Did God Sink the Titanic?

By Jim Allen

This month marks one-hundred years from the sinking of Titanic, a ship responsible for starting a century-long debate about who or what caused the ship to sink:
"The Titanic, once known as the 'unsinkable ship,' collided with an iceberg and sank south of Newfoundland on its maiden voyage. Days before its first voyage, a White Star Line employee boasted, 'God himself could not sink the ship.' The wreck's final resting place remained a mystery until 1985 when oceanographer Bob Ballard found Titanic more than two miles down in utter darkness. Deep sea divers confirmed reports from survivors that the ship had indeed split apart; the bow and stern were found apart and facing in opposite directions."
(Paraphrased from CBC News; Bacteria Dissolving Titanic; 2010)
Ironically, the destruction of Titanic that began a century earlier continues today. A newly discovered bacterium has been eating away at the iron hull since its fateful plunge on April 14, 1912. An engineer from Dalhousie University said in a release, "Aside from the parts made of brass, eventually there will be nothing left of Titanic but a rust stain on the ocean floor.'"

As a Titanic enthusiast, I have mildly studied maritime disasters and have never seen such destruction. The steel super structure of the Titanic was literally torn in half by unimaginable forces and strewn over a wide area, a scene strongly suggesting God reached down from heaven, that fateful night, to undo the arrogance of prideful of willful men. Was the sinking divine retribution? While some think it was, others are not so sure. An inescapable catastrophe, like Titanic, is most often the result of fateful decisions (like links in a chain) that come together and tether people to a single event with little hope of escape. For Titanic, it would appear warnings about the ice fields and irresponsible actions by Captain Smith played key roles in sinking the ship of dreams.

An Inescapable Quandary

One online commenter said about the disaster:
"The sinking of Titanic had nothing to do with divine retribution and everything to do with negligent operation of the vessel by the captain and crew. They were overconfident and unfamiliar with the ship. Titanic was a wonderful ship but hard to control, as witnessed by her sister ship Olympic's collision with the HMS Hawke a few months earlier. Both ships were identical...very large, very powerful, and very new."
While human arrogance appears to be the best reason for Titanic's end, others point to the Bible and the employee who said "God himself could not sink the ship." The sentiment of the indiscreet comment was shared equally among Titanic's owners, crew, and passengers. Could this widely held "unsinkable claim" by so many produce a direct challenge to God's sovereignty? Did not Jesus say, "...Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" (Luke 4:12). Does not all wrath belong to the Lord God (Romans 12:19)?

What Does the Bible Say?

While divine wrath is one possibility, it is my opinion that God did not sink Titanic. God is today (as he was then) operating in grace and truth through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Yes, God knew about the employee's comment and the sentiment shared by so many. God knew the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), allowing arrogant and imprudent men to plot their own course to destruction (Proverbs 16:25). God knew Titanic would be ripped in half by its own weight and sink to the bottom. God knew Titanic would eventually dissolve into nothing more than a rusty stain on the ocean floor. Ironically, God is now allowing Titanic to continue her maiden voyage but this time powered by bacterium that will take her to a new port called Oblivion.

God's grace is for today as it was then for those on Titanic. The purpose of God's grace is to save souls and when necessary the body as well. While some believers survived the sinking, others did not. The lesson for all is no one is guaranteed life beyond any given moment. Yet, the images of Titanic's transformation from a majestic ocean liner to a rusty stain on the ocean floor is profound and a solemn reminder of God's sovereignty and eternalness, and of our human impermanence (Psalm 39:5, 11).

Image Credit: Willy Stower; "Titanic Sinking"; Public Domain

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Published 4-25-12