Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

I just finished reading Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller and found it an exceedingly appropriate book for the Advent Season. The subtitle of the book explains why: "The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power and the Only Hope That Matters."

Those of us who grew up going to Sunday School learned that the "false gods" and "idols" worshipped by the Cannaanites, Hittites, Jebusites and Other-ites of the Old Testament and the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians of the New Testament are the modern equivalent of devotion to money, success, materialism and pleasure. Keller takes this one step farther by showing WHY we abandon worship of the one true God in favor of these modern-day "counterfeit gods".

And his answer is that the common mistake people make when they hear about the biblical concept of idolatry" is that we think it is because idols are bad things. But the problem of idolatry is much more subtle and deep than that. We make idols out of good things because we believe they will satisfy our deepest needs and desires.

"Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the best things in life," Keller observes. Financial stability or prosperity, love and committed relationships, success in work and personal life, which are all good things, become idols when they absorb your heart more than God, and you believe these good things will give you only what God can give.

Counterfeit Gods is filled with references to current events, writers as disparate as De Tocqueville and Tolkien, and personal stories all grounded and framed in scripture as Keller makes a compelling case for his thesis. Keller is a great story-teller and he offers fresh interpretations of the stories of Abraham and Issac, Jonah, Esau and Jacob, and Zaccheaus as illustrations of different aspects of idolatry.

This is a good book for discussion by a Sunday School class or a small group. I found it thought-provoking and convicting. I read it first on my Kindle, then ordered a hard copy because it will be a helpful commentary on future Bible studies or other adult study situations.


mkmhouston said...

If this thinking about idolatry intrigues you, be sure to check out The Gods Aren't Angry on dvd. This is Rob Bell (best known by many from his nooma series) in a longer format. This is about 70 minutes long and was originally presented as part of one of Bell's recent speaking tours. It is a tour de force, as was the earlier Everything is Spiritual

zorra said...

Hmmm--will check this out.

Viola Larson said...

I saw that yesterday at Borders and wondered about it. It sounds good. Thanks for the review.