Truth and transformation: a manifesto for ailing nations

By Vishal Mangalwadi
Book Review by Jason Benedict

Vishal Mangalwadi is one of the better voices of our time on the topic of biblical transformation and this book delivers on its title.  In this work, Mr. Mangalwadi explores the ideologies that made the Western world great and the biblical foundations of these ideologies.  In doing so he exposes the competing ideologies that are contributing to moral and economic decline.

This is a books that leaves you asking the question, “Why haven’t I heard this stuff before?”  It’s not that you can’t find other voices saying the same or similar things; it’s just that Mangalwadi does an exceptionally good job of unpacking these ideas for the reader.

For example, in the first chapter, Morality: The Floundering Secret of the West’s Success, Mangalwadi tells a story of visiting a Dutch dairy where the farmer allowed customers to buy milk on the honor system.  The author is shocked that people can be trusted to dispense the right amount of milk into their container and leave the right amount of money in the basket provided.  Vishal told the dairy owner, “if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money.”  He goes on to explain the blessing of virtues (like honesty in this example) and the financial impact of sin.

If a customer stole the milk and the money then the dairy owner would need to hire a clerk.  Who would pay for her salary?  The cost would be passed on to the customer, but no additional value would be added to the milk.  If the customer is dishonest, why should the dairyman be honest? Why not water down the milk?  The customer, being an activist, would protest and the government would need to start a milk inspection program.  Who would pay for this? The taxpayer would.  However, if the customer and the dairyman are dishonest why shouldn’t the inspector ask for bribes?  If the supplier doesn’t pay the bribe, his milk would not pass inspection. And so on and so forth…

So the net cost of dishonesty is the extra we pay for the sales clerk, the water, the inspector, and the bribe.  The financial blessing of morality is when people can buy milk without the tariff of sin. But where does morality come from?  Why don’t simple Dutch townsfolk steal the milk and money?  Why, instead, can a tiny country like the Netherlands be a donor nation to a much larger nation like India?

Mangalwadi points out that until recent generations all Dutch schoolchildren learned the Catechism and were systematically taught morality.  Take this excerpt from the Heidelberg Catechism as an example:

Question 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?

Answer: God forbids not only those thefts, and robberies, which are punishable by the magistrate; but he comprehends under the name of theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor: whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by unjust weights, ells, measures, fraudulent merchandise, false coins, usury, or by any other way forbidden by God; as also all covetousness, all abuse and waste of his gifts.

Question 111. But what does God require in this commandment?

Answer: That I promote the advantage of my neighbor in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: further also that I faithfully labor, so that I may be able to relieve the needy.

After dealing with issues of morality, the author goes on to give the same kind of analysis to the pillars of rationality, family, and humanity.  He signals an alarm that these pillars are crumbling and decaying, but does not leave the reader with no hope. He goes on in parts 2-4 to answer these questions: Can nations be healed?  How does the Gospel transform?  How can I participate?

If you have read any of Mangalwadi’s other works you will not be disappointed, and if you have not read anything from this author, it would be my pleasure to introduce you to him.  Truth and Transformation should be in the library of everyone who wants to be a world-changer.