The Elephant in the Room: Competing Worldviews and Religions Can’t All Be True


elephant-in-the-roomIn questioning the truth or falsehood of various worldviews, we risk a great deal. Whether we accept Christianity, Islam, Secularism, Marxism, New Spirituality, or Postmodernism, we accept a worldview that describes the others as hopelessly distorted. They cannot all depict things as they really are; their competing claims cannot all be true.

Some people in history have tried to get around the differences between worldviews by telling a parable. Perhaps you’ve heard it: Six blind men come into contact with an elephant. One handles the tail and exclaims that an elephant is like a rope. Another grasps a leg and describes the elephant as a tree trunk. A third feels the tusk and says the animal is similar to a spear, and so on. Since each feels only a small portion of the whole elephant, all six men give correspondingly different descriptions of their experience.

So no one is really right or wrong, you see—we’re all correct in our own way, with our limited knowledge—or so it seems at first glance.

But how do we know the blind men are all touching the same elephant?

The parable assumes that (1) each man can discern only part of the truth about the nature of the elephant, and (2) we know something the blind men don’t—there is a real elephant everyone is touching. The first assumption says no one possesses complete knowledge; the second assumption says we know no one possesses complete knowledge because we know what the elephant (or reality) is really like.

But there’s a contradiction here. On the one hand, the story claims that we—the blind men—have only limited knowledge. But if everyone is blind, no one can know the ultimate shape of the elephant. We need someone who is not blind, someone who knows all truth and communicates it accurately to us. [In Understanding the Times, we do not claim] that non-Christian worldviews are completely false. We can find grains of truth in each. Secularism, for example, does not deny the existence of the physical universe and our ability to know it. Marxism accepts the significance and relevance of science. Postmodernism acknowledges the importance of texts and words. Islam acknowledges a created universe. New Spiritualists teach there is more to reality than matter. And all five non-Christian worldviews, to one extent or another, understand the importance of “saving” the human race.

However, a major dividing line separates non-Christian worldviews from Christianity: what do you do with Jesus Christ?

Christianity views Jesus Christ as the true and living Way. He is the key to reality itself. Early Christians were known as members of The Way. All other major worldviews besides Christianity reject Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and King. Some deny that he ever existed. This is too big of a difference to overlook.

Who is Jesus? Did Jesus Christ live on this earth two thousand years ago? Was he God in flesh? Did he come to earth to reveal God’s will for us and to save the human race from sin? These are important questions. As Paul points out, Christianity lives or dies on the answers: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).

The elephant in the room is that competing worldviews and religions can’t all be true.

This is an excerpt from Understanding the Times by Jeff Myers and David Noebel, available in Summit’s bookstore.