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The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith

4.39 of 5 stars 4.39  ·  rating details  ·  15,040 ratings  ·  1,009 reviews
Newsweek called renowned minister Timothy Keller “a C. S. Lewis for the twenty-first century” in a feature on his first book, The Reason for God. In that book, he offered a rational explanation of why we should believe in God. Now, in The Prodigal God, he uses one of the best-known Christian parables to reveal an unexpected message of hope and salvation.

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Published (first published 2008)
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Greg Balzer
Sep 17, 2011 Greg Balzer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Greg by: Annie
If you think something is wrong with today's Christianity, and you can't exactly put your finger upon the specific problem, then this may very well be a book that provides profound insight. If I had more time I would try to draw out the distinctions between authentic Christianity and its impostors, but let me share a single quote to give you the flavor of this book:

The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreleigion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or liberalism. Nor
Jason Sixsmith
Like many people, I assumed the word prodigal meant "wayward or wasteful." So when Timothy Keller's book first hit the book shelves, I remember looking at the front cover, noticing the "NY Times Bestseller" sticker on the label and thinking to myself, "Bah, this must be another self-help 'spiritual' book about a god who wants to be in a relationship with man in order to bless him but needs some help finding his way." But after noticing this book under the arms of men whose faith I admire and see ...more
Dec 09, 2010 Devin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: "Good" Christians
Shelves: christian
Nearly every Christian knows, in an obvious way, that he most repent of his rebellious sin and loose living. But, repenting of good works? This is almost completely foreign. Good works are what Christians are supposed to pursue, right? How can they be a bad thing?

In this book, Tim Keller excellently demonstrates how good works without a proper gospel foundation are damnable before God. Keller elaborates on what he calls "Elder Brother-ness," referring to the elder brother in the parable of the P
Mike E.
It is hard to imagine a person who loves God, or a person considering the existence of God, not benefitting from reading this beautiful exposition of the parable of the two lost sons (aka, the prodigal son). The book is simultaneously short and simple, deep and profound. It is one that I will return to again and again. God used this book to penetrate my soul deeply resulting in personal confession and worship.


If, like the elder brother, you believe that God ought to bless you and help you
Angela Blount

For such a relatively small tome, the impact it's left on me has been tremendous.


1. recklessly extravagant
2. having spent everything

(The duality of that definition never occurred to me before I got a hold of The Prodigal God.)

This book dissects one of the most oft-recited parables in all of Jesus' ministry: The Prodigal Son. Though the author is quick to point out that the story Jesus used as a teaching illustration wasn't named that by Him...he simply started out
Quick read. Small book (both physically and in its 148 pp). Whole thing is based on the parable of the prodigal son. Most of us just think it's about forgiving Rowdy Roddy (#2 Son), but Keller spends 150 pp. telling us, "Nope. Wrong." Nicely, I mean.

For him, the parable is about equally bad bros -- both the prodigal who burns through Dad's money and then comes back as a penitent AND the elder, who resents the fact that his father welcomes Rowdy home. Guess who comes out smelling like a Biblical
Mike Knox
A great introduction to Jesus and Christianity for moderns and postmoderns. Keller takes us deep into the heart of one of finest stories ever told by Jesus. The self-righteous will squirm as Keller points out that there are two prodigals, not one, in the story. But both kinds of people—religious and rebels—will feel the attractive pull of Christ when they discover what kind of elder brother He is.

Following Clowney, Keller has seen deeply into this parable. His skill and scope in applying its tru
I finally read my first Tim Keller book! Excellent, very engaging. His main point -- there are two brothers in the parable, not just one. And thus, moralism is just as bad as the behaivour we normally call sin. Which means that both the 'sinful' person and the 'moral' person are both far from the Father, because neither is relying on his grace to meet their true need. I also loved the chapter on hope, where he presents the biblical theme of exile and homecoming. This chapter was where I most agr ...more
I would compare this book to the equal of 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis. This book is amazing and deals with the establishment of Christianity on the basis of its own merit. I found my understanding and faith renewed as I went through it.

"The word prodigal does not mean “wayward”, but according to Merriam Webster’s collegiate dictionary: “recklessly spend thrift”. It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as hi
Tracy Duggan
Aug 22, 2012 Tracy Duggan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Tracy by: Simon Genoe
Within our book group this threw up lots of topic for conversation. We spoke about serving the Lord. How we should feel about that service. We spoke about religiosity. How going to church no more makes you a Christian the same way as a mouse that lives in a biscuit jar doesn’t become a choco-chip cookie! What should a proper elder brother have done? Wouldn’t he have searched long and hard to find his brother and try and bring him back to the family? How far do we go as individuals to bring peopl ...more
Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. There are very few challenges greater than trying to build a church in Manhattan, but Keller has successfully grown Redeemer (and its many church plants). And to me there are two reasons he has been able to be so successful: first, he COMPLETELY understands the gospel; and second, he is smart and knows how to articulate the gospel. In this book, Keller gives an unbelievably rich exegesis and explanation of one of the m ...more
Marie Notcheva
The Savior from Both "Spiritual Dead Ends"

Tim Keller sheds light on his paradoxical title, "The Prodigal God", in his introduction: "prodigal", (a term usually applied to the wayward younger son in the parable of Luke 15), literally means "recklessly extravagant" and thus applies equally well to the Father's great love for sinners. "Ahh," we say - "a great treatment of grace...for seekers and new Christians!"

"The Prodigal God" is that, but Keller goes much deeper. While not justifying or condon
I quite enjoyed this author's take on the parable of the prodigal son. I hadn't considered at the time that the elder brother was at fault just as much as the younger brother. The author goes on throughout this (brief) book to draw modern day parallels with our society. One quote which I think is particularly relevant (and lengthy) is as follows:

"The most common examples of this I saw were the many young adults who had come from more conservative parts of the U.S. to take their undergraduate de
Havebooks Willread
This book was simply outstanding and is challenging me to look at things through different eyes. It is an examination of the parable in Luke 15 commonly called The Prodigal Son, but his analysis is different from any other I've ever heard.

I think I will forever after call this parable "The Two Lost Sons" as I now see the two sons as manifestations of the two ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment: "the way of moral conformity and the way of self-discovery" (34). Both the elder and the
Yo Leo Ficción Cristiana


“La parábola del hijo pródigo” no es la historia que creías saber.
This book is an explanation of the biblical parable of the prodigal son. The perspective is different from the traditional one most of us are familiar with. Keller points out that all of us fall into two categories the moralist son or the prodigal. Each of us needs Christ, but in a different way. The Gospel transforms both in radical ways. This book was transformational in my view of the Gospel. A must read for anyone!
Life-changing. Keller's treatment of the story of the prodigal son as being as much about the judgmental legalistic older brother as the rebellious younger one was truly eye-opening. You will recognize yourself in this story and not in a positive way. A great gift for someone who has been around the block with the Christian faith for a long time.
Sameh Maher
الكتاب رائع والكاتب اروع فى تعرضه لنوعا الحيا اللتان نواجههما فى حياتنا الابن الاصغر والابن الاكبر
وكل منهم له طريق ينعكس على نوع من الفكر السائد الان
فهناك محب اللذة وهناك محب القوانين
تناول المثل الاشهر بطريقة جميلة وعبر عنها بسهولة
كتاب رائع استفدت منه كثيرا
This was a very helpful book. The author gave me a fresh understanding of this most familiar of Jesus' parables and how it is key to understanding Jesus' ministry as he proclaims God's intentions.

As a self-identified "older brother", I found Keller's analysis of the older brother unconvincing. Keller spends several chapters asserting that we older-brother types try to control God through our good behaviour. This is true, at least in part, but also an oversimplification. There is no conscious decision to try to control God. There is often no sense of being gypped when we suffer, because God "owes us" for our good behaviour. After all, we older brothers read the Book of Job; we know what t ...more
Josh Miller
The title of this book intrigued me. We normally entitle the story from Luke 15, the "Prodigal Son." However, Keller names his book, "The Prodigal God." And in the first part of the book, he defines the word prodigal. It means "recklessly extravagant, having spent everything." And then he drops the hammer - that is our God when it comes to the grace and what He offers! He is and has been recklessly extravagant (who would give their only Son to die for wicked sinners?) and spent all that He had.

Nermine Hosni
ان محبة الله وغفرانه يستطيعان ان يصفحا عن اي نوع من الخطية او الاثم ويردا المرتكب التائب الي مقامه فلا يهم من انت او ماذا فعلت ولا يهم اذا كنت قد ظلمت الناس عمداً او حتي قتلتهم فعلاً ولا كم تعسفت علي نفسك ، فما من ذنب لا تستطيع محبة الأب ان تصفح عنه وتستره وما من خطية تقوي علي تحدي نعمته

ان كنت مثل الابن الاكب. تسعي الي السيطرة علي الله بواسطة طاعتك فعندئذ تكون اخلاقياتك كلها مجرد طريقة لاستعمال الله كي تجعله يعطيك الامور التي تريدها في حياتك حقاً

الخطية ليست مجرد مخالفة للاصول بل هي ان تضع نفسك
Ampat Varghese
The Book: THE PRODIGAL GOD - Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Published by: Dutton (the Penguin Group) 2008


Two things tempted me to read 'The Prodigal God' by Timothy Keller. One, the title! Few Evangelical books have intriguing titles but this one did. Two, the inner sleeve read: 'Newsweek called New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller a "C S Lewis for the twenty-first century'. And that Keller is surely not!
And then I want to get to the marrow of the b
A book on Luke 15, the parable of the two sons (commonly called the parable of the Prodigal sons). Those who have not read or heard of a good exposition on this passage would be in for a treat with Keller's book. As I was reading this book I can't help it but to compare it to John MacArthur's "Tale of Two Sons." Personally I enjoyed MacArthur's work better since it went over more exegetical materials and insights into the passage. Keller's work spent more time on the Older Brother than MacArthur ...more
I think there is some merit to the claim that Keller is the C.S. Lewis of the the 21st century (now all he needs to do is write good children's book or two). In fact, I was close to giving this book 5 stars, but something stopped me... the book ended. I felt the book was a chapter short. There was a good introduction and a good exposition of the parable of the Prodigal Son. He even went past the strictly scholarly retelling and explained how the story was the gospel in a nutshell and reminded th ...more
This book reveals the heart of the gospel message that Jesus brought to us through the parable of the prodigal son. Many Christians will get a fresh look at this parable from a perspective they may not have entertained before.

As products of a fallen nature we are most often self centered in everything we do. We may think that we are superior to others because we are out doing things for the kingdom, praying all the time, reading scripture, tormenting ourselves with a moralistic view of salvati
About two years ago, there was a "gospel revelation" at my church. We'd always been a faithful, Bible-believing church, and we thought that God was blessing us because of that. Tim Keller's book, Counterfeit Gods, played a huge role in showing us our legalism; showing us that we were counting on our own good works to earn God's blessing instead of trusting that He would bless us by His grace alone. We believed that we were saved by His grace and faith alone, but we secretly believed that, after ...more
Jim B
Tim Keller's book is a great treatment for modern American readers of the parable of the Prodigal Son (or sometimes called "Two Lost Sons" or I prefer: The Parable of the Loving Father)

Keller points out that the word "prodigal" doesn't mean "straying" or "run away" but "recklessly extravagant" or "having spent everything." That the Lord is prodigal with His love does come out in the book, but it is not really the central point of the book, as I read it. Keller is appealing to American postmodern
I loved this book - its not often that a parable so well known as the Prodigal Son, can be approached in such a new way, with such insight into the challenges of living with "church" and individual failure and weakness.

The author simply notes that the father in the story had two alienated sons - the younger ran away and lived in rebellion from all the good norms of the day. The elder son fulfilled all that was asked of him, yet was just as alienated.

The application posed, is that the parable giv
Eric Lazarian
From my Amazon Review:

In reading "The Prodigal God" by Dr. Timothy Keller, I was repeatedly struck with the notion of how important this work is for the life of the church right now. The passage in Luke 15 that it is based on has been misunderstood and misapplied by preachers and readers in the West for several centuries. While there is a great deal of comfort available to us from the notion that the outwardly reckless younger brother, often known as the Prodigal son, there is much, much to be l
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Christian Fiction...: February/March - The Prodigal God 26 52 Mar 26, 2013 07:12PM  
  • Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love
  • Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
  • Death by Love: Letters from the Cross
  • Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
  • Jesus + Nothing = Everything
  • The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing
  • Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community
  • A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love
  • Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary
  • Concise Theology
  • The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life
  • The Mortification of Sin
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
  • The Holiness of God
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and pub
More about Timothy Keller...
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

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“Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn't mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.” 34 likes
“Jesus's teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.” 27 likes
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