by Dan Story
Most of us have heard the old fable about five blind men who attempt to identify an elephant by touching different portions of its body. The first blind man feels the trunk and concludes the elephant is a snake. The second examines a leg and declares the elephant is a tree. The third touches the tail and claims the elephant is a rope. The fourth probes the elephant’s side and believes it to be a house. Finally, the fifth blind man handles the elephant’s ear and asserts that the elephant is a fan.
Two aspects of this story parallel the problems we encounter when searching for religious truth. First, the five blind men’s physical handicap can be likened to the blindness many people have due to erroneous worldviews. The five men thought they had discovered truth (identified accurately what they were feeling), but instead each interpreted reality (the elephant) differently because their worldview filter (blindness) prevented reality from being known. If the elephant represents religious truth (i.e. Christianity), then what the five blind men thought the elephant was (tree, rope, etc.) represents false religious views. A worldview filters reality according to its own presuppositions, and if the presuppositions are false, truth—religious or otherwise—will be distorted.
The five blind men were limited in their search for truth to just feeling. Lacking a more accurate test for truth (such as sight), or some means to verify their conclusions, it would have been virtually impossible for any of the blind men to have actually discovered that they were touching an elephant rather than a snake, tree, rope, house, or fan.
Like the elusive elephant, religious truth-claims are not readily subject to verification. In order to discover religious truth, it is vital that we identify and utilize the best truth-tests available. Because some methods for determining truth are not applicable to religious truth, we must also seek ways to confirm religious truth-claims through rational and objective methods. Without such methods, there would be no way to ascertain which religion, among all contenders, possesses absolute truth…
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