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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is God the Sun?


Today, I'd like to share a rather profound short story called "The Coffee House of Surat." It was written Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author.

In this short story, a collection of various travelers and nationalities converge in a coffee house in Surat, India. Among those gathered is a theologian turned atheist, a heathen slave, a Brahmin, a Jewish broker, and Catholic missionary, a Protestant minister, a Turkish Muslim, and a host of other nationalities and believers.

 After ordering a drink, the atheist looked at his slave and asked him if he believed in God. Without any hesitation, the slave said he believed in God and quickly pulled out a small, wooden idol that he had carried with him since he was a child.

 “There," said he, "that is the God who has guarded me from the day of my birth. Every one in our country worships the fetish tree, from the wood of which this God was made."

It was as though the small wooden idol were a detonator in a place filled with explosives. In a matter of minutes, the once quiet coffee house erupted into a heated debate about the true nature of God, with Catholics arguing with Jews, Protestants arguing with Catholics, and Muslims arguing with Protestants.

At some point during the debate, the believers turned to a Chinaman, and asked for his opinion about the true nature of God. The Chinaman, a student of Confucius, had been quietly listening to the conversation in a corner of the room.

After a thoughtful pause, the Chinaman spoke to them in a calm voice. “Sirs, it seems to me that it is chiefly pride that prevents men agreeing with one another on matters of faith.” He then compared their religious debate to one he had heard earlier.

A man had gone blind after studying and staring at the sun for too long. Because he could no longer see the light, the blind man argued that there was no longer any sun. When the blind man said this to his slave, the slave held up his lamp: “I know what light is. This is my sun.”

At this, a lame man laughed and state that the sun was a ball of fire that came out of the water and hid behind the mountains of their island every day. A fisherman countered the lame man by saying that the sun didn’t hide behind the mountains. It went into the water on the other side of the island.

It wasn’t long before everyone else began to argue about the true nature of the sun. Some claimed the sun was a deity with a life of its own, while others said that it was an orb that rotated around the earth. 

Once he finished relating his experience, the Chinaman offered these words: "The higher a man's conception of God, the better will he know Him. And the better he knows God, the nearer will he draw to Him, imitating His goodness, His mercy, and His love of man. Therefore, let him who sees the sun's whole light filling the world, refrain from blaming or despising the superstitious man, who in his own idol sees one ray of that same light. Let him not despise even the unbeliever who is blind and cannot see the sun at all."