Close-up of an Elephant
ONE MINUTE BRIEF
Many religious pluralists rely on the following analogy in support of their contention that all the world’s religions simply represent different paths leading to the same truth about the same God:
Imagine a group of blind men touching a different part of an elephant and describing what the elephant feels like to them. A blind man touching a leg of the elephant might describe the elephant as a tree trunk whereas a blind man touching the elephant’s trunk might describe the elephant as a big fire hose, and so on. Even though each blind man describes the elephant differently because their experience with the elephant is different, all the blind men are actually describing the same elephant. Similarly, the different world religions simply describe God differently because their experience is different. [See, Craig J. Hazen, The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe, “Aren’t All Religions Basically the Same?” pgs. 566-567 (Holman Bible Publishers, 2007)]
Do the world’s religions simply describe the same God from different points of view as contended by religious pluralists?
In the biblical worldview, the different religions of the world do not lead to the same truth and do not describe the same God.
In defense of the biblical worldview, Christian apologist L.T. Jeyachandran points to what many Christian philosophers and theologians consider a major flaw in the above analogy; namely, that without revelation from someone who could see the whole elephant, none of the blind men would know they were even touching an elephant. [See, L. T. Jeyachandran, Ravi Zacharias Ministries, Foundations of Apologetics, “The Trinity and Apologetics” (2008), 10/28/09 NRB]
Similarly, the Bible teaches that because of man’s sinful nature, men are spiritually blind and cannot see God. Left to themselves, men are unable to appreciate their true spiritual condition in relation to a holy God. Consequently, the only way men can know the truth about God is if that truth is revealed to them by someone who is not spiritually blind and, therefore, can see God and relate the truth about God to spiritually blind men.
The Gospel of John says the truth about God has been revealed by someone who knows the truth about God and has revealed that truth to mankind – that person is God’s son, Jesus Christ:
|The Gospel of John
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it….
1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth….
3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’….
3:13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert [see, Numbers 21:4-9], so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
3:19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light …. 31 “…The one who comes from above …. 32 testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony…. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternallife, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (See, John 1:1 – 3:36)
According to the Bible, the truth about God has been revealed to spiritually blind men by God’s son (Jesus) who knows the truth about God and he has revealed there is only one path to God:
Jesus said, “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6-7 (NIV)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew he would soon be called to sacrifice his sinless life on the cross to pay the penalty of death for man’s sinful rebellion against God (Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 9:14-15, Hebrews 10:11-12). In that great hour of distress, Jesus asked his Father if there was another way:
My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. — Matt. 26:36-45; Mark 14:32-41
There was no other way which is the reason Jesus willingly sacrificed his life on the cross. The only way for sinful men to be reconciled to a holy God was by Jesus sacrificing his sinless life to pay the penalty of death for man’s sinful rebellion against God (Romans 6:23) more. That is the message of John 3:16-17 quoted above. God’s gift of eternal life is made available to men through Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. If there had been any other way, Jesus’ sacrifice would not have been necessary.
In the Christian worldview, people are certainly free to reject Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God (John14:6-7). But, just as certainly it must be understood that if Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God is true, that claim leaves no room for the view that all religions lead to the same God.
For further discussion on issues related to this One Minute Brief, see the following articles:
- How to Know God Personally (here)
- God’s Attributes — What is God Like? How is He Different than Us? — Introduction and Summary (here)
- Can Christianity be True for Some People but Not Others? Is Truth Relative? (here)
KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE and WHY YOU BELIEVE IT!
“[W]e do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” — 2 Corinthians 4:2
DO YOU BELIEVE GOD EXISTS? WHY DO YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE? Browse through the articles on the FactsandFaith.com website and consider some of the REASONS Christian philosophers and theologians give for contending that belief in the God of the Bible is a very rational belief, if not the most rational belief possible given what scientists and philosophers have determined to be true about the universe.
Visit Facts & Faith on Facebook and “Like” and “Share” this ONE MINUTE BRIEF with others so they may consider the reasonsChristians have for believing in the God of the Bible.
Have a good and prosperous day. Let your light shine before men so they notice your moral excellence as well as your good and noble deeds and, thereby, recognize and glorify your Father in heaven!
(See, Matt. 5:16, Amplified Bible)
© 2015 by Andrina G. Hanson
QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE
Craig J. Hazen, The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe, “Aren’t All Religions Basically the Same?” pg. 566-567(Holman Bible Publishers, 2007)
John Lennox, Foundations of Apologetics: “Pluralism: Do All Religions Lead to the Same Goal?” (RZIM, 2007) DVDs available at http://rzim.christianbook.com/foundations-of-apologetics-all-digital-version/9781612562124/pd/1314BD
IMAGE CREDITS & LICENSING
Slideshow Photo: Close-up photograph of an elephant taken in the Okovnago Delta, Botswana, Africa. The image was downloaded from www.wikimedia.org which states the image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC-BY-SA-3.0) license. Photographer not identified.
Tags: Bible, born again, Christian, Christianity, different path, different paths, elephant, Gethsemane, God, I am the way, Jesus, Jeyachandran, John 14:6, John 1:1, John1, Nicodemous, Nicodemus, religious pluralists, spiritual blindness, spiritually blind, world religion, world religions