Titanic: A Lesson for Today

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Titanic. The name has conjured up powerful images and emotions for decades. Dozens of books and several major films have recounted her tragic story. The latest movie, Titanic, is well on its way to becoming the top-grossing film of all time.

Although April 14 marks the 86th anniversary of her sinking, we are still fascinated by her story. The magnitude of the disaster seems unthinkable: More than 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives in the icy North Atlantic while only 705, mostly women and children, were saved.

Many of us have heard the “what if” questions: What if the ship’s lookouts had seen the iceberg in time to turn and avoid it? What if Titanic had struck the iceberg at a different angle? (Had she hit head on, the ocean liner would have been severely damaged, but likely would have survived.) What if Titanic had heeded the warnings of ice in the area and slowed down rather than continuing her course at top speed? What if she had carried enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew? What if the Californian, only 10 miles from the dying Titanic, had heard her frantic distress calls? ( Californian’s radio operator was apparently fast asleep while the disaster unfolded.)

Perhaps part of our grim fascination with the doomed ocean liner is the profound sense of unease it creates in us. After all, Titanic had everything going for her. She was likened to a luxurious floating palace, one equipped with the most advanced engineering and safety features of her day. Her captain was one of the most respected and experienced men in the White Star fleet, making one last voyage before his planned honorable retirement. It shouldn’t be surprising that before she set sail, one of her crewmen boasted, “God Himself could not sink this ship!”

Titanic was so magnificent that the White Star Line’s managing director made it a point to join her on her maiden voyage. Some of the wealthiest men in the world chose her to travel from Europe to the United States. Several hundred less-wealthy passengers in the third-class section looked forward to building a new life in a new country.

But it was not to be.

History shows that a series of small errors and miscalculations compounded to create catastrophe. Everything that could go wrong did. The best of human intentions, engineering skills and construction methods proved powerless to avert disaster. Man and woman, rich and poor, young and old alike met a common fate.

This issue briefly recounts Titanic’s tragic tale. But it also asks an urgent question: Are there lessons we should learn from this catastrophe?

As we approach the turn of the millennium, there is rising interest in what the future holds for planet Earth-as well there should be. Although the Bible makes no connection between the year 2000 and Christ’s return, its prophecies have much to say about the end of this age of man and the dawn of a new age to come. Several articles in this issue explore that theme in considerable detail.

The Bible makes it clear that although we cannot know the exact time of events prophesied to come, we nonetheless have a distinct spiritual obligation and responsibility. In Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×
, after describing the earth-shaking events that would precede His return, Jesus Christ warns His followers: “But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (New American Standard Bible, emphasis added throughout).

He tells us to be vigilant in getting and keeping our spiritual house in order that we might be prepared for that time. “Be on guard , that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that da y [of Christ’s return] come on you suddenly like a trap ; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth ” (verses 34-35, NASB).

Let us not be like the ill-fated Titanic , racing forward in the darkness while ignoring the signs of danger gathering around us.

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