Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: The Prodigal God

My previous book took several weeks of hard reading. Tim Keller's latest book was a much quicker read, in two evenings, and was also an edifying read. Keller's short book is a refreshing exegesis of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (as it is commonly known), or rather, the parable of the two lost sons.

Looking at the title, you might just come up short as you ask - did he really call it The Prodigal God? But God hasn't run away! No, rather, he latches on to the meaning of prodigal as being recklessly spendthrift, which is exactly how God's grace is displayed in welcoming younger sons home again. However, in welcoming younger sons home, it turns out that the older son is just as lost as his brother - he just doesn't realise it. Each one has rebelled, one by being very bad, and the other by being extremely good.

Keller spends some time on each of the two sons examining how they have been lost, and how they can be restored, but he doesn't dwell on cheap grace - the idea that God just welcomes everyone without cost. No, he portrays the deep and costly grace of God in Christ Jesus, who is the true older brother who came to seek and to serve the lost.

As Keller then applies the parable and explains the essence of Christianity through the parable, he writes these helpful words in showing the difference between religion and Christianity:

Religion operates on the principle of "I obey - therefore I am accepted by God." The basic operating principle of the gospel is "I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ - therefore I obey." (p. 114)

What a world of difference! A great evangelistic and encouraging book, useful for those outside the faith, and also for those within to remind them of the basics and to root our identity and hope firmly in the Lord Jesus.

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