This story is then typically applied to theology. God becomes the elephant and the blind men are the various religions. The implication is that each of the religions perceives some aspect of God correctly, but that none of them understand the whole truth. God is bigger and more diverse than any of them perceives. Usually this story is employed to inform all of us who believe we know the truth about God that we need to be humble about our particular theology, understanding that the views of others are just as valid as ours because none of us sees the whole picture.
The most obvious is expressed by former missionary Leslie Newbigin in his book, The Gospel In A Pluralist Society. He wrote that the story “is the immensely arrogant claim of one who sees the full truth which all the world’s religions are only groping after.” In his book, The Reason For God, Tim Keller wrote, “How could you know that each blind man only sees a part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant? How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you, yourself, have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?” How ironic that the person using this story to urge humility and tolerance on other people is himself guilty of great hubris in his demands that all others adhere to his view of theology.
One fundamental error implicit in telling the parable is that it assumes a particular perspective of reality. It claims that human religions are all a matter of human beings using their limited capabilities to comprehend the massive being they sense is out there somewhere. Their comprehension of this being then is limited to what they happen to experience. What if in one case that is not what has happened at all? What if, for instance, an elephant could somehow speak and explain in human language its true nature? Would not its explanation be accurate and true? The Gospel of Jesus Christ never claims to be the conclusions of wise men trying to grope in the darkness to comprehend the nature of the Creator. It claims to be record of that Almighty Creator revealing to humans the truth about himself. And because of that its revelation can be, and I believe in fact is, true and reliable.