Truth and social reform

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Vishal Mangalwadi


(Third Edition)

Good Books

Third Edition : Copyright © 1996 by Vishal Mangalwadi

First Edition by Nivedit Good Books Distributors Pvt. Ltd. 1985

Second Edition by Spire (Hodder and Stoughton), London 1989

NOTE: Steve M. Spaulding has done substantial typographical/formatting/editing on this downloaded version—into Word for Windows (from the Vishal Mangalwadi web-site) which may not be entirely complete nor compatible with the author’s original layout, but which should aid the reader overall. I have also noticed that the web version does not include some key (c. 7) footnotes/sources (which are asterisked in this text). They are included here fyi.

Published by:

Nivedit Good Books Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

Orders & Correspondence:

Ivy Cottage


Mussoorie (U.P.) 248 179

Registered Address:

58 Mandakini Enclave

Kalkaji, New Delhi 110019


Distributed in North America by:

The McLaurin Institute

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Minneapolis, MN 55414


US +1 8005828541 Call

ISBN 81-86701-003

Dedicated to

Prabhu & Phillipa Guptara

whose friendship has always been self-sacrificing

Other Books By Vishal Mangalwadi
The World of Gurus

When The New Age Gets Old: Looking For A Greater Spirituality

Missionary Conspiracy: Letters To A Postmodern Hindu

Carey, Christ & Cultural Transformation

(co-authored with Ruth Mangalwadi)


Preface to the Third Edition


Introduction to the British Edition


1 Compassion and Social Reform: Jesus the Troublemaker


2 Evangelism and Social Reform: All Things New


3 Sin, Salvation and Social Reform: A New Man in Christ


4 The Holy Spirit and Social Reform: You Shall Receive Power


5 The Church and Social Reform: Shepherds for the Sheep


6 Christian Hope and Social Reform: A Faith that Overcomes the World


Appendix One:


You can Serve The Poor Without Giving Away Your Money

Appendix Two:


A Worldview for World-Healing




I was angry when I first read Jenny Taylor's comments (printed on the back-cover) about this book. Because the British are not known for making overstatements, I assumed that the comment must have been made to Jenny by some Indian friend of mine. A few days later, quite providentially, I ran into her. We were in England, I was wearing Indian clothes, and she had seen my pictures, so in a crowd of 30,000 she called my name and introduced herself. Eschewing formalities, I confronted her about the embarrassment she had caused me by painting a larger-than-life picture. Jenny insisted that no Indian but she herself had made the statement and that having surveyed the relevant literature available today she stood by her opinion. She argued that as an editor\reviewer she had as much right to praise a book as she had to criticize it, and added that she is sorry that the book is out of print.

It may have remained out of print but for another providential encounter. This time it was with a gentleman from South Africa. He saw some of my other books on a book-table outside a church, pulled out a copy of the British edition of Truth and Social Reform from his bag, and asked the ‘salesgirl’, “Do you have any copies of this book? It changed my life a few years ago when I found it in my country. Since then I have searched for it in many book-shops to give it as a present to my friends. I have failed. I am visiting India for two weeks and one of my objectives has been to try and find at least six copies.” The ‘salesgirl’ said, “I am sorry! The two earlier editions of the book have been out of print for a good many years and I know that the author will never republish the book because he will never find the time to revise it. But don’t worry, if the book really means so much to you then I will publish it, with or without revisions. I am Nivedit, and the author happens to be my father.” I realized that I owed an apology to Jenny when Nivedit obtained orders for 500 copies, even before the new edition was advertised!
The central thesis of this book is quite simple: Ideas have social consequences. Great ideas have lasting consequences. A rediscovery of the Gospel in the Sixteenth Century did not reform Europe alone, as those true ideas traveled to India they brought about great positive social changes here as well. In my book Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu and in the book co-authored with my wife Ruth, Carey, Christ and Cultural Transformation, I have looked at some of the biblical beliefs and their social outcome in India. Truth and Social Reform, written on the battle-front and not in libraries, studies some basic New Testament themes and their reforming power. Three follow-up books are in the making: “Rebuilding A Ruined Republic” studies the ‘post-exile-ic’ Old Testament books Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah and draws lessons for our day from Israel’s experience of rebuilding “the ancient ruins” after complete disintegration; “The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached” looks at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a Social Ethic for today; and, “The Bible and Civilization In The Second Millennium” argues that the Bible has had greater impact than any other book in shaping some of the best features of the second millennium AD.
Raja Rammohan Roy, was the pioneer of the Nineteenth Century “Indian Renaissance” and the Father of the Hindu social Reform movement. His advocacy of English education helped usher in the education revolution in India and his opposition to Sati (widow-burning), helped ban it. Roy said:
The consequences of my long and uninterrupted researches into religious truth has been that I have found the doctrine of Christ more conducive to moral principles, and better adapted for the use of rational beings, than any other which have come to my knowledge.

(quoted by M.C. Parekh, Rajarshi Rammohan Roy, Rajkot 1927, p. 34)
Keshub Chunder Sen, the successor of Raja Rammohan Roy, and the founder of Prarthana Samaj, was more forthright:
We breathe, think, feel, move in a Christian atmosphere under the influence of Christian education; the whole mature society is awakened, enlightened, reformed…our hearts have been touched, conquered, subjugated by a superior power and that power is Christ. Christ rules British India, and not the British Government. England has sent us a tremendous moral force, in the life and character of that mighty prophet, to conquer and hold this vast empire. None but Jesus ever deserved this bright, precious diadem - India - and Christ shall have it. (Quoted by M.C. Parekh, Bramarshi Keshub Chunder Sen, Rajkot, 1931, p.94)
Mahadev Govind Ranade (1842-1906) one of the greatest Hindu reformers at the end of the Nineteenth Century concurred with his predecessors:
…the love of municipal freedom…the skill of virtues necessary for civil life…aptitudes of mechanical skill…the love of science and research…the love of daring and adventurous discovery…the resolution to master difficulties,…and…the chivalrous respect for womankind… The Christian civilization which came to India from the West was the main instrument of renewal. (Quoted by C.F. Andrews, The Renaissance in India: its Missionary aspect, London, 1912, pp138f.)
Mr. Nani Palkhivala, is perhaps the most highly respected legal luminary in India at present. He argues that modern India owes some of its best features to the British rule:
There is something special, in fact providential, in the relationship between Britain and India. The crucial test is this: if the last two hundred years in India’s history were to be relived, how many thinking Indians would prefer to have them without British rule? I venture to say that no one, who is not ignorant or partial, would wish the past to be redrawn effacing all traces of the Raj.
There was much that was ugly and exploitative in those years. But on balance, the good far outweighed the evil . . . There were six invaluable gifts which [the British] bequeathed to us:
It was the accident of British rule which is responsible for the (1) unity and integrity of India today.... The largesse of the (2) English Language enriched the Indian culture. It was the cement which bound, and continues to bind, our country together.… The (3) civil and criminal laws...are based upon English jurisprudence...The (4) administrative structure in India is still as the British left it... Not the least of the gifts that the British left behind was the institution of the (5) armed forces imbued with the tradition of being totally apolitical.... Finally, if India is a (6) free republic today, that is also the consequence of the British rule. Indians fought, and fought valiantly, to get rid of foreign domination. But it is probable that, up to now, India would not have shaken off the domination of Indian rulers but for the notions of freedom imbibed from the days of British. (Palkhivala, We the Nation, UBSPD, New Delhi 1994, pp.15-17)
Did the above blessings mentioned by Mr. Palkhivala come to us because of the British traders, army, or politicians? No, the British East India Company began trading with India in the early 1600s. Its rule in Bengal began as a destructive phenomenon in 1757. India’s reformation started only with the arrival of the Truth of the Gospel at Serampore with the early missionaries led by William Carey. Historian Hugh Tinker in his classic study South Asia: A Short History (Macmillan, 1966 & 1989) sums it up:
And so in Serampore, on the banks of river Hooghly, soon after 1800, the principle elements in modern South Asia - popular linguistic identification (‘linguism’), the press, the university, social consciousness - all came to light. The West and South Asia were about to come to grips with each other in terms not merely of power and profit, but also of ideas and principles.”
The infusion of true and powerful biblical ideas and principles began India’s reformation. Unfortunately, however, in many spheres contemporary Indian society is reverting to its past evils. This little book, therefore, is being republished with a prayer that the Lord of history will take it as an offering - as trivial as that of a boy who gave him five loaves and two fish - and that He will use it to trigger off a new and global reformation movement through his Church. During the now concluding millennium, the Christian Church has emerged as the largest and the most resourceful NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). It has already done more than any other forum to bless our world. The Church of Jesus Christ is capable of doing much more - all the way from grass roots to global issues. One factor which inhibits an unleashing of its full potential is the fact that much of the Church is not even aware of the power of the Truth on which it was founded - power, both for the salvation of individuals and for the destiny of their nations.
Vishal Mangalwadi


December 6, 1996

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