I have been waiting for this book for twenty years.
In the late eighties, Richard Keyes wrote an extended essay on Idols called, “The Idol Factory.” For me, it was breakthrough.it created a way to engage Scripture with real life in a way that I had not encountered in the past. In 1992, it appeared in No God But God: Breaking With the Idols of Our Age. Keyes work showed the power of idols, not just as graven images that ancients bowed down to but as oppressive inordinate desires within our own hearts that ruled over us and shaped our identities. In doing this, he removed idols from their place as obsolete relics from the past and revealed the haunting dilemma of modern man- we all have functional gods that we serve and they are the result of our out-of-control-desire to find an identity that will satisfy us. In short, Keyes showed that the "god problem" that post-enlightened man thought he had shed was merely hiding within the human heart. Suddenly, Donald Trump's work obsession, Madonna's intense desire to be a success and Michael Jackson's inability to come to grips with his own body image became relevant public symbols that the Bible was revealing as the true gods of our age.
At the same time, David Powelson developed a penetrating approach to counseling using a technique that I have come to be referred to as idol theory. His essay, Vanity Fair: Idols of the Heart he showed (just as Keyes had) that our idols were the result of inordinate desires that ended up enslaving us rather than fulfilling their promises to bring us freedom.
During this time, while I was studying at The King's College, Tony Carnes (who then chaired the department of Solciology) used God and idols to approach a Christian view of sociology. He was friends with Tim Keller and went to Tim's church (Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC). After I graduated, my wife and I began to attend Redeemer in NYC.
One Sunday in 1993, I sat down in the Hunter College Auditorium in NYC (where Redeemer had just moved) to hear Tim Keller preach at the 4:30 service. In the middle of his sermon, Tim began to preach on God and idols. I nearly dropped to the floor. I had heard idols mentioned in upper level sociology classes and discussed them in relation to a Christian approach to sociology over a beer with friends. Idols mentioned in obscure journals and in counseling friends about the nagging sins that resulted from idolatry was on thing. But, to sit there in NYC, as a young hungry intellectual, amidst like 600 twenty somethings, and to hear Tim clearly explain the power that the Gospel has to reveal and remove idols was amazing. It was like seeing BMX get to the olympics!
More than twenty years later, Tim has published his third book. Counterfeits Gods is extraordinary. Unlike the niche of intellectuals to whom Reason for God is written, this book is designed for everyone. And rightly so since every human heart is swimming with false gods that are promising fulfillment and offering despair. If you chose to read this book, be prepared to be disenchanted by the power of false gods and to be enchanted by the power of the true God.