After the economic crash in 2008-2009, Tim Keller came out with a book titled Counterfeit Gods. Following the downward turn from an economy booming with money, success, and pride came an ugly and harsh reality of our society’s false identity. And so, after a series of suicides from successful businessmen came the truth…America stood “under God” but worshiped the gods of love, money, success, and power. Why else would a bunch of educated businessmen begin to take their own lives after an economic crash? The life they lived for had been lost. Their idols of success, power, and money were gone and so was their meaning in life.
So, what is an idol? Tim Keller defines it as, “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” pg xvii Tim Keller walks us through the four most powerful false gods our society has seen. The god of love and the disillusionment that with it will come true happiness. The god of money, and the false sense of power and security wealth can bring. The god of success and the lie that through our own “personal achievement we ourselves are god.” pg 75 And lastly, power, the illusion that we are in control.” pg 115 These four idols are only the beginning to a root of other false gods within our own lives. “Western, secular cultures make an idol out of individual freedom, and this lead to the breakdown of the family, rampant materialism, careerism, and the idealization of romantic love, physical beauty, and profit.” pg 130 For in the end, “an idol is something that we look to for things only God can give.” pg 131
Counterfeit Gods reminds us that, when Christ came down to earth, in the end he wasn’t loved by the people, he was poor in wealth, and by the world’s standards he was neither successful or powerful. He was instead nailed to a cross by people who hated him, in the most unloving and humbling way.
In the end, you can conclude that idols are present everywhere. They are all around us, and all within us. In the epilogue. Keller begins his section on “identifying idols” by saying, “I am not asking whether or not you have rival gods. I assume that we all do; they are hidden in every one of us. The question is: What do we do about them? How can we become increasingly clear-sighted rather than remaining in their power?” pg 167 For “the secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.” pg 166 How do we do this? Well, Keller suggests these things. First, begin to think of “where your thoughts effortlessly go when nothing else is demanding your attention.” Look at where you spend your money, or what generates uncontrollable emotions inside your heart. “Look for your idols at the bottom of your most panful emotions.” pg 169 I suppose his ultimate question asked was, “Is their something here too important to me, something I must have at all costs?” pg 169 It is when we begin to discern what our idols are that we begin to reveal who we really are.
Once these counterfeit gods begin to surface, they must be replaced. “If you uproot the idol and fail to “plant” the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.” pg 172 By seeing our heavenly God as more beautiful, more satisfying, and more worthy of praise we can begin to feel a change within our own hearts. Prayer, meditation, and ultimately worship can bring us to our knees and “on the road to freedom from the counterfeit gods that control us.” pg 177
* This was the first book I’ve read in almost a year. It has stirred the most difficult questions within my own heart. I know replacing my own idols sounds impossible. But I suppose to merely turning a little closer to Christ might make the true heart’s desires a little darker amongst the light.
Keller, Timonthy (2009). Counterfeit Gods: The empty promises of money, sex, and power, and the only hope that matters. New York: Dutton.