“Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God…the only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one.” – Timothy J. Keller1

We all pursue meaning, significance, and security in our lives. But during this journey, we often create counterfeit gods that we elevate above the one true God. Whether it is money, power, family, love, control, or success, if it becomes so essential to our lives that if we were to lose it, we would find life empty and without meaning and hard to keep on living… then it has become an idol.

In Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller reveals how easily we can and do fall victim to the temptation of idol making. He focuses on the lives of Abraham, Leah, Zacchaeus, Naaman, Nebuchadnezzar, Jonah, and Jacob to help us deal with this issue—which is more prevalent than one might think. In fact in the book’s introduction, Keller quotes Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “There are more idols in the world than there are realities” (Twilight of the Idols, 1889).

God told us (Exodus 20:3) that we are to have no other gods before Him; He knew their damaging effect on our lives. Keller brings us to the realization that the human heart is an idol factory, and that our spiritual growth can be seriously stunted if it is not removed. We manufacture idols that can be easily seen and those that hide deep within, which makes them more challenging to identify.

This book has helped me identify idols in my life and understand how they have invaded my heart. Keller says:

Counterfeit gods always disappoint, and often destructively so. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.2

As Christians, the goal of our life-long journey is to be conformed to the image of Christ. As I travel down this road, I realize that there are many things just waiting to catch my eye, tempting me to pick them up and give them a place in my heart. To resist that temptation, I must keep my eyes on Christ and remember He alone can satisfy all of my deepest needs and hopes and provide the only true peace and joy in my life.

Review by Judy Calhoun, Christian Education Chair

1Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters, New York, NY: Dutton, 2009, pp. 171 & xxvi.

2Ibid. p. xix.