Book Review: "The Prodigal God"

Book Review: “The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith” by Timothy Keller (2008) Hodder & Stoughton, 139 pages.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt. So when we hear Jesus start a parable with “There was a man who had two sons…” we know how it goes, don’t we? - the bad younger son takes his share of his father’s estate, spends it on wild parties, returns home with his tail between his legs and his father welcomes him back with a feast and forgives him. So the parable teaches us that no matter how bad we are, God our father will forgive us. Right? Well no, actually. Because there is someone we have overlooked in our eagerness for a happy ending – the elder brother, who always obeyed his father and never asked for anything? Keller challenges us to consider the real message of Jesus’ best known and yet least understood parable; that the irreligious younger son, seeking to find himself, and the moralistic elder son, full of self-righteousness, are in fact both lost. Both want what the father can provide, but not the father himself, and yet the father lavishes his love on both. Keller suggests that it is God who is “prodigal”, recklessly extravagant with his love, which is ours by God’s grace alone, not earned by our own efforts, and it is Jesus who is the true elder brother, searching us out when we are lost, and paying the price to bring us home. Come and take your place at the table.

“The Prodigal God” is a short book and an easy read, but it will challenge you to see Christianity in a whole new way. Borrow it, free of charge, from St Helen’s Church lending shelf. 

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