I found this book in a rather odd place – the LSU campus bookstore in Baton Rouge. Like most campus bookstores these days, it’s much easier to find the brand apparel – the gods of our alma mater – than it is to find the books. But it was prominently displayed on a longish table, part of which was devoted to religious books.
The book was Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters by Timothy Keller. Keller, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America denomination, is well known in Christian faith circles. He’s the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, with a congregation of 5,000+ and numerous daughter churches. He’s also actively involved in planting churches internationally.
Keller became widely known in much broader circles last year, when Princeton Seminary announced that he would receive the Kuyper theology prize. Seminarians exploded in outrage – Keller is known for his conservative, Biblical views on marriage and women’s ordination – and the seminary then rescinded the prize (but they still wanted him to give a lecture). Keller handled the controversy with far more grace than the seminary did.
This book (Keller’s written many books) called Counterfeit Gods was published in 2009, almost a decade ago. In a culture that travels at the speed of the internet, a book published a decade ago would be, or should be, rather dated. Counterfeit Gods is not. It could have been published yesterday. Its message is even more applicable in this era of fake news, issues of sexuality and personal freedom, and the increasingly vicious fights for political power.
He dispassionately considers the things in our lives and culture that we turn into idols – love, money, success, power, attention, patriotism, and more. Each discussion centers on a story from the Bible. It’s no surprise that none of these things are new; people have been making idols of the same things for thousands of years. Solomon was right: there is indeed nothing new under the sun, at least as it concerns the human condition.
Keller is the author of numerous books on faith, including works on family, marriage, prayer, justice, books of the Bible, and other subjects. In 2017, he stepped down as Redeemer’s senior pastor and is doing full-time teaching in a partner program with Reformed Theological Seminary.
I can pick up the newspaper today, and I can look at my own life, and I see why a book like Counterfeit Gods is timeless. That’s how wisdom works. Everything else passes away.
Top photograph by Nilton Oliviera via Unsplash. Used with permission.