You are reading a post in the series “Facing the Raven,” which is itself part of our larger “Science Fiction & Biblical Reality” series. You will absolutely want to read the introduction post before you read this one.
For all The Doctor’s brilliance and power, for all of his many victories, there is one enemy that continues to thwart him: death. Despite his incredibly long, nearly endless lifespan, even The Doctor must face his mortality. In truth, there are times when he even seems to welcome it, acting with a reckless abandon, daring death to claim him.
His contempt for the concept of immorality is well-known, running from Jack Harkness on two occasions because his immortality offended him. (“Prejudiced” was the term Captain Jack used when they discussed it.) When the Eighth Doctor was dying on Karn, he mocked the Sisterhood as the “Keepers of the Flame of Utter Boredom,” as opposed to its proper monicker the “Sacred Flame of Eternal Life.”
Death, according to many, is what gives life meaning. The Doctor would tend to agree, but I wouldn’t. Death doesn’t give life its meaning; it seeks to strip meaning from life. This is why so much of death and violence is considered to be senseless. So much of what is wrong with this world is due to the rush toward the top that many feel compelled to reach before departing.
And while we could argue that the fear and permanence* of this departing does add some poignancy to death, this isn’t the same as meaning. There is nothing in us that requires death. True, our bodies wear out and the flame of life within us flickers and fades, but what about our biology or cosmology requires this? Why is the world wearing out? Who decreed entropy?
This is where the Christian points backward, not a decree but to a decision. When man and woman took it upon themselves to decide what was best for them and the rest of creation, contrary to God’s command, they separated themselves (and the rest of creation) from the perpetually life-giving presence of God. Death and decay were awarded us when instant gratification and self-rule were chosen in place of patient obedience and deference to the rule of God.
The Christians point back to explain where death began, but the Christian also points back to proclaim where death ends.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:56-57
We have life through Jesus because He faced down death, took it upon Himself, and returned victorious. The Doctor has died, through regeneration—which we’ll discuss later—but his life has never really ended. It might feel** like dying, but it isn’t the same. Jesus died. Painfully. Publicly. Shamefully. He died. Life left His body; His spirit departed.
And yet, as He promised, He returned, was resurrected. And because He is alive, triumphant over death, we, too, can trust that we shall have victory over death. We were separated with Him, but in our spirits, we are reunited. Eventually, our bodies might die, but our identities live on to fill new, glorified bodies. Our lives, as Christians, are going to last forever in all the ways it counts.
In the end, life will triumph. Death will die.
*Or, rather, perceived permanence
**”…[I]f I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away. And I’m dead.” The Tenth Doctor, “The End of Time (Part 1)”