Titanic Hubris

The blockbuster film Titanic has just hit the video stores—and store owners took no chances they would run out. They pre-ordered 20 million copies of the Academy-award-winning film. Teenagers, especially girls, love Titanic for the romance between a socialite named Rose and a starving artist named Jack. Other viewers like the incredible special effects. Well, I recently watched an edited version of this film on a flight from England. The special effects are incredible—but for me, the overwhelming message of the film is a jolting reminder of the folly of man's excessive pride—the arrogance that seeks to supplant God. The Greeks called it hubris. Titanic's owners claimed that they'd built a ship that not even God could sink. That boast may sound blasphemous, but it was characteristic of the post-Edwardian era. The 40-year period just prior to the Titanic's maiden voyage had witnessed amazing technological advances: the electric light, the automobile, the telephone, and the airplane. Technology overcame the limitations imposed by darkness and distance. God may have created both day and night, but Edison made night optional. God made the world large, but Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers cut it down to a manageable size. Is it any wonder that the citizens of this era believed that human ingenuity could overcome anything that nature or nature's God could throw at them—including an iceberg? "Even God couldn't sink this ship," one of the characters arrogantly says in the film. But God will not be mocked. The Titanic never even completed its first voyage, colliding with an iceberg and sinking in just two and a half hours. Now that Titanic is available on videotape, Christians would have a rich opportunity to teach our neighbors what the ancient Greeks meant by hubris. Hubris is more than excessive pride. In the Christian tradition, it is the sin that describes the arrogance of the human effort to take the place of God. In Genesis 11, when man built a tower "with its top in the heavens," he was exalting himself at God's expense—that was hubris. Likewise, in 1912, when a man declared a ship was unsinkable, even by God, he was guilty of hubris. Today, when medical researchers declare that genetic research will end disease and extend life expectancy almost indefinitely, they, too, are guilty of hubris, defying God. I understand the film version of Titanic, rated PG-13 has nudity, a good deal of profanity, and a sex scene. I'm glad I watched the edited version on the airplane. So rather than rushing out to rent this film, why not rent one of the earlier movies about the Titanic disaster, especially the 1953 version. Watch it with your unsaved friends and family. And then afterwards, talk to them. Ask them, "What's the basic question this film deals with?" The question is one of hubris—whether we can shake our fists in the face of God and get away with it. The film brilliantly brings to the screen the answer—we cannot. And that's the message folks ought to be reminded of as the Titanic fever strikes again in the videostore. Remember, God did not let the Titanic cross the ocean even once. He will not be mocked.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary