Consider the fable of six blind men encountering an elephant for the first time. They have no comprehension of what an elephant is, forming their own understanding based on touch:
- The first, feels the animal’s side and says that an elephant is like a wall
- The second, feels the pachyderm’s legs, declaring it to be like a tree
- The third, touches the animal’s tusks and visualizes a spear.
- The fourth, experiences the flick of the elephant’s tail, envisaging the animal like a rope
- The fifth, encounters the mammal’s ears, stating that an elephant is like a blanket.
- The sixth is touched by the curious animal’s trunk, thinking the elephant is snake-like.
Yes, an elephant is like a wall, a tree, a spear, a rope, a blanket, and a snake. Each is correct, but also incomplete. Even putting them all together provides only are partial caricature of an elephant.
In the same way our word pictures for God as a potter, vine, hen, shepherd, master, father, friend, and lover are also correct, but even more incomplete. Therefore, when we put them all together, we are provided with only are partial caricature of God and our relationship to him.
Nevertheless, these word pictures do allow us to perceive him more fully than before.