The Blind Men and the Elephant

A popular parable for the relativist is called The Blind Men and the Elephant.  This parable tells the story of several blind men who touch an elephant in different spots and make completely different conclusions about what it is.  One feels its side and thinks it’s like a wall; another feels its trunk and thinks it’s like a snake; another feels its ears and thinks it’s like a fan, and so on.  This parable shows that each men has part of the truth, but not the whole truth.  This might be used to argue that different religions have part of the truth about God, but not the whole truth, so no one can claim to have the full truth while others are completely wrong.  It’s narrow and intolerant to do such a thing, they claim.  Here’s a video of the story being narrated:

However, there’s several things wrong with using this parable to espouse that view.

First, this story is simply an illustration, not an argument. It only gives you a picture of the view the person is trying to express, not an argument for it.

Second, each religion explicitly teaches contradictory doctrines.  Christianity says you live one life, while Hinduism claims that you live many lives.  They cannot both be right.  Christianity also teaches that Jesus is God, whereas Islam says He was merely human.  Again, if one is true, the other must be false.  That’s just simple logic.

Third, this illustration doesn’t espouse relativism, because there IS an elephant and the elephant IS there. That’s an objective fact, we just don’t know the whole.

Fourth, and this is important, I’d want to ask the person telling the story “Who are you in this story?” Is he one of the blind men? If so, then how does he know this is true? He’s just as blind as the rest of us! Is he the sighted man? If so, how did he get there? How did he rise above our blindness and get an objective view of reality? Why is it that he knows the whole truth and no one else does? It’s more likely that this person is just as “blind” as we are.

Third, in the Christian worldview, Jesus is the sighted man that comes and tells us what the elephant truly is. This illustration may actually be a good parable for Christianity!

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