Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey...Doctrine?

    It may seem odd that, on a blog about a show that centers around time travel, we haven't yet had any posts on Time (with a very intentional capital T). Well, there are of course some reasons for this. First of all, where do you even start? How many seasons, how many wacky moments of time-tinkering mayhem? It's like asking which book of the Old Testament prophets one should start with. Hmm, umm, I dunno, the one with the inexplicable and cryptic messages for Israel about their future. Narrows it down, doesn't it? Second, we wouldn't want to scoop any of the doubtless wonderful insights sure to come in any upcoming books (nudge nudge, wink wink).

     To start off what I am sure what will be one of many posts on the subject, I wanted to deal with this basic premise of the show, that time is not linear, but, as we all know, "wibbley-wobbley." This comes in the middle of one of the best loved episodes, "Blink." The good Doctor tells us that we tend to see time in a linear fashion, as we experience it, but that in reality it is a big, convoluted mess. This is what allows the Doctor, presumably, to travel to and fro throughout history, interfering in a way that would make any Trekkie gag.

     Why would this be a problem for a Christian? Well, for one, Christianity generally teaches that God has determined what will come to pass. Can it be changed? It is of course widely debated whether human beings are capable of free choice in the first place, let alone the ability to somehow transverse time and change its course. There are different approaches to these questions, but of course they all assume one thing: God has a plan, and He will see it through.

     One approach to the basic problem that I find fascinating is one proposed in the season 4 episode, "The Fires of Pompeii." When the companion, Donna, protests the Doctor's inaction in saving the doomed city from the terrible volcanic fate that awaits it, he informs that there is nothing he can do. Why? Because there are fixed points in time, things so pivotal to history, that they cannot be changed. What if God sets some things in place, immobile, but then allows us freedom within those bounds? I am acquainted enough with the history of Christian thought to know that this is not an original idea, but here I pose it here as one example of an interesting way to think of time.

     The theology of time is not one much discussed, but perhaps, with the popularity of shows like Doctor Who and films like Interstellar, the burgeoning field of quantum physics, and just the general explosion of knowledge regarding the nature of our universe, it might just be an interesting topic for Christians to think about again. We'll try to give it some focused attention here in posts to come.

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