Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters, by Timothy Keller (Book Review)

With great delight, yesterday I received in the mail Tim Keller's new book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. Here is my review.

Counterfeit Gods is a gripping exploration of the human heart and the ways we substitute false gods for the True God. Keller masterfully weaves together contemporary concerns, spiritual and psychological analysis, and biblical narrative to show us that while sex, romance, money, success, and power are good things in themselves, they make poor masters. When we give our trust, love, and service to these things, they destroy our lives.

But this foray into the labyrinths of the human heart is not only gripping, it is convicting. Keller exposes not only our surface idols, but our deep idols - our cravings for significance, comfort, security, and approval. These are the desires that drive us to give our affections to false lovers, place our trust in alternative saviors, and swear our allegiance to other lords. But Keller never leaves us without hope. This book is as liberating as it is convicting, as Keller confronts us again and again with the good news of God's love for sinners, displayed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Keller may be one of the more important Christian thinkers and writers of our day. His ministry experience in New York City has equipped him with a unique ability to speak to both the secular and the sacred dimensions of our lives at the same time - and to show us how intertwined these dimensions really are. Keller addresses both skeptics and believers and demonstrates a broad grasp of not only biblical studies and theology, but also literature, sociology, philosophy, psychology, and the arts in his writing. In chapters exploring the relevance of biblical stories from Genesis or the Gospel of Luke, we also encounter insights from Ernest Becker and Friedrich Nietzche, illustrations from Madonna, Andrew Carnegie, or the film Chariots of Fire, and commentary from Robert Alter and other Jewish or Christian biblical scholars. This liberal use of sources, plus Keller's engaging yet succinct writing style, make this a very enjoyable read.

There is also a practicality to this book. Keller is not just a great theologian, he is a pastor. And he writes with the heart of a skilled diagnostician of souls. He begins the book with a discussion of the idol factory of the human heart, and ends by showing us how to find and replace our idols. He not only exposes the cancers that are eating us away, he applies the scalpel of the gospel with surgical skill. Like Jesus himself, Keller knows how to both wound and heal.


Amanda said...

Sounds like a book I should read.

John said...

Sounds great. I gave you a "helpful" vote.

No wonder you've read so many different books: "Yesterday I received in the mail Tim Keller's new book..." Today, "Here is my review."