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The Blind Men and the Elephant Analogy is a common argument used by religious pluralists to illustrate their belief that all religions are essentially equal.

The-Blind-Men-and-the-Elephant-Analogy-Parable-Christian-ResponseThe basic argument goes like this:

  • There are several blind men who all encounter an elephant.
  • One of the blind men feels the trunk of the elephant, and thinks the elephant is like a snake.
  • The second blind man disagrees, because after feeling the side of the elephant, he believes the elephant to be more like an immovable wall.
  • The third finds the first two ridiculous, because after feeling the leg of the elephant, he thinks the elephant to be a tree.
  • And the fourth man disagrees as well, feeling the tail was more like a skinny broom than a snake, wall, or tree.

Therefore, none of the blind men are wrong per se, because they have different views and experiences of the same thing. The argument goes that religious people are just like the blind men feeling the elephant, just encountering the same truth in different ways.

On the surface, this can be a convincing argument and hard to defend—but it shouldn’t be, because it is built upon flawed logic.

What should the Christian response be to the Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant?

In the video below, Matt Chandler offers a powerful rebuttal to this common parable.

“The only way the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant makes any sense is if the narrator of the story sees the whole elephant.”

“The moment you claim ultimate reality is unknowable, you have just claimed the knowledge of what you said can’t be known! This is intellectually inconsistent.” Matt Chandler

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A version of this post originally published on December 28, 2012. 

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This is a guest post from Andrew Gilmore.

“I read the paper every day and the Bible every day; that way I know what both sides are up to.” Zig Ziglar

If you were to ask just about any Christian his or her take on the status of America today, I can bet the answer would be more negative than positive. Respondents might cite moral decay exacerbated by the embrace of postmodernism, debilitating national debt, racial violence, erosion of freedoms, and the list goes on. Were I to assess the situation myself, I would be inclined to agree with such a summation. The nation appears headed in the wrong direction morally, politically, financially, and just about every other “ly” word you can think of.

But as bad as things seem to us in the 21st Century, Jews in 2nd Century BC Palestine had it much worse. Having returned from captivity in Babylon and having rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, God’s people still found themselves subject to foreign kings. Alexander the Great had come, conquered much of the known world, and died suddenly, leaving his kingdom divided into four parts as prophesied by Daniel (8:22). The Seleucid dynasty eventually held control of Israel, leaving the nation with mostly internal autonomy.

That is, until Antiochus IV became king. He began selling the position of high priest to the highest bidder and encouraged the Hellenization of Judea. When rumor came to Jerusalem that Antiochus had died in a war with Egypt, the Jews rejoiced. Problem is, Antiochus was not dead. When he heard of the Jews’ reaction, he stormed Jerusalem, slaughtering 40,000 residents and enslaving another 40,000. If that wasn’t enough, the king, who had given himself the name Antiochus Epiphanes (god manifest), entered the temple and defiled it by sacrificing a pig on the altar.1

The treachery, oppression and bloodshed eventually gave rise to the legendary Maccabees, a God fearing family who led many successful uprisings against Israel’s oppressors. The name Maccabee means “hammer of God,” and the Jews believed the family was God’s instrument of justice. But despite these victories, Israel would only taste autonomy for a brief time. As the New Testament opens, Rome holds control of Judea.

But the people never forgot about the might of the Maccabees. (In fact, that’s what Hanukkah is all about.) As a result they pined away for a savior. They longed for a Messiah. The prophets did promise one after all. But the Jews wanted a Messiah like a Maccabee who would drive out the heathen and restore sovereignty to Israel. So desperate were they that they followed just about any insurrectionist or revolutionary they could find. They would hinge their hopes on one man until he proved to be not what they wanted.

Israel wanted another hammer of God. Instead, it got the Lamb of God.

Where Is Your Hope?

I tell this long history not merely to point out that things could be worse in America, although they certainly could be. But rather I bring it up to help establish the desperate mindset prevalent in the hearts of Judea when the New Testament opens.

And as the US Presidential election draws near, I sense that same desperation in the hearts of American Christians. It is a troubling trend in the culture—the belief that one person can make everything better. I too have been sucked up into the hype, canonizing my favorite candidate and demonizing his or her opponent. In doing so, I betrayed the truth about where my hope lay. I had placed my hope in a human rather than in Jesus.

The Messiah did come. Problem is, many in Israel missed it. As John wrote, “His own did not receive him” (John 1:11). Let’s not make the same mistake.

Jesus is, and always has been, our only hope.Jesus is, and always has been, our only hope. Not just as a nation, but for salvation, for healing, for freedom. Should you place your hope in any other person, object, or organization, you will be disappointed.

I still vote and pay (some) attention to the presidential candidates. I think it is important to do so. But when faith in politicians trumps your faith in Christ, something is out of whack. The only way to have peace this election season is to remember that our Savior is already here. Every political candidate will let you down, but Jesus will never fail you. I’ve learned no matter which side of the aisle we find ourselves, no human can truly solve our problems. Turning to Christ is the only possible solution.

So if you’re unsettled about the upcoming election, take heart in the fact that Christ is on the throne. He is our savior. And nothing that happens on earth can change that.


Andrew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration you need to connect with your Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.

1 H. A. Ironside, The Four Hundred Silent Years: From Malachi to Matthew (1914).

 

Finding Truth Nancy Pearcy Book Cover QuotesIf you find yourself discouraged as a Christian in an increasingly secular environment, take heart: Christianity is the only worldview that provides total truth about life, existence, and humanity.

If such a claim were true (and I unwaveringly believe it is), it will prove itself genuine when compared to counterfeits. That is Nancy Pearcey’s premise in Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes, in which Pearcey offers an approach for exposing all false worldviews rooted in Romans 1:18-32.

Romans 1 teaches that God’s attributes and power are known to all, but people reject God the Creator to worship a created thing, exchanging God’s truth for a lie, with the result of having thinking turn futile and foolish hearts darkened (Romans 1:21-25). Or, to put it another way, any worldview other than Christianity rejects God to serve idols—resulting in spiritual blindness (Psalm 115:4-8).

Any idol-centered worldview will break down when asked the tough questions—and asking the tough questions that is exactly what Pearcey teaches readers to do. Pearcey’s five Scriptural principles “cut to the heart of any competing worldview or religion” and “highlights the life-giving truths that everyone wants but only Christianity can give.”

Principle #1: Identify the Idol

The starting place is to identify the idol worshipped in place of God. A few examples of common idols include reason, science, and human autonomy. Pearcey writes,

The history of philosophy is largely a history of setting up God surrogates. It is a history of idol-making. One of the most effective ways to understand history, then, is to identify the prevailing idols. As Timothy Keller writes, “Every human personality, community, thought-form, and culture will be based on some ultimate concern or some ultimate allegiance—either to God or to some God substitute.” Thus, “The best way to analyze cultures is by identifying their corporate idols.”

“The best way to analyze cultures is by identifying their corporate idols.” —Timothy KellerSince God created and rules everything, only a worldview that takes Him into account will accurately explain the complexities of life and the universe—idols at best will present a distorted and drastically incomplete version of reality.

Pearcey describes the failure of idol-based worldviews as trying to fit all of the universe neatly in a box—inevitably much won’t fit in the box.

Principle #2: Identify the Idol’s Reductionism

Since no false worldview can explain everything satisfactorily (it doesn’t fit in the box), shortcuts have to be taken and the true nature of existence get drastically ‘reduced’ in each worldview.

Instead of humanity created in the image of God with inherent worth and dignity, idols recast man in their own image, always reducing the dignity given to us by God.

Materialism is a favorite worldview for Pearcey to pick on, perhaps because it is so easy to dismantle:

Recall that in materialism, the idol is matter. Everything else is reduced to material objects produced by material forces. Anything that does not fit in the materialist box is dismissed as an illusion, including spirit, soul, will, mind, and consciousness. We could say that humans are redefined in the image of matter. They are robbed of their uniquely human qualities and reduced to biochemical machines, without free will, determined by natural forces.

Only a biblical worldview can fully explain all of life and allow us to appreciate the beautiful and complex world God has created.

Principle #3: Test the Idol: Does It Contradict What We Know about the World?

When we press in on other worldviews to see how they function in the real world, flaws will be exposed. What doesn’t fit in the box will poke out and be visible to all.

What do materialists do when they realize that their worldview box is too small to fit the evidence? [i.e. denying spirit, soul, will, mind, consciousness.] They suppress the evidence, just as Paul says in Romans 1.

One strength of Pearcey’s writing in Finding Truth and her earlier work Total Truth is the breadth of powerful quotes and examples showing how believers in false worldviews admit their weaknesses.

Dallas Willard comments, “I have noticed that the most emphatic of Postmodernists turn coldly modern when discussing their fringe benefits or other matters that make a great difference to their practical life.”

(This is when the emperor starts suspecting that he has no clothes on.)

Principle #4: Test the Idol: Does It Contradict Itself?

The contradictions of idol-based worldviews are not confined to what we know about the world, they are self-refuting.

Materialists…deny the reality of mind (while they use their minds to advance materialism), determinists deny the reality of human choice (while they choose determinism), and relativists deny the fact of right and wrong (while they judge you if you disagree).

John Passmore says, you cannot “maintain, as a timeless philosophical truth, that there are no timeless philosophical truths.”

Because we live in a world created and ordered by God, any other explanation of reality greatly lacks both substance and consistency, while carrying unintentional consequences (as seen in the quote below).

The drive for diversity [among many secularists], which was supposed to be the safeguard for liberty, has itself become coercive and homogenizing. Diversity has become a code word for a new form of tyranny.

Principle #5: Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity

The emperor will only entertain thoughts of putting clothes on when he realizes that he is naked. The same is often true with worldviews—we can only truly build a new worldview when the former has been razed.

Atheists often denounce Christianity as harsh and negative. But in reality it offers a much more positive view of the human person than any competing religion or worldview. It is so appealing that adherents of other worldviews keep free-loading the parts they like best.

[We] often hear stereotypes that Christianity is negative and repressive; that it regards human nature as corrupt and worthless; that it places little value on life in this world. But in reality the Christian worldview has a much higher view of human life than any competing system. It gives a logical basis for the facts of experience that are denied by the dominant secular worldviews of our day: freedom, creativity, love, personal significance, genuine truth. How can we be anything but loving and joyful in communicating such a life- giving message?

We as Christians know the core truths about reality. We have the only livable worldview—and it is an unspeakably beautiful worldview.

It is our great privilege to share truth with the world that longs for truth, beauty, and meaning. Unmasking atheism, secularism, and other God substitutes is great, but we need our glorious Savior to be unmasked for there to be anything truly worth celebrating.

Not many books impact me like Finding Truth did. Finding Truth drove me to worship as I contemplated the infinite wisdom of God and drove me to prayer as I thought about the spiritual warfare and bondage behind faulty worldviews.

Our task isn’t easy, but we are stewards of the mysteries of God who are called to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:10).

May we be equipped to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” who “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) and boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

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The Art of Contentment Sermon Series

Wondering how to be content in a world always pushing us to want and do more?

In a sermon series recently preached at my church called “The Art of Contentment”, Pastor Colin Smith tackles the tough and often-subtle issue of contentment. This series convicted me of my own discontent and pointed me to the sufficiency of Christ.

If you struggle with anxiety, anger, or frustration, let the gospel truth in these sermons drive you to peace, trust, and satisfaction in Christ.

Visit UnlockingtheBible.org for more of Colin Smith’s sermons and resources.

There are several ways to access the messages:

1. Download the MP3s:

2. Listen on the Unlocking the Bible This Week podcast or on the Unlocking the Bible app.

3. Watch videos below.

The Hellish Sin of Discontent (Exodus 17)

How to Handle the Blessing of God (1 Timothy 6)

Learning to Be Content (Philippians 4)

Contented in Christ (Hebrews 13)

Some of the best quotes from the series:

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