Influencing Culture – Astronomy or Astrology, Building Schools

It would seem almost impossible that missionary William Carey could possibly seek to influence more areas of Indian thinking than we have already seen – but it is so.

He certainly obliterates the view that the missionaries were bulldozing local culture and arrogantly asserting a colonial agenda.

For those of you who have followed these recent posts, in which we are imagining a William Carey Quiz amongst Indian students, you might be asking, ‘Will it ever end?’

So let’s rejoin Vishal Mangalwadi’s lecture-hall and listen in as the Quiz continues…

Education – building schools
‘William Carey began dozens of schools for Indian children of all castes and launched the first college in Asia at Serampore.’ Says one student.

‘For nearly three thousand years India’s religious culture has denied to most Indians free access to knowledge, and the Hindu, Mughal and British rulers had gone along with this high caste strategy of keeping the masses in the bondage of ignorance.

‘Carey displayed enormous spiritual strength in standing against the priests, who had a vested interest in depriving the masses of the freedom and power that comes from knowledge of truth.’

Astronomy v Astrology
‘William Carey introduced the study of Astronomy into the Subcontinent,’ declares a student of Mathematics.

‘He cared deeply about the destructive cultural ramifications of astrology: fatalism, superstitious fear and an inability to organize and manage time.

‘He knew that human beings are created to govern nature, and that the sun, moon and the planets are created to assist us in our task of governing.

‘Carey thought that the heavenly bodies ought to be carefully studied since the Creator had made them to be signs or markers…They make it possible for us to devise calendars; to study geography…to plan our lives, work and our societies.

‘The culture of astronomy sets us free to be rulers, whereas the culture of astrology makes us subjects, our lives determined by our stars.’

(From ‘William Carey and the Regeneration of India, by Vishal Mangalwadi, Good Books, Mussouri, India)

A central impulse of Carey’s motivation for working in India was the desire to share knowledge. He saw the education of the population as the key to their spiritual liberation.

Could it be that the British East India Company was so reluctant to allow missionaries to serve amongst the indigenous population specifically because they realised the knowledge they brought would inevitably lead to political liberation?

In this respect it is clear that the missionaries were serving a different agenda, indeed, in Carey’s case a decidedly Biblical agenda, from the economic imperatives of the colonialists.

To read the next post, dealing with Carey’s concern for the environment, click here

To see the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


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