Timothy Keller – The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008)

The Prodigal God is a brilliant exposition of the parable of the two lost sons from Luke 15, but also – as the subtitle suggest – a message on what is the heart of the Christian faith.

Jesus’ parable, Keller shows, confronts two ways that people break away from God. Some, like the younger brother, rebel against his commands. But others, like the elder brother, work hard to be a good person, but do so in order to establish their right to independence from God. As Keller says,

Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don’t obey God to get God himself – in order to resemble him, love him, know him, and delight in him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Saviour and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don’t believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves.

…Sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in place of God as Saviour, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

But, Keller’s book and the parable itself are really about the nature of God – a God who responds with utter grace, who is prodigal, lavish, reckless in how he loves. In the second half of the book the parable is used mainly as a launching pad to explore core biblical themes and Keller manages to cover a great deal in a very short space. As ever, he reads contemporary Western culturally brilliantly, and shows how the gospel confronts and corrects us.

I would highly recommend this book to any one – Christian or non-Christian, teenager or centenarian. You can get through it in a few hours and, for me, they were among my best spent hours.