The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Reviews Book: A Review
I intend to present my reflection on Chapter 1, The West without Its Soul: From Bach to Cobain. In this chapter, Vishal Mangalwadi (2011) looks at the “death” of God in the society. Specifically, he looks at the cultural shift in religious beliefs as people move more towards secularism compared to a belief in God. In a cultural drift referred to as “never mind”, Mangalwadi addresses how individuals have become more nihilist leading to loss of purpose in life and direction, components that were previously provided by religion and the teaching of the bible. Music, a key part of the American culture, keenly follows the core beliefs of a society. In this chapter, Kurt Cobain, a popular American artist, is compared to Johann Sebastian Bach and other musicians such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Their styles reveal how a popular school of thought applies and influences the actions and responses of a society towards cultural issues. In a critical analysis of the rejection of the self, popularized through Buddhist teachings and the sense of self loss, Mangalwadi (2011) reveals various consequences including widespread skepticism, a nihilist logic, and a notable diversion from culture. Western music has changed how the American society views the world, including the self and the idea of others in a manner that is detrimental to the overall welfare, not just of the individual but the society as a whole.
The Bible is crucial in the abstract definition and development of the human soul in a manner that it defines life and gives purpose to individuals. Striking similarities and stark contrasts between Bach and Cobain in their lives and beliefs show how a systemic diversion from a biblical worldview in the Western world has changed not just the music but also the way people live their lives. Bach has a biblical background and upbringing while Cobain who leans on Buddhism, the latter driving Cobain to a belief in Nihilism and consequent death by suicide. Bach’s music created celebrated classical pieces that instilled hope for the audience and influenced a popular culture driven by biblical teachings. Cobain’s worldview was one devoid of God, inspired by Buddhism and a diversion from a cultural belief in the bible and it related teachings. Reflective in his music, the said worldview bore nothing of substance or meaningful. Mangalwadi (2011) asserts that the soul expresses itself through music, the latter being a window into the soul of each other. The cultural issue that chapter 1 dwells into is a deviation from biblical teachings evident in the American society and the consequences of such worldview on the culture. From this section, the Bible is presented as an instrument that shapes the souls of people, and the reverse is also true in a way evidenced through musical compositions and influences. Bach and Cobain reveal that the absence of biblical teachings leads to rotting of the soul, an issue that has plagued Western civilization as it deviates from cultural life based on the Bible.
The West has removed its foundation and is slowly collapsing. In an analogy similar to a person sawing a branch that they are sitting on, Mangalwadi (2011) creates the strange scenario to show how the society is knowingly degrading as it moves away from biblical teachings to incorporate a new culture where God is considered non-existent. The comparison of music from Bach and Cobain, and their influences, including the death of Cobain and the consequent chain of copy cut suicides from followers, shows that man cannot exist away from God. The American society is essentially undergirded by Christian and Biblical theology and without these and the concept of God, the society would slowly collapse. A philosophy of nihilism, rejection of the self, and nothingness are only doors to a miserable life (Mangalwadi, 2011). Music, a core concept of the society, is meant to be a harmonious euphony intended for the glory of God. The reason behind Bach’s success, both at being an artist and having positive influence in the society, is because of the influences of the bible and his belief in God. However, as the West tends to distance itself more from God and the biblical teachings, it is losing its soul and its defining features and continues to fail in its ability to make and appreciate societal components such as music and imparting positivity and hope that are meant to nourish the human soul.
I agree with the author that the West, especially the American culture, is losing value because of the deviation from biblical teachings and a belief in God. Increasingly, Americans are turning to nothingness and a nihilist view as a replacement for God and the Bible. The influence of such a worldview is revealed even with the way music is made and interpreted. Despite this position, I do not fully agree that the diversion of the popular culture away from God and the Bible is fully responsible for the way the Western civilization is crumbling in terms of culture and beliefs. I feel like something is missing: sufficient Christian and biblical mentorship. I agree with the Christian response that people must turn back to the bible for answers. The response is realistic because it essentially calls for a re-evaluation of lifestyle and beliefs. It asks people to go back to feeling the empty voids that the drifting away from God has created. In this discussion, I find a lot of similarity and alignment to what I feel about the American culture. I see it as primarily built on Christianity and the biblical teachings. The foundations of the society, being primarily God-centered, require that the society maintains the same position. I have seen examples of people who have regained control of their lives once they went back to believing in God. The same is applicable for America. Going back to biblical teachings and understanding why this is important can lead to a new culture, one that appreciates the beauty of diversity while ensuring that people regain a sense of purpose that can only be afforded through believing in something higher and above oneself.
Mangalwadi, V. (2011). The book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilization. Thomas Nelson.