Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    The Pluralist and the Elephant

    The pluralistic view of God is a backwards attempt to make man the ultimate authority. For example, the pluralist will argue that God is simply too big for the finite human mind to comprehend. Of course, this is a self-defeating argument, for if it were true, we would have no way of know it to be true, since that "bigness" of God would be a attribute that our "finite human minds" could not comprehend. While there is some truth in that statement (we can never know everything about God), we are responsible for knowing that which God Himself has revealed to us (Deut. 29:29). Oddly enough, however, it is the finite human mind and it's subjective experiences that become the ultimate authority that the pluralist uses to approach God, even if each approach is different or even contradictory.

    This can be illustrated by the ancient Hindu tale of the blind men and the elephant in a room. In order to determine what is in the room with them, the blind men resort to their sense of touch. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is a tree trunk; the one who feels the tail says it is a rope; the one who feels the trunk says it is a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says it is a fan; the one who feels the belly says it is a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is a solid pipe.

    The pluralistic assumption is that all of the men are correct. They based their view of the elephant on what they had experienced. This tale is set before Christians as a lesson that all religions are correct in their approach to God, but none of them can fully grasp Him.

    There are two main flaws in this argument. First, the assumption is that all of the men are correct is false. The fact of the matter is that all of the blind men were wrong. Thus applied to religion, pluralism is tantamount to atheism, since the only way all religions can be equal and valid is if they are all wrong. Second, it is based in a denial that God has revealed Himself. This is precisely what Christianity holds. The "elephant" has proclaimed what he is, and gave the blind men eyes to see him.

    "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)

    3 comments:

    swordbearer said...

    Good post!

    Gene Brode said...

    Tim Keller has stated something to the effect that for the one who says that there is no one way to God, he is putting himself above all others in his arrogance. He is saying that he knows more than the next person because he supposedly has the knowledge that "all religions lead to God." It sounds like a noble argument, but it is an error.

    swordbearer said...

    Keller's right on target! Thanks for posting this.