Faith & Fandom
Doctor Who: The Name Of "The Doctor"
Once people know you are a Whovian one of the first questions they ask is, "Who's your Doctor?" I appreciate the sentiment and I know we all have favorite actors, but the longer I've been a fan of the series the more I grow to dislike that question. Not that you can't have a favorite actor, but to me if you're going to be a fan of the story, if you're going to be a fan of the series, you can't look at regenerations just as actors changing roles. You actually have to look at it as part of the same character and that it's part of the story. I think when you pick a favorite actor you disqualify the fact that The Doctor is The Doctor regardless of the actor playing him. From Capaldi on back to the moment a Tardis ran away with a madman, The Doctor is The Doctor.
That's just my personal rant, so if you wanna swear by Tennant, that's totally up to you, but just hear me out. I really love that the name "The Doctor" is something that he chose. It's the identity or persona that he wanted to embody. As we saw in the 50th anniversary, it's a name that declares the promise that he will never be cruel or cowardly and that he will never give up or give in. That was who he wanted to be when he chose that name. Then by comparison you have "The Master," who chose his name because he wanted to rule over everything. It's a bit less poetic than The Doctor's. So it seems like it is a Time Lord or
Gallifreyan tradition to give yourself the name of what you/who you want to be. Where one wants to be a ruler, the other one wants to be as a healer. Another thing I love about the 50th anniversary is that it also gave us "The War Doctor," which personally is up there in my top 3 incarnations of The Doctor. Not just because it's John Hurt, but because I love the story of it. I also know that the only reason The War Doctor exists is because Chris Eccleston turned down being in the 50th, but I'm glad for that reason alone he did. I think it speaks volumes that The Doctor entered into a period of his life where he realized he wasn't the man that he wanted to be. He saw that he didn't live up to the name that he chose for himself. If we're honest with ourselves, sometimes we don't live up to the name we want to be either. We make mistakes, or we fall, or we do things that aren't consistent with who we claim to be. This is especially relevant to people who call themselves Christians because you're not just carrying the weight of your name, but you are literally the name of Christ as well.
As we see in the book of Acts, people began to be called by the name association of Jesus. Acts 11: "22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."
The name Christian wasn’t a label they chose, not was it a marketing, branding, or advertising scheme. They were called Christians because they behaved in such a way that the people there said they were like Christ, and that's where the name came from. They were literally like little versions of Jesus running around. Their name was inseparable from that of Jesus Christ, and that's the position Christians of this era find themselves in, whether they want it or not.
Names hold power.
Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Not that we bank everything on our own reputation or for our own glory or fame, but the names we carry hold weight. Check out Acts 4:12, " Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” It tells us that the name of Jesus is the only name that has the power of our salvation. We see that it's his name we call on, in his identity that we find strength. It was not just in his name that was given to him as a human, but it's in the name that he took, that he's the Messiah. He's the Savior. This is the name that he lives up to because he actually embodies the name of Savior, Messiah, King, Redeemer. There were probably tons of kids that had His same birth name, but He became so much more than the 6th kid at Nazareth Elementary School named Jesus. Have you notice there is a trend in Scripture of giving new names to people much like The Doctor took the new name upon himself?
Genesis 17:5 "No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations." Genesis 17:15 "God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah." Genesis 32:28 "Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”" We see frequently that God gives new names to people to live up to. Peter, who is one of my favorite people in the Bible, is given a name that goes from Simon to Petros. Matthew 16:17-18 "Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Peter (Petros) means "rock," the firm foundation. Literally, the dude is given the name of The Rock like Dwayne Johnson if you smell what I'm cookin. Jesus literally walked up to this guy who was shaky, who was unstable, who caused so much emotional stress and turmoil, and said, "You are the rock, you are Peter." If Jesus looked at you and said you are a rock, that's going to tell you something. That's going to tell you that that's who he sees you as. That this name is what you're to live up to, that it's your aspiration. Just like God renames us for His purposes, the world has a tendency to rename us as well. The world will label us with so many false titles that it can be hard to see who we know we are, and even more dangerously who God says we are.
Derek Webb has a song called name that embodies this; "They'll call you right, they'll call you left They'll call you names of all your friends You never know what you'll have to do Baby, don't let 'em Don't let 'em put a name on you There's no categories, just long stories waiting to be heard (If there's love in your heart) Don't be satisfied when someone sums you up with
just one word (If there's love in your heart) Blindfold your heart and feel for a clueBaby, don't let 'em Don't let 'em put a name on you."
If we are going to let anyone give us a new name, it must be God. He's the only one who actually knows how our story turns out, who we're designed to be. If the world gives us a name, or we give ourselves a name, we run the risk of being labeled by opinions, failures, struggles or temporary situations as opposed to being named for who we truly are or who we are becoming.
If I were a Time Lord I would choose the name "The Shepherd." It's a title I've always loved, then even more so after watching Firefly. It sums up the ministry of a pastor, but still emphasizes the personal touch and relationship of doing more than just preaching at people, but actually being beside them in their lives and guiding them. That's who I want to be. I know there are times in my life I don't actually live that out. There are times in my life when I don't even live out the name of Christian. I don't live out even the name of Hector some days either. In my community my name does kind of have some weight to it. Not like I'm famous around the world or internationally known, but there are people in my area that my name is synonymous with certain things. If I don't even live up
to my own name, it's going to be a struggle to live up the one God gives. We see that in scripture though, that even when the people that God had renamed, they didn't live up to their new names all the time. Peter wasn't exactly a rock when he betrayed Jesus. Abraham made foolish choices in regards to his family after being renamed the "Father of Nations." If you're a Christian you're going to make foolish choices and not always live up to the name of Christ. Even The Doctor, outside of War Doctor, didn't live up to his name sometimes.
When 10 burned the creepy spider lady's children in "The Runaway Bride," that wasn’t a moment he lived up to his imposed name. As we saw the water pouring down and the flames engulfing around him, he glared without remorse, Donna cried out because what she saw wasn't The Doctor. She didn't even know that truly meant yet, but she knew that wasn’t him. In “Face The Raven" when The Doctor is realizing that Clara is going to die, and there’s nothing he can do about it, he has a moment of reckoning. He could go either way. Clara challenges him, begs him, to not betray who he is. She knows that when he is hurting and angry that he could be someone else, but she calls out to him to be "The Doctor.” To never be cruel or cowardly. So here's a question for you: "What name do you want to be identified with?" If you were a Timelord, what would your declared name be?
More importantly what do you want your name to mean in the light of being a follower of Christ?
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each others faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
This verse tells us that we are called, that being under the name of Christ has responsibilities and meaning behind it that has a lot more depth than just not being cruel or cowardly, the calling that comes with the name of a Christian requires us to display love that literally is supernatural and beyond our own abilities. You are called to live up to a name that is beyond anything man can do without the Spirit of God.
In the episode "The Name Of The Doctor" as well as the following "The Time Of The Doctor" it was this big mystery, this big conundrum, challenge, or whatever to be able to find out the real name of The Doctor. The Great Intelligence needed to find it to destroy him, the Timelords set it as a trap or even as a gateway to find freedom, they had their motives. What we saw though is that it honestly doesn't matter the name he was born with. It doesn't matter the name that only River Song knows him by. The name that matters is the name that he chooses. In our life the name that matters is the name that God gives us, and that is what we must strive for.
"The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow." Isaiah 62:2