The Pachyderm Perspective


Universalists view the diverse religions of the world as climbing the same mountain from different paths or as blind men describing an elephant. In an effort to be tolerant of others, Universalists eliminate the differences and focus purely on the superficial similarities of religions. The goal in life must be to climb to the top; but when we ask the people at the top what they see; their perspective is not what we would expect. Each perspective is unique. As they assess the world from the height of their religious achievement, do they all see the same thing? And how has the narrator achieved this privileged position to inform everyone else that all religions climb the same mountain?

ae9bce6e25b84e2466f17865048ef0eaA favorite argument used by Universalists is the parable of the three blind men and the elephant. In this story the three bling men are grasping at different parts of an elephant and explaining what they find. The first blind man grasps the tail of the elephant and concludes that what he feels is a “rope.” The second blind man grasps the elephant’s leg and concludes that what he feels is a “palm tree.” The third blind man feels the elephant’s ear flapping and concludes that it’s a “fan.” Then the narrator says “look they are all correct, they are all describing a single reality from different perspectives, in the same way that all paths lead to God.”

This illustration is often used to present a case for universalism; but I think it’s an excellent example of why universalism fails. Consider that the person telling the story assumes the privileged position of knowing what actually corresponds to the truth of the matter. When the blind men grope around they don’t know they are all touching the same thing. This affirms that all three men are incorrect in their interpretations of the elephant. The fact that they are called blind is quite fitting because they don’t have the author’s perspective concerning their reality.

Without the authors perspective we are simply grasping for truth. We might try to find truth through introspection like a Buddhist or from the world around us like the Hindu or from external sources such as the angelic visitation in Mormonism; all of these are groping for truth because of the limited and un-falsifiable personal perspectives they present.Jesus-Teaching-Multitude-Wallpaper

What makes Christianity unique is that Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to have the author’s perspective. If Jesus is God then I want to know how he sees reality and what his view of the world looks like. I want to know if his view of the world corresponds to the real world with regard to explanatory scope and power. If he made the world, then he will know what the truth is. God, by nature is transcendent and humanity has no hope of reaching God unless he wants to be reached. The resurrection of Jesus is a falsifiable historical claim; this puts Christianity in the lead as a viable source for truth because it is testable.

Universalism might take you for a scenic tour up the mountain but it cannot lead you to a transcendent God or give you the author’s perspective. When we consider the mountain, only the birds-eye view can give you the truth about where all the trails go, saying all paths lead to God is literally putting yourself in the place of God, yet fumbling for truth all the while.


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