So, summer is drawing to a close and it’s time for me to start going back over some of our summer lists to see what was accomplished. One of the things I did was read Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. This the second book of Keller’s that our Sunday school class has read and discussed. He’s a good author, pretty easy to read. Not necessarily a favorite author, but he makes good points and has wise insight into the Word.
Keller begins in his introduction explaining what an idol is and how idolatry has permeated our society, even though most of us don’t realize it. He begins on page xi with the question, “What is the cause of this ‘strange melancholy’ that permeates our society?” Then he quotes Alexis de Tocqueville by saying, “It comes from taking some ‘incomplete joy of this world’ and building your entire life on it. That is the definition of idolatry.”
On page xiv he says, “The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”
“An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If i have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.'” (p, xviii)
“Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares. What do we fear the most? … We can locate idols by looking at our most unyielding emotions. What makes us uncontrollably angry, anxious, or despondent? What racks us with a guilt we can’t shake? … What many people call ‘psychological problems’ are simply issues of idolatry. Perfectionism, workaholism, chronic indecisiveness, the need to control the lives of others – all of these stem from making good things into idols that then drive us into the ground as we try to appease them. Idols dominate our lives.” (pp xxii-xxiii)
Keller goes on to discuss the empty promises of money, sex, and power, followed by a chapter on the hidden idols of our lives.
I found the Epilogue to be the section that perhaps spoke to me the most. Keller says things like, “‘Your religion is what you do with your solitude.’ In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention….One or two daydreams are not an indication of idolatry. Ask rather, what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?” (p. 168)
Counterfeit Gods was a good book that challenged me to think about some things in my life that I had simply come to accept. It caused me to re-evaluate some things that had, without me realizing it, risen to idol status and helped me turn my focus back to the only One who can truly satisfy.