The Blind Men and the Elephant

I’m currently reading a book by Tim Keller called The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. I’ll be adding my thoughts on various topics he covers to share his perspective and add my own. I hope this highlights topics you can use in conversations with skeptics.

In the first chapter, Tim discusses the story of the blind men and the elephant.  It’s a story I’ve heard skeptics use to try and show that all religions are the same, that all lead to God. The story goes like this:

One day, several blind men were walking through the forest.  They came upon an elephant. Not knowing what it was, each man reached out their hands and touched the elephant. The first man touched the elephant’s side and said “this is a huge wall.”  The second blind man touched the elephant’s leg and said, “no, it’s a large tree trunk.”  The third blind man reached out and touched its tusk and said, “You are all wrong, it’s a spear.” Other blind men touch other parts of the elephant and think the elephant is something it’s not. You get the idea. They begin to argue until a wise man of some kind comes along to explain that it’s actually an elephant. They each had a part of the truth, but the whole truth could only be seen when all their truths were combined.

The skeptic will argue that this shows that all religions are leading to the actual truth. They argue that we are the blind men, blinded by our cultural biases and presuppositions. Only when we can see the whole elephant can we know the actual truth.

if you are presented with this story, the best question to ask is “tell me who you are in the story.” They will say either a blind man or the wise man. If they are a blind man, ask them how then they are able to see the whole elephant. If they are the wise man, ask them how is it that they are able to see the truth and no one else can. What makes them different?

the storyteller will simply refute themselves. If they are subject to the same biases and presuppositions as the rest of us, they cannot possibly know the full truth. If they say they do know the truth, how is it that they are able to do away with their cultural bias and presuppositions?

One final thought about this story. The story assumes the elephant can’t help the blind man by talking to them. God has spoken to us through His revelation. We don’t go grabbing at God randomly. He tells us exactly who He is through the Bible.

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