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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/.
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