My first introduction to the word “regeneration” was in AWANA Sparkies (a Scripture memory program) when I learned Titus 3:5 in the NKJV: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” In the entire Bible, the only other appearance of the word is in Matthew 19:28: “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
But over Labor Day weekend 2010, I introduced myself to a new definition of regeneration—one that involved Christopher Eccleston turning into David Tennant who eventually changed into Matt Smith.* Other characters seen regenerating in the new series involve the Master and River Song; the latter is quite entertaining, while the former is terrifying. Attitudes towards it vary from lighthearted babble (Nine to Ten) to viewing it as death (Ten to Eleven.) It occurs by fire, burning away every cell in the body and rewriting one’s personality.
“Some new man goes sauntering away—and I’m dead,” says the Tenth Doctor to Wilf. In a way, it’s true. The very human, highly emotional and logical Tenth Doctor becomes the childish, adorkable Eleventh Doctor. Some aspects remain consistent across regenerations, such as heroic behavior, technobabble, and loyalty to his friends. Even aspects that don’t seem to continue—such as Nine’s self-loathing and guilt—still exist under the skin and are painfully brought to the surface.
While Scriptural regeneration is an abstract concept, sci-fi makes it cinematically clear. Time Lord’s trick—“a way of cheating death”-- is actually a fairly accurate picture of the changes in a Christian’s life when he or she accepts Christ. While one becomes a new person, it does not abolish the past, but gives a new perspective on life. Some traits remain constant, others come or go, but we’re still us.