“Titanic” and Christian Faith

Believe it or not, I had never seen “Titanic” (1997), one of the most well-known films of all time–until yesterday and tonight. It’s long, so we divided it. I shall make but a few theological comments.

Near the end of the film, a man with a clerical collar is shown speaking to a small group of people on board the sinking ship. They are not clamoring for a life boat, but simply listening. He recites the “Hail Mary” but later, he quotes from Revelation from memory (!), which speaks of a time when there is no more sea, when every tear is wiped away, and death is no more.

This was the only reference to Christianity–besides the profaning of God’s holy name—I found in the film up to that point. Neither Jack nor Rose ever cry out to God for help. None of the major characters give the slightest indication of Christian conviction.

The cleric was leading his little doomed flock to remember and count on what was to come for the faithful. I often read from Revelation 21-22 to my dying wife, Rebecca. It is no mere desperate or romantic hope. It is as real as the resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15), which is a well-established fact of space-time history. (See my chapter, “The Resurrection of Jesus” in Christian Apologetics. This has become two chapters in the 2nd edition of the book.) 

The Titantic’s string quartet finishes their performance by playing, “Nearer my God to Thee,” a Christian hymn. (Whether this happened is debatable, but it is another upsurge of truth in an otherwise secular film. People not familiar with hymns will not catch this.)

The final scene features a dream or perhaps an afterlife experience of the surviving Rose, who is now elderly. She returns to the great banquet hall of the Titanic and is greeted by all who died and by her beloved Jack, who died just before she was rescued. They kiss to the applause of all. You cry. (This is similar to the final scene of “Places of the Heart,” which is more specifically Christian, since all are taking the Eucharist.)

Yes, there will be a great eschatological reunion. This is why followers of Christ do not “grieve as the world grieves.” We have hope. This hope, however, is not some vague, misty, romantic wish that all will turn out well. This hope, as the Apostle Paul affirms, “does not disappoint us.” But this hope is reserved for those who have been redeemed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. It is not automatic for all. You must be converted.

The elderly Rose says that “Jack saved me in every way I could be saved.” That is false. Jack inspired her, inflamed a deep bound of friendship and romance. But only Jesus Christ can save us from the curse of the law, since the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is the work of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf. We are saved, rescued, and redeemed by lifting up the empty hands of faith, trusting in his saving achievements. By God’s grace and love, I did this in June of 1976. Have you done so?

4 thoughts on ““Titanic” and Christian Faith

  1. Yes, so much in extremes (for me) re: this movie – which I didn’t expect. Jack was so very much like my Dad, who was a street-savvy, south Chicago boy; I could so easily see him procuring tickets for the Titanic voyage in the way that Jack did. And, making the sacrifices that Jack did. My Dad, perhaps like Jack, was also a frustrated artist – something he was unable to express in his lifetime and circumstances. So, at the ending scene, to my surprise (and embarrassment) I burst into tears.
    Rose enters death, and them symbolically (to me) passes through the dark – the rot, disappointment and corruption of this world – welcomed into Heaven, dressed as a bride, she meets Jack at the top of the stairs. I saw in that gesture, Christ and my Dad, welcoming me into Heaven. It surprised and overtook me, and still makes me ball like a baby – hitting every meaningful paradigm and hope in my being.

  2. Thank you for your strong comments on the truth of the gospel. I never get tired of hearing it!!! N Mayfield.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – Norman Mayfield 850-900-7571


  3. Dear Dr. Groothuis,
    Thank you for your commentary on this film. This is one of many films that have an erroneous message, but people enjoy the intrigue and romantic pet of desperate people.
    I’ve missed you comments lately, so good to hear from you again.
    Thank You,
    Rick McKain
    P.S. I’ve been reading Michael Heiser’s book on “The Unseen Realm’” which really is opening up my eyes to the treasure of the Old Testament. I grew up in a dispensation all Baptist church – graduated from CBBTS – now your institution Denver Seminary.

    • Dear Rick – I recently came upon Michael Heiser as well. I believe he has some important perspectives to consider. he is sick, w/ some kind of cancer – prayers.

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