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Nothing But The Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter Paperback – August 31, 2012
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About the Author
Zach J. Hoag lives in Burling- ton, VT with his wife Kalen and two little girls, Gemma and Pippa. In 2008, along with his family and friends, he planted a new church called Dwell (dwellchurch.org) in what is considered the least religious region of the U.S. He serves as lead pastor at Dwell and loves nothing more than preaching through a narrative sermon series Sunday after Sunday. You ll also find him snowboard- ing at Sugarbush Resort, blogging at zhoag.com, and plotting art and justice initiatives at atmis.org.
Top customer reviews
"True Christian community is the sworn enemy of religious hypocrisy." Before we dismiss "Dexter" as someone we could never be like, Hoag takes a deep look at his actions and motives. Dexter is an example of right intentions gone terribly wrong. One is reminded, however, that in his own personal struggle, perhaps Dexter is more like those who 'are blind and know it', or at least struggle with it (a la John 9:41). "Hypocrisy" shows up loudest in those who have no idea they manifest it.
We need 'saving' at so many levels, and if Jesus hasn't convinced you of this, perhaps Dexter will - at least as he is deconstructed in "Nothing But the Blood".
I give this book five stars - for its content, its thoughtfulness, and its design. I could not put it down until I had finished it. Buy it.
['Dexter' spoilers ahead.]
I have two small complaints: I think at times Hoag is too optimistic in his evaluation of Dexter's progress. I have recently begun rewatching the series, and have seen the first four seasons at least a few times now. (Hoag only writes from the perspective of the first six seasons.) Throughout the various seasons of the show, Dexter in the kill room is as dark and inhumane as ever; there rarely ever seems to be glimmers of light, a recognition of hope and change. This only changes towards the end of the final season, after Dexter's love for Hannah, Harrison, and Deb has finally taken away from him the need to kill. That seems to be the last lesson of 'Dexter': love makes us human. But even Dexter's end was grim and bleak: self-seclusion, self-exile, leaving Hannah and his son to go off to Argentina on their own, after his refusal (in his newfound humanity!, of all things) to kill Oliver Saxon led to the death of his sister Debra. The evil he committed all those years in murdering people has caught up with him, and he spends his dies in eternal separation from the one thing that made him human. Of course, Hoag had no way of knowing, at the time of the writing of this book, that such would be the end of America's favorite serial killer, but especially in light of such an end, Hoag's vision of what is present in Dexter appears at times a bit too bright and rosy in comparison to the actual series.
[End 'Dexter' spoilers.]
Beyond this I have a theological quibble as well: Hoag too quickly dismisses universalism on pp. 103ff. He mentions a "'gospel' of a Universally Overlooking God promises that choices in this life or not all that crucial because this earthly life is a drop in the bucket that will be followed by an eternity in which the good, the bad, and the ugly are all made good anyway" (p. 103). I think universalists can take the demand that there exist retribution for wrongs done seriously and can satisfy Hoag's demands while still affirming that in the end, God can save all persons because such is his desire (e.g., 1 Tim 2.4). Robin Parry's _The Evangelical Universalist_ provides a nice picture of this; I would recommend, too, Jurgen Moltmann, _The Coming of God_ on this topic.
Apart from these two points, I have no complaints about the book. Hoag's analysis is insightful, his appreciation of the narrative and nature of 'Dexter' is fantastic, and for a theology nerd like myself who loves the series, this book is exactly what I was looking for. I highly recommend it!
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. 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 storyline to point to the gospel. 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 atonement's ability to reconcile relationship with God, self, others, and the world is what I so deeply appreciated in this work. For this is the whole Gospel. In Evangelical Christianity the Gospel has often been reduced to its minimum - through the cross we are reconciled to God. This emphasis on being redeemed before God is absolutely important and a part of the Gospel, but to focus on that is to neglect the restoration of 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. 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. I believe we can engage culture, discern the times, and be agents of reconciliation and restoration.