elephant
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Argument: Four blind men stumble upon an elephant. Each man begins to grope around in order to understand what exactly it is: one man examines the tail, another, the trunk, another, a front leg, etc. After a while, they reach their conclusions and begin to describe their respective impressions. The one who examined the tail says it is a snake. The one who examined the front leg says it is a tree trunk, and so on. Evidently, each man gives a different answer, and, yet, each in his own way is quite accurate and correct, at least from a limited perspective.

This analogy is a favorite of those who try to democratize the various religions of the world, leveling them as if each one is as valuable or as “accurate” as the next, as long as it helps a man get to God. Each one speaks differently and argues for certain lifestyles, worship forms, practices, and so on. However, even when their conclusions are radically divergent, each man is doing his honest best to describe the same elephant, or – analogously – the same God. This argument attempts to equalize all religions and to judge them as each being “true”.


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Response:

1. Let’s start with the facts. The elephant is a fact and so is God. To the question does the elephant exist?, there is a right and a wrong answer. The same can be said for the question regarding God’s existence. It would be absurd if one of the blind men said “In my opinion, there is no elephant.”  (He just examined it! Of course there’s an elephant!)  Thus, not all opinions are “equal” or “true.”

2. Our knowledge of God is indeed limited. From one point of view, the argument is an interesting one because it emphasizes the greatness of God, his infinite nature. Being finite creatures, evidently we are unable to grasp or exhaust who God is with our ideas or religious beliefs. For example, when speaking of God, who is one nature, and – at the same time – three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), we can’t help but remain in awe at the greatness of the mystery.  We can approximate and hint at God in our human language and concepts, but we recognize these only take us so far.


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3. Unfortunately, the blind men aren’t just limited, they are also wrong. If the argument proves anything, more than proving that all religions are correct, it proves that they are all equally wrong. The elephant is certainly not a snake o a tree stump, etc.  There is a fullness there, that is not identifiable by one limited angle of perspective, or by one blind man’s unreliable impression, or even by a conglomeration of four different, limited impressions.

4. The blind men are, precisely that, blind. What might happen if a fifth man were to come along, a man who was not blind like the first four? The argument completely ignores the possibility of Revelation. As Catholics, we believe that God reveals himself in created realities (CCC 54), through the Covenants (CCC 56-64), and, ultimately, in Christ Jesus, “Mediator and fullness of all Revelation” (CCC 65-67).

We believe that, in “descending down from Heaven” (Jn 3:13), Christ came to reveal realities about the nature of God which men could not, in our blindness, have possibly known except by the aid of such an extraordinary event.  He was, indeed, the ultimate bodily revelation of who God is.

History itself (and not just what we have from Christian historians) reliably informs us that a man named Jesus walked the earth teaching and preaching in Palestine and Judea.  Ultimately Jesus became such a disturbance to the Jewish and Roman powers that be, that they tortured him and put him to death.

So if we accept the factual premise that Jesus lived (after all, that much is factually conceded by atheists and believers of non-Christian faiths), then we are faced with three options regarding who Jesus was, one of which must be true: He was either a crazy man, a liar, or he was who he said he was: God.

The choice is up to each of us, but, living as we do after the life of Christ, we can no longer speak of equally partial truths when one has said:

I am the way, the truth and the light (Jn 14:6).

This article was used as a reference.