I was 11 years old when I discovered “the Doctor.” Already a fan of science fiction, it was easy for me to enjoy the tales woven together by this imaginative television show. I did not discover the show on my own, but was introduced to it by a long-time fan. The Doctor did not have the kind of widespread appeal then that he enjoys now. To be frank, being a Whovian back in the 80s and 90s was something you kept to yourself, not something you put on bumper stickers on your car or guitar case. Multicolored (or coloured) scarves were quite rare and only to be worn on special occasions. Inspired by the Doctor’s adventures, I often have thought that if I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would say, among other things, “One of these days, things you like now will be cool.”
Besides introducing me to worlds and species I never had dreamed of before, the Doctor helped me grasp certain attributes of God. I fully recognize this analogy will break down because the Doctor is not the God of the Bible. Yet, the Doctor does exemplify certain characteristics of God. The show then, becomes a resource for helping those familiar with it understand better God’s character and how He behaves. Here are four characteristics of the Doctor that can point us to the God of the Bible.
1. God sees beyond the surface. The Doctor often looks beyond the actions of a species and appearance. Not every race the Doctor encounters is as scary as its appearance would seem to suggest. Take the Ood for instance: This humanoid race with red eyes and what appear to be tentacles where a chin should be appear scary, perhaps sinister. When they were introduced to the script, the writers sought to make them look villainous, but the Doctor looked past their appearance and to see they are enslaved, tortured.
God, too, sees beyond our features and outward appearance to see who we really are and who we really will be. One of the clearest examples of this is when Samuel was called to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the future king of Israel. Samuel was confused when God did not chose the oldest son of Jesse. To Samuel, he appeared to be the future king, but not to the Lord. First Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” The Lord would go on to chose David, the greatest king Israel has known and “A man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22b).
2. God comes to you, not you to Him. Time after time, the Doctor appears at just the right time to help. He shows up unannounced, and far too often those he comes to help don’t realize they were in any danger or are about to be. To put it another way, the Doctor knows their need for his assistance before they do. Only in the rarest occasions does he show up because someone called out to him. Typically, in those instances, a relationship already was in place.
In much the same way, God reaches out to us long before we realize our need for Him. Long before any of us alive today were born (much less knew God), Jesus died to reconcile us to the Lord. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice to repair the relationship between God and man. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God knows our fears, our struggles and our sin. He knows our greatest need is to have a relationship with Him. He loves us, which is why He sent His only Son to us (John 3:16).
3. God is outside of time. The Doctor is from a race known as Time Lords. Most of the aliens the Doctor encounters and all of the humans have no concept of time, which is not cause and effect. One of the great lines from the episode “Blink” is the Doctor saying, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect; but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey stuff.” The Doctor lives in a way that is beyond strict chronology. In one episode, he is in ancient Pompeii; the next episode, he is in the future on the planet of the Ood. Location to the Doctor is not just a set of longitude and latitude on a particular planet. It also includes “Chronitude,” the time (day, month, year, hour) at which an event occurs. Because the Doctor is able to move around in time and space, chronitude becomes a very important factor. It’s common for the Doctor to show up at the right place but at the wrong time.
God also exists not as a pawn to time, but as the Master of it. He is not only Lord of the universe, but is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That simple truth is so outside our realm of comprehension. For all we see as we look around us is change. Trees sprout leaves in the spring and shed them in the fall. New buildings are built, and old buildings are remodeled or torn down. Babies grow up to be teens and then become young adults, who often have babies of their own. We cannot point to anything in the universe and say, “That has not been impacted by the passing of time.” Yet God is steady and unchanging, Lord not only of space but time, as well.
The Bible declares that Christ came in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) Peter tells us that for the Lord, a day is just like a millennia and a millennia like a day (2 Pet. 3:8). Time is a tool for the Lord. While we are restricted by time, for we are like a vapor, the Lord truly has all the time in the world. While we constantly are racing against the clock, the Lord uses the clock for His benefit. His timing is always perfect. Many have lamented that Jesus has not yet returned in all of His glory. That Jesus arrived on the scene when He did is no accident; and when He returns, His appearance will be just as timely.
4. The TARDIS is a beautiful picture of the grace of God. The TARDIS, stuck in the form of a Police Box, quite often is an odd juxtaposition to the landscape around it. It was supposed to blend in with the surroundings of wherever it lands, but from the beginning of the show, that particular circuit has malfunctioned. On the outside, the TARDIS does not appear to be much—the size of a telephone booth and hardly the kind of enclosure in which you would want to travel through time and space. Yet once you enter the TARDIS, you quickly discover the inside is bigger, massively bigger, than the outside. Nearly everyone, when they first enter the TARDIS has this sense of awe, that they are in a place much bigger than they expected.
The grace of God works the same way. From the outside, perhaps before you know Christ as Savior and Lord, grace doesn’t seem to be much. We are told it means forgiveness of sins. We are told it is the means by which forgiveness is imparted to us. We are told that God’s grace is greater than all of our sin, but it doesn’t sink in really until you have been in it for a while. It takes some time for us to look at grace not from the world’s perspective but from God’s. As we move around in the grace of God, we think we have come to the edge, the end, the furthest reaches of grace; and we say, “Surely God’s grace has limits, and this is one of them.” Then we explore that space only to find that it continues on miles and miles past our sight. As we ponder the vastness of human depravity and sin, we discover that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20).
I must give credit where it is due. I wish very much that I had come up with this last concept of the TARDIS being a picture of God’s grace, but I did not. This brilliant concept was presented to me by a dear old friend named Tom (no, not Baker). I simply took his idea and ran with it in my own imagination.
Please understand that I am by no means trying to imply that the Doctor is equal on any level with God. The ideas and analogies described here will break down when they are put up against the Creator and His attributes. However, just as Jesus frequently used the familiar to explain the divine, I awkwardly am attempting to do the same…which seems rather appropriate for a fellow who grew up as the only kid on his block so enamored by a British television show that he made his own half-sized scale Dalek from cardboard, a plunger, a mixing utensil and a lightbulb.