Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

4 out of 5 Stars.

Far from being the mere practice of bowing down before a statue made of wood or stone, in “Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller, we learn that there are much more subtle forms of idolatry that dominate our individual lives and culture.  With piercing analysis of our culture and the human psyche, Keller makes the argument that even if we are not bowing before a statue, at the psychological level and in the depths of our hearts, we are still bowing before things we substitute for God.  And such is the fallen nature of man, whose heart is fundamentally an “idol factory.” 

Instead of filling our hearts and delighting ourselves in the Lord, and grounding our identity in Him, and seeing Him as the only one who can deliver and satisfy, we pursue the false promises of idols who can never deliver, satisfy, and give us the deepest longings of our hearts.  Instead of turning to the Lord to meet all of our needs, we turn to things other than the Lord.  Keller argues that the only cure to the idol production that goes on in our heart is not the simple forsaking of idols, but a replacing of those idols with the Lord Jesus Christ.  For unless He fills the depths of our hearts, even should we put our idols away for a few moments, we will naturally begin to turn back to them. 

My only complaint about this book is that I think sometimes Keller takes too much liberty with his search for the hidden idols of the heart in characters we read about in Scripture.  While generally a good analysis, as in the case with King Nebuchadnezzar, I feel he took too much liberty with figures like Jonah.  Also, while Keller does take a shot at some of the idols in our country, I would have liked to see him identify the trappings of the entertainment industry as a form of idolatry.  In a book about idolatry, it would have been nice to see him show how the rampant practice of abortion is a form of child sacrifice, and on par with the offerings people would make unto Molech.  Indeed, it is interesting that for all the talk of idolatry in the Scriptures, Keller seldom makes reference to the parallels we see between our subtle forms of idolatry, and the overt kind offered to the Baals, etc.

But don’t let this lack of exposition or sometimes generous liberty Keller takes with the Scriptures turn you off from this book.  I still think it is an excellent book, and I feel personally challenged after having read it.  It’s made me question the motives in my life, and has made me wonder if those motives are not driven by one of the subtle forms of idolatry that exist in our culture.

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