The blind men and the elephant
the good Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this Book.
But for this Book we could not know right from wrong."
Bible has noble poetry in it ... and some good morals and a wealth of
obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies."
What is truth?
Truth is that which
reflects reality. Truth corresponds to fact, and is consistent with that
which has actually occurred. This is called absolute truth, or the absolute
sense of truth.
Another sense of truth
in the relative sense. This is where an event or statement is judged
to be consistent with someone's perception.
Take, for example, the
statement "the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed on Sept.
11, 2001." That is true in the absolute sense. However, those
who brought them down might argue that the towers were effectively destroyed
years beforehand by America's actions elsewhere in the world. That could
be true in a relative sense; relative to one's perceptions and politics.
Finding relative truth
in a given event is always possible, but it does not mean the absolute sense
of truth no longer applies. On the contrary, some 2,800 people hit the ground
on that fateful Tuesday morning regardless of when the perpetrators swore
themselves to the towers' destruction.
As this pertains to
the Bible, irrespective of how accurate you believe it to be, the Bible
either absolutely does or does not reflect history which has actually occurred.
It either corresponds to reality and fact or it doesn't.
1.2 Equally right or equally wrong?
Everyone who has heard
of the Bible has some kind of opinion on it. There are opinions on whether
or not it's true, or if it's true in either a relative or absolute sense,
etc. Some people believe it to be literal and specific revelation from God.
Others believe the Bible's origin to be less divine and more open to interpretation.
In this world of so many different beliefs about the Bible, one thing is
certain: everyone can't be right. At least some opinions must be wrong.
A classic attempt to
refute the idea of right and wrong, namely absolute truth in regard to religion,
goes as follows: Several blind men are each touching a different part of
an elephant. Trying to determine what they have gathered around, one man
feeling the elephant's leg describes it to be a tree. Another, feeling its
trunk, describes it to be a snake, and so on.
One point to this vignette
is to illustrate that there is no absolute sense of truth regarding religion.
Truth and God are only what you perceive them to be. This is highly misleading.
It's equivalent to saying that both "2+2=3" and "2+2=6" are equally correct.
In reality, neither one is correct. It is more precise to say that each
blind man was equally wrong, not equally right.
Each blind man missed
the objective truth that they were all gathered around an elephant. Within
the analogy itis quite intentional that there is no accommodation for anyone
who might come along and call the elephant an elephant. This is because
the analogy regards truth as either personally unknowable, or considers
the discernment of right from wrong to be more intolerable than contradictions
1.3 Small part of a greater whole
Another point to
the story is that each man possesses only a small part of a greater overall
truth. The blind man who felt the elephant's leg, for instance, made
basically correct observations about the leg's shape and texture. But while
those particular observations may have been accurate, lacking other points
of view the blind man came to the wrong conclusion. The greater truth was
visible only when all the points of view were combined.
When this philosophy
is applied to the Bible, Christianity is reduced to being just one of many
equally valid (or equally mistaken) ways of life.
it then the combining of Christianity with other religions and philosophies
which reveals the supposed greater truth?
Let's follow this thought.
Combining every one
of the world's religions and philosophies has a problem: contradictions.
What one group believes to be true, another group believes to be false.
Hinduism says there are many gods, (strong) atheism says there are no gods,
pantheism says everything is God, new age belief says you and I are God,
Mormonism says you and I can become gods, Scientology says you and I were
(essentially) gods, and Christianity says there is only one triune God.
These differences, as
well many, many others absolutely cannot be reconciled. Therefore the problem
of contradictions precludes the concept of combining religions to arrive
at a non-contradictory description of reality.
we really reject contradictory conclusions on the Bible? Shouldn't we embrace
all different beliefs for the sake of cultural or religious diversity?
We hear this often today.
For instance, if Believer Joe says history happened according to the Bible,
but Unbeliever Mary says it happened a different way, might Moderate Bob
offer the best solution by saying, "To each his own - it happened either
way or both ways"?
No. Shut up, Bob. Asking
whether or not the Bible is an accurate recording of world history is not
like asking which color is the prettiest. Either Joe is wrong, or Mary is
wrong, or they are both wrong. They may each honestly perceive the truth
differently, but wrong perceptions, no matter how honest, do not change
history. In regard to absolute truth, history never allows the impossible
compromise of accepting contradictory outcomes.
The elephant scenario
suggests one more path by which the illusive greater truth might be found.
Instead of addition, we could try subtraction. Is
truth perhaps found, not by embracing all manners of belief, but by getting
rid of everything on which people disagree?
This would mean reducing
the world's ideologies down to the few elements they all share. Once we
eliminate every aspect of existence on which there is disagreement, what
are we left with? Nothing. Actually less than nothing because nihilism is
the philosophy that nothing exists, and that concept would have to be thrown
out, too. So when it comes to explaining human history and existence, it
is easy to see that neither combining ideologies nor reducing them to common
denominators provides us with a rational, practical, provable answer.
It is a logical impossibility
to believe all ideologies, and it is irrational to agree on only the non-nothing
they have in common. Thus our initial assertion still stands that there
exists both correct and incorrect answers.
Even people who say
belief in absolute truth is wrong still have to agree with that. So the
problem then before us is how to discriminate between the possible answers.
Specifically, what analysis of the Bible best reflects
1.7 The Bible
the Bible an accurate portrayal of places, persons and events?
It claims to be not only an accurate reflection of history past, but also
of history yet to come. In response to this, natural skepticism asks, "But
can we believe everything we read in the Bible?"
It is easy to believe
the Bible contains some truth, but it's a very lengthy and very old
collection of writings. It's difficult to accept any book as completely
reliable. Yet it is this improbability that such a book could or would exist
that suggests something very unique.
Emphasizing that the
Bible may indeed have been orchestrated by a truthful and transcendent God
1. the fantastic
degree to which the biblical writings can be proven true, and...
2. the astonishing
inability the Bible's critics have had in over two millennia of seeking
to prove it false.
1.8 The Bible vs. its rivals
The very fact that the
Bible offers itself to readers as a verifiably perfect record of history
is unique in the field of religion; even compared to its most popular rivals.
For instance, Humanism
or Secular Humanism (similar to strong atheism) offers no objective criteria
by which to judge its validity. Julian Huxley founded Humanism specifically
on the belief that all
truth is relative. Hinduism and other Eastern religions
resemble this in believing that there are many ways to God. Major factions
of modern Judaism, like some neo-orthodox Christian churches
and sects, spiritualize the scriptures to the point they believe them to
be true only in the most generalized and figurative ways. (Are those Christian
churches really Christian?)
Islam, too, has
no real empirical test of its own validity. Some Muslims hold that a secret
mathematical encoding of the number nineteen within its Qur'an (in the original
language only) is one of only two confirmations of its truthfulness; mystically
refuting any evidence or discoveries that testify otherwise. The other proof
is that Mohammed said he would one day return to Mecca and did. As for the
many who live under Shariah law, the threat of torture or dismemberment
is their chief proof that no other way of thinking needs to be considered.
1.9 Where that leaves us
In stark contrast to
competing religions and philosophies, the Bible lays itself open for verification
that it contains both literal and figurative truth. The
Bible accurately relates the beginnings of the universe,
and life itself.
The Bible accurately
hundreds prophesied of events that occurred centuries after the human authors
were dead: events impossible to fraudulently manufacture.
divsion of this site in particular explores all these proofs and more in
order to show that the Christian faith is not a blind exercise in futility,
but a well-reasoned intellectual and spiritual assent to the truth of history,
logic, and reality.
NEXT: Is there a God?