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Risks, Rewards, and Duties

By Dr. Douglas Groothuis


Those four passengers and the captain on the small submarine that descended to explore the Titanic remains are dead. May God minister to their friends and families. This tragedy occasions a short reflection on risks, rewards, and duties. When should we take risks that are out of the ordinary? Life is risky because of the fall. A person can be killed in a plane crash, car crash, or keel over for any number of reasons. But when should we court risks that are out of the ordinary? Our lives are gifts from God. We should not murder, because human life has unique, objective value given by God. We are made in God's image and likeness. Since we should not murder, we should support and protect human life. Thus, we should consider risks, rewards and duties to God and others. A few years ago, a young man went mountain climbing. He fell to his death, thus leaving behind an infant who would never know him, as well as a young widow. A friend of mine, also with small children, stopped climbing mountains after that. You should see why. Our duties to family should trump our desire to enjoy a risky endeavor not required to help others. Even if there is a small change of injury or death, the severity of the effect should illicit caution, not daring. Soldiers risk much in battle, but the risk is calibrated against what they take to be a good end--the defense of one's country or the liberation of another country, perhaps. When I debate an unbeliever, I risk looking bad, but I take that to be worthwhile, given my background and the importance of the Gospel. Of course, in this case my life is not at stake. I would risk my life to save my wife from death, but probably not do so for my dog. (Don't tell Sunny.) So, we come to the submarine and its occupants. Their voyage was not one of scientific discovery, nor was it needed to help anyone. It was simply meant to be thrilling. However, it was risky, a high stakes proposition Now they are all dead and leave their families and friends behind. They are not heroes, but victims. Nor are they villains.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about this cautionary tale.


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