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God the Father

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A few weeks back, it was Trinity Sunday, also known as the occasion for heretical analogies. It is extremely difficult to grasp, intellectually, how one God can be three persons, and all the analogies that I know are flawed in some respect. This hilarious video points some of them out. Before going any further into the topic of the Trinity, I should point out that, in matters such as this (the mysteries of faith), we shouldn’t ever expect to fully understand; however, this does not mean we should not keep contemplating it. Indeed, as we do, we get closer and closer to God, in our understanding and in our lives. But as we do, we should not try to explain the Trinity, as though it were something we can grasp fully; rather, we should try to describe it.


Painting in the public domain (full image on Wikimedia)

There are three persons (three “hypostases”): the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. A lot of our worship focuses on the Son (with the help of the Holy Spirit), and it is Christ we’re following. And so we focus more on the Son, and end up neglecting the other persons of the Trinity. While we tend to be aware that we don’t know that well how to picture the Holy Spirit, the same does not necessarily hold for God the Father. Yet, who is He?

There are three things to know about God the Father:

1. He is indescribable. Saying it right off the bat actually relieves the pressure, as we know we can’t reach the perfect description. He is greater than all of creation, and even if we had measured the mountains and the seas, we could not describe Him.

2. He cares for us, even though we are nothing before Him. This, in turn, implies two things: as our actions are naught too before Him, that this caring love is not dependent on what we do. Secondly, that His promise is greater than anything we could achieve ourselves. He will make us soar on wings like eagles.

3. We are called to be His children and to behave as such. This call to action is not one of obligation, but a mere expression of our identity as loved children of God the Father.

You can listen to the sermon, which (like the above summarising points) is based on Isaiah 40 and Matthew 28, by using the player below, or you can download the audio or read the sermon notes.

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7 ways in which the Doctor is like God, but not quite

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To celebrate the return on television of the greatest show ever for its seventh new series, I thought I’d draw seven comparisons between Doctor Who and God.

Photo: Ben Sutherland, under CC License (Doctor Who and the TARDIS are trademarks of the BBC)

1. The Doctor regenerates: there are (so far) at least eleven Doctors. Each of them is a completely separate person, with his own personality, his own appearance, his own stories. But ultimately, he is the same Doctor whose nature it is to always have mercy… One substance, eleven hypostases. Just like the Trinity, except with eleven. Right?
Wrong: each of these incarnations (see what I did there?) of the Doctor has a beginning and an end. They do not relate with one another. And while they can sometimes meet, they are not defined by their relation with each other. In a way, each incarnation is a mode.

2. In the golden days of 1963-1966, nobody knew Doctor Who would be quite that successful. The Doctor was this grumpy old man, and the heroes of the show were very much the first companions, Ian, Susan and Barbara. The fact that, to prolong the show, they had to write in the regeneration process – and that we only find out about it later does not mean that the First Doctor gained the ability to regenerate in The Tenth Planet. So the first seasons of Doctor Who are standing up on their own, without need of the clutter brought by the other Doctors; and the same goes for the Old Testament. Right?
Not so: even in the Old Testament, there are plenty of indications of the coming of Christ. More so: reading the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament brings it out in its fullness.

3. With a show as big as Doctor Who, there’s a lot of spin-off media. Charity events sketches, such as in Jim’ll fix it, Dimensions in Time, The Curse of Fatal Death, … even have the BBC stamp of approval. Then there’s the books, the audios, the comics, the games. All of these are supposed to somehow fit together… but the canonical status of these is subject to debate. At the end of the day, you can choose whether the Looms of Lungbarrow are actually what happens; but all must fit with the core TV series. The same goes with the Bible and Apocrypha, right?
Not quite: while, yes, everything should be tested against the Gospels; not just anything which fits with the Gospel is necessarily truth. What is canonical is not a matter of personal choice and convenience – it is a matter of truth, and required the help of the Holy Spirit when the canon was compiled, and still requires it now.

4. The fans will tell you what the Doctor can and cannot do, and be sure that their understanding of Doctor Who is correct, regardless of anything that comes their way (of course he can’t regenerate more than 12 times. WHAT? He snogged Grace? NEVER! THAT’S NOT THE DOCTOR! THE TV MOVIE NEVER EXISTED!). Most people are just there to enjoy the show and those details don’t look like they’re worth fussing about.
Actually, that sounds about right. Not that it should.

5. The Doctor is half human. On his mother’s side. Seriously, that’s a line from the 1996 TV Movie. And it’s led to a lot of debate amongst fans. Just like that, Jesus was begotten of God the Father and the Virgin Mary. It’s the same, right?
But Jesus was, and remains, fully human.
Alright, then, the Doctor made himself fully human. Twice, if you count the Virgin adventures (I kid you not), in both occurrences of Human Nature (book and TV).
But Jesus’s humanity is ontological: he has always been human, and, far more importantly, remains incarnate now to intercede for us at the right hand of the Father.

6. The Doctor is outside of time. When he’s in the TARDIS. Just like God, right? The Alpha and the Omega, and all that?
Wrong: in the TARDIS, the Doctor is still part of the universe (just in a different dimension), and constrained by physicality, and by his own timeline. And, unless you consider Terminus, the Doctor had nothing to do with the creation and the end of the Universe. (Let’s not consider Terminus).

7. Meeting the Doctor changes your life forever. And it’s exhilarating. Okay, that one’s a bit transparent :-p
But while meeting the Doctor changes your perspective, and leaves you stranded with little to do but pick up remnants of a broken life when he leaves, once you have found God, He never leaves.

Add your own comparisons!