Death of the Elephant God

In an effort to explain religious truth a popular fable entitled The Blind Men and the Elephant has been used by various religious leaders. Are all religious truth claims equally valid as this story purports? I think not. And once this elephant dies another must take its place. Here is a modern version from Lillian Quigley’s The Blind Men and the Elephant.

The first blind man put out his hand and touched the side of the elephant. “How smooth! An elephant is like a wall.” The second blind man put out his hand and touched the trunk of the elephant. “How round! An elephant is like a snake.” The third blind man put out his hand and touched the tusk of the elephant. “How sharp! An elephant is like a spear.” The fourth blind man put out his hand and touched the leg of the elephant. “How tall! An elephant is like a tree.” The fifth blind man reached out his hand and touched the ear of the elephant. “How wide! An elephant is like a fan.” The sixth blind man put out his hand and touched the tail of the elephant. “How thin! An elephant is like a rope.”An argument ensued, each blind man thinking his own perception of the elephant was the correct one.

The Rajah, awakened by the commotion, called out from the balcony. “The elephant is a big animal,” he said. “Each man touched only one part. You must put all the parts together to find out what an elephant is like.”

Enlightened by the Rajah’s wisdom, the blind men reached agreement. “Each one of us knows only a part. To find out the whole truth we must put all the parts together.”

It is true in this scenario that these men must put all the parts of the elephant together to know what an elephant is actually like. However, this illustration is normally used to show that (1) all truth claims are equally valid and (2) that all paths, essentially, lead to God. Though I won’t speak to the first point, it is easily show false by simply expressing my truth claim saying, “I disagree.”

I will touch on the second point, that all paths lead to God, in that we each only have some revealed truth about God. We must, therefore, put together the different views of God among the worlds religions to really understand Him. Isn’t it interesting that this “enlightened” Rajah actually sees the whole elephant, yet doesn’t share what he sees and actually purports that these men can’t really know about the elephant individually. He is essentially denying what is right in front of him. Or just being selfish. What is even more interesting is that this Rajah, unknowingly, supports the Christian understanding found in the book of Romans, chapter one, were Paul tells us that men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

So does Christianity fit in this view that all religions share truths about God and not one has all truth? Not anymore than I can be standing in front of you and standing behind you at the same time. Hinduism claims there are 33 main gods. Pop-culture icon, Oprah Winfrey claims “There are many paths to what you call God”. Christianity says there is one God and one way to Him through Jesus Christ who is God. We can’t all be right even from a simple logical standpoint. No one lives by ‘logic’ like this so why believe this way about God?

The unique beliefs of the Christian faith that there is one God eternally existing in three Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that salvation comes only through the Son, Jesus Christ, cannot fit into the ‘just one of many’ religious truth claims. This is an either/or proposition not a both/and. It is not both Jesus Christ and something else. It is either Jesus Christ or nothing.

To many blind men around an elephant this may seem offensive. This offense can be best summed up with the words which Cornelius Van Til spoke in Why I Believe in God.

If I have offended you it has been because I dare not, even in the interest of winning you, offend my God. And if I have not offended you I have not spoken of my God.

When this elephant dies so do the opinions of these men die with it, only to be replaced by another elephant.

Forget the elephant, embrace Christ.

Mark

The above article was posted on May 4, 2008 by Mark Lamprecht.
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