September 20, 2010

Jesus and the Elephant

There is an old Indian story that is often used to express relativity of or the impossibility of knowing truth.

Basically, the story goes that there were several blind men all touching the same elephant, wondering as to what it was.

The first man, touching the ear of the elephant said "Surely this thing is thin and papery."

The second man, feeling the elephant's trunk said, "I agree that the thing is thin, but it is certainly not papery, but rough and round."

A third man, with his hand on the leg of the elephant, responded, "My brother, I agree that this thing is round and rough, but I must say that it is thicker than my thigh."

Still another, feeling the tail of the animal, said "I don't understand how any of you could think this thing is thick or rough, it is clearly thin as my little finger, and besides that, it has hair on the end."

So the four of them debated the nature of the elephant, unwilling to back down from their convictions or to consider the possibility that any of the other men could be right.
At the end of this story the question is then asked, "Which man was correct?" The expected answer is that all of them were equally correct, they just didn't have the complete picture. Or if the answer is that none were correct, then the response is that this is because no one can fully comprehend the truth and, in that we are all equally wrong, we are all equally right in the part that we do know.

Then, to end the story, the point is revealed, "So is truth".

What as Christians, should we do with this old tale? We could just ignore it and say that it is not in fact representative of reality. Or we could use this story as a Gospel opportunity.

We, as Christians, clearly believe that the truth is knowable through Jesus Christ and that this truth excludes all other views claiming to be truth. So, how does Jesus fit into this story? I would alter the story as follows:

While the four men debated the nature of the elephant, a fifth man, who was not blind, came upon them. Hearing their arguments, he said "Brothers, I tell you that that which you debate about is an elephant, and the attributes that you argue about are all present in different functions within this animal; but none of you have seen the complete picture."

For a minute, the men considered what the new man had said. But, one of them replied, "Why should we believe you? How can you claim that you are any more correct than we?

The man responded, "I too was once like you, blind and stubborn in my way. But as I was hobbling about one day, a man named Jesus came and touched me, removing my blindness. Now I can see this and much more. And you too, can see, if only you'll believe in Jesus and his healing power."

"Why should we believe you? What proof do you have that you can see any better than we can? And even if you can "see", why should we believe that you're not just trying to take advantage of us?"

And so the man tried to reason with them, but could not change their stubborn hearts. He went away sad.

Without Jesus Christ, we are all blind to the truth. We may know some things that are true, but we will never know the truth unless He opens our spiritual eyes. And the truth is not an elephant, it is a person, Jesus Christ.


Mollie said...

Great post, Daniel. Nice to hear a new angle on that story.



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