine the evidence and decide for yourself. Even then, you would be examining information that had been revealed to you, AND was contrary to what you actually see — the sun rising and setting.”

Our intellect receives and investigates revelation. It tries to verify the revelation. When verification is impractical, Karl Popper pointed out that the mind attempts, at least, to falsify a theory that appears contrary to everyday experience.

Modern philosophy failed because it followed Renè Descartes’ fundamental mistake. He ruled out revelation and trusted only human logic. His failure led his critics to trust sensory experience alone. For centuries, western philosophers stumbled along only to learn what Indian and Greek philosophers could have taught them over two thousand years ago. Greek rationalism had also ended up in skepticism and in mysticism that sought to escape “Reason.”

Given that Greek rationalists had already failed and an educated ruler such as Pilate had little interest in Truth, why did the modern West trust human reason? The irony is that modern philosophers relied upon human reason and senses because the Bible had taught them that the human mind was made in God’s likeness.  God gave His children the gift of rational language so that we could learn from Him, understand the created realm, share our discoveries with each other, and, as a family steward our Father’s creation.

Why Were Universities Created?

In The Book That Made Your World: How The Bible Created The Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN,  2011) I have explained that it was the Bible that made the West a uniquely thinking civilization. Christian monasteries and universities institutionalized the life of the mind because the Bible that taught that to be godly or God-like requires human beings to cultivate their minds. They are made in our Father’s likeness. That is why God commanded us to love Him with all our minds. He wants His children to know Him, study His words and works. Language enables us to learn from each other and become a family sharing, not just genes, but a common pool of language. Learning from each other makes it possible for us to manage the earth together.

Without revelation, the Western mind has become confused — distrustful of words and visionaries. Students are eager to “cancel culture” because their universities, media, politicians, scientists, and even the courts no longer know what is male or female, sex or gender, love and marriage, family and divorce, right and wrong, rule of law, justice, human dignity, equality, rights, liberty, history, or story. Their words are not trusted because the thinkers condemn language for being a manipulative tool. Why then the universities sell degrees? They do so mainly to aid students’ search for power, prestige and wealth. Western nations are self-destructing because their notions of Nation and sanctity of national borders make no sense without the Bible.

The sun is setting on the West. Lamentation may be helpful but returning to the revealed Light can revive and reform.

Let me, once again, pick up my journey’s thread: The university taught me to think and doubt. Doubting helps one’s quest for truth. But what should a student do when he finds out that his professors are just as blind as him? In that case, revelation from someone who knows, becomes one’s only hope of knowing truth.

Can The Creator Communicate?

Is there a God who knows? Can He communicate? Has He spoken?

I decided to study the Scriptures that claimed to be divinely inspired. I thought I must begin with the Vedas, Hinduism’s most sacred texts. Our professors had spoken highly of the Vedas, but none of them ever brought a copy into the classroom. Only at the age of 20 it dawned on me that I had never even seen a complete set of the Vedas.

I went to the Gita Press, Gorakhpur, the Hindu “Bible Society” to buy the Vedas in my mother-tongue, Hindi.  The Manager astounded me: “Sorry! We don’t translate or publish the Vedas.”

“What!!!

Why not?”

“Because,” he explained gently: “The Vedas cannot be translated. They are magical mantras. They have to be memorized and recited with correct pronunciation, enunciation, intonation and rituals. If you want to master them, you have to find a guru and sit at his feet for fourteen years. He will teach you to perform Vedic ceremonies appropriately. Then you will acquire magical powers. Inappropriate recitation awakens dark powers. One could lose his mind.”

“It would be good to have some power,” I said to the gentleman, “but right now I am looking for truth, not power.”

“Didn’t your professors teach you Mundaka Upanishad?” asked the irritated gentleman.

“No! What’s special about it?”

“It tells you that studying the Vedas cannot lead anyone to truth. The Vedas were never written to teach truth. They are mantras to be recited, not texts to be studied. The Upanishad teach the Jnana Marga or the Path of Knowledge. But that knowledge is very different from the knowledge that the university imparts. Unenlightened universities use words. The Enlightened gurus teach you the art of silencing your thoughts, go beyond words and the intellect, alter rational consciousness and experience the Universal Self — Brahma — by becoming one with It.

The conversation helped me make sense of the rituals that I had attended: no one understood what the priest was chanting during a wedding ceremony.

It also made sense of the Vedic hymns that were a part of our course. Rig Vedas ‘Creation Hymn’ #129, for example, says,

But, after all, who knows, and who can say

Whence it all came, and how creation happened,

The gods themselves are later than creation,

So who knows truly whence it has arisen?

When all creation had its origin,

He, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,

He who surveys it all from highest heaven,

He knows — or may be even He does not know.”

Does God know the truth? Can He communicate it? The sages who composed the Vedas were sure that the gods do not know. What about the supreme God. Does He know? The sages were not sure. In that case, how could the Vedas be divine revelation of truth? Upanishadic writers taught that studying the Vedas cannot lead anyone to the knowledge of truth.

The Upanishads advocated Jnana Marga or the “Path of Knowledge.” This was not rational knowledge that could be communicated in words. It was mystical, non-rational knowledge that required silencing thoughts and words. Professor (Osho) Rajneesh put it bluntly: Indian Enlightenment comes by “killing the intellect.” The Hindu Path of Knowledge assumes that “The intellect is the Chief Villain.” The Mind keeps us in the bondage of ignorance.  

My conversation with the learned gentleman at Gita Press Gorakhpur helped me understand the legends that I had always heard from childhood: an ancient ascetic, say xyz, performed rigorous austerities for 144 years to acquire god-like powers. When the gods saw that the ascetic was acquiring awesome powers, they panicked and sent goddesses, not to help xyz reach the finishing line, but to seduce him in order to mess up his “holy” pursuit of power.

Our “holy” men were dedicated, not to pursue knowledge but power. That is why none of them developed technology or built universities to develop science, music or medicine. Their worldview kept India stagnant. They trained our leaders to isolate from the world, not learn to govern it.

That conversation motivated me to buy and study the Qur’an. I was in Allahabad — the Abode of Allah. This city, now renamed Prayagraj, was founded by a Muslim emperor, Akbar, in 1575. Prior to India’s independence in 1947, Christian missions had made Allahabad, North India’s publishing capital. Muslims owned many of the printing presses and publishing houses. Yet, back in 1969, none of them sold the Qur’an in Hindi, my language. In fact, it was not available even in Urdu, the language that my Muslim friends spoke and I understood.

“Why not?” I asked Muslim booksellers.

“Because,” they explained, “the Holy Qur’an existed in heaven in Arabic. It was revealed in Arabic. Translating it into another language corrupts it. If you want to study the Qur’an, you have to learn Arabic.”

“It would be good to learn a classical language,” I replied, “but right now, I am seeking truth. If the Qur’an is God’s word, why isn’t it available in my language?’

So, why was the Qur’an not available in Urdu?

Hindu nor Muslim scholars did not develop the heart languages of the people. Indian vernaculars such as Hindi and Urdu were developed by Bible translators-missionaries. They came to bless India. That is why they liberated the Indian mind through languages, literature, schools, colleges, universities, printing, Journalism and scholarship. That truth is not easy to comprehend by postmodern mind prejudiced by deconstructionism.

Muslims ruled Allahabad for three centuries and Delhi for about seven hundred years. They built impressive forts and architectural marvels such as Taj Mahal.  But they did not build a single university. Islam did not develop dialects or schools to educate our people. Missionaries did mote then more than bring the printing press to give us literature. An evangelical civil servant established Allahabad municipality so that we may learn how to govern ourselves without a king. Bible-believers gave us our law, the High Court and a professional military. These created the intellectual environment that made it possible for Allahabad to give seven of the first nine Prime Ministers to independent India.

The Bible — Childish Stories?

At this point when I was disappointed with my University, Hinduism and Islam that my older sister, Lini, asked me to read the Bible.

“I’ve read the Bible,” I told her, “it is a collection of childish stories.”

“No!’ she retorted. “You were a child when you read it. Now you think that you are a philosopher. So re-read it critically and see if it has the truth that you are seeking,”

Following her advice I started reading the Bible. Genesis, the first of the Bible’s sixty-six books, was interesting. It answered questions that the philosophers had stopped asking. But were the answers true?

Its first chapter was contradicted by the scientific theory of Evolution. Why should I read something that science has already discredited?  A butterfly helped me postpone that problem and keep reading:

Evolution Vs. Creation

I was seated on the balcony above our garden filled with fruit trees such as mangoes, guavas, papayas, grapefruit and jackfruit. The butterfly flew back and forth from one papaya tree to another. I knew that the one that produced only flowers was male. The female plant also produced fruit. The butterfly was busy gathering honey. Unwittingly she also pollinated the female plant. This interdependence of the vegetable and animal kingdoms was intriguing. Papaya plants would go extinct without bees, birds and butterflies. So, did these insects came millions of years after the vegetable kingdom?

Or, did papayas become bisexual after they found out that bees and butterflies had evolved? How would the plants know that insects had come into existence, therefore, they could become bisexual — male and female?

Is it possible that one mind designed the interdependence of plants and insects? Could papayas and butterflies have come into existence together or fairly soon after each other as Genesis 1 said? I lacked the information to answer these questions, so I kept reading.

Who Am I?

Philosophy curriculum included Psychology. Back then the Behavioral School of Psychology dominated the Department of Psychology. We studied Pavlov’s experiments with dogs and B. F. Skinner’s idea that there was no intrinsic difference between a human being and a dog. Both were biological machines, without a soul, free-will or dignity.

One evening I got home to find that the family was out and so was electricity. I tried to light the lamp but the matchbox had only one match which failed. So, I laid down on the couch, thinking about the contradiction between what the University taught and what the Bible said. Jackie, our dog, made himself comfortable near my feet.

“What if the power does not come for several hours?”

Well — that means, no homework tonight.

“What if the power-cut (load shedding) is repeated tomorrow? What if we cannot buy a new matchbox tomorrow because the markets are closed?

“Well, I guess I could find two stones to ignite a spark to light a candle.

That was an interesting thought: Why do I want to create light? Jackie doesn’t seem to mind darkness. He never tries to create light.

Could it be that I am different? That I am, in fact, made in the image of someone who created light?

I knew that Jesus claimed, ““I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Obviously, he wasn’t talking about physical darkness and light. He was saying what all social reformers say. The world is in darkness, but he was inviting his followers to become the light that changes the world.

The University contradicted many things that the Bible taught, even though both agreed that the cosmos had a beginning. The professors thought that the cosmos came out of Nothing with a Big Bang. They didn’t know how “Nothing” became so hot before any sun existed as to throw up this billions of galaxies and trillions of suns. Science could not answer those questions, they said, because the laws of physics and chemistry did not exist at the Big Bang. In that case, should I believe the professors who do not know how everything came out of Nothing? Or could something or someone — an intelligent and mighty Creator — could have existed before our time began?

But who created god?

May be a super-god created god! But then who created the super-god? Perhaps a supra-god! . . .  one could keep pushing the question until the realization dawns that since time exists, timelessness or eternity could also exist. If finite exists, then infinite could also exist. . . just as sight could exist since blindness exists.

The Bible’s revelation that an intelligent Creator existed before time designed the universe made sense for a number of philosophical reasons:

Oxford Professor William of Ockham (1285 -1347) noted some important implications of the Bible’s opening words, “In the beginning God created heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). That revelation means that God pre-existed the Cosmos. Since He exists outside the material realm, He is not bound by the physical laws that govern the cosmos. He is free. He can change things. That is good news because it liberates us from Fatalism and bondage to the deductive logic that hindered modern science.

The doctrine of God’s freedom became the philosophical foundation for man’s freedom or “Dignity” in Pico dela Mirandela treatise, An Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486). If Genesis 1 is true and man is made in God’s likeness, then he too is free, capable of changing his natural, social and political environment. Reforms and development are possible. We do not need to resign ourselves to the darkness around us.

The Bible’s revelation of the divine and human freedom became the solid ground upon which German reformer Martin Luther developed his 1520 Treatise Concerning Christian Liberty. Inspired by Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Luther explained why God was so passionate about liberating the enslaved. The Bible’s theology of freedom shaped the Western idea that politics ought to be a pursuit of liberty and its institutionalization.

Understanding God’s freedom also changed science. Aristotle was the first European to write a book called, Physics. Today, no one believes a word of his Physics, because Aristotle was doing Philosophy not “science.” He was deducing his conclusions from logic, not from empirically observed facts. As students of philosophy, we studied deductive logic: (a) “All men are mortal” (b) “Socrates is a man” (c) “Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”

But who knows all men? Who knows what happened to Enoch or Elijah? What if tomorrow Socrates found the nectar of immortality? Beginning with Christian thinkers such as Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) the “New Science” or Novum Organum, put “empirical observation” or the Inductive method above deductive logic. This was done because of Genesis 1:1. God is free means that He is not bound by our logic. The laws that govern nature are a part of the created order. God existed before those laws came into being. There is no intrinsic reason why the law of gravity should keep a mountain on the earth. Why can’t an anti-gravity force keep the mountains hanging up in the clouds, as they do in Pandora, in James Cameron movie, Avatar?

Philosophers who agreed with Ockham’s interpretation of Genesis 1:1 argued that God’s freedom requires us to stop deducing what God can or cannot do. We need to go out and observe what God has actually done in His absolute freedom. Conclusions should be logical and mathematical, but they ought to be based on observations.

A universe that came out of nothing, for no reason, could have no meaning, purpose or value. That is why French Existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre concluded that life had no inherent meaning of purpose. We were free to choose whatever meaning we want for ourselves.

Why then do I want my life to be meaningful in a meaningless universe? Would a fish want water, if H2O didn’t even exist? Am I an intricate luxury ship that came into existence by chance, because storms, volcanoes and tsunamis threw up tons of stuff together that had been floating in the ocean or lying on sea shore? If human beings are an accident, then what’s the problem if another storm destroys and buries all life?

If, on the other hand, an intelligent being created man and the amazing order that sustains our life, then, might He see us as valuable? In that scenario I might have been created for a purpose. Should I then seek God and align my life to His mind?

Creation account in Genesis was interesting. It said God designed the order and beauty that I see and love. He brought order out of chaos by His authority. Theologians called it God’s sovereignty. Intelligent design and Sovereignty imply meaning, purpose and hope.

I considered the conflict of Good and Evil as they are integral to our epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. Did the Big Bang create Good and Evil? Or, is the physical energy indifferent to moral categories? In that case are Good and Evil terms that we use to describe our subjective feelings about situations. Do we use these moral categories only to manipulate people to think the way we do? What if a Tantrik kidnaps a young child, rapes her and offers her as a sacrifice to his goddess who demands blood? Is it evil? Does it matter if some people, gods and goddesses prefer evil?

Or, should a person side with Good and resist Evil even when that is costly? How can I know that Evil is really wrong; that it is worth resisting? Will the “Nothing” that caused the Big Bang judge and defeat Evil?

Greek plays and epics were Tragedies because their writers did not know that a good God was sovereign. They saw that good people often have tragic ends. They may be envied, falsely accused and stoned or beheaded. Therefore, the writers of Greek Tragedies assumed that human destiny was governed by capricious deities of Fate and Fortune. That was also the perspective of Indian astrologers. You may be good, they taught, but your zodiac signs are bad. The deities that determine what a day will bring don’t care whether you are good or bad. They want you to appease them by offering proper sacrifices. They are like our officers who look at your file but don’t care if your case is just or unjust. They want bribes before giving a ruling in your favor.

The Bible’s idea of the sovereignty of a good God was different. Genesis 4 taught that God rejected Cain’s offering because He wants purity of heart or character, not bribes. Cain brought an offering to God and was offended because God rejected it. God said, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

This idea of Evil as a power that seeks to rule our hearts, minds, bodies, families and nations was important. For as a teenager I had struggled with “habits” (addiction) of lying and shoplifting. My powerlessness had driven me to invite Jesus to save me from my sin. Therefore, I knew that the Bible’s concept of Evil implied hope for deliverance from sin and the possibility that God’s Spirit could remove darkness from my soul and fill my heart with His forgiveness and light.

Equally importantly, the flawed characters that Genesis and Exodus described as heroes — Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, his twelve sons, Moses and Aron — emphasized an important philosophical point: God’s sovereignty or the idea that He governs the heavens and the earth, is the only intelligible ground for heroism. That knowledge inspires faith and obedience. It produces patience, enabling believers to take up their cross, endure suffering and overcome evil, provided they are willing to lay down their lives.

Genesis 1 repeated the revelation that God created the cosmos with his Word. That explained language and its creative power. As school children we had memorized some couplets by the first Indian writer of modern Hindi, Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850-1885). He disagreed with the champions of Sanskrit and supported missionaries’ policy that mother-tongues must be developed into literary languages. For a people can progress only as far as their language would take them. Building great civilization requires developing strong language and robust literature.

Confronting Evil, Changing Rural India

It would be six years after graduation that my wife and I began our service to the poor. We had no idea that serving the oppressed would draw us into all kinds of fights. The first struggle was with a couple that were starving their 18-month old unwanted daughter, Sheela. We struggled for three months and lost. They killed their daughter. Out of that struggle was born Sheela Bal Vatika (Sheela Children’s Garden), a non-formal, after school program that expanded into thirteen villages. That educational program opened our eyes to the fact that most low caste children were illiterate because the High Caste Hindus did not want them to be educated. The Upper Castes needed them to graze their goats and cattle. We had to confront untouchability, economic exploitation of poor peasants, bribery, crime and other forms of corruption. Such confrontations with darkness confirmed that Evil was real and powerful. It wanted to keep our society in its grip.

For example, in the spring of 1980, the District Magistrate banned our effort to provide relief to the victims of a hail storm. I submitted to his order and organized a public, non-sectarian prayer meeting. I asked the peasants to pray that God would grant them relief, perhaps through the government itself.

The Superintendent of Police (SP) called me to his large colonial bungalow and sat me down in his lawn, on an easy chair. He offered me tea and snacks and began to tell me that he knew everything that I was doing for the poor. His intelligence officers had prepared a 300-page file on me. The SP admired me for being a “jewel” in his district as a social worker and a writer. “But” he added, “you must cancel that Public Prayer that you have organized for the victims of the hail storm. Otherwise, I will personally kill you. I will not arrest you or produce you before a magistrate who may grant you a bail. I will take you from your home into the jungle and shoot you. Hyenas will eat your body. Are you going to cancel that Prayer Meeting?”

“Well, first I will need to ask my wife, if she is willing to be a widow.”

The SP realized that I was not taking him seriously. So, he spent almost an hour narrating incident after incident of individuals he had killed without a trial. I couldn’t believe that a highly educated officer, who had taken the Oath of Office to uphold India’s Constitution could disregard my Constitutional right to life and assemble for prayer. It took years to learn that the idea the Creator had endowed every individual with certain “Inalienable rights” was not a part of Indian worldview or culture. “Human Rights” was a biblical idea that the Government of India signed even though it did not fit into our worldview.

Thankfully, they didn’t kill me, but only threw me in jail. That experience, narrated in some of my books, does not need to be repeated here, except to say that imprisonment became a spiritual retreat. It gave me time to rethink if we human beings were created different from other animals. Did God really endow me with an inalienable right to liberty? Did human beings have a unique, God-given dignity? Does God institute governments to defend, not violate, human rights.

Questions such as these had been a part of the Political Science curriculum. They became real in prison when inmates started coming and sharing why they were in jail. Far too many of them had been thrown in jail simply because their political opponents, connected to the ruling party, had power over the police. That unjust imprisonment became an encounter with the socio-political evil that governed India. It was no longer possible to read the Bible for personal piety or out of academic curiosity.

A private question was: Should I surrender to the evil that rules my part of India? Or does being made in Creator’s image means that I need to find the grace to forgive my persecutors and the strength to transform my society? Can God help me imagine a better India and give me the ability to light a lamp?  Questions such as these sprang from my view of the Bible already forged during the summer of 1969.  So, let’s return to that matter.

The Bible — A Boring Book!

Exodus, the Bible’s second book after Genesis, was also interesting. It describes how God delivered Israelites from four centuries of slavery. He began transforming a bunch of slaves into a great nation.  Exodus made ‘liberty’ the Bible’s cardinal principle. Because of that the “Messiah” came to mean a liberator, not just a pious religious teacher. However, I found Leviticus, the third book of the Bible, to be quite boring. For, back then, no one explained to me its importance in defining holiness, personal and corporate. Nor did I have any interest in the role the priests, the festivals and sacrifices played in the life of an ancient nation.

By the time I came to the books of Judges and Ruth, I found the Bible morally repulsive. I was a young man of twenty: why did I need to read about a concubine, gang-raped the whole night and died? In the morning her master cut up her body and sent parts to the twelve tribes of Israel. That ghastly incident started a civil war that almost annihilated an entire tribe. How repugnant!

I found it very difficult to read through the next six books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. It was tiring to read the lists of kings who ‘did evil in the sight of the Lord and He killed them.’

“I am an Indian, I don’t know enough about Indian history. Why am I reading this history of Israel? What does it have anything to do with my life and my questions?”

Those books seemed irrelevant because no one in my university ever told us that the modern concepts of rule of law, constitutionalism, liberty, just governance and checks and balances had come from those boring books. We were told that the principles that governed the modern world came from the Enlightenment, especially the French Revolution.

Who Wrote the Bible?

Uninterested in Jewish history, I was ready to close the Bible once and for all when something intrigued me. Our elders always told us how good, great and glorious India’s ancient leaders and rulers had been. Why then was this Jewish book telling me about the wickedness of their rulers? It couldn’t be court-history. Kings wouldn’t have paid historians to record their ancestors’ misdeeds. The Bible was not a book of magical mantras or charms. It was not a collection of pious and pleasant stories, It contained Israel’s horrible history. Who wrote these books?

My first guess was that the priests must have written these books. In Hinduism priests and kings come from rival castes — Brahmins and Kshatriyas. The priests penned these unflattering portraits to remind people that politicians should not be trusted.

I took a second look at those historical books to confirm my opinion. That made matters worse. Beginning with the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, those books described the corruption of Israel’s religious leaders! God hated Israel’s religious rituals and ceremonies. They were like “filthy rags” (menstrual cloths). In order to punish the priests, God sent the Babylonians to kill them and demolish their sacred temple.

In that case, these books must be subaltern history, written from the point of view of the common man, exploited by political and religious leaders. That thought made a third look necessary.

I wasn’t prepared for what I read. The Jewish historians, who wrote their history were far more antisemitic than anything Adolf Hitler ever wrote against the Jews. Jewish historians accused ordinary Jews of being wicked adulterers, idolatrous, liars, thieves, murderers, cheats, exploiters who persecuted their prophets. Repeatedly God had sent his “chosen” but corrupt people into slavery. Finally, He sent their enemies to butcher them and evict the rest out of their “Promised Land.”

The Jewish history was focused on the moral corruption of politicians, priests and people — why? Perhaps because those historical books were written by prophets. They love condemning everyone.

So, there I was, well aware of how terrible and irrelevant those historical books were, yet reading them for the fifth time within two or three months. I just wanted to be sure that my view was right that these books were written by prophets who love criticizing everyone.

Re-examining the text refuted me. Those books said that the majority of the prophets were “false prophets,” and the good ones were the losers. They tried to save their nation, but could not save even their own lives. They were beaten, imprisoned, thrown into dungeons, silenced and killed. Later they were honored because their predictions turned out to be true. They had sealed their words with their blood. Their nation was destroyed as they had said that it will be.

The good prophets denounced the corruption of their people, priests and kings because they loved their nation. The doom they predicted inspired faith and hope in the generations that came later. The exiled believed prophecies and returned to their homeland, risking their lives to rebuild God’s temple, Jerusalem, and their ruined nation.

Does The Bible Claim to be God’s Revelation?

Reading and re-reading those uninteresting books confirmed one thing: right or wrong, those historical texts were claiming to be God’s word. They were God’s interpretation of Jewish history; His predictions about Israel’s future. God spoke and acted in Israel’s history in order to reveal Himself and to reform the nation. His purpose was to make Israel an example, a light, to the nations, including to their enemies.

Pages can be filled to discuss passages that point to the revelatory nature of these historical books. I need to limit myself and mention just a few examples from the beginning, middle and the end of those six historical books. Passages such as these helped me see that these books were God’s revelation:

1 Samuel 3: 1-21

The first chapter of 1 Samuel begins with a barren woman’s desperate prayer for a son. God heard Hannah and she named her son Samuel, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” (1:20).

In chapter 2, a prophet came to the High Priest Eli and declared that God would destroy the High Priest’s household because Eli’s sons, who served as priests, were disregarding God’s word. Eli himself will be punished for honoring his sons more than God and His word. Fear of God and reverence for His word was far more important than the purity of priestly bloodline. In place of the High Priest’s family, God would raise up “a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind.” (I Samuel 2: 27-36).

1 Samuel 3 begins with the statement, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” The chapter goes on to describe that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (vs 7).

The young boy Samuel learned that God speaks when God came to him at night and told him, “See I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it, tingle” (vs 11). The wicked priests who oversaw Samuel but disregarded God’s word would be killed. Their father, High Priest Eli, would also perish.

In the morning Eli asked Samuel what God had said to him. Young Samuel repeated God’s word that He was going to destroy the Priest’s family. Sure enough, God’s word was fulfilled shortly afterwards. Chapter 3 concludes, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” (3: 19-21)

Together, the two books of Samuel recount the history of Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. They demonstrate that Samuel’s words were repeatedly confirmed as God’s word.  Samuel, who had anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king pronounced God’s judgment upon Saul: “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15: 23).

Rejecting God’s word was not a religious or private matter. It was not appropriate chanting of sacred sounds. Disobedience was a rejection of God’s authority over the nation. By disobeying God’s word, Saul became evil — a wicked and totalitarian ruler. He mobilized the nation’s army in an attempt to hunt down and kill his innocent son-in-law, David. Saul chose to ignore God’s command, “You shall not commit murder” (Exodus 20: 13). In a God-fearing nation, the army’s job is to defend a citizen’s God-given right to life. A nation prospers when it is governed justly in obedience to God’s word.

1 Kings 17: 1-23

Back in the summer of 1969, I read and re-read the Bible’s historical books without any commentaries. Therefore, from the text itself, I didn’t learn that my university had been wrong in teaching that the modern idea of Constitutionalism had come from the French Enlightenment, specifically from Jean Jaques Rousseau’s theory of “Social Contract.” Much later, when I saw our rulers’ contempt for the Constitution, I realized that the idea, that a civilized society puts written covenant or Constitution above rulers, came from passages such as 2 Kings 11. It was a godly and revolutionary High Priest, Jehoiada, who instituted the two covenants, that the people will obey the king, and that the king will obey, not violate, God’s word.

The two books of I and II Kings taught that when a nation ignores God’s word, it condemns itself to be governed by man’s wickedness. King Ahab and his Sidonian wife, Jezebel, are classic examples of this recurring theme.

God responded to their evil by sending prophet Elijah to return the nation to His word. Neither the rulers nor the people believed that Elijah’s words were God’s word. Therefore, Elijah told the king, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years, except at my word.” (1 Kings 17: 1)

What?

Who are you that nature will obey your word?

Three years without rain meant famine. That hurt the whole nation, including Elijah.  God told him to go and hide near a brook and sent ravens to bring food for Elijah morning and evening. When the brook dried up, God asked him to go to Zarephath, in Sidon.

Outside the city gate, Elijah saw a peasant woman, a widow. She said that she was gathering wood to cook the last two loaves of bread for herself and her son, after that, we “die”

‘Make the two pieces of bread for yourself’ Elijah said to her, “but first make one for me. Don’t be afraid, for you shall not die. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘the jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” (17:14)

The woman made a loaf for Elijah and the three of them kept eating for days, weeks and months. The widow was astonished that the flour and oil were not used up “in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (17: 16).

Later, the widow’s son became ill and died. That boy was all that she had — no husband, no job, no savings, insurance or social security. In her anguish the shattered mother blamed “the man of God” for bringing God’s judgement upon her sins.

Elijah took the boy’s dead body to his upper room and “cried out to the Lord, ‘Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, . . . let this boy’s life return to him.’” (17: 17-21).

When he brought the resurrected boy back to his mother, “the woman said to Elijah, ‘now I know [what philosophers and rulers do not know] that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” (17:23)

1 Kings chapters 18 to 22 go on to recount the incidents that taught Ahab and the nation what the widow of Zarephath had learned: God speaks: His word is true: it must be trusted and obeyed. Disobeying God’s word means that injustice will rule and nations will perish.

2 Chronicles 36: 9-23 

I and II Chronicles reinforce the theme that God speaks and His word must be heeded. Disregarding God’s word brings destruction upon individuals, families and nations. Trusting and obeying God’s word bring His blessings. His word renews a nation.

The tragic end of king Saul, for example, is summarized in 1 Chronicles 10:13, “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord. . .”

Not just Saul, the overall message of the two books is that rejecting God’s word resulted in Israel’s rejection by God. Religious rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices do not appease God. To love and fear God means to revere His word. Disobedience destroys.

God judged Israel’s sin and sent the Assyrians and Babylonians to destroy the temple dedicated to Him. God killed and enslaved His “chosen” people. Nevertheless, judgment is not abandonment. It is a call to repentance.

The second book of Chronicles concludes with God’s interpretation of their national tragedy:

II Chronicles 36: 15-19:

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. . .”

Thankfully, doom and destruction were not the end. God’s word was the seed that brought new life to repentant and trusting souls and nations. II Chronicles 36: 22-23 climaxes with this hint of national resurrection:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’”

What Is My Life’s Meaning and Purpose?

Is the Bible history: an antique book, suitable for a museum? Or, is it God’s living word for me?

How this ancient book rebuilt a ruined republic and became God’s living word for me personally are interesting narratives. It will be better to tell them separately.  This cliffhanger can be concluded with a brief preview:

One of the Bible’s central points is that God is our Father. He wants a personal relationship with each of His children. He called Abraham to leave his Father’s household and culture in order to walk with God as His friend. Abraham had good reasons to cling to the security of his community, but God promised:

      “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.                            (Genesis 15:1)

Was this God’s word only for Abraham or is it also His word to me? Can I count on His protection as I leave my parents’ house and step out on life’s adventure? Will God be my reward if I serve Him?

In August of 1969, I asked God to confirm to me within the next 24 hours that He is my shield. The details of the dramatic confirmation have to be left for another time. He did convince me that the Almighty God is my shield as He was Abraham’s defense. My next question was: Are you, Lord, calling me to trust and follow you?

The next morning came God’s call,

I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” (Genesis 17: 1-2)

God’s assurance that He is my shield made the Bible a living book for me. His word enabled me to take God’s word at face value and follow Him on unusually risky roads. For over five decades I’ve served Him, mostly without a salary or financial security. I have been arrested a few times and have faced serious threats to my life from criminals as well as from the government. But God has remained my shield.

Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi, LL.D.

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