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The Elephant In Our Spiritual Living Room

One of the most interesting discoveries I have made doing a daily phone in Bible question and answer program is that the questions and even the objections people have concerning faith in Jesus really aren’t new and different.

And if we can prepare ourselves with a simple, accessible, Christ centered answer for those questions, our boldness and effectiveness in sharing our faith will grow by leaps and bounds.

Consider one of the most common objections to Christianity as it is once again revealed in a survey done by the Barna organization.

New research shows that the younger generation in America is less likely to view the Bible as accurate or sacred, but at the same time they are slightly more interested in gaining knowledge about the Bible than older generations.

Based on five separate studies conducted between 2006 and 2009, The Barna Group found that only two out of three Mosaics (adults between the ages of 18 and 25) view the Bible as a sacred or holy book. By comparison, 81 percent of Busters (ages 26 to 44), 89 percent of Boomers (ages 45 to 63), and 90 percent of elders (ages 64 and above) consider the Bible as sacred.

Younger adults also are significantly less likely than older adults to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches. Only 30 percent of Mosaics and 39 percent of Busters strongly agree that the Bible is “totally accurate” in all the principles it teaches. The majority of Elders, however, strongly agree with the statement.

Mosaics also are more likely to hold universal religious beliefs than their elders. The majority of Mosaics believe the Bible teaches the same spiritual truths as other sacred texts while only 4 out of 10 Busters and Boomers, and one-third of Elders feel the same way.

Did you catch two key trends here?

First, the younger generation doubts that the Bible is any more sacred than other religious books.

Second, they feel that the essential message of the Bible is indistinguishable from other religious books.

And while this point of view may be popular with a new generation, it is an ages old objection to faith in Christ.

“Don’t all religions teach the same thing? And where they differ isn’t it just a question of perspective? It’s like the story of the blind men and the elephant – one of them grabbed its trunk and thought it was like a snake. The other grabbed its foot and thought it was like a tree trunk. The other grabbed its tail and thought it was like a rope. They were all partly right. They were just emphasizing different aspects of the same thing. It’s the same way with God. All religions are just emphasizing different aspects of the same thing.”

Well, not to mess with a popular illustration, but…

All religions don’t teach “the same thing.”

Even a basic survey of world religions reveals a series of unresolvable contradictions between their truth claims.

Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism  teach that God is an all-encompassing impersonal oneness – you are God, the chair is God, the stars are God, your cat is God because we are all made up of God.

Western religions like Judaism, Islam and Christianity teach that God is personal and distinct from His creation.

Even among Western religions we see unresolvable conflicts. Judaism and Islam teach that God may be reached by obeying commandments and traditions. Christianity teaches that the only way we can reach God is if God by His grace reaches us first.

But the most unresolvable conflict between world religions is the radical claim of Jesus Christ:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

The second major problem with the blind men and the elephant analogy is assuming that all religions are the product of the limited perspective of people.

Once again, Jesus’ ultimate claim concerning Himself shatters that misconception.

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I
am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:7-11)

Jesus didn’t claim to be a way shower – He claimed to be the way.

Jesus didn’t claim to be a truth teller – He claimed to be the embodiment of truth.

Jesus didn’t claim to be a man who could tell us about God – He claimed to be God in human flesh.

And unlike the founders of other major world religions, He backed up His claim by doing things that only God could do -like rising from the dead in a moment of history.

So the next time someone starts in with the blind men and the elephant analogy, remember to respectfully, yet firmly share that all that might be true if God hadn’t come and spoken to us personally.

And wouldn’t you want to know what He has to say about what it means to know Him in a personal way?

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