Your Religion—A Ship That Should Never Be Abandoned?
A SHIP is in the midst of a tempest. The crew, who are struggling desperately to save their vessel, are faced with a dramatic decision: either to stay aboard or to abandon ship and save themselves. Did you know that this terrifying scenario is used as a theological illustration?
Theologians, especially Catholic scholars, often compare their church to a ship that is weathering a storm. They say that this ship, with Jesus or Peter at the helm, represents the only means of salvation. The position of the clergy is, ‘Never abandon the ship. The church has been through serious crises before, but it is a ship that has weathered all of history’s tempests.’ Some say, ‘Why abandon her? What alternatives are there? Why not stay and help steer her into calmer waters?’
In harmony with this figurative language, many people, belonging to all manner of religions, reason, ‘I know that my religion is wrong in many things, but I hope it will change. I don’t want to abandon it. I would like to have a part in helping it overcome its difficulties.’ This kind of reasoning may be dictated by sincere affection for one’s ancestral religion or even by the fear of “betraying” it.
A case in point is that of Hans Küng, a well-known Catholic dissident theologian, who mused: “Should I abandon the boat during the storm, leaving those with whom I have sailed until now to face the wind, to bail the water, and perhaps to fight for survival?” He replied: “I will not give up my effectiveness within the church.” Another alternative would be “breaking with this church, because of its defection, for the love of higher values, and perhaps, to be more authentic Christians.”—Die Hoffnung bewahren.
But can a person stay aboard the boat of his own church in the hope that God, in his mercy, will allow all religions an unlimited period of time to reform? That is a serious question. As indicated by the illustration, hurriedly leaving an endangered ship by taking to insecure lifeboats would be as dangerous as staying aboard a sinking ship. Is it wise to stay in a church at all costs, whatever its condition? What prospects of reform do religions today offer? How long will God allow them to work against his will?
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