Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book: "Counterfeit Gods" (Tim Keller)

Title: Counterfeit Gods
Author: Timothy Keller
Published: NY: Dutton, 2009, (211pp).

Tim Keller has done it again. If the 'Reason for God' is geared toward skeptics and questioners of the Christian faith, 'Counterfeit Gods' is aimed at the uninitiated with regard to the pervasiveness of idols in our society. From non-church to church, the symbols of idolatry are everywhere. The primary cause is not the external idols per se. This is because the human heart is essentially a 'idol factory.' Things do not become an idol by themselves. They turn into idols when man pledge allegiance to them. Keller proposes a 2-prong approach to tackle the problem of counterfeit gods. Firstly, one needs to identify what they are. Each person needs to recognize the idols in their hearts. Secondly, weeding the idols away is not the end. There need to be an intentional focus back to the Hope of the world, God in Christ.

Keller is meticulous in his search for idols in our age. From the traditional Money, Sex and Power forms of idolatry, Keller probes even deeper into the hidden ones, even Christian Ministry types can become idols in their own right. This is a book is a clarion call for clarity of our own human hearts.

My Comments
I find this book very refreshing. It comes down hard on things that we often take for granted. He helpfully reminds us that it is not the 'bad' stuff that we can conveniently call idols. He reminds us that it is usually the 'good' stuff that we become unconsciously devoted to, that they become idols without us being aware of. This is an important and necessary message in a world indoctrinated with survival and success matters. When we become addicted to the 'good' things we think we are doing, we become a tool for manufacturing idols not just for ourselves but in stumbling others as well.

I like the way that Keller uses examples not only from real life, but also biblical ones from both the Old and the New Testament. He is scholarly, yet down to earth. He is hard on idols but gentle on people.

I enjoy the way Keller defines idolatry.

"A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving face and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry. When your meaning in life is to fix someone else's life, we may call it 'codependency' but it is really idolatry. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, 'if I have that, then I'll feel significant and secure.' There are many ways to describe that  kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship." (xviii)
"An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave." (24)

In true Christian reconciliation and hope, Keller not only shows us to way to discern the idols, he points the way forward to where we can get our hope. Here is his proposal:

"The way forward, out of despair, is to discern the idols of our hearts and our culture. But that will not be enough. The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one. The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you." (xxiv)

Such an important message needs to be emphasized over and over again. Thanks Keller for the timely message. I strongly recommend this book. Click here to buy online.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5.


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