Do All Religions Lead to God?
by Aaron Brake
Maybe you’ve heard the parable of the six blind men and the elephant. In this parable, six blind men feel a different part of an elephant and come to different conclusions regarding what the elephant is actually like.
One blind man grabs the tusk and says, “An elephant is like a spear!” Another feels the trunk and concludes, “An elephant is like a snake!” The blind man hugging the leg thinks, “An elephant is like a tree!” The one holding the tail claims, “An elephant is like a rope!” Another feeling the ear believes, “An elephant is like a fan!” The last blind man leaning on the elephant’s side exclaims, “An elephant is like a wall!”
This parable is often used to illustrate a view known as religious pluralism. Like the blind men, no religion has the truth. Rather, all religions are true in that they accurately describe their personal experience and the spiritual reality they encounter, given various historical and cultural backgrounds.
There are various types of religious pluralism, but one way to define it is as follows: “the view that all religious roads – certainly all major or ethical ones – lead to God or to ultimate reality and salvation.”1 This idea is commonly reflected in such statements as “All religions basically teach the same thing” or “All roads lead to the top of the mountain.”
The elephant parable, while attractive to many, suffers from a number of problems:
Problem #1: The parable is an analogy, not an argument.
An argument is a conclusion supported by reason or evidence. But notice that the elephant parable is simply an analogy (or illustration). No arguments, evidence, or reasons are given as to why we should believe that all religions are true. The elephant analogy is simply a story. But the story may be false! In other words,
One problem with this mountaintop (or elephant-and-blind-men) analogy is that analogies don’t prove a point, they only illustrate it. While analogies may be powerful, they may only illustrate false, misleading ideas.2
In fact, a Christian could just as easily conceive of an analogy which “proves” the truthfulness of the Christian faith:
Let’s switch the analogy: If Jesus is truly unique, maybe the world’s religions are like a maze or labyrinth with one way out; what if God in Christ steps into this maze to help us walk through it?3
This analogy doesn’t prove that Christianity is actually true, does it? Likewise, the religious pluralist must do more than offer illustrations…
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