In the Showtime hit Dexter, the lead character by the same name suffered from a sociopathic personality. With that came the urge to express his inner-rage against other people. It was described throughout the series as something like an addiction. He felt a need to kill in the same way that people feel the need to smoke cigarettes. With the help of his father, Dexter developed a code that would help him to avoid getting caught by the police or bringing people to harm who did not deserve it. This led Dexter to embark on vigilante justice. He would murder only those who he believed deserved to be murdered. The major theme of season six was Christianity. Dexter wanted to enroll his son in a Catholic preschool. This led to several difficult questions about the Bible, theology, and doctrine. Some of his coworkers stumbled in answering Dexter’s questions about Christianity, providing no answers of real substance. Others made Dexter think that there might be more to life.
However, I always felt as though the majority of the questions that he posed could have been answered in a much better way. As Christians, we have a duty to share the gospel with the world. This means that when people come to us with difficult questions, we need to know the answers. Throughout this article, I will answer the questions that he posed directly and rephrase some of his statements as questions. Before some wise guy comments to inform me that Dexter is a fictional character, I would like to point out that his questions are legitimate and may reflect some of the concerns that other people have had, particularly individuals who enjoyed this series.
Why do children need to see the crucifix? Isn’t it gruesome?
As he explored the Catholic preschool, Dexter encountered a crucifix. This differs from an empty cross in that it actually depicts the crucifixion. Jesus is on the cross, dying for the sins of mankind. It is very gruesome imagery. This concerned Dexter in that children probably do not need to see an image of a man dying, even if it is a religious artifact. When he posed this question to his friend, he received nothing of substance. This devout individual had no idea why there was a crucifix displayed in the preschool.
The reason actually cuts to the core of one of the major differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Roman Catholic tradition maintains that with every church service, the sins of the parish need absolution. That is why there are so many sacraments. The crucifix is there to represent Jesus, who really is there in the spiritual realm, being sacrificed to God at every Mass. As Session XXII Canon One of the Council of Trent says, “If anyone says that in the Mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, let him be anathema.” This is what is known as an unbloody sacrifice. That crucifix is central to Roman Catholic practice. Catholics will wear a crucifix, display one in their home and their institutions so that Jesus will truly be present, presently suffering for their sins.
Protestants will rightly recoil at this idea. We do not believe that Jesus is sacrificed over and over again. He was sacrificed once and for all sins. As Hebrews 10:12-14 tells us, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Why do children need to learn doctrine?
When answering Dexter’s questions about Christianity, his friend stumbled through his words and finally said that children need to learn about the crucifix because it is the catechism. It is the doctrine of the church. Dexter replied to this by asking, “And children need to learn this, because…?” to which he did not receive any answer at all.
The answer, though, is pretty simple, and it is probably one that most Roman Catholics would agree with. Children need to learn doctrine for the same reason that they need to learn mathematics or science. Why do children go to school? Why parents invest money in educating their children about the world? They need to learn that which is true. They will be a well-rounded individual if they have a broad education, particularly in matters of the faith. If they are able to think and reason in philosophical and theological and moral terms, they will be more reasonable people, comporting their beliefs with that which is true.
Further, and more critically, children need to learn doctrine because, as Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Of course, this is a truism. But in general, if children are taught how to live righteous lives when they are young, they will probably persist in the faith when they are old. Further, all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Children need to be taught how to be faithful to Christ because that is the way of wisdom and of the righteous.
As Charles Spurgeon said, “But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe…The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”
How do we know that there is even a God?
With this same friend giving poor answers to these questions, Dexter asked how we even know that there is a God. I should probably point out that Dexter was not trying to stump his friend. He was looking for some insight from a devout individual. So he asked how it is that we can even know that there is a God. Stumbling through a bastardized and denigrated version of the moral argument, he eventually concluded, “Look, it all comes down to faith.” To his relief, that was the end of the conversation as Dexter offered a polite statement of gratitude for his time.
Of course, the answer was ultimately unsatisfying. How do we even know that there is a God? Perhaps the most obvious answer to this question is that something must have created everything. Why does anything at all exist? Things that exist must have an explanation. If you found a ball in the forest, you would not accept that there was no explanation of its’ existence. If the ball were increased to the size of a house, the earth, or the universe, the question persists. What is the explanation of its’ existence? The explanation cannot be natural, spacial, or temporal, as these are all features of the universe. So the ball must have an explanation that is supernatural, immaterial, timeless, and spaceless. For the sake of brevity and beginning the conversation, when answering Dexter’s questions about Christianity, I probably would have replied with something like, “Look around you. Who created all of this?”
When Dexter encountered a thoughtful Christian named Brother Sam, he actually did receive this sort of answer. But the way that it was presented seemed to make it difficult to understand. Brother Sam said something like, “Look at the sky and the ocean.” Dexter replied with a scientific answer that explained the sky and the ocean. But that was not quite the point. All of creation, the totality of the natural world, must have an explanation beyond itself. (Since I have written extensively about the evidence for God, I would like to invite the reader to view that before writing a rebuttal to what I have posted here.)
How do you reconcile your crimes with your belief in God?
Remember that Dexter is a friendly neighborhood serial killer. He pursued individuals who harmed others. However, he would not just murder them. He would inject them with an animal tranquilizer, strap them to a table, have a conversation with them about their crimes, then murder them. Before murdering this individual, he recognized that he believed in God. He claimed to be a Christian. So he asked, how do you reconcile your crimes with your belief in God? After all, God is good and he sets the standard by which you are supposed to live. Yet you murdered your wife. How do you reconcile that?
This is a question of which many of us have been confronted. Even believing Christians will sometimes transgress the law of God. None of us live perfect lives. But when we sin, it is our duty to come to God in repentance and confession and amend ourselves. It is an ongoing struggle against sin. We will fail. But there is a progression toward greater righteousness and maturity throughout the course of our lives. If you took a picture of the Christian at the wrong moment, you may be able to confront him and say, “How do you reconcile this?” But if you had a video camera and followed them for a year, you would recognize that they were growing in sanctification and in a deeper love for Christ.
Second, (and this is the more probable explanation for the situation that Dexter was in) some people really are hypocrites. There are false converts in the church. These are people who go to church or claim to be believers, but they have not really been born again (John 3:3-8). They have not really experienced the power of God in their own lives or been made new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). There are very stern warnings against people such as this in Scripture. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”
Why would anyone want to believe in bowls of wrath?
Confronted by imagery out of the book of Revelation, Dexter asked why it is that anyone would want to believe in some of these things. Swarms of locusts? Bowls of wrath? These are pretty horrifying images. If he were to browse further through Revelation, he would probably say the same thing about the Lake of Fire. Who would want to believe in these things? There is some sense in which we can sympathize with Dexter. These more horrifying elements of the faith are often those that people will shy away from because they are too difficult. Isn’t it odd that things like this are those that are subject to reinterpretation? No Christian feels the need to reinterpret whether Heaven is real.
As we continue answering Dexter’s questions about Christianity, the first thing that I want to point out is that we do not necessarily want to believe in these things. There are some things that are hard for us to believe, but we do, because Scripture is authoritative. If you believe that the Bible is God’s word, you cannot deny what it teaches. Scripture is as authoritative as mathematics. It is true. The doctrines that it teaches are true, even those that might seem frightening or difficult to take in. As Christians we believe in things that are incredible. Sometimes reality is like that, though. The underlying notion in this question is that Christians just believe whatever they want. While that may be the case sometimes, the mature Christian is someone who dedicates themselves to the authority of the word of God and accepts what it teaches even when we do not understand.
Second, it is a little ironic that Dexter would ask this question. Dexter is consumed in the idea of vigilante justice. He believes in righting things that are wrong. There are people out there who have violated the moral standards of a serial killer, and swift justice is coming. But what if somebody violates the standards of somebody more righteous? What if somebody violates God’s standards? Paul tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that the wage of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The bowls of wrath represents God’s punishment against sin.
Third, we often ask ourselves why there is so much evil and suffering in the world. Theologically minded individuals may ask why God would allow so much evil. The bowls of wrath are the answer to that question. All of the evil in the world will be made right. There is real justice. There is real hope.
Can I have a new life?
Brother Sam was not always a devout Christian. He used to be something like Dexter. In fact, in a twist of fate, Dexter befriended Brother Sam when he began to stalk him. Dexter was suspicious that Sam had murdered somebody. But when he began to investigate, he realized that while Sam used to live the life of a serial killer, he was truly a changed man. Sam had a darkness inside of him that was conquered by the Light. Dexter saw that and he began to wonder if the same thing could happen to him. Was there really a Light that could shine in the darkness? Could he truly change, as Sam did?
As Dexter attended a baptism, watching Sam dunk a friend of his in the ocean, he thought to himself, “Take a bath and come out a new man. Could I really believe this?” That was not sarcasm. He was really asking if he could believe it. Of course, it is not the water that actually saves you. Rather, it is what the water symbolizes. We are being buried. The old self is dying and a new man is emerging after the likeness of Christ (Colossians 2:12).
Jesus Christ died for our sins. This means that when he died, the bowls of wrath as spoken of before were poured out on him. He suffered in our place. He took our pain upon himself. As Isaiah 53:10 says, he bore our iniquities. Our sin was nailed to the cross, and then he died. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Now, because our sins were nailed to the cross, God can offer the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). All who accept it will be made new creatures. We need only to trust in the promises of God (Romans 4:5). We do not become new by our own effort. God works in us and makes us new creatures. Hence, the old man dies and the new man is born.
Answering Dexter’s Questions About Christianity
If you are somebody who is something like Dexter, who has questions about the Christian faith, then you should know that you are not alone. People all over the world have questions. People are often confronted by questions of a religious nature. Does God really exist? Is Christianity true? What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins? Some Christians may be able to help you. Others may not. But know that there are answers to your questions. But the ultimate answer is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Open the New Testament and read about him, what he said and did. When you have an answer to the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” the other questions either resolve themselves or fade into irrelevancy. You can learn more about Christ as you follow him.
What questions do you have? Contact me and let me know. Or just browse this site!