(The following short fiction is an analogous story comparing how western religions come to the conclusions they do about Scripture)
There was once a man named Francis. Francis really loved birds, especially cardinals. He decided to organize a community event to go bird-watching at the national park nearby, all in the hopes of finding a cardinal.
He posted a sign-up list in the community center, and a week later checked the list. He recognized all three names.
First on the list was Calvin. This was uncomfortable. Francis and Calvin were once very good friends. They hadn’t spoken in years however, due to serious disagreements.
To make matters worse, the only other name on the sign-up sheet was a man named Joseph. Joseph moved to town only a few years prior. He knew both Calvin and Francis. Originally, Joseph was not fond of them. But to both Francis and Calvin’s bewilderment, Joseph slowly began to establish a friendship with them. Francis and Calvin resisted. Even after the fallout, they did not like the newcomer. Joseph was convinced he fit in very well with the two, but Francis and Calvin never agreed.
Francis, Calvin, and Joseph made up a bird-watching team, along with “Park Ranger Pete.” Park Ranger Pete is one of Francis’ closest friends, and it was not hard to convince him to tag along with Francis. Pete was very old, but claimed to have spent most of his adult life as a park ranger, back before Francis or Calvin lived there.
The four of them had an unexpected goof. As they set out to the national park, they forgot that particular day was a national holiday, so the park was closed. They then had the idea to head to Richard’s property.
Richard was someone very new in town. He was extremely wealthy, and he actually purchased five acres of the national park land after finding out the federal government was looking to sell it. The bird-watching expedition thought Richard’s beautiful land would work, seeing how it was previously national park property.
They approached Richard’s place and were pleased to find him home. After letting them in, Richard gave them permission to walk around and look for birds. He decided to join them since he didn’t have anything better to do, although he told them over and over again that he had never seen any cardinals since moving there. In fact, although Richard was an overall pleasant person, he mocked the idea of bird-watching. He found it an antiquarian hobby that didn’t have much use anymore.
With the crisis averted, all five men set out on the relatively small plot of land looking for cardinals. After about half an hour of walking, they collectively noticed a group of four birds about one hundred yards away. The birds were perched on one branch, and the hill the men stood on gave them a direct line of site unhindered by trees. While they were clearly birds, at a distance, no one could quite tell if they were cardinals.
First to chime in was Richard, the land-owner. He squinted his eyes, and immediately dismissed the possibility of the birds as cardinals. He immediately broke into a diatribe about how he had no good reason to even believe cardinals lived on his land, reminded everyone that he’s never seen a single cardinal since living there. Richard then asked if it was almost time to call it quits.
Joseph nearly interrupted him due to his overwhelming excitement. Joseph was convinced all four birds were cardinals. He said he knew this because he could “just feel it.” Something inside him told him that they were all cardinals. Joseph became discouraged the rest did not feel the same way.
After Joseph shared his thoughts, Francis consulted his friend, Park Ranger Pete. Although there were some in town who doubted that Pete actually worked as a park ranger, Francis believed his friend. Though Park Ranger Pete was old and his vision was not as youthful as it once was, he was convinced that two of the birds were cardinals. He remembered seeing them often, and he thought the two on the left were cardinals.
Appealing to his companion’s expertise, Francis was thoroughly convinced that those two birds were cardinals. For Francis, Park Ranger Pete’s opinion settled the matter. He believed he had seen two cardinals, and called it a successful day.
Last to say anything was Calvin. Calvin too saw the birds, but he was not yet convinced any of them were cardinals. So he took off his pack, pulled out a set of binoculars, and pointed them toward the fuzzy perch dwellers. Upon examination through his binoculars, he declared one of the birds to be a cardinal.
“How do you know?” The others asked him after hearing his opinion differed from Francis, Joseph, and Richard.
“Well,” Calvin replied, “the other three birds are dark brown. The bird in the middle however is bright red, and it his a pointy head, one that is not rounded like the others. Plus, the area around his eyes are dark black, like he is wearing a mask.”
The traveling companions all agree to disagree, and parted their own ways.