Let me lay my cards on the table. First, I’ve never seen the show Dexter. My brother raves about it, but I don’t have cable and Netflix and HuluPlus don’t carry it. Second, I have read a couple of other books with the “The Gospel according to…” in their title. One was about the Simpsons and the other was (cue the cliche) about U2. Neither of which were really about the gospel. Spirituality with a Christian flavor, absolutely. The Gospel, no.
And that’s where this book differs. Zach Hoag’s Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter really is about the Gospel. I’ll admit it, I was a little skeptical about how much this book about a serial killer who kills killers (might have to read that a couple of times) would actually point us to the Gospel. My cynicism had me believing Hoag would be making giant leaps to connect the plot line of the show to the work of Jesus on the cross. So imagine my surprise when the connections, were not only seemless, but appropriate.
For example, Dexter is a serial killer. Not a label many of us wear. It is also a label that may cause us to believe we have little to nothing in common with someone like Dexter. This is where Hoag’s ability to use the story line to point to the gospel is to be celebrated. On this very point Hoag writes:
Fallen human beings are not all serial killers (thank God), but at the root we have all chosen dissocial independence as our life’s direction. Thus, human history itself is characterized by this dissocial downward spiral of destructive independence, with life ever fragmenting in all directions – in our relationships with God, self, others and the world.
Hoag’s emphasis on the atonement’s ability to reconcile relationship with God, self, others, and the world is what I so deeply appreciated about this work. For this is the whole Gospel. In Evangelical Christianity the Gospel has often been reduced to its minimum – through the cross of Jesus we are reconciled to God. When evangelicals think of the Gospel, this is what we think of. Don’t get me wrong, this emphasis on being redeemed before God is absolutely important and a part of the Gospel, but to say that is the entirety of the Gospel is reductionist It is to neglect the resurrection and the coming restoration of all things which is also part of the gospel. Our gospel presentations cannot end with the cross, but must include the resurrection and the restoration of God’s shalom on earth as it is in heaven. Nothing but the Blood does this beautifully in a way that conjures up images of Paul in Athens using culture to proclaim the Gospel.
Here’s my only disappointment with the book. Many will not read it because Dexter is a show that, because of its main character, is gritty and gruesome. Many will not read it because they don’t know the show. And that is too bad. But for those who are fans of the show, this will be a great read. It is also wonderful example of how to use culture to tell of the beauty of the gospel. I firmly believe that Christians do not need to fear culture and retreat from it. In the spirit of this book, we can engage culture, discern the times, and be agents of reconciliation and restoration.