Friday, February 5, 2010

Lessons from an elephant story

News update: we traveled to Chimaltenango yesterday (Thursday). Now we're here at GBS, the seminary, established in our own rooms. Tonight the GBS students/faculty did a little welcome celebration for us, which was pretty fun. It's been nice to see people that I know from last year.

Two people got their bags slashed on the bus from Antigua to Chimal: one lost her wallet w/some money and drivers' license, the other didn't lose anything, just has a hole in his bag now.

This weekend is mostly cultural experiences for the students. They're all optional for me, so I can either have a busy weekend or a quiet one. We visit our ministry site as a team on Monday to meet with the pastor and plan our first ministry weekend. You can be praying that it goes well, as none of us are fluent in Spanish.

Now I'm sure that you're wondering what the elephant story is about. For one of my classes I'm reading a book called "The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society." In the beginning of the book, Lesslie Newbigin shows us how we often look at the story of the blind men and the elephant from the wrong angle. Here's the section:

“There is an admirable air of humility about the statement that the truth is much greater than any one person or any one religious tradition can grasp. The statement is no doubt true, but it can be used against the truth when it is used to neutralize any affirmation of the truth. How does the speaker know that the truth is so much greater than this particular affirmation of it—For example, that “Jesus Christ is the truth”? What privileged access to reality does he have? In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant, so often quoted in the interests of religious agnosticism, the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of the truth. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmation of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind there would be no story. The story is told by the king, and it is the immensely arrogant claim of one who sees the full truth which all the world’s religions are only groping after. It embodies the claim to know the full reality which relativizes all the claims of the religions and philosophies.”
- Pages 9-10, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, Lesslie Newbigin

No comments: