Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I disagree with him

It seems I am always critical of the newest and latest trends of Christian writers. Just getting started with Prodigal God by Tim Keller. It's his interpretation of the what has been previously known as the Prodigal Son.

I don't want to give too much away, but unfortunately my comments here may. Nevertheless, he puts the emphasis of the story on the older brother, the one who stayed home rather than the one who went away and was welcomed back by the father. Keller is making the point that Jesus was preaching against the righteousness of the Pharisees.

For what it is worth, Keller does have some good points. I do think we often forget to compare the two brothers as they were meant to be compared. But I am not convinced that the point of the story is the older brother.

This parable can be taught in two ways. It could be either about the "lost" being "saved," or it could be about the "saved" loosing their way. The parable can't be interpreted in isolation though. Two others preceded it. The first was about the one lost sheep that the shepard goes to find leaving the 99 behind. The second was about the lost coin the woman finds and rejoices over finding it. The last parable is the one about the younger brother who leaves and comes back to the chagrin of the older brother.

In the first the one the lost sheep was still a sheep and a part of the shephard's flock. In the second the lost coin was still owned by the woman even though lost. And in the last one, the younger brother was still the father's son before and after his run away. So, in all three the wandering lost items were still a part of the unit. Therefore, I would lean more to say that these parables are about righteous people going away and God's grace accepting them back. if we were to take these parables to mean "soul salvation," then we would have to say one can "lose their salvation."

But this distinction of how to interpret this parable is not about splitting hairs. I've heard great sermons preached from this passage calling lost sinners to trust Christ as their Savior.

Again, the main problem I have is switching the emphasis from the younger brother to the older brother. I don't see it. While I agree the church-goer needs the salvation of Christ as much as the drunkard, I can't see that Jesus focused exclusively on that here. It's possible that he did elsewhere though. If we say that this parable is about the older brother, then we must also conclude the first parable is about the 99 sheep left behind, and the second parable is about the all the coins tucked away safely in the woman's purse. We would then have to conclude also that the main point of the Good Samaritan is the two men who passed by the man on the road. And every other parable spoken by Jesus would be flipped on it's head especially those that refer to the religious leaders of the day.

In conclusion, I like some of the points brought out by Keller. But I can't buy his main thesis. Jesus is not the "true" elder brother who has the responsibility to find the wayward sinful brother. This parable is still about a God who goes out of his way to bring back his backslidden children.

1 comment:

drlobojo said...

The point of the story is both of the brothers acquiring the grace.