ElephantLong ago in Sophomore English class, I often wondered if I would ever use some of the bizarre poetry and literature we poor young minds were forced to slog through. Well, younger self (if you’re reading this through some sort of time warp), today is one of those days.

John Godfrey Saxe’s poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant“, which is based on an older Indian legend, tells a story of six blind men who encounter an elephant. The first one feels the side of the elephant and claims that the elephant is like a big wall. The second one feels its tusk and says, no, it is like a spear. The third one feels its tail and says that an elephant is like a snake. And so on… The jist of the story (I really was listening, Mrs. B!) was that the elephant was too big for any one man to comprehend, and that the collective view of the elephant was much closer to right than the individual viewpoints of the elephant.

Having read recent discussions over on the group blog I manage dealing with Pelagius, semipelagianism, monergism, synergism, open theism, and mixtures of -isms from the practical folk who don’t talk in -isms, I am drawn back to this analogy for a number of reasons, but primarily to to the nature of God and Time.

The Characters in the Story

Most churches in modern Christianity would agree that God is the Creator of time and space, and that He is not bound by them. This is summed up in His name. I AM. So, in my use of this story, God and his relationship with time comprise the ‘elephant’.

We humans, God’s created beings, are bound three dimensions of space and a half of one dimension of time (we experience it in one direction). Therefore, it is literally impossible for us to create a frame of reference in which we can completely understand time. (If you do not believe this, imagine that you lived in a two-dimensional world and you had to explain thickness.) In this story, we are the blind men.


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This entry was posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2007 at 11:44 am and is filed under Christian Living, Commentary, Linked Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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6 Comments(+Add)

1   Henry (Rick) Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
August 3rd, 2007 at 11:55 am

Chris – let me repeat what I wrote on FTA. This is what happens when finite men attempt to unravel infinite myteries as if they had complete and personal revelations. There is never an admission of uncertainty because as with the SAT’s all questions must be answered.

Like viewing the majesty of the Alps and then using algebra to communicate them to someone, much of the verbal descriptions of the sacred mystery of the workings of God’s Spirit not only lacks any sense of awe, they boast of much that they actually know not of.

I believe I have more to learn than when I was first saved because much of what I learned must be relearned.

2   amy    
August 3rd, 2007 at 12:03 pm

I’m really confused – am I commenting on this article before or after I’ve read it?

3   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 3rd, 2007 at 12:10 pm


I think the answer is ‘yes’ ;)

4   Sandy    
August 3rd, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Is there a website that has a concise, laymans deffintion of these terms with scriptural references? Honestly, up until a few month ago I though “armenian” had something to do with a state in Turkey. Kind of like when I moved to Louisiana and couldn’t understand everyone’s obsession with Angola, only to discover it was the state prison, not the African nation.

5   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
August 3rd, 2007 at 1:34 pm


They’re not terribly concise, but I usually start on wikipedia and then fan out to the references from there…

6   keith    
August 3rd, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Sandy: Handy reference tool here. Also available at Christianbook.com