UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Counterfeit God

Timothy Keller tackles the follies of love and adoration

By Lee Simpson

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power
By Timothy Keller
(Dutton) $25

Although the subtitle, The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, suggests readers will walk a well-trod path, much in this slim volume will be new to the thoughtful observer of contemporary society.

First, a definition from the introduction: “A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would hardly feel worth living.” Keller does bash at predictable idolatries like money, power and celebrity. But he also tackles less frequently examined follies. Under the intriguing subhead, “The Danger of the Best Things in the World,” Keller looks at the subtle trap of too much love — adoration of one’s own family, for example, and too great a fondness for the success of one’s children. He questions the wisdom of worshipping one’s work, even when it is God’s work. He pricks the balloon of modern self-esteem, revealing the regard of one’s self-sufficiency as an empty substitute for the love of God.

For the United Church attendee who has become overly dependent on the Gospels to illustrate God’s wisdom, this 192-page book presents a refreshing reintroduction to the “Old” testament. Each chapter explores a topic using skilful retelling of First Testament stories. If nothing else, readers will be inspired to revisit the stories of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Leah, and Jonah, marvelling all the while: “I never looked at it like that before!”

Keller is the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Congregation in New York; this book reads like a series of sermons illustrating the impact of breaking the first commandment in contemporary life. It is only in a small epilogue that Keller hints at the solutions. Another volume from this author will be on my must-read list.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image