There is an old known as “the Blind Men and the Elephant.” In this story, there are 4 blind men who are asked to determine what an elephant looks. The first blind man feels the leg of the elephant and says, “The elephant is like a tree because it is large and round like a pillar.” The second man feels the tail and says, “The elephant is like a rope because it is small and coarse.” The third man feels the ear and says, “The elephant is like a fan because it is flat and thin.” The fourth man feels the trunk and says, “The elephant is like a snake because it is long and curves.”
A king comes to the 4 blind men and says, “all of you are correct.” The king goes on to explain that each one had drastically different descriptions of the elephant because they are all feeling different parts. So, they are all correct. The elephant has all the features described by the 4 blind men.
This story is used by several religions such as Jain, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even some forms of Islam. The purpose of the story is to resolve what conflict between those with differing belief systems about God. In the analogy, the elephant is God and the blind man is to represent each of us in our attempt to describe the unseen.
There is only one problem with the story. The 4 blind men are not all right, as the king declares, but all wrong. The elephant is not like a tree, a rope, a fan, or a snake. The elephant is wholly other than all of those things. So it is with God. It is not as though all religions are describing different aspects of the same thing, but failing to describe what God actually is. Sure, they may have aspects of truth described, but the blind men will always fall short in their descriptions. And, since we are all blind, we will never be able to tell which descriptions are correct and which ones are not.
But, what if there was a fifth man who came on the scene? But, the fifth man was different. What if the fifth man was not blind, but could see clearly? He could tell us that it is not a tree, a rope, a fan, or a snake, but an elephant. We would trust that man’s knowledge of the elephant above all 4 of the blind men. The fifth man could help us, as blind men, to rightly describe the elephant. Jesus is the fifth man.
While our unaided descriptions of God will fall as short as a blind man’s description of an elephant, Jesus has given us knowledge of God. Jesus is the only one who has the ability to give a trustworthy description because He is God.