When we consider Jesus' parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32, we usually think about the father's love for his son. We less often think of the second major point of the parable, the older son's refusal to accept his brother back. One element of the first part that I think we think about even less is the reason for the father's love. He doesn't love this son and accept him based on what the son has done. That much we do think about. Why does he do it, then? He loves him because it's his son.
Now consider this not in terms of what the son has done but in terms of what the son believes. Does he love him because his son has the correct view on what the father's character is like? Hardly. The son thinks the father will perhaps allow him to become one of his slaves so that he can work his way back into his father's good favor. He doesn't think he'll welcome him the way he does with no works to earn it. The father's welcome for the prodigal son is thus not based on the son's works or on the son's theology. The son's theology is in fact very much like the theology that many Protestants consider heretical. He thinks that he might be able to earn his father's good favor back. What is the import of this?