God and Elephants

I commend to your attention the newest article by Todd Wilken in the Issues, Etc. Journal.


So, regarding our natural knowledge of God and our spiritual blindness, the elephant story also has a point. In fact, we’re worse off than blind men when it comes to knowing God. But this is where the story goes wrong. It assumes that we gain knowledge of God by examination. We don’t. Christian knowledge of God isn’t gained by examining the attributes of God; it is given by revelation. God doesn’t reveal himself as a composite of individual observable attributes. He reveals himself in the Incarnation, in the
person and work of Jesus Christ.

To rightly understand Christian theology, consider this twist on the story: what if the elephant could talk? In the elephant story,
what would happen if the elephant weren’t the passive object of the blind men’s examination? What if the elephant could talk and tell the blind men exactly what and who he is? This is why the elephant story ultimately fails as a critique of Christianity.  Christianity claims to have heard from the elephant himself. Christianity asserts that the elephant has spoken and revealed himself to blind men. Christianity asserts that the unknowable God has made himself known, that the unseen God has revealed himself, that the spiritually blind are made able to see, and that those unable to know God are given knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. For Christianity, the elephant is Jesus. But unlike the elephant in the story, Jesus doesn’t just stand there as the passive object of our examination. Rather, he speaks and acts to reveal himself to us. And, when Jesus reveals himself, he reveals God. …

Jesus himself [like the Trinity] is no analogy. Contrary to what many Christians think, Jesus did not come to reveal what God is like; he came to reveal God himself. To see Jesus is to see God. To touch Jesus is to touch God. To hear Jesus is to hear God. Not only is no analogy necessary, any analogy would be an implicit denial of Jesus’ divinity. Does Jesus use analogies to describe God’s work to save sinful mankind? Yes, we call them “parables.” But Jesus is no parable; he’s God. This means that Jesus’ death is no analogy either. Again, contrary to what many Christians think, Jesus’ death is not some grand object lesson, pointing us to something else. It is not a mere demonstration of God’s love; it is God’s love. It is not God showing us how much he loves us; it is God loving us. To put it in philosophical terms, Jesus’ death doesn’t signify something else; Jesus’ death is the thing itself.

Pr. Winterstein


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