We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Parable


There once was a great man who was a ship-builder.  One day he decided to build the best luxury ship in the world, but with a capacity for 1000 people who would be under his authority while they cruised.

The ship was launched and sailed for many months until one day the people on board thought they could make it into a better ship.  So they started pulling pieces apart and rearranging things but, while doing so, they didn’t realize they were causing structural damage.  Suddenly, while in the middle of shark-infested waters ten miles from the nearest land, the ship sank so rapidly that no one was able to get into life-boats and all 1000 people were left swimming.

The ship-builder had been sailing nearby in a fast, huge ship, and he was quickly on the scene throwing out life preservers to everyone in the water.  Many people quickly grabbed the life preservers and were pulled in.  Many more, however, thought they could get safely to land on their own and kept swimming, heedless of the sharks around them and the distance to go.

The shipbuilder offered every one of those people the chance to be saved by merely grabbing the life preserver, yet many rejected the offer because of their pride, and those who didn’t accept the offer drowned or were eaten by the sharks.

Then the reporters questioned the shipbuilder: Didn’t he know that not everyone would want to accept his offer?  Of course he did, but he gave them the choice anyway, because he was merciful.  It wasn’t his fault if they rejected his offer of the life preserver, and he certainly wasn’t going to force them to accept what they didn’t want.  But, the reporters asked, didn’t that take away from the shipbuilder’s authority over those people?  No, the shipbuilder said, because he could have sent his helicopter crews to force them to be saved, but he thought it best to let them make their own choices.  Although he is merciful, he will not force people to accept his mercy.

When reporters later asked the survivors about how they were saved, not one of them took credit for themselves; they all said they were saved by the shipbuilder. After all, they had no way of saving themselves, and by merely choosing to take hold of the preserver they didn’t contribute in any way to their being saved.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

What a wonderful parable! Thanks for sharing it. Laura

Steve Bricker said...

Great parallel.

Rob T said...

itntrsrTo make your parable complete, you should mention that the shipbuilder is responsible for creating an ocean filled with sharks in the first place, and also that the life preservers are invisible -- as are the shipbuilder and his ship, and the swimmers had to take their existence on faith. The shipbuilder could have made the life preservers and his own existence directly visible, but for some strange and cruel reason chose not to.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Rob,

Parables are meant to make a point on one or two issues only. If you would study more about the subject rather than sniping ignorant responses, you just might learn something.

As for your poor analogies, you only demonstrate even moreso how little you really understand about the Bible and the Christian faith. Do you have a purpose in posting such comments, other than to harass me?

Dan said...

My children are very familiar with a story I made up called "The Chocolate Ship". The island the people are living on is sinking and no one knows what to do. Finally someone comes up with the idea to build a ship from chocolate. Under sail however a few people begin to eat the ship. When it doesn't sink a few more join in. Finally there was out right mutiny as the majority of people are eating the ship over the cries of those who understand the situation, with no obvious effect. This "no-obvious-effect" increases the acrimony of those who are eating the ship for it makes the ones who protest look ridiculous. In the end the ship sinks and all die. Moral: just because nothing happens immediately doesn't mean that it won't happen.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

That sounds like demokrats eating the ship of the USA!

Anonymous said...

This IS a good parable, Glen. It serves its purpose in the ways in which you intended, so good job!

But c'mon; you must admit that Rob is right! I don't think he was harassing you. He was just pointing out some things that would make your parable much more true-to-life! How is that "sniping an ignorant response"? Personally, I think his comments deserved a more thoughtful response from you.

People in the world ask such things of us believers all the time. We should try to be prepared to give them answers that might satisfy their curiosity about our beliefs. Sure, they probably see some evidence of the existence of the invisible shipbuilder. But we expect them to see those invisible life preservers as well!

Weary, desperate people are treading water all around us! Whose job is it to make them see something they truly CAN'T see? Ours or the shipbuilder's? Somebody has to convince them that there's an INVISIBLE life preserver right there in front of them or else they'll perish! What should be said to them? "Grab it! Grab it, you fool!"? Shouldn't some TIME be taken to better explain the situation (you know...just man's whole purpose in life, the existence of the shipbuilder, etc!) to them? That's only reasonable, isn't it? "Keep treading while I try to explain a few things to you, Buddy! Hang in there! If I'm quick, it'll maybe only take about 30 minutes! Just don't ask too many questions because that will only delay things."

Taking things by faith isn't easy for ANY of us humans! Even those of us clinging to our life preservers still do stupid things like let go of them sometimes, then we must swim back. We still find ourselves trying to solve our problems apart from God at times! Then we remember that He is there for us.

Rob is right. Nobody has ever actually SEEN the ship maker. He chose to make himself invisible to us. So if you're trying to make your parable parallel the message in the scriptures, he and the life preservers in your story have to be invisible objects! That's all that Rob is pointing out.

No wonder some of those who choose not to grab it do that. They don't even SEE "it"! Undoubtedly they see that some (but not even all) of those who DID grab it are still out there treading away in the same shark-infested waters that THEY are. It's not like they have been taken out of the water and placed on dry ground by the invisible ship maker. They're still experiencing a lot of the same problems. Some of them clinging to their invisible life preservers just seem to have a much better ATTITUDE about their current situations. They have hope! Hope floats. (There's even a movie with that name.) "The preserved" know that, in the end, they too will die someday (because everyone does), but they believe that they will go on to live somewhere else, in the presence of the ship maker in a much, much better place. A lot of the drowning people believe they'll go to a better place as well however! The ONLY reason some of them aren't sure that there has GOT TO BE something better than THIS current existence is because some of the preserved have told them about this truly awful place called Hell.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous,
The parable was making one point and one point only, and that was to demonstrate the error of Calvinism and it's charges against non-Calvinists.

It was not to develop a theology of salvation, or a theology of God, etc.

And, No, Rob was not right. But that is for another discussion. And my comment about "ignorant snipping responses" is base on his comments on another blog, which demonstrated that he is more interested in sniping than learning.