My Top Ten Books of 2009 (#2)

prodigal.jpg #2. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller
#3. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N.T. Wright
#4. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan
#5. This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, by John Piper
#6. The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones
#7. Words of Life: Scripture As the Living and Active Word of God, by Timothy Ward
#8. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
#9. Calvin, by Bruce Gordon
#10. Water of the Word: Intercession for Her, by Andrew Case

“Prodigal” isn’t a word people use much anymore.

For the most part, its modern day use is limited to the so-called “Parable of the Prodigal Son” (the parable is actually untitled) and because the younger son in the parable is recklessly immoral most of us assume that “recklessly immoral” is the definition of prodigal.  For that reason, it’s understandable why plenty of hot-headed Christian leaders spoke with rancor about the title before they had read the book (or even looked up the word “prodigal”).  It actually means “recklessly extravagant” or “recklessly giving.”  So, you can see where Keller might be going.

The Prodigal God is the most beautiful, compelling and heart-shattering expositions of a parable of Jesus that I’ve ever heard.  Keller’s meditation on the recklessly extravagant grace of God both toward recklessly immoral sinners (i.e. the younger brother) and self-righteous “religious” people (i.e. the older brother) put me on my knees, face in my hands, tears in my eyes.

It is an amazingly fresh, remarkably insightful and compelling reading of this text that uncovers what those of us who have heard the parable dozens and dozens of times have been missing.  Namely, that this is not merely a parable about a lost son who sins and is forgiven.  It is also about a father who, in the face of unspeakable rebellion and offense, returns grace and love and forgiveness, as well as an older brother who is too self-righteous to embrace the father who is so recklessly extravagant toward his wayward son.

It is a 160 page gift-sized book, which means that you can easily read it in one long sitting or over a weekend.  My suggestion (plea!) would be to find a day for an extended retreat where you can be quiet and uninterrupted from morning to dinner, and make this book your reading for the day.  The Parable of the Prodigal Son will come alive and you will be deeply nourished and driven toward the Prodigal Father.

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4 thoughts on “My Top Ten Books of 2009 (#2)”

  1. I second your recommendation. It was also amazing for me to see people having to come to grips with their own self-righteousness (myself included) when we went through this book in our little Gospel community last Spring.

  2. I forgot to mention this before, but I hear there is a really good DVD series based on this book that Keller produced for groups in Bible studies and Sunday school classes. I hope to lead our Sunday school class through it in the near future, once I get a chance to read the book and preview the DVDs.

  3. Darius,

    The DVDs are excellent (from what I’ve seen). Jeremy Deck showed 40 minutes of it at General Staff devotions last week.

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