The Titanic Illustrates Spiritual Apostasy
by Richard Mansel
How does a Christian leave the Lord? Is it with a great noise, or with a whisper?
Do we move from the arms of God with great gallops or stunted steps? In truth, it happens in moments, with doubts, sighs and knowing nods. Incrementally, we steal away. Let us see how.
Apostasy is leaving God for other fields and voices. It is an omnipresent possibility amidst the ravages of the spiritual wars (Ephesians 6:10-17). As a realistic danger along our Christian walk, we never grow immune to its allure (Hebrews 2:1).
In Christ, we are safe from apostasy. Paul wrote:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
Nevertheless, the Ephesians were warned that they had “left their first love” (Revelation 2:4, NKJV). Demas left Paul’s mission for God because he “loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). For whatever reason, we can decide that we no longer wish to be in Christ, and we can walk away, facing our doom.
When we depart, we leave behind the spiritual wreckage of our lives and examples (Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31). We must remain continually alert to its threat.
The story of the Titanic is larger than life and it yields several lessons that illustrate how apostasy occurs.
The majesty of the Titanic was unparalleled in its day. The ship was 882 feet long and 175 feet tall. While it weighed in at 25,000 tons, an iceberg lurking in the north Atlantic sealed its fate on April 15, 1912 and 1,523 people lost their lives.
The world stood in awe as some of the world’s wealthiest people purchased tickets for its maiden voyage. Yet, their perceived invincibility failed to keep them warm amidst the frozen waters.
The profile of destruction includes the following lessons.
First, pride doomed the Titanic. Hailed as the ship that not even God could sink, it nonetheless broke apart and slipped beneath the icy waters. They thought their abilities as engineers were beyond reproach. However, their giddiness was misplaced.
The effrontery of the Titanic’s builders resembled the construction of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). In their pride, they deemed to build a tower to the heavens. The story takes an amusing turn when the text says that God “came down” to see what they were doing. Their efforts were so pathetic that it was as if God had to get closer to see something so small and insignificant.
As a Christian, we have two dangers in relation to pride. First, we can think that we are such a strong Christian that we cannot fall. We have it all together. Satan waits for such moments to pounce.
King Hezekiah received fifteen extra years of life by the hand of God and in the process went from a humble servant to a vain man bragging of his exploits (2 Kings 20). When Isaiah prophesied that trouble would come to his descendants, he said, “The word of the Lord is good! Will there not be peace and truth in my days?” (2 Kings 2:19).
Since the punishment would not come in his day, he didn’t care.
During these years of vanity, Manasseh was born. He became one of the most evil kings God’s people ever had. Hezekiah’s pride and selfishness lived on to bear poisonous fruit.
Second, we can think that sin can actively coexist in our lives and we will not be lead away from God. Both are exceedingly naïve. God warned, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, [a]nd his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, [a]nd his feet not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27-28).
God warns, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18) and he “who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). We must heed these warnings before it’s too late.
The builders of the Titanic were remiss in several areas and doomed the mighty vessel to the bottom of the ocean. Their failures mimic our steps to apostasy. Their lessons are ours as we discover how Christians leave the Lord (Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31).
First, their pride doomed the ship because they failed to develop contingency plans since they falsely believed, “that not even God Himself could sink this ship.” We face equal peril when we believe we are immune from apostasy.
Second, the self-righteous pride of the engineers and owners of the Titanic led them to seek the minimum in safety standards. They did the least or less in every area of safety. Their malfeasance had no justification.
Five decades before the construction of the Titanic, the Great Eastern had scraped on an uncharted rock off the coast of Long Island. The rock had torn a hole in her skin nine feet wide and 83 feet long. However, she had an inner hull and was able to limp into port. No one was hurt. Inner hulls became more popular but the builders of the Titanic apparently saw it as unnecessary.
They cut many other safety standards. The most famous was with the lifeboats. Regulations called for a ship of Titanic’s size to carry enough lifeboats for 962 even though she could carry over 3,500 passengers and crew.
Do we trim or skirt safety standards in our Christian lives? Do we try to get by on the minimum? People do this without realizing it.
We reason there is a minimum that we can do and be pleasing to God. We rationalize that attending Sunday morning services and living a moral life are enough. Anything more is for “super Christians.” They justify their timidity as being just fine. Yet, they are deluding themselves.
The army that seeks the minimum in arming its soldiers will soon find their enemy exacting the maximum in destruction upon them. If a soldier fails to properly arm himself because the gear is too heavy, he will find almost certain death in the battle. Soldiers are very careful not to cut corners in their battle preparation because they know their lives depend on it.
Discipleship is not about maximums and minimums because salvation is not meritorious. We require the blood of Christ on our souls in order to be justified before God (Romans 5). We must “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7, NKJV). We are commanded to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1).
Trying to find a minimum, we seek salvation by works, rather than by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not about attaining the minimum we can accomplish, it is about finding a way to do all we can for Christ (Matthew 22:37).
We cannot attend enough worship services, read our Bibles enough or be moral enough to merit salvation. However, seeking the minimum in the Christian life illustrates that we have little interest in Christ being the Lord of our lives.
We can easily slip into the mindset that we want to be a Christian but that we don’t want it to affect our lives. However, if Christ is not on the throne of our hearts, Satan will fill the vacuum (1 Peter 5:8).
“Disinterested Christians reach the point where they are no longer bearing fruit and will be cut off from the vine (John 15:1-8). Faithfulness indicates allegiance, attitude, and direction in a life filled and flooded with God (Ephesians 3:19). Unfaithfulness leads to apostasy.”
We should always seek the maximum for Christ because he deserves it.
Third, the Titanic had a weak foundation. Experts who study the Titanic’s hull tell us that it was excessively brittle. It was very high in sulfur content, which means that today, the Titanic “would never get out of the yard.”
While the shipbuilders constructed the Titanic out of the best materials available to them, it was still insufficient for the impact of the iceberg. Therefore, they were not negligent in the utilization of the steel. However, the point remains that when it faced the dangers before them, the hull failed to protect them.
Christians often fail to establish a firm foundation so when the storms arise, their defenses are inadequate. By their standards, their armor is sufficient. However, the spiritual condition of our lives invalidates our standards.
Paul discusses the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:11-17. However, he begins in the previous verse laying the foundation of what would follow. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
We “gird our waists with truth,” put on a “breastplate of righteousness” and the “helmet of salvation” and take up the “shield of faith” and the “sword of the spirit” (Ephesians 6:11-17).
Inadequately suited, we render useless the armor of God. When we go into battle with a lackluster faith, knowledge and Christian walk, we cannot expect our armor to protect us. Our own abilities will be insufficient to make up the difference.
Therefore, we must be secure in the Lord’s armor or our best intentions or abilities will be futile. Rationalizations are useless to stop the “fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16).
Fourth, the crew of the Titanic ignored the warnings. They had received several transmitted messages warning about icebergs in the North Atlantic. They failed to heed them. /1
When we are weakening spiritually, we hear warnings from Scripture, sermons and other Christians, but we rationalize them away because we can handle it alone.
Fifth, small leaks sunk the Titanic. Six small slits that totaled less than twelve square feet sunk the mighty vessel.
Likewise, no one leaves the Lord in one motion. Instead, we leave incrementally. The tears in our armor are small but the enemy arrows still find their opening (Hebrews 3:12). Remember, small steps soon become miles.
Sixth, the pleas of the Titanic failed to bring help. The nearest ship had her radio off. Later, the Carpathia came after the ship had sunk.
When people are wasting away spiritually, we must be attentive to their needs. Their cries for help, often silent, are there for those who will listen and perceive (Philippians 2:4).
Seventh, the series of failures of the owners and crew of the Titanic led to the death of 1,523 people. When we apostatize, we lead others away from God. In truth, no one goes to heaven or hell alone. Our examples speak volumes to others following our steps (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:17-24).
Christians can leave God and be lost. Nothing sadder can occur in the life of a Christian. The loss is staggering.