What is it about certain entertainments that just hook us, wrap us up and leave us almost panting for more? We are dazzled by spectacle, enraptured by clever stories and enslaved by tales of things that could not possibly be true, at least not yet. See, I simply have a weakness for really decent science fiction. Films like The Matrix and Star Wars just suck me in every time. I have been a long-standing fan of TV’s Star Trek, and have forgiven Paramount Studios for the few very cheesy Trek films with which they have milked our wallets while emptying our souls.
But there is another. It is the single longest-running science fiction television series extant, and it is admittedly a ridiculous romp through space and time about a self-appointed “mad man with a box.” I am speaking of course of the one and only Dr. Who. This crazy British series, difficult to follow and infuriating to understand at best, is silly, fun, exciting, chaotic, and totally impossible and I love it. It centers on a man known only as The Doctor, who has had many incarnations since the 1960s. He is of an extinct race known as Time Lords from a now non-existent planet, travelling through time and space with various human companions in a time machine (known as the TARDIS, short for Time And Relative Dimension In Space) disguised as a 1950s-era London Police call box, which is much larger on the inside than the outside. I know, what’s the point?
On Saturday night, yet another new Doctor took over the series and it looks as though yet another incarnation is going to be hugely entertaining and absolutely captivating in the intricate storylines woven by the writers. However, today I read something disturbing on Wikipedia about Doctor Who. It would seem that with each new incarnation, an argument ensues among fans - especially with regard to the spin-off literature and other tripe that accompanies a cult hit – over issues of canonicity.
What was that? Canonicity, as in, on the same level as the Bible? Whoa, here, now hold on just a second. Maybe the writer of the article used the wrong word, but I don’t really think so. The concern is always whether or not the new character or the novel based on the show or the new merchandise or the newest fan magazine fits seamlessly into the mould of the original design; whether or not the spirit of the original theme remains intact. The arguments can get ugly, too, and people end up accusing the others of not being “real fans,” and it got me to thinking about something Paul said in his letter to the Galatians when a new gospel had begun to be preached in that region. He said,
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)
All around us, people are going along inventing new ways of understanding the spiritual while purporting to follow Christ, going so far as to create new visions of Christ himself, ones more palatable to their post-modern sensibilities. As we float along, not wanting to offend anyone, we see a whole myriad of the lost actively preaching these ‘new gospels’ to whomever will listen, all the while saying to anyone who dares breathe a word of the true Word that their worldview is ‘archaic, unenlightened, sexist, and arrogant.’ We dare not say they aren’t ‘true Christians,’ so we pray, which is a really great start! After all, according to the true gospel, Holy Spirit is the one who will prepare hearts to receive Christ! Yet, we need to go further. These new ‘gospels’ tend to be poorly thought out, and worse, can be adapted whenever their integrity is threatened. Nowadays a person’s beliefs are sacred only to them, and they are encouraged by worldly society to be as original and creative about them as possible. Basically, they can be made up as one goes along, and changed to fit new paradigms.
So what can we do? Well, again, we can pray, not only for the lost but for a keener understanding of the Scriptures we hold dear, and even a keener desire to walk closely with the One of whom they speak, our Lord Jesus Christ, who “is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We can study the gospel in a more dedicated fashion than we ever have before, learning and absorbing what God tells us in the Bible. I believe that only through a solid knowledge of the Word that we even stand a chance of resisting the onslaught of all the new religions popping up seemingly everywhere and every hour. More importantly, we can trust that his Word is true. His is the only gospel that is trustworthy 100% of the time. You know it. You’ve read it, haven’t you?
Certainly if people are willing to shout insults and e-mail nasty jargon at each other for a slight variance or two in the theme of a silly TV serial from the UK, then certainly we can stand up and politely tell people, those who would alter the precious gospel for their own purposes, that such alterations will not stand up to the power of sin in the world. Only the true gospel will. You believe it. I believe it. Let’s make sure we know it. And for goodness sake, let us speak the truth in love.