Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one…
There once were 3 blind men who walked straight into an elephant… (now this is believable because, who would just leave an elephant lying around…)
Anyway… none of these men had ever seen an elephant before so they each started to describe the elephant.
The first blind man was holding on to it’s truck and said “An Elephant is a long and flexible creature…”
“No no…” said the second blind man who was holding onto the elephants leg… “An elephant is firm and thick…”
“Now hold on an minute…” said the third blind man who was near the middle of the elephant… “An elephant is neither of those things… and elephant is big and flat”
And all of the blind men started to argue among each other… each stating that their version of the elephant was truth and the other blind men didn’t have a proper view of the elephant.
While they are arguing we being to notice that all of them are right and all of them are wrong, they all have part of the reality of the elephant… but none of them can see the whole picture – therefore none of them can see the whole picture and therefore none of them is right and none of the is wrong.
Or as the English poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote.
And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.
and the moral of the story is this:
ALL RELIGIONS ARE THE SAME – people will say that ALL religions show part of a spiritual truth, and no religion sees the whole picture, no one should insist that they have the entire truth. Therefore – that is how we should understand religions.
Lesslie Newbigin, a missionary to India (where story originated from) writes in a book ‘The Gospel in a Pluralist Society‘ (1989) – was told this story over and over again… he said that it dawned on him.
The only way that you can know that each of the blind men were only holding part of the elephant was if YOU could see the WHOLE of the elephant. In fact the only way you could even tell the story of the blind men and the elephant was if YOU could see the whole elephant.
And that means… that the only way you could possibly know, that every religion only sees part of the truth… is if you assume that you see ALL of the truth.
If you believe that every religion is showing PART of the truth… then you are ASSUMING that you know ALL of the truth. This is a very dangerous place to be because saying that you know ALL of the truth is the very thing that you are saying that no body else has got!
Therefore – as Lesslie Newbigin concludes that it is ARROGANT to say that ALL religions are equal… and you need to ask the person who believes this “What absolute vantage point do you have that can relate ALL the scriptures and ALL religions in the claims that they make?”
So here’s the thing… when you say that no one has a take on spiritual reality… that in itself is actually a take on spiritual reality.
And when you say that you don’t want people to convert other people to your view of spiritual reality… then that is actually a spiritual reality that you want people to convert to.
- Lesslie Newbigin on the Church and the Welfare State (centrefortheologyandpublicissues.wordpress.com)