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The Prodigal God


David Bokovoy

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I don't typically devote much effort to reading books explaining Christian theology, but a friend of mine whom I greatly admire recently recommend that I read the book The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. For those not familiar with the work, it's a very short book that takes only a couple hours to get through, but what a profound analysis!

Keller illustrates that many Christians are like the older brother in the famous parable using our devotion to the Father in order to secure his blessings rather than obeying God out of pure love.

I really resonated with the author's theological views and found the book life changing in its approach to the New Testament parable. Thought I would pass on the recommendation to my online friends:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Prodigal-God/dp/B0017SYNZM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257880687&sr=8-6

Much love,

--DB

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Someone who serves out of hope of reward rather than love of doing good and love of God may find themselevs falling short of a Celestial reward in the end.

That's very much the point of the book, and I found it quite profound.

Keller argues that Jesus' parable of the two lost sons illustrates that one can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules (the younger brother) or by keeping all of them diligently (the older brother).

It

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One thing ive noticed is that when u serve God because u love Him, its alot easier.

This is another point that the author makes. Which is why in some ways, the older brother's obedience born out of a desire to earn a reward can actually prove more damaging spiritually than the open rebellion against the Father manifested in the life of the younger brother.

Everyone knows that the younger brother needs to repent. It's much harder for "older brothers" to recognize that their obedience to the commandments has proven spiritually damning and that they too need to repent, every bit as much as younger brothers.

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This transition is critical, and only came to me through deep personal struggle. I guess my nature was not very loving. I'm still changing, but I have turned the corner.

The scripture about us loving God because He loved us first, is profound, once you have experienced His love in full measure. Well, that's my view, anyway.

HiJolly

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But keeping all of God's commandments would include sincerely loving Him. The prodigal's brother was in fact breaking a commandment in being jealous of the treatment afforded his brother.

I look at the matter just a bit differently. The Old Testament command to "love God" was not a commandment to feel an emotion. In the context of Near Eastern covenant making, love signified obedience and faithfulness to an overlord. So, technically, one could keep the commandment to love God without sincerely loving him. Notice that in the parable, the older brother claims to have kept all of the Father's commandments, and that the Father never denies the validity of the son's claim.

The way that Keller analyzes the parable is that God is the prodical Father, i.e. "recklessly extravagant" in his love and that he, God, invites us to love him in the same way.

It's a very nice reading.

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I look at the matter just a bit differently. The Old Testament command to "love God" was not a commandment to feel an emotion. In the context of Near Eastern covenant making, love signified obedience and faithfulness to an overlord. So, technically, one could keep the commandment to love God without sincerely loving him. Notice that in the parable, the older brother claims to have kept all of the Father's commandments, and that the Father never denies the validity of the son's claim.

But the parable of the prodigal son is a New Testament parable. When Jesus reiterated "love God" as the greatest commandment, was he really speaking of "honoring and obeying" instead of love?

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But the parable of the prodigal son is a New Testament parable. When Jesus reiterated "love God" as the greatest commandment, was he really speaking of "honoring and obeying" instead of love?

In Judaism, there was an evolution of thought behind the declaration in the Shema to love God which broadened the word's meaning into the realm of an emotional attachment. I see Jesus' teachings on the subject to a Jewish audience fitting into this historical trend.

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That's very much the point of the book, and I found it quite profound.

Keller argues that Jesus' parable of the two lost sons illustrates that one can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules (the younger brother) or by keeping all of them diligently (the older brother).

It

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I would disagree to a strong extent because the commandment was reiterated in the New Testament by Christ as the greatest commandment. I would say the context was very clear when Christ asked what the greatest commandment was, he was answered correctly that it was to love God, and the second greatest was like unto the greatest, to love they neighbor. Not obey them. So the context presented seems to be at odds with the view held in the New Testament by a Rabbi speaking of the context as it should be in the Old Testament.

I believe love is profoundly described in the act of atonement. Nor do I see an "evolution" as to what love means. We see various interpretations in the Old Testament that defy such a singular view, especially when one is concerned with the potential sacrifice of Isaac. Did Abraham love his son? As God loved Christ? An only begotten with great affection? What of Ruth? There are other examples. I see too much contradiction in the Old Testament to define love in a singular way with a singular evolutionary path. Indeed I would say that the ideal of love of God was just as similar to David's time as it was with Christs. Shema does not mean to love God, rather it means to obery God. In fact we see how it would be redundant if we looked to Psalm 119:88

Indeed we have avah used, which is love, differentiated from chiba which might reflect affection. I would say, based on the what has been posted (I have not read the book) that the word might very well be misunderstood for obey.

I might also add that the word for obey is to keep in Hebrew

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I do however agree with the overall text. I think doing something for the love of God is what is needed, not doing something because you want God's blessing. We often forget about the atonement and how it has already put us in the debt of Christ.

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Thanks, DB. Dabbling in Hebrew is fun.

With regards to what "love" meant in 400bc, as opposed to what "love" meant in 30AD, does it really matter? Nephi tought that we are to liken all scripture unto us. Just because someone in that day may not have thought of the warm fuzzy love that doesnt mean we shouldnt. It's the Holy Ghost that does the teaching, not the text.

That being said, whether or not the Holy Ghost teaches you to love God that way is a different issue.

Its best to obey god because you love Him. But begrudging obedience is better than no obedience at all, IMHO.

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I would disagree to a strong extent because the commandment was reiterated in the New Testament by Christ as the greatest commandment. I would say the context was very clear when Christ asked what the greatest commandment was, he was answered correctly that it was to love God, and the second greatest was like unto the greatest, to love they neighbor. Not obey them. So the context presented seems to be at odds with the view held in the New Testament by a Rabbi speaking of the context as it should be in the Old Testament.

I believe love is profoundly described in the act of atonement. Nor do I see an "evolution" as to what love means. We see various interpretations in the Old Testament that defy such a singular view, especially when one is concerned with the potential sacrifice of Isaac. Did Abraham love his son? As God loved Christ? An only begotten with great affection? What of Ruth? There are other examples. I see too much contradiction in the Old Testament to define love in a singular way with a singular evolutionary path. Indeed I would say that the ideal of love of God was just as similar to David's time as it was with Christs. Shema does not mean to love God, rather it means to obery God. In fact we see how it would be redundant if we looked to Psalm 119:88

Indeed we have avah used, which is love, differentiated from chiba which might reflect affection. I would say, based on the what has been posted (I have not read the book) that the word might very well be misunderstood for obey.

I might also add that the word for obey is to keep in Hebrew

Hello Jeff,

Of course you're free to disagree, even strongly disagree, but I'm afraid your disagreement will not alter the fact that we can historically observe the Jewish interpretation of the command to love God in the Shema evolve into a reading beyond the commandment's original intent which was in no way originally a command to feel a specific emotion.

Best,

--DB

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Hello Jeff,

Of course you're free to disagree, even strongly disagree, but I'm afraid your disagreement will not alter the fact that we can historically observe the Jewish interpretation of the command to love God in the Shema evolve into a reading beyond the commandment's original intent which was in no way originally a command to feel a specific emotion.

Best,

--DB

Facts are stuburn things.

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Hello Jeff,

Of course you're free to disagree, even strongly disagree, but I'm afraid your disagreement will not alter the fact that we can historically observe the Jewish interpretation of the command to love God in the Shema evolve into a reading beyond the commandment's original intent which was in no way originally a command to feel a specific emotion.

Best,

--DB

You haven't shown that interpretation as fact. But I have shown that your view would make an ancient scripture in the Old Testament redundant. I have also shown that the Hebrew language anciently had used a distinct word for its obey, and love.

Neither point has been countered by you. Yet you call it a fact.

Interesting, but not substantiated.

In effect you offer no proof beyond "read a book". Do you consider that your proof?

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I don't typically devote much effort to reading books explaining Christian theology, but a friend of mine whom I greatly admire recently recommend that I read the book The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. For those not familiar with the work, it's a very short book that takes only a couple hours to get through, but what a profound analysis!

Keller illustrates that many Christians are like the older brother in the famous parable using our devotion to the Father in order to secure his blessings rather than obeying God out of pure love.

I really resonated with the author's theological views and found the book life changing in its approach to the New Testament parable. Thought I would pass on the recommendation to my online friends:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Prodigal-God/dp/B0017SYNZM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257880687&sr=8-6

Much love,

--DB

I too found this book to be extremely thought provoking, and even started two threads about it. The first was titled the same as yours, the second focused on whether or not works, in LDS practice, might actually be sinful, based on Keller's POV. In both threads I was left with the distinct impression that the Mormons here were entirely unimpressed. One or two even came right out and said they were entirely unimpressed. Interesting!

Respectfully,

Balzer

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You haven't shown that interpretation as fact.

That's true, and I may or may not present some of the evidence depending upon time and interest.

But I have shown that your view would make an ancient scripture in the Old Testament redundant. I have also shown that the Hebrew language anciently had used a distinct word for its obey, and love.

No offense, but your comments simply illustrate that you don't quite understand the argument. I blame myself for not expressing it more clearly.

Neither point has been countered by you. Yet you call it a fact.

Interesting, but not substantiated.

If we choose to have this sort of discussion, which I'm not opposed to, I would expect for you to provide the citations for your dictionary references so that we can critique both the sources and the way you've used them.

In effect you offer no proof beyond "read a book". Do you consider that your proof?

Please note that my statement regarding the Shema and the historical evolution connected with its meaning within Judaism does not stem from "a" book. We would have to survey at least 50 years of intense scholarly analysis coupled with cognate Near Eastern sources in or to support my claim. My understanding of the facts behind this matter, do not derive from "a" book, nor for the record, was this specific issue discussed at all in Keller's brief study which is the focus of this thread.

Best,

--DB

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Sounds interesting. But is it as good as "The Shack"?

It's really good. I think you would seriously enjoy the book. So far as the Shack, I don't know if you're serious. All I know about the novel is that the author apparently depicts God as a 300 pound black woman, something, for the record, that I'm not opposed to at all. I don't normally do much reading in this genre, but if you Cinepro, are seriously recommending the Shack, I'll pick it up this week.

best,

-DB

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