Friday, March 20, 2009

'The Prodigal God' by Timothy Keller

The Prodigal God is a book that created a small controversy before it was published. To name no names, some Reformed people criticised Keller simply for the title of this book! To me, this was a total non-issue, obviously the book was an exposition of the parable usually referred to as 'The Prodigal Son'. Most agree that this name is not completely appropriate, partly because there are two sons in the parable. I know of a missionary who refers to it as 'The Parable of the Running Father', to emphasise the fact that a father in ancient near-eastern culture would never run, as it would be contrary to his dignity.
Although I had heard many good things about Pastor Keller and his work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, I had never read or listened to Keller before I read this book. I came to it as just another book. And I like it. Keller has written a book that presents the Gospel biblically, in an exposition of the parable. The title The Prodigal God was chosen by Keller to express the reckless generosity of God to sinners. It's all about the Gospel, and Keller gets it! He knows what the Gospel is, God's free grace to sinners through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's a striking title, and perhaps you find it shocking. You're meant to, the reckless freeness of the Gospel to sinners is shocking, especially to the self-righteous. Now, when a book presents the Gospel like this, it's well worth reading and passing on.
Whether this is actually the case or not, what struck me was Keller's concern for the 'elder son' sinners, self-righteous people. While most expositions of the parable tend to spend more time on the younger son, Keller seems to balance the time he spends on each. As a former liberal Anglican, I found this quite refreshing. I was one of those people, and I am so glad that Keller understands that self-righteous sinners need the Gospel too. Better yet, he understands that Christians need to hear the Gospel so that they do not get into an 'elder son' mentality of legalism! A little book, it could have done without Rick Warren, Billy Graham and Christianity Today on the back cover!
The Prodigal God is published by Dutton, and is available from your local Christian bookshop, or from


Evangelical books said...

Hi Gervase,

I am one who finds that "not all that are Reformed are Reformed". I'm sure there is a lot of good in modern reformed writers, but I am more inclined towards the old writers.

Yours in Christ,

Highland Host said...

And so am I. But not to the exclusion of all modern books.