In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides (Anchor Books, 2014) is the story of “the grand and terrible voyage of the USS Jeannette.” A monument on the grounds of the U. S. Naval Academy honors the exploits of the Jeannette and its crew, who sought to be the first explorers to reach the north pole for the honor of the United States and its navy. In the preflight days of the 1880’s, the best received scientific theory was that there was a vast “open polar sea” at the north pole, which could be reached by sea.
Lieutenant George Washington Delong, captain, and his crew of thirty-two discovered that there is no open polar sea, and ultimately two-thirds of the crew died from frostbite and starvation as they tried to survive in a desolate arctic environment. They made new scientific discoveries, but the cost was high. It was a noble endeavor, but the maps of the day which showed that open polar sea were sadly mistaken. Delong’s journals survived, and his widow led the way in publishing his findings, but the knowledge he gained came at a heavy cost.
When we think of the many great endeavors undertaken in our world, we find that most are begun with the best intentions, and frequently with the hope that God will bless the efforts. Noble efforts to ease suffering, bring about justice, and improve our world bring our applause. The sad truth, however, is that too often men assume that they have God’s blessing–but they are mistaken. As Jesus neared the end of the sermon on the mount, He warned:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).
I am sure that many that Jesus warned were sincere, but the test will always be whether or not men do the will of the Father. It is truly sad that some will enter noble causes, but based on mistaken information. The crew of the Jeannette gave their lives to learn the truth that science was mistaken. Sadly others may do the same.