Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Prodigal God
Timothy Keller 2008, Riverhead Books, NY, NY USA

This book examines the Scriptural passage of the prodigal son from Luke 15. Jesus relates this parable after the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost sheep. In his book, Keller gives consideration that the parable may also be called the Parable of the Lost Sons. He elaborates that the father had two lost sons, the son that had demanded his inheritance and left, typically known as the prodigal son and the son that remained on the home-front largely for his two-thirds birth-right.

Keller gives the reader an analysis of the second son, the one that remained, as just as disrespectful to his father as the younger son. He refuses to go into the feast his father has made for the return of the younger brother. Here, Keller’s analysis hits me. I am not an older brother or sister, but I have often counted on my ability to skate, so to speak, by doing what is right rather than what is true. I appreciated his thoughtful approach, because it allowed me to insert myself in either role with abandon. Further, Keller develops a new reading, at least for me, which is spectacularly relevant in today’s currency and in many Christians’ well-tended, isolated world.

From the vantage point of either younger or older brother, the reader follows the author to the fact that we are all sinners, without argument, and that the real prodigal is God. God loves us radically, whether we’ve demanded our inheritance and left for better pickings, or stayed the course and waited for eventual lordship, in effect, waiting for God to die so we might have our way. Here, I am stunned. How could I have missed my own part in the passage? But more importantly, how sweetly is our sin revealed? Don’t read me incorrectly, I find no sweetness in sin, but in Keller’s gentle hands, in fact Jesus’, we may hate the sin and love the sinner, including ourselves.

After redefining sin, Keller moves to redefine lostness. Here, the author uses lostness as a call to confession, and, at least for this reader, the call was effective. It seemed the natural progression after hearing Jesus’ words newly and understanding they were spoken in love to any follower who would listen. Keller separates the discussion by chapters, but ends the following sequence which covers the true older brother with these words, “We will never stop being younger brothers or elder brothers until we acknowledge our need, rest by faith, and gaze in wonder at the work of our true elder brother Jesus Christ.”

In redefining Hope and the feast of the Father, Keller encourages us to seek Him and follow; that we are included in the feast of the Father and there we will be home.

This short book reads in a way careful of the reader. Keller treats his readers as his pastorate with compassion and charity in the old sense of the word, in a way reminiscent of James Montgomery Boice’s commentaries, not showy or cloying, but with great respect for humanity and the mission. Thank you. I will probably return to this book often.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Can Science Prove God?

Would we want a god that can be proven by our manipulations?
Admittedly, I am just as reinforced as the next believer when a new finding shows Jesus' footprints or the ark's presence or the parting of the waters, but if none of those could be traced, would I fall with Thomas wanting to place my finger in the wounds of Christ? Would I refuse my Savior for the want of scientific construct?
With faith buffeted by erudite scholars as a path for the naive and intellectually lackluster masses, I turn to science to defend my position. I find justification. The creation clearly points to a Creator. Nature, beautiful, strong, fierce and wild beyond reason, hints at the fathomless character of God, but clever and beguiling as nature may be, it is not God.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Referring to the last line above, not that we shouldn't learn as much as we can about God, but if we simply learn about God we do not further the Kingdom, and most importantly we do not follow the greatest command by increasing our closeness to Him that made us, called us, loved us so much that He, God with us, died for us to redeem us, to reconcile us to HIm. Our science may be logical, precise, accurate and stern, in may reveal our natural world, but it will always be called by man, even in the image of God, but not God. We cannot prove God using our science. We can never fit Him into our box.
We may defend ourselves with clever argument or even evidence when facing an unbeliever, but this is more fruitless than faithful. Our best and clearest choice becomes love in the face of ridicule and humility/charity over dissonance.
I heard a message preached some time ago, I believe it concerned the fruit of the Spirit we call faithfulness. Pastor Stephen asked, where is your faith when science fails to prove? If a god exists only because I have proved him, he is no god but an image I have made to buoy my argument and mask my fear.
Can science prove God? Yes and no.
Thanks for reading.