Tim Keller has been touted in some media articles as the new C.S. Lewis. Whilst I’m not sure I would go that far, following my reading of The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, I’ll certainly be ordering his The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism.
The Prodigal God takes Luke 15, and the story of the prodigal son as its basis. The majority of the book is spent looking at the two brothers: the lost younger brother, the lost elder brother.
Keller challenges us to see that we are all sinful like either the younger brother and his recklessness or the older brother and his legalism:
Jesus shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviours can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life. (p. 43)
In this sense Keller very clearly redefines sin away from the court room illustration that so many churches still use, and brings it back to the heart of the matter – both are wrong, but both sons are still loved.
The book concludes with a wonderful pair of chapters on hope and the feast of the Father. Keller reflects on the imagery of the meal in the parable in Luke 15, and the pattern of exile and return which is seen so clearly throughout scripture. He concludes that the end feast which will be experiential, material, individual but also communal.
A thought provoking book on a well known parable brings some good new insights. This rates alongside Henri Nouwen’s classic, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.