Review: The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

Bev Doolittle is known as a camouflage artist because “her distinctive use of context, design and pattern help viewers discover meanings which seem hidden only until they become obvious.”  If you have viewed her work, you understand the process of discovering meanings that seem hidden until they become obvious.

Doolittle’s piece “Eagle Heart” depicts a chief on a snow white horse in full sunlight while the eagles hover mysteriously in the shadowy background.  The eagles are formed in the painting by combinations of rock, snow, and shadow and are difficult to see (there are 25 of them).  Without seeing the eagles, “Eagle Heart” is a still a beautiful piece but does not convey all that the artist intended.  Seeing the eagles for the first time has an “Oh, wow!” effect upon the viewer as you realize the beautiful complexity of the work.

Enter Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God: Rediscovering the Heart of the Christian Faith.

For years, I read Luke 15:11-32, traditionally known as The Parable of The Prodigal Son, without seeing the eagles.  In the conventional reading, it is the story of a wayward son who returns to the surprising love of his Father.  In that way, it is a beautiful piece…but there is so much more.  Keller demonstrates that this story also has its eagles that when seen have an “Oh, WOW!” effect upon the reader.

The most obvious missed ‘eagle’ in the traditional reading is the first fact of the story.  Jesus said, “Now a man had two sons…”  Keller demonstrates how this is really a tale about two lost sons.  Through careful exposition and winsome explanation, Keller illustrates how the elder brother is just a lost as the younger.  One estranges himself from the father by being very bad; the other by being very good.  Neither loves the father.  One responds to the grace of the father and is restored; the other fumes.

There are many ‘eagles’ in this story of Jesus.  To see them only intensifies the reader’s wonder at Jesus. He is the true elder brother, who rather than staying home came to retrieve and rescue us.

The Prodigal God will challenge your understanding of lostness,  confront your soul about your own moral conformity, and cause you many “Oh, wow!” moments as you contemplate the gospel of Christ in fresh ways.

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