(Originally posted prior to my hitting the reset button here at Fire & Hammer.)
In “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” (country of origin said to be India) a group of men try to describe an elephant without actually seeing the animal. Depending on the version, these men are either blind or in a completely dark room. The number of men varies but in each telling of the story the men are able to touch just one small part of a very large creature. Each man comes away with a description based on what he felt on the palm of his hand. Each man decides an elephant is something different based on what they felt; one saying the animal is a pillar, another describing a rope. The men compare notes and wind up getting into an argument. Some cultures say the men get into a fist fight, all be it not a very good one seeing as they are blind. The point of the story is that we all are limited in our view point and thus perceive ‘truth’ relative to our own background.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12
In fact we all are like those blind men. Each of us interprets life and its origins based upon what we see, filtered through our own backgrounds and prejudices. From one vantage point God exists but from another he does not. Some see God as a metaphor while others see a power drawing all life together and still others see a person or persons who wield divine control. We debate gender: Is God he, she, or it? Is he distant or involved with his creation. Each of us has an opinion and, like the blind men with their thoughts on the elephant, we defend those opinions sometimes with great passion.
We passionately judge God. Some say they want no part of God if he is not pro-choice. Some question his love: If God really loves why does he allow _________ (fill in the blank)? We Christians do this as well: “How could God harden Pharaoh’s heart? That’s not fair.” “I lost faith in God because I prayed for him to stop _______ (fill in the blank) from happening and it happened anyway. He must not be real.” But each of these judgments and debates stem from our looking at God through eyes that are accustom to making judgments from our own personal world view.
None of the blind men ask the elephant to describe himself, to give his world view of what it means to be an elephant. Had they done so their faith in what they ‘saw’ with their own hands would have been shattered by the reality of the bigger picture. Truth is only relative when we cannot see or understand all things. The Bible challenges us to see through God’s eyes where we find a world view based on the (absolute) truth. It takes a lifetime of study during which we receive the important answers about life, often seeing our own view of truth shattered and left on the path.
As a metaphor “The Blind Men and the Elephant” serves as a great reminder of why there are so many different beliefs and ways of interpreting life’s ups and downs. Each man was relatively correct in his description yet none was absolutely right. In the end the animal was neither a pillar nor a rope, nor was it any of the other things the men said. It was simply an elephant and their different points of view did not change that fact. We are each entitled to believe whatever we want but our world views do not change the true nature of God nor do they change the true meaning of life.
See also Parts one and two