B. B. Warfield's Cautions on the Parable of the Prodigal

Rick Phillips

It's seems that our Lord's "Parable of the Prodigal Son" is highly in vogue these days.  On the surface, this is a good thing, because what more beautiful message is there than that of this Father's lavish love?  But those who are made wary by the history of theology will find their eye-brows raised with at least some concern.  This is sad, but necessary.  I confess that I have not read Tim Keller (who I trust in this matter) or heard Brian McLaren (who I do not trust on this matter, or practically any other).  It is the case, however, that history offers a warning about the way some will seize on this parable to minimize or remove the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement from the gospel, since the parable makes no mention of the Father requiring a sacrifice in order to receive his prodigal son with forgiving love.  For this reason, I confess to being a little concerned about the sub-title of Keller's book, "Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith."  While I do not believe that Tim Keller would have any such intention, I would be troubled to see the cross absented from the heart of the gospel, since the Bible teaches that "in this is love... that [God] loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:10).  I suspect that I will be encouraged by Tim Keller's treatment of God's love and I look forward to reading it.  But I confess to worrying about the use of this parable in other quarters.  As to these matters, I find the sage comments of B. B. Warfield to be timely: