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Don’t All Religions Incorporate Truth?
ALEX ASKS, ROGER RESPONDS
Hey, Roger, you say that you’re a Christian. Isn’t it true that you Christians claim to have a corner on the truth?
Well, Alex, if by a ‘corner on the truth’ you mean that Christians claim to know that which is absolutely true about who we are and the purpose for which we are here, yes, I suppose that you could say that we claim to have a corner on the truth. Certainly we believe that differing world views reflecting contradictory information about the same subjects at the same time and in the same relationship could not all be true.
Well, claiming that you know everything that’s absolutely true about life strikes me as being very arrogant and intolerant.
Now wait a minute, Alex. Christian do not claim to know everything that there is to know about life. Dr. Millard Erickson once said that for Christians to claim that there is such a thing as absolute truth is not at all the same as to say that we understand all truth absolutely. What Christians do say is that two or more contradictory views about a subject can’t all be right. And we believe that the Bible represents the correct view on all subjects pertaining to human existence. But that’s really being no more arrogant or intolerant than for someone to say that 1 + 1 = 2 and not 3. Is a man being intolerant to insist on that? Of course not.
But don’t all religions of the world incorporate at least some truth?
Well, I suppose that’s possible. But all poisons incorporate chemicals. So what? Cyanide, for example, contains hydrogen, and hydrogen can be an extremely valuable chemical. But the way that hydrogen is combined in the chemical compound that we call cyanide makes it deadly. Most folks realize that cults like those of Jim Jones and David Koresh are deadly. But they fail to see the danger in other more common, widespread, non-Christian religious systems.
Well, I once heard that all of the great world religious traditions are like three blind men who are attempting to describe different aspects of the same elephant. What do you think about that?
Keith E. Johnson of the Great Lakes Regional Office of Campus Crusade for Christ in Indianapolis IN says this in response to the metaphor that you cite: “As appealing as this story is, it leaves one important question unanswered – how do we know the blind men were all describing the same elephant? What if the first blind man, while holding an oak tree said, ‘I think an elephant is like the trunk of a great tree.’ Imagine the second blind man, while holding a fire hose exclaimed, ‘No, you’re wrong; an elephant is like a snake.’ What if the third blind man, while touching the side of the Sears Tower asserted, ‘I think you are both wrong; an elephant is like a great wall.’ The critical problem with this story is that it assumes the very thing it allegedly proves – that all the blind men are touching an elephant. Yet how do we know the blind men are touching an elephant? Only because the story assumes it. To take it a step further, what if each of the blind men made assertions about an (alleged) elephant which were not merely different, but contradictory? Would it still be plausible to believe that they are all describing the same elephant? How much contradiction would be required in their accounts before it would become obvious that they were not describing the same elephant? A similar question can be asked of the claim that all paths lead to the same destination. How do we know all paths lead to the same destination? In light of the conflicting truth claims of various religions it does not seem rational to believe that (at) all.”