06 January 2013

Book Review: The Prodigal God

Yesterday I read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller (2011).  Centering upon the parable of the prodigal son, Keller seeks to help his reader understand more deeply the meaning of the parable.  Too often, he surmises, commentators have focused on the younger son--the prodigal, but that in reality, the story focuses not just on the younger son, but also on the older son and particularly upon the father.  Keller rightly points out that this story shows that both the licentiousness of the younger son and the legalism of the older son are ineffective means to salvation.  It is only the free grace of the father that can save both the younger son and the older one.

This book was good for me.  I struggle with being an elder brother, with being a Pharisee.  I think a lot of people in the church do.  For those of us who struggle with being Pharisees, Keller has important words for us.  Our self-righteousness will never get us anywhere and in fact, may serve as a barrier.  You see, when we think that if we are just good enough, we won't depend upon grace and will then refuse to go into the feast.

Noteworthy quotes:
  • If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishoners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did (18-19)
  • The father is saying, "I'm not going to wait until you've paid off your debt; I'm not going to wait until you've duly groveled. You are not going to earn your way back into my family, I am going to simply take you back. I will cover your nakedness, poverty, and rags with the robes of my office and honor." (26)
  • The prerequisite for receiving the grace of God is to know that you need it. (52). 
  • Perhaps the clearest symptom of this lack of assurance is a dry prayer life (72).
  • Jesus came to bring festival joy (120).
  • What makes you faithful or generous is not a redoubled effort to follow moral rules. Rather all change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart (133).
The Prodigal God is a really good book.  Keller writes clearly about the message that I seek to understand and tell others about every day.  We are saved by God's sheer grace, not by any goodness of our own.  I would definitely recommend this book. 

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