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Recovering the Heart of the Christian FaithTim Keller’s The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Dutton, 2008) is a brief gospel presentation that centers upon Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. Keller uses Jesus’ well-known story as a lens through which to see how the gospel provides the answer to our sinfulness and self-righteousness.

Tim Keller has a way of communicating powerful theological truths in simple, uncluttered language. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Prodigal God. Keller masterfully weaves together contemporary stories with biblical commentary. Readers come face to face with solid, biblical exposition that centers in gospel application.

The title of the book comes from the picture of God and the prodigality (reckless extravagance) of his grace. Keller puts the parable in historical perspective and provides colorful, cultural details that illuminate the story. He believes that we miss the point of Jesus’ famous parable if we fail to give proper attention to the elder brother. So Keller departs from the typical presentation of this parable and decides to focus more on the elder son than the younger.

Key to understanding Keller’s intention in writing The Prodigal God is his insistence that we must repent not only of sin, but also of righteousness. Apart from God, we try to live righteously as a means of becoming our own Savior. Lost people either run from God’s control by fleeing into sin, or they try to usurp God’s control by determining their own circumstances and rewards through their “good” behavior.

Keller demonstrates how the gospel shatters these categories. He turns the spotlight towards the amazing grace of Jesus who brings us home – to the feast of the Father.

My only quibble with this excellent book is that Keller too often blames the elder brothers (Pharisees) for turning people off to God and turning them into “younger brothers.” Granted, he doesn’t excuse the behavior of either set of sinners. But I felt at times that Keller’s desire to establish common ground with the seeker was at the expense of the Church. (Lord knows we are all Pharisees to some extent, but surely our Pharisaism is not the primary reason for others’ rebellion.)

Overall, The Prodigal God is a masterful exposition of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Get it. Read it. Pass it on.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Prodigal God”

  1. paulthinkingoutloud says:

    It is a very well-written book. It’s the same size and shape as the classic Prayer of Jabez only with much more content. Your “only quibble” is somewhat understandable given the type of people who frequent Keller’s church and with whom he interacts throughout the week.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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