Rescuers are continuing their search this morning for the submersible that disappeared on its way to the Titanic wreckage site Sunday. The US Coast Guard stated that underwater sounds in the search area were heard again yesterday. However, the Titan submersible was estimated last Sunday morning to have ninety-six hours of oxygen, which means time is likely running out for its passengers, assuming the vessel has not already suffered catastrophic damage.
Britain’s King Charles III said he is praying for those onboard, one of whom is a longtime supporter of charities founded by the monarch. The British Titanic Society likewise said it “extends its prayers to those on board the submersible, and to their families.” Distraught family and friends of three British men on the Titan submersible are praying for a miracle as well.
We should all join them, asking God to guide the rescuers and to intervene as needed. At the same time, whatever the outcome, we should not expect such intercession to change the minds of skeptics. If the passengers are rescued, critics will dismiss this outcome as a coincidence. If the passengers are not found alive, they will either blame God or disparage prayer and those who believe in its efficacy.
A good question to ask skeptics
One argument against the Christian faith is that it is “nonfalsifiable,” meaning that no kind or amount of evidence can convince Christians they are wrong. The philosopher Antony Flew made this claim popular, but we encounter it often from our critics.
In fact, the shoe is on the other foot.
Christianity, unlike many other faiths, is built on historical events, facts, and reports. Paul stated boldly, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). It was the fact of the risen Christ that convinced skeptical disciples he was indeed their Master and Lord (cf. Luke 24:36–49). If it could be proven that the resurrection did not in fact occur, Christianity would be disproven.
It is actually our critics whose minds will not be changed by the evidence. For example, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, “many of the Jews . . . believed in him” (John 11:45), but the “chief priests and the Pharisees . . . . made plans to put him to death” (vv. 47, 53). When large crowds came to see Jesus because of “Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead” (John 12:9), “the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well” (v. 10).
In a similar fashion, a postmodern relativist who claims that all truth claims are subjective (which is an objective truth claim, by the way) will dismiss any faith assertions we make as “just your opinion.” We cannot use facts to persuade those who do not believe in facts.
The famed apologist Josh McDowell suggests that we ask skeptics, “If I could answer all your questions, would you then become a Christian?” I have asked his question many times. No one has ever answered in the affirmative.
“Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason”
This conversation reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s warning against promoting our faith on merely pragmatic grounds. He had his demonic tempter Screwtape explain Satan’s strategy to his apprentice Wormwood: “We do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even social justice.
“The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which [God] demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. . . . ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game” (The Screwtape Letters).
Lewis is right, as usual: we should proclaim and promote biblical truth because it is true. We can and should marshal evidence to demonstrate its relevance, but we should remember that evidence must be interpreted and may not be persuasive.
This is because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Consequently, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) while asking God’s Spirit to lead the lost to conviction (John 16:8) and salvation (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Such ministry is truly vital. My wife and I were discussing the lost submersible yesterday, and she made the point that every lost person we meet today needs to be rescued spiritually just as urgently as the passengers on the Titan submersible need to be rescued physically. Like them, our time is running out. Death is one day closer than ever before, and we have only today to be ready.
Here’s the good news: when that day comes for God’s people, our hope will be made real and our faith will become sight.
“The shore to which all hopes belong”
St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568–91) grew up in royal courts and army camps. His father wanted him to become a military hero, but he had a profound spiritual awakening at the age of seven and eventually entered the Jesuits.
In 1591, plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital in which he nursed patients, washed them, and made their beds. As a result, he caught the disease and died at the age of twenty-three.
In a deathbed letter to his mother, Aloysius wrote that he was “lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way to heaven at last and to praise God forever in the land of the living.” He assured her: “When [God] takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.”
As a result, he concluded, “I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favor and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong.”
Death for a believer is indeed a departure (2 Timothy 4:6) from the shores of this fallen planet to those of God’s perfect paradise (Luke 23:43).
To which “shore” do your “hopes belong” today?