I love when a piece of culture reflects the truths of the gospel. That happened blatantly in the latest episode of Doctor Who.
If you know anything about the longest-running science fiction show in television history, you know it can sound really weird when you try to talk about it. If you don’t know anything about Doctor Who, believe me when I say the show is as weird as it sounds, but it's still a great show about a time traveling madman in a box.
That being said, it is a secular show with secular writers. There is nothing Christian about the show, but even secular writers and actors cannot help but express, admittedly to a dimmed degree, the gospel.
The latest episode (Warning: spoilers below if you have not watched “Extremis.”) opens with the world in danger from an alien race that wants to take over the world. But they will only do so if they are invited to. They must have the consent of the world’s leaders. They have created a situation that will lead to the world’s destruction—however, if someone offers them consent that is pure, they will save humanity. If the consent is not pure, the person offering it will be killed.
What shocked me is how clearly the episode shows how many people wrongly come to Christ and how close they came to showing what actually happens in salvation.
Moved by fear
The first person to offer consent is the Secretary-General of the United Nations. He is persuaded by the alien race that the earth is about to be destroyed and this alien race is the only hope for humanity’s future.
He comes to the aliens to give his consent, against the wishes of the Doctor. They ask if his consent is pure. Then a light shines on him and they tell him he is afraid and fear is not pure, and he spontaneously combusts. (I told you the show sounds weird, but stick with me.)
Growing up I heard countless preachers try to scare people into heaven. They talked about hell and how bad it is going to be. Then they talked about heaven and how great it would be. Finally, they would ask a pianist to play “I Surrender All” for 20 minutes until someone decided they were scared of hell and didn’t want to go there.
The problem with this idea is that heaven is not a place for people who are scared of hell. Heaven is the place for the lovers of Jesus. But we will get into that in a minute.
Moved by strategy
Consent was given again by the leaders of the world’s three largest armies. They decided there was wisdom is living to fight another day. If earth were going to be destroyed, there would be no world to fight for. But if they gave consent to the aliens to save the world today, they could overthrow them later.
Going against the Doctor’s instructions, the military officials give consent.
“Strategy is not pure consent,” the aliens said before melting them.
Similarly, people come to the Bible because they want a better life for themselves. Yes, Christianity offers the best possible life. But that best life does not come from escaping troubles. Christianity offers the best life because it offers communion with God, the Author of life.
There is a perversion of the gospel promoting the idea that if you do something for God, He will do something for you. If you send in “faith money,” you will be healed. If you keep rules, He will bless you financially. If you do, He does. It’s all about strategy.
This has several heretical thoughts, but the two most obvious are easiest to refute. The first is that God needs something from you. I love the way Jonathan Edwards explains how wrong this is. He said, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
The other idea is that you can earn your salvation by being smart enough to out-maneuver God. People try playing the same game with credit card companies. They think they can outsmart the credit card industry by getting cards, racking up rewards, and then cash those rewards out for a free vacation to the Fiji Islands. Suddenly they wake up in debt to their eyeballs and wonder how it all happened.
If you can’t outsmart credit card companies (you can’t) you certainly can’t outsmart God.
Moved by love
In the end, Bill, the Doctor’s companion, gives consent. But she so only to save the Doctor. The aliens tell her that if her consent is not pure she will be killed. Aliens touch her, music swells, and they say, “You consent out of love. Love is pure.”
Shortly after this, the episode ends and we have to wait until next week to see how the Doctor will save the world.
But the picture it leaves is such a close image of the gospel. Bill submits to the aliens to save the Doctor. When anyone comes to Jesus in repentance and belief, it is always done out of love.
We love Jesus, but we only know how to love Him because “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
I don’t know how the story arc in Doctor Who will end, but I do know how the story of the person who has submitted to the lordship of Christ will. It will not be a personal, strategic victory over suffering and pain but the victory will belong to Jesus who has already defeated death and sin. It will not end in fear of judgment for Jesus’s righteousness is imputed to Christians from every land and we will stand justified before God.
I must confess that this show has objectionable material. Bill, the aforementioned companion of the Doctor is a homosexual and there have been other LGBT characters in the show's history. There are other instances of the show disrespecting Christianity and other faiths. I bring this up to drive home the point that all genuine truths point to the gospel, even truth found in a science fiction show about a madman in a box.