Prophet Isaiah never read the “American” version of John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved individual ‘souls’ that He sent His only begotten son . . .” Had the Gospel been available in the 8th Century BC, Isaiah would have read God’s love for the world through the OT lens: God called Abraham, not to “Rapture” him to his mansions in heaven, but to make him into “a great nation.”
So that through Abraham’s descendants God may bless sin-bruised nations with healing.
How does the Cross heal nations?
* * To begin with it Transformed Imperial Colonies Into Sovereign Nations * *
In the 1980s, Ruth and I visited the House of Commons. The guide directed our attention to a particular tile on the floor of the historic Westminster Hall. Warren Hastings, the inscription read, had stood there during his impeachment trial (1787-’95). The guide gave us copies of the two-century old tickets as souvenirs. These had been sold to the people who wanted to watch the public Trial.
Edmund Burke, then a Member of Parliament, now revered as the Father of “Conservatism,” acted as the Prosecutor-in-chief. He took four days to present the charges. We can focus only on one.
During the Rohilla War of 1773-’74, as the Governor-General of the British East India Company, Warren Hastings had taken Rs. Four Million from the Muslim Nawab of Ayodhya (Oudh or Awadh) to militarily support his “invasion” of Afghani Muslim militia. Hastings didn’t take a bribe. The Board of Governors had been asking him for money. The Nawab offered him an opportunity to make quick money for the Company. In exchange for the money Hastings lent the Nawab a unit of the “British army” (mostly Indian soldiers). With their help he suppressed the troublesome Afghan tribes, who had earlier beaten the Marathas with the Nawab’s help. They owed the Nawab gold rods, but were not paying up. Following their defeat they adopted guerrilla tactics. In response the forces of the Nawab and Hastings began plundering Rohilkhand (now northern Uttar Pradesh around Rampur).
This was nothing unusual. Isaiah was alive when Assyria invaded and plundered the northern tribes of Israel. He predicted that the Babylonians will come to Judah and plunder Jerusalem (Isaiah 39:1-7). By Isaiah’s time, Greece was emerging as a geo-political factor; although it was prophet Daniel who was given the vision that Greece will learn empire-building tactics from Persians and build Europe’s first empire . . . to be taken over by a more ruthless “beast” — the Romans. They will crush nations.
The important fact is that Isaiah went on to prophesy what Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel reinforced: the Messiah would come to be the world’s “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6).
In Chapter 2: 3-4, Isaiah prophesied the purpose of Messiah’s coming:Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Warren Hastings had done what Pagan, European, Islamic, and Maratha colonialisms had been doing forever. Edmund Burke refused to accept a geo-political evil that was normal. Hasting’s continuation of Europe’s moral corruption was sinful. The Lord Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin. The Resurrected Jesus was not just seated on a throne in heaven. He was active in human history, using His body on earth to ‘make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5). That’s why a Christian nation could not be allowed to follow Europe’s pagan imperialism. The Lord Jesus was “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5). His followers needed to ensure that their Father’s will is done on earth.The French Revolution, begun in 1789, a year after the Impeachment Trial, diverted Britain’s national attention away from Burke’s impeachment effort.The failed Revolution for “Liberty, Fraternity and Equality” turned into a “Reign of Terror,” and ended in the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon, possessed by Europe’s empire-building spirit, plunged western Europe in a series of terrible wars.
Secular historians dare not ask this crucial question: What made Edmund Burke’s perspective so non-European and Christian? The answer is that 1787, the year in which Burke began the Impeachment Trial, was the climax of the great spiritual revival led by John Wesley. As I pointed out in “The Book That Made Your World,” the preaching of the Gospel and consequent study of the Bible changed Great Britain.
Wesley, the Founder of Methodism, was a protégé of George Whitfield (and Jonathan Edwards), the pioneers of America’s First Great Awakening. Their teaching of the Bible had awakened North America’s 13 British colonies. It inspired them to create the USA as a free and sovereign nation.
Edmund Burke — a British MP — had supported the colonies’ objection to unjust taxation. On 19 April 1774, a year before America’s Revolutionary War began, Burke pleaded with British parliament to repeal the “Tea Duty” or face the possibility of losing the colonies entirely:
“. . . seek peace and ensue it; leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. . . Leave the Americans as they anciently stood, and these distinctions, born of our unhappy contest, will die along with it. […] Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it […] Do not burthen them with taxes […] But if intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government by urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question. […] If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. No body of men will be argued into slavery.”
Barely a month before America’s Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775, Edmund Burke warned the House of Commons on 22 March that their attempt to subjugate the 13 colonies was futile. Britain was opposing the power of the Bible’s view of liberty (“Protestantism”). Britain herself had championed the Bible’s understanding of Liberty:
“[T]he people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. […] They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles. The people are Protestants, […] a persuasion not only favourable to liberty, but built upon it.”
In the short run, Edmund Burke “lost” Hasting’s Impeachment Trial as well as the case for America’s liberty. In reality though, the USA’s triumph over the world’s greatest military and economic superpower proved Burke right. The Bible’s power was greater.Likewise, with respect to India, Burke lost the “Trial” but he won the argument that obeying God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christian Britain to give as good a government to India as we want for ourselves. We do not want our soldiers to loot us and rape our women; so how can we permit our soldiers to plunder Rohilkhand?
William Wilberforce, the Evangelical Member of Parliament, took over Burke’s baton to bring British Parliament, society and colonialism under the Bible’s moral authority. In 1792, Wilberforce encouraged Charles Grant to write, “Observations on the State of Society Among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain: Particularly with Respect to Morals; and on the Means of Improving It.” This applied Burke’s biblical worldview to British colonial rule in India, presenting a profound and systematic case for reforming India.
It was not an accident that William Carey’s “Inquiry” into the Church’s obligation to disciple nations was also published in 1792. John Wesley had died in 1791; the seeds of God’s kingdom that the Revival sowed were just beginning to bear fruits in Asia and Africa.
Carey came to Bengal in 1793 and became the catalyst for India’s 19th century “renaissance.” He is the yet-to-be-acknowledged Father of Modern Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Grant supported Carey’s pioneering efforts. Thanks to Wilbeforce’ support, Charles Grant became the Director of the East India Company, a Member of Parliament and an important member of the Evangelical “Clapham Sect.”
The societal fruits of the Wesleyan revival were spearheaded by economic-political-spiritual giants — Wilberforce, Grant, Macaulay, Thornton, Stephen, Hannah More etc. They produced the next generation of British public figures who nurtured the sapling that became modern South-Asia.Why doesn’t the public know that modern South Asia is the Bible’s creation? Plenty of historians know these (politically incorrect) facts. Most Christians don’t know for two simple reasons:
(1) Anti-intellectualism took over evangelicalism over a century ago. Therefore, professors in evangelical seminaries do not read, what they ought to.
(2) Secularised individualism prevents contemporary preachers from seeing God’s “Suffering Servant” from Isaiah’s point of view. Isaiah saw that “by his wounds WE are healed.”
Who is this “WE” and what kind of healing was Isaiah talking about? Western theology fails to understand Isaiah because it insists on reading God’s Word through its culture’s individualistic lens. The truth is that it is because of the Bible that India exists as a nation, a free, educated and sovereign nation under the rule-of-law.
Widespread ignorance of our times call for a renaissance of the Christian mind. Therefore, “The Third Education Revolution” is commissioning a group of Indian scholars to write a book, tentatively called, “How The Bible Created Modern India.” It will build on the work that some Christian scholars have already done, e.g. Dr. Babu Verghese’ book, “Let There Be India”, my book, “India: the Grand Experiment” and Dr. Ashish Alexander’s work on the Bible’s impact on India’s vernacular literature.
The plan is to publish this book on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence on 15 August 2022. The research and writing should also result in a series of documentaries.
Our immediate need is to find a point person who will help me assemble teams of (a) researchers/ writers/editors, and (b) documentarians. The project will also need finances.