Saturday, August 6, 2011

preaching the whole elephant


Tim Keller, on preaching in a pluralist culture...

About every other week, I confront popular pluralist notions, not with an entire sermon, but with a point here and there.

For example, pluralists contend that no one religion can know the fullness of spiritual truth, therefore all religions are valid. But while it is good to acknowledge our limitations, this statement is itself a strong assertion about the nature of spiritual truth. A common analogy is cited—the blind men trying to describe an elephant. One feels the tail and reports that an elephant is thin and flexible. Another feels a leg and claims the animal is thick as a tree. Another touches its side and reports the elephant is like a wall. This is supposed to represent how the various religions only understand part of God, while no one can truly see the whole picture. To claim full knowledge of God, pluralists contend, is arrogance.

I occasionally tell this parable, and I can almost see the people nodding their heads in agreement.

But then I remind them, "The only way this parable makes any sense, however, is if you've seen a whole elephant. Therefore, the minute you say, 'All religions only see part of the truth,' you are claiming the very knowledge you say no one else has. And you are demonstrating the same spiritual arrogance you accuse Christians of."

(Timothy J. Keller, Interview with CT Leadership, 2002) 

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