Many people entertain religious pluralism (distinct from religious tolerance), and believe all religions are viable pathways to the divine.

The blind men and an elephant

The Parable

The parable of the blind men and an elephant is often used to justify belief in religious pluralism. The parable, which comes from the Indian subcontinent, involves blind men who grasp various parts of an elephant and differ wildly in their description of the elephant.

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable". So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said "This being is like a thick snake". For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant, "is a wall". Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

Excerpted from Wikipedia (Link)

Interpretation by religious pluralists

Those who adhere to religious pluralism interpret the parable as representing how each major religion could either be an equally true part of the same truth or true for some while untrue for others.

Fallacious assumptions:

  • The interpretation assumes that contradictory claims to absolute truth can either be harmonized or dismissed as relative truths. In doing so, it fails to acknowledge that the former is impossible and that the latter is absurd.

  • The interpretation assumes that adherents of each major religion remain stationary and are permanently blinded to the entire truth. In doing so, it fails to acknowledge that people can actively pursue truth, and in the Christian worldview have their eyes opened to see the entire truth through special revelation.

Valid assumptions:

  • The interpretation assumes the existence of a higher objective truth by acknowledging that there is indeed an elephant rather than a rope or a wall. However, it should be noted that a religious pluralist has no reason to assume this.

Unadmitted assumption:

  • The interpretation should assume that objective truth is prone to misinterpretation through blinded, subjective experiences by acknowledging that the blind men had accepted false understandings of what it was they were grasping.

False tolerance versus the truth

Unfortunately, many people are content with their false understanding of reality, which begs the question of whether or not truth really matters to them. It really boils down to the fact that many people value a false conception of tolerance more than they value truth.

John 14:6 makes it clear that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He not merely a way, a truth, and a life. Absolute truth claims are exclusive by nature, so if He is the truth then there is no truth apart from that which proceeds from Him.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6, NASB)

Only the truth gives freedom from sin

In John 8:31-36, Jesus says that those who abound in His word will know the truth, and the truth will make them free.

Interestingly, the Jews replied that they had never been enslaved to anyone and that they didn’t need to be set free. However, the Jews were historically enslaved by the Egyptian Empire, the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Grecian Empire, and at the time were under the Roman Empire. This exemplifies how easily people can believe a lie when they’re trying to protect themselves from the truth. Religious pluralism is one such lie that many believe in to protect themselves from the truth

Jesus’ point was not that kind of enslavement in any case, and He clarifies His point by telling them that they were slaves of sin. Earlier in the passage, Jesus says the truth sets people free, and here He then proceeds to say the Son sets people free. Jesus claimed to be the truth on multiple occasions. When we put down our guard against the truth, we can allow the person of truth to set us free.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36, NASB)