Review: Counterfeit Gods

Counterfeit I have a thing for Tim Keller. You've noticed? Cool. Just wanted to make sure you know. :)

When I heard that Dr. Keller was publishing Counterfeit Gods (OUT TODAY, October 20th) many months ago I was pumped. Pumped because I like nearly everything he says and writes and one more thing is a good thing. This book has exceeded my highest of expectations, especially after Dr. Keller's excellent talk, The Grand Demythologizer, at The Gospel Coalition this spring.

In Counterfeit Gods, Keller defines idolatry for us...

It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.ā€ (xvii)

Or as Keller gets from De Tocqueville, idolatry is "taking an 'incomplete joy of this world' and building your entire life on it." (p xi) 

Keller says that anything can be an idol, idols are often the best things in life, and that all idols will disappoint/lead us to despair because we've lost an "ultimate thing."

Keller deals with some of the biggest idols in individual chapters: love, money, success and power. He also talks about hidden idols that are harder to spot like idols in our culture and religion. 

The angles Keller takes toward each idol is worth noting. Just as in The Prodigal God Keller takes a familiar biblical story and explains it in a fresh way, here he retells stories like Abraham and Isaac, Nebuchadnezzar, Jonah and Jacob afresh. His insights to familiar Scriptures are one of Keller's greatest gifts to the Church and very helpful in Counterfeit Gods.

As you would expect if you have read or heard Dr. Keller before, this book is thoroughly Gospel-centered. Jesus is our great hope in the middle of a world of idols, and a heart of idols. 

Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol...If you uproot the idol and fail to 'plant' the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back. (p 172)

I have been reading this book in pieces as I have been preaching on idolatry this autumn. I've referenced it numerous times. A few quotes I've used...

We never imagine that getting our heart's deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us. (p 1)

If we are not willing to hurt our career in order to do God's will, our job will become a counterfeit god. (p 14)

The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart's desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. (p 93)

The normal response to our sense of powerlessness is to deny it, to find people to dominate and control in order to live in that denial. (p 124-125)

I have to be honest...Counterfeit Gods has brought some serious conviction in my heart. A part of it is the sermons I've prepared with the book as a foundational resource (though I haven't preached through this book). But mostly it's been the words of Keller, who knows how to take biblical truth and deliver it to the heart in practical and profound ways. My idols have been exposed.

Counterfeit Gods will be sitting on our church book table, given to those in leadership, and recommended to any number of people. It will have great benefit for both Christians and non-Christians. I can't recommend this book enough. Buy it and read it. Also check out the review by Trevin Wax.