Luke 15 – The Prodigal Son, or The Loving Father

The Prodigal Son parable is not about the prodigal son. The son’s leaving and return is the context for the point, it’s the husk to the kernel. The point of the story is the father’s love of both sons, despite their wickedness.

Both sons have a false understanding of who their father is – the younger son (the prodigal) leaves home because he thinks his father and his father’s home are less valuable than the “distant country.” The older son stays at home because he thinks his “slaving” will ensure his inheritance. Both sons are ingrates, who wickedly assume that their father doesn’t love them. They act like the wicked servant of Matthew 25:24, who “knew” his master wrongly. Both of their sins are crimes of willful ignorance – they’ve been with the father and seen his love, but have hardened themselves against it.

But that’s not the emphasis – the point is the Father.

The Prodigal Son has been interpreted by some Arminians as an example of the exercise of free will, or agency, or whatever term you like to suggest that the son has control over his actions regarding salvation. He chooses to leave the father, and he chooses to return.

That interpretation is set up to fail, for at least one major reason. If you interpret the father as God, then the staying or leaving of his sons in the house can be nothing other than salvation – to be in God’s house is to be saved, and to be outside is to be damned. And if the father is God, then you must admit that God doesn’t have control over the main motivating event in the son’s return, which is the famine. So the metaphor carries the meaning that God presides over the house, but everything outside of that is beyond his dominion, and he’s waiting eagerly at his property line, biting his nails for the lost son to return home.

Even the boldest bible-believing Arminian wouldn’t venture this close to open theism – would they? To put it simply, if the point of the story is the prodigal son’s free agency in accepting or rejecting his father, then the father certainly doesn’t have any more control over the climate than he does his son.

What sort of weak god is this?

The Calvinist Prodigal Son goes like this – assuming that we can rework this parable to discuss the process of salvation and not God’s love:

There was a man who had two sons. The man put words into the younger son’s mouth: “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the man made the younger son get together all he had, set off for a distant country, and there squander the man’s wealth in wild living, which the man allowed (the man even set up the parties). After he had spent all the man’s money, there was a severe famine in that whole country, because the man could control the weather and made it stop raining. So the son went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, to whom the man had given land. The man called the citizen and told him to put his son to work in his fields (which were actually the man’s) feeding pigs (which were also the man’s.) The son longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, because the man told them not to.
When the man changed the son’s mind and made the son come to his senses, the son said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death, because my father is starving me! If he lets me, I will set out and go back to my father and ask him to put the words in my mouth to say: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your hired men.’
Since the man could hear everything, so he heard the son’s words in the distant country. But actually, it’s more accurate to say that since the man could hear everything and cause people to say things, which is why the son said “put the words in my mouth.” So the man heard his son and put words in his mouth. And even more accurately, since the man knew all things, including the future and could hear all things and could put words in people’s mouths, he had always intended for all of these things to happen, and for his son at that moment to say what he said, so really he just is.
So the man made the son get up and come back to himself, because he is.

And you get the point. If this story were an accurate model of the sovereignty of God in salvation, it would be really weird.


~ by bradybush on February 11, 2010.

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