Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Prodigal God

Keller’s excellent book is well worth the read for new and seasoned Christian alike. It can be read in a few hours and marinated in for a month. Keller aims to confront the ‘elder brother’ and ‘younger brother’ in us all by portraying a Father of lavish grace, our God.
His thesis reads:

 Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children. God’s reckless grace is our greatest hope, a life-changing experience, and the subject of this book.

And more than ‘proving’ his thesis, he helps us to feel it—engaging the whole human: mind, body, and soul. Of course, that’s an ‘insiders’ opinion; Keller didn’t have to convince me of anything. But when I see other reviews marked at 3 stars or less, I am perplexed. What exactly were the readers anticipating in this book?

Keller offers sound exposition of the parable in question, and although he occasionally makes inferences without detailed argumentation, Keller isn’t writing for the Law Firm Partner; he’s writing for the majority American populace… many of whom would be dissuaded with frequent or lengthy debate or footnotes. Is it true that the ‘careful reader’ should assume someone is supposed to leave and search for the younger brother? Well, I think so, and you may not; but this book is an exposition, not an exegetical debate—the difference: presenting the [understood] intent in a way that has a similar effect rather than arguing minutiae for objective content’s sake.

I think readers will find themselves within these pages. As Keller describes the Christian life as a lake and this parable as the clear, deep section to see all the way to the bottom… I believe readers will also see this parable as the way to see all the way to the bottom of their soul. And after all, isn’t that what Calvin opens the Institutes with: to know God & self, but how one without the other? Truly the gospel is good news to us because it concerns humanity. How valuable, then, a book which confronts the depths of humanity, plumbs its intents, and reveals the infinite goodness of a God who redeems those depths and alters its intents! “Know thyself,” says Socrates; “Yes,” say I—and then read, meditate, repent, and rejoice over the parable of the Prodigal God, because knowing myself leads only to despair until I also know this God. The One who is prodigal toward us. Until I know this elder brother, who sought me in the mire.

Indeed, it is always difficult to get ‘outside of yourself’ to get a better look at your weaknesses and tendencies. So I thank Tim Keller for doing it for me. The dichotomy of ‘older-younger brother’ traverses the book, and although some might find it repetitive; I found it to be a helpful tether to my heart—constantly reminding me, “Now, look… you agree with what he just said, but do you recognize the implications for your faith? Your relationships? Your behaviors?”

Prodigal God shown forth a few new insights I did not expect. And so again my pride is condemned—I thought I knew this parable. And although my understanding didn’t shift from the ‘point,’ I found new shades of color in the tapestry. Historical-Cultural (‘everything I have is yours’), contextual (‘went out to search for it’), personal (‘home’), and spiritual (‘celebrate’) nuance which I found beneficial for my life in Christ.

A worthy introduction to the Christian faith. A worthy discussion platform for small groups. A worthy annual re-read. I give this book 5/5 stars, and commend it to all as young as junior high, and as old as this sinful flesh takes you.

This review is crosslisted on Amazon and Goodreads.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A New Blog... but not a replacement

Hello, faithful readers, friends, and happenstance visitors!

I wanted to inform you of a new endeavor I've begun with some of closest friends. We've started a blog called Vantage Points where we discuss theology & the Christian life. I'm really excited about this project because of how different I think it is from most content on the blogosphere. We'll take one topic per month (November is Theology & Work) and to write a personal perspective on the topic followed by responses by the other contributors.

In other words it looks like this:

I write about theology and work, posted Monday the 2nd.
Bryce responds, posted Wednesday the 4th.
Alex responds, posted on Friday the 6th.

Bryce writes about theology and work, posted on Monday the 9th.
I respond, posted on Wednesday the 11th.
Alex responds, posted on Friday the 13th.

And again.

You may be familiar with this format if you've read the Counterpoints, Viewpoints, or Perspectives series from publishers like B&H Academic or Zondervan.

What does that mean for Preparing for Eternity?

Well, not a ton. I'll still be here. I'll still be writing and trying to push you toward Christ and eternity with him. I'll still be offering book reviews. I'll still be engaging in culture. If anything, I hope that it will enable me to give you more because I'm not working on getting Vantage Points up and running--I just need to maintain it.

However, you should also know that I'm working on one more site right now. This other site will focus on the idea of 'subcreation' (a term popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien). Again, I don't think this will detract from Preparing for Eternity, but by differentiating, I hope to give readers here what they want and not have to simply filter out ideas that others would find beneficial. I'll let you know more about that site when it's all good & ready.


As for now, do me a favor and check out Vantage Points, maybe bookmark it, add it to your RSS feed, or like it on Facebook & follow on Twitter. And may God the Spirit encourage your soul as he reveals Christ to you more fully. And be on the lookout for some future creative endeavors, and in prayer for some thoughtful theological-cultural engagement.

In Christ, my Righteousness,
E.J. Boston