Timothy Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular Sunday attendees, plus the members of more than one hundred new churches around the world. Also the author of The Prodigal God and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God, he lives in New York with his family.
Keller delivers a great read with Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. Known for his great writing skill and intellect, Tim Keller continues to produce biblically sound material that strikes at the heart. Keller is precise and careful, aware of how the human heart responds to the stimulus of this world. He defines a counterfeit god as “anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.” The book examines five main idols that face Christians and non-Christians today including love and sex, money, and success and power. Using a blend of real life examples (and shocking ones at that) and bible stories, Keller meticulously leads the reader into evaluating these issues from God’s perspective. The perfect blend of modern-day and biblical stories are used to translate biblical principles into the language of our contemporary consciousness.
Keller courageously tackles the issue of religious idols. He looks at the scarcely examined idol of doctrinal accuracy and moral self-righteousness in a very understandable manner. A great storyteller in his own right, Keller relays the story of Jonah and goes beyond the usual plotline that children often hear in Sunday school. He examines the depth of Jonah’s religious idolatry, something that is often forgotten or overlooked. I found this chapter very helpful in examining my own heart issues, my own idols and my own fears. It was encouraging to be able to acknowledge my own shortcomings and be set on a path to replace my own idols with the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
One of the most convicting chapters, especially for college students like myself, is his chapter titled “The Seduction of Success.” In it he describes the deception of success in this particularly chaotic and backwards time. Keller uses the oft read yet rarely examined passage in 2 Kings 5:1-14. He looks at the successful life of Naaman, noting his backwards approach to God’s sovereign blessing. It was eye-opening to witness the impact that success truly has upon a person’s life and the blindness it inflicts. Especially in a society where students are pushed to the limit for the sake of a career or job security, Keller’s chapter on success was a humbling, paradigm-shifting experience. After reading this chapter, I see our world and it’s culture for what it is in opposition to the promises of God.
Honestly, I wish I could quote this entire book for this book review, but I can’t. Hopefully you can tell from the urgency of this review how much I endorse this book. Though I haven’t read Keller’s previous two books, if Counterfeit Gods is indicative of the insight he brings I’ll be sure to pick them up sooner rather than later. This book was extremely helpful in identifying my own idols. Keller provides insight, biblical support, and solutions that are God-centered. This is a book for all Christians and non-Christians alike because we all struggle with idols that negatively affect our spiritual lives. I would specifically recommend this book to college students based on the content. Keller articulates his points in an intellectual manner which is appealing to Christians who think faith concepts are too watered-down in most books. If you’re hoping to be challenged spiritually and intellectually, you’ve met your match in this book.