Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller

All of my Presbyterian friends have been telling me to read two books by Tim Keller, so I finally gave in and read The Prodigal God. Tim Keller is the pastor an inner city church in New York called, Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He has a huge audience through his books and sermons. He is very well loved, especially in the Reformed Tradition. I found this book to be very insightful.

Tim Keller's whole book is about the parable of the Prodigal son (or as it should be called, the prodigal sons). He correctly grounds this parable in its context, which is that Jesus tells all three parables in Luke 15 to those who are upset that Jesus eats with sinners. He points out that both sons in this parable are lost, just in different ways. The younger son falls into the trap of "self-discovery" while the older brother falls into "moral conformity." In both cases, they are acting out of selfishness but in both cases God acts out of grace. Keller then goes on to point out that in the case of the younger son, we see that God's grace is free. In the case of the older son, God's grace is costly.

While I really liked the overall flow and argument of the whole book, I found that it was the smaller things that Keller said that really spoke to me. For instance, later on in the book he ponders on the question about who was supposed to go and search for the younger son in this parable because in the two previous parables, someone always searches for the items lost. The shepherd searches for the sheep and the lady searches for the coin. He points out that nobody goes in search for the younger son. He then says that it should have been the older brother who went out to look for him. To add insult to injury, the older son not only refuses to search, but he complains when he comes back home.

Being a "Wesleyan" in my theology I was on the look out for places where I would disagree with Keller's theology. I was impressed that most of the book focused so much on the heart of Christianity that I found myself agreeing with Keller most of the time. I agree with him that salvation begins with God's desire to save us, not our desire to repent. I also agree though, that our repentance is important after God's grace first finds us. I believe that God's grace is very costly. The only place I found myself disagreeing with him was when he said that the way we know that God is initiating salvation is when we feel convicted about our lives. While I think this is how God reaches us, I do believe that God initiates this in all persons, it is just that some people choose, in the words of Keller, to be content with "self-discovery" or "moral conformity." In the words of Milton, "Some people would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven."

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to deepen their faith and understanding. Timothy Keller is a great writer and champion of the faith.

No comments: