Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters
New York: Dutton, 2009
Timothy Keller is well read without coming across as pompous. He strongly defends a biblical faith without being combative. He appeals to young adults despite being 60-plus and bald!
A prolific writer of late, Keller defied the common wisdom by planting a church aimed at preaching “muscular” Christianity to a young urban audience in Manhattan. Founded in 1989, the Redeemer Presbyterian Church has more than 5,000 attendees weekly and is the “mother church” of congregations in large cities worldwide. Keller gained popularity with The Reason for God (2008), a clear, intellectually compelling argument for orthodoxy that is destined to be for this generation what C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict were for preceding generations.
But I believe Keller demonstrates the reason for his effectiveness in presenting Christian orthodoxy most clearly in Counterfeit Gods. The secret is simple: unapologetically teach the Bible as historical fact while demonstrating its timeless relevance. In this deceptively short (240 pages) volume, Keller analyzes characters from Scripture to show how their desire to make a good thing a “God thing” in their lives remarkably parallels similar idol creation in our own lives.
Keller demonstrates how Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac overcame the temptation to place a late-in-life offspring in a position of all-importance. Leah is cited as one who refused to make “apocalyptic love,” romance that defines and completely fulfills someone, a replacement for Jehovah. And in one of the best summaries of the life of Jonah, Keller shows the danger of a misguided patriotism that can place loyalty to a flawed country ahead of submission to a perfect God.
Keller’s other books and his recorded sermons are certainly worthy of recommendation. But this short volume is not only remarkable for its content, but serves as a tutorial for clearly presenting God’s story to a postmodern culture.
Jim Eichenberger is senior editor with the adult and teen product development team at Standard Publishing.