Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking.
This is a feel-good story, written to communicate that EVERYONE is right and no one is wrong; we’re all just “different” and have our own perspectives on how we view “Truth.”
However, there is an even larger elephant in the room (or in this case, in the story) that the author does not take into account. THE AUTHOR FAILS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT ONE PERSON TRULY KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT AN ENTIRE ELEPHANT LOOKS LIKE.
British theologian Lesslie Newbigin puts it this way:
In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the wise man, who is not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the wise man were also blind, there would be no story. What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp. But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has.
As Tim Keller further clarifies:
To say, ‘Nobody can make universal truth claims.’ That is a universal truth claim. ‘Nobody can see the whole truth.’ You couldn’t know that unless you think you see the whole truth. And, therefore, you’re doing the very thing you say religious people shouldn’t do.
The point is this: Jesus Christ (in essence) said, “I CAN SEE THE ENTIRE ELEPHANT; I KNOW THE TRUTH.” Actually, He said, “I AM the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life—NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME” (John 14:6).
Is this arrogance for Jesus to say this??? No, because Jesus always spoke the truth (it eventually got Him killed). If Jesus thought being a “good person” were sufficient for someone to be saved, He would have told the rich young ruler—“you know—you’re right. You are a pretty good person. You get MOST of the 10 commandments right; you’ve got nothing to worry about concerning your salvation.”
Yet, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:21-22). The rich young ruler was trying to show Jesus how “good” he was & therefore he “deserved” heaven, but Jesus fingered the man’s “true god”—his money. Jesus was not about to let the man leave thinking, “whatever you believe, as long as you are sincere, then it is okay with God.”
The first commandment is: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” He wasn’t willing to die to himself, take up his cross & follow Jesus. He thought he could “have his cake & eat it, too,” but Jesus wants to be KING and LORD of our lives—not just a casual buddy who winks at the false gods in our lives.
C.S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Jesus did not die & rise from the dead so that we would remain the same people as before He came into our lives. He came to RADICALLY make us different people—ONCE DEAD PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING RESURRECTED LIVES IN THE POWER THAT HE SUPPLIES.
As much as we may want to embrace the TRUTH of the Blind Men & the Elephant story, we cannot do so without abandoning reason. There is ONE truth, and Jesus says unequivocally that HE IS IT!