Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"One More Way Than I Deserve"

I am convinced this article was written to initiate a God is in the Details blog post:

Christians: No One Path to Salvation

Amazing! I recently had a conversation at my church about the blind men and the elephant analogy; I had another visit from my neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses over the weekend; and then this article crosses my radar on the Yahoo headlines. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I am convicted that God is sequencing the events of my life to allow for fruitful contributions to this blog, which in turn allows for more honor and glory to the name of Jesus Christ. So I humbly submit yet another written perspective over to the Lordship of Christ and ask that He make me decrease and Him increase through this blog and my life in general.

Let’s start with the elephant. On a random note, watch this unimaginable clip of a pride of lions taking down a grown elephant. You heard me. Then go buy and watch the entire Planet Earth video on blu-ray. You won’t regret it.

Yeah, that just happened. Now back to the analogy. First I’ll explain the analogy, and then, with some help, debunk the analogy, because it is just plain silly, even though it at first seems very logical. It goes like this: six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant's body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. A wise man explains to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned." This resolves the conflict, and is used to illustrate the principle of living in harmony with people who have different belief systems, and that truth can be stated in different ways.

Sounds logical, yes? No. Absolute silliness. Why?

Tim Keller: "This illustration backfires on its users. The story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant? How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?"

Justin Taylor: "Who exactly does the wise man—the one with eyes to see—represent? Why, it’s your friend who is telling you the illustration! Once you see that, the charge of arrogance becomes quite softened—for your friend is implying that the whole world is blind except for him, and that only he is enlightened enough to see reality for what it is and that everyone else is blind and mistaken!"

So, in short, don't let anyone intimidate you into believing that there is no absolute truth. There has to be. Saying there isn't is itself stating absolute truth. Its a philosophical way to think about it, but hopefully helpful. Denying the concept of exclusivity, or absolute truth, in general, will not hold up. And, ultimately, everyone has some exclusive claim for truth that they make, even if it is "there is not absolute truth".

The question, then, as Tim Keller asks, is which exclusive claim can create the most loving, inclusive, reconciling, peaceful behavior, and ultimate hope for mankind? Which exclusive claim leads you to humble yourself before people who don't believe what you believe and are hostile to you? Which exclusive claim provides a hope that is not escape from the current world or our current bodies, but redemption of the world and resurrection of our bodies?

The answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The ultimate reality became visible in a man who lived a sinless life, preached and performed sight for the blind, relief for the oppressed, rest for the weary, and life for the dead; was sent to a cross, was killed for those who persecuted him, and rose again conquering sin and death and accomplishing for us reconciliation to the God of the Universe. Christianity just makes more sense than all the rest. And as Mark Driscoll says, "The Bible is not just true. It is really, really helpful." What other exclusive truth claim is that?

Other helpful quotes on the reality and defense of absolute truth and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation:

Ravi Zacharias: "If the human spirit is to survive and every legitimate discipline to find fruitful expression, truth cannot be sacrificed at the altar of pretended tolerance. All religions, plainly and simply, cannot be true. Some beliefs are false, and we know them to be false. So it does no good to put a halo on the notion of tolerance as if everything could be equally true. To deem all beliefs equally true is sheer nonsense for the simple reason that to deny that statement would also, then, be true. But if denial of the statement is also true, then all religions are not true. In the real-life struggles between right and wrong, justice and injustice, life and death, we all realize that truth does matter. Jesus Christ repeatedly talked about the supreme value of truth."

Mark Driscoll: "I'd rather have people offended now and blessed later than encouraged now and kindling forever." In other words, if we believe it is true, the most loving thing to do is defend the truth of the exclusivity of Christ at all costs, rather than nonchalantly let Oprah Winfrey and others deliver deception into homes across American leading people to their eternal destruction. If some get angry, so be it. That is better than the alternative.

I hope this was helpful. If you're confused, just watch the video of the elephant and the pride of lions again. That should clear up your perspective.

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