Sometimes big things do come in small packages. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller is one of those “big things.”
Keller tackles the Parable of the Prodigal Son. His approach confronts the typical interpretation that fixates on the sin of the younger brother in Christ’s parable – the prodigal son. Keller does not minimize the sin of the younger brother. Rather, he emphasizes the heinous nature of his sin and explores the sin of the older brother as well – whose sin that is no less evil than his wayward brother.
The two brothers and their father not only set up the framework for the parable; they provide the basis for Keller’s assertions. The younger brother is the rebel; the one who sinfully squandered his inheritance. The older brother despised the act of mercy and grace demonstrated by the father toward the wayward son. The younger son tries to find happiness and fulfillment through self-discovery. The older son tries to find happiness through moral conformity. Keller adds, “The message of Jesus’s parable is that both of these approaches are wrong.”
The remaining sections of the book redefine sin, lostness, and hope – all based on the parable under consideration. Keller implies that all people gravitate toward one of the two brothers. He explodes traditional categories and offers fresh encouragement to rebel types and Pharisee types. At the end of the day, readers are challenged to repent of the sins of self-discovery and/or moral conformity.
The Prodigal God is a reaffirmation of the biblical gospel set forth in categories that are understandable to believers and unbelievers alike. I plan to utilize this resource as an evangelistic tool. I also plan to read this little treasure from time to time to remind myself of the gospel realities that emerge in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.