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Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  8,830 Ratings  ·  519 Reviews
Success, money, true love, and the life you’ve always wanted. Many of us placed our faith in these things, believing they held the key to happiness. The recent economic meltdown has cast a harsh new light on these pursuits. In a matter of months, fortunes, marriages, careers, and a secure retirement have disappeared for millions of people. No wonder so many of us feel lost ...more
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Published October 4th 2011 by Brilliance Audio (first published January 1st 2009)
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Gene Helsel
Jun 21, 2010 Gene Helsel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Keller does an excellent job of exposing the idols of money, sex and power and the many various forms that they take today. The first chapter alone is worth twice what I paid for the book. Keller is an able expositor and pastoral "applier" of God's Word.

For the majority of this book Keller is very careful to draw his insights and applications directly *out of* the biblical narratives (exegesis.) But a few times he falls prey to the preacher's ever-present temptation of "eisegesis" (reading
John Gardner
Feb 22, 2010 John Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with Keller’s previous two books, this one is very good. In fact, it may be his best yet, which is high praise from a big-time Keller fan like me!

In “Counterfeit Gods”, Keller delivers a timely message regarding idolatry in our culture, and in our own lives. He very quickly dispels the common image of an idol as a carved statue that is literally worshiped (though this does still happen and he does address it). Instead, he writes that most idols are, in fact, good things, such as spouses and c
Aug 05, 2013 Luke rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Keller speaks on idolatry, and the power that this sin commands in a world obsessed with materialism, selfish gain, celebrity and greed. Essentially, idolatry is at the root of all sin, as we choose to worship something more than God - to put something ahead of God. Keller makes his point (idolatry sux if you call yourself a christian!) and takes the next 2/3rds of the book outlining different types of idolatry with a few anecdotes segmented throughout. But then things get good towards the end. ...more
Josh Miller
Jun 29, 2015 Josh Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book written by Timothy Keller, it is a no-brainer - I will try and read anything by him that I can get my hands on! Talk about an intriguing read!

Keller challenges the gods of our current society (and nearly every society) in a masterful way. There are very few intellectuals that are enjoyable to read. However, Keller is one of those. This would make an outstanding "book club" read or a good Bible study by a Sunday School.

Although I underlined, starred, and marked many secti
Oct 17, 2013 Maggie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Counterfeit Gods is my introduction to Timothy Keller, guess I'm late to the game, but based on what I read, I plan on reading more of his works. This is an excellent book, one of the most convicting I've read in a while, with a much needed message for our modern culture and society. When many of us think of the word "idol", we either think of teen pop stars or people worshipping before a golden calf and other statues. However, Keller shows the reader what false gods look like in this day and ag ...more
Oct 27, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the books I'd categorize as a must read. Keller's thesis is that idolatry lies behind all sins, and he plumbs the idols that we all have in our lives (money, sex, power, theological, political, economic, and many others). He's at his best in identifying these idols and illustrating them in the lives of different biblical characters (Jonah, Jacob, Leah and Rachel, and others). More light could have been shed on replacing these idols with God, but that's rightly the material for ano ...more
Steve Hemmeke
Good book. Here are some highlights:

An idol of politics
"One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life" (98).

Keller goes on to show how fear leads to reviling and demonizing political opponents, making a toxic instead of healthy atmosphere for political discourse. This comes from making politics an idol, for fear that we will lose political stability if our politicians and policies don't SAVE us. We can SAY politics isn't a
Justin Lonas
Aug 08, 2012 Justin Lonas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short, to the point, and kindly ruthless.

I was put off at first by Keller's somewhat pedantic style (he typically writes for a broad audience, especially for non Christians, so his rehashing of basics can seem insulting to some), but after finishing the whole book, it seems like a good fit. He pares away rhetorical flourishes, side-notes, allusions, and deeper discussion to cut the chase, a bruising theological argument that all sin begins as idolatry.

Keller doesn't sugar-coat the accusation tha
Oct 18, 2016 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-life
This is a very simple and well laid out book helping us to understand that idolatry isn't a relic of the Old Testament or obscure tribal communities but rather a universal human condition. Keller deftly lays out the primary "idols" of American society and discusses how one can identify and replace the idols the reader is specifically wrestling with.

I will definitely use this book in discipleship relationships.
I often hear Christians comparing Keller to C.S. Lewis in his ability to distill complex theological ideas into manageable, everyday language. While I know that there is a need for this level of discourse for large swathes of people, religious and non-religious alike, and appreciate that Keller's books often serve as an entrypoint for further exploration, it was this very "toning down" that I found frustrating about Counterfeit Gods (and tend to find frustrating in general with Keller's books, p ...more
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David Sarkies
Aug 23, 2016 David Sarkies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Westerners
Recommended to David by: My Church
Shelves: christian
Idols of the Modern Age
6 September 2011 - Paris

I found that this book was very confronting and challenging and it is difficult to criticise these types of books as I tend to feel that I am attempting to justify actions that I know in my heart are wrong. To put it bluntly this book is about modern day idols, though the way that Keller describes idols is not in the sense that we understand them, that being lifeless statues that we worship, but rather ideas, goals, and passions, that we set our he
Jan 27, 2011 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a big fan of Tim Keller’s first 2 books, The Reason for God, and The Prodigal God. Speaking largely as an apologist in the former and a pastor in the latter, Keller demonstrated his immense intellect and knack for offering keen observations of culture as it relates to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These strengths are applied directly to his latest work, Counterfeit Gods. This is Tim Keller at his finest as he subtly, yet powerfully, points out the things people, and particularly Americans, t ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian, adult
“Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our hearts most fundamental allegiance and hope. But the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.” (pg 3) Thus Keller begins to build his case. He starts by establishing the fact that the human heart is an “idol factory,” willing to grasp at any number of things to replace God. At one point in the book he expresses the idea that Bible is filled with stor ...more
Dec 26, 2013 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity
I stumbled upon this book while scrambling to find a book to read on the plane. I've been to Tim Keller's church a several times so I figured I'd give it a shot.

And I'm glad I did. This book was both challenging and restorative. I ran into many penetrating questions that I couldn't escape, all of which asked me to examine whether I love others things more than God--my family? my girlfriend? my career?

It was also restoring because Keller suggested several ways we can replace--not remove--our id
May 24, 2015 Tiffany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the book in a day, which is really not normal for me and a Tim Keller book. It's summertime in India, and this is the first time I've been surrounded with so very many idols and..well, gods. This book is an enjoyable read that helps you clamp down on some of the idols in your life that can be a bit ambiguous. So often, I hear bells ringing, smell incense and I pray another prayer for a neighbor. This book helped me to identify some idols I haven't properly dealt with in my own life. I've ...more
Jun 09, 2010 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What impresses me most about Keller is his ability to express truths that are really complicated and muddled in a way that is clear, avoids simplifying it, and resonates with the reader. Even when the topic is something potentially offensive, like idolatry.

There are two pages where he deconstructs the idolatry of religion (131-132, if I remember correctly) so clearly and precisely that I had to stop and think about it, then I read it to my housemate so we could discuss it before I moved on. Thi
Aaron Downs
Apr 16, 2013 Aaron Downs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller, proves to be both a quick and thought provoking read. In his book Keller attempts to expose idols that are being worshiped by the average Christian. What! Christians are worshiping idols? Well, yes, we are. We may not have a golden calf set up in the back yard, but we do have our own idols. Keller defines an idol as something that we look to for things that only God can give us, which means they may, in fact, be good things. "We think that idols are bad things, b ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
One of those books (Like "What's so amazing about Grace?") that everyone living in the modern world and its climate today, should read. Although I do agree that people who are already Christians will find it more useful that a non-believer. I found this book very interesting and loved the examination of idolatry through the stories in the Old Testament (Jonah et al) Although some of it I had already guessed at or discerned for myself (such as those trying to fulfill themselves through relationsh ...more
Lady Jane
Newsweek heralded Tim Keller as "...C.S. Lewis for the 21st century," which is to say that Rev. Keller communicates gospel truths simply, to a broad audience, in easy to understand terms. Keller's post-modern, largely Biblically illiterate or semi-literate readers are different than Lewis', which should be taken into charitable consideration when evaluating his work.

Counterfeit Gods is a relevant examination of idols, intrinsic to Western culture, with which Western Christians are prone to blin
Brent McCulley
I read this book about a year and a half after reading The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism and was overall pleased throughout the course of the exhortation.

Keller does a great job at pointing out how easily idols can creep up into our life. His friendly prose is once again comforting, yet I felt that the diction of this book - in comparison to 'Reason for God' - was largely more elementary and base. This has nothing to do with Keller's brilliance by any means! but rather, with th
Feb 01, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about idolatry.
Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, looks at the household idols -- counterfeit gods -- of our day, such as sex, money, success and power. He uses contemporary references as well as the biblical stories of Jacob; Zacchaeus; the mighty but disease-plagued military man Naaman; King Nebuchadnezzar; and the reluctant prophet Jonah. He does this without getting theological or intellectual, but he doesn't dumb down the message either.
The m
Dec 28, 2013 Robby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must for anyone looking to examine heart motivations underneath the sin they commit. Dr. Keller takes a hard look at culture and some of the biggest influencers on the human heart, which leads us to bend our lives around our desire to attain either Power, Comfort, Control, or Approval. It creates a grid for you to begin to assess deeper heart issues in yourself, others, and society as you engage with non-believers.

A few things to note…The identification of these idols could creat
May 17, 2016 Alvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many good and interesting things. I know I struggle with lots of distractions while seeking a stronger soul. Lots of ideas to chose from but his distinguishing between "surface idols" such as money, sex, success and "deep idols"--power, approval, comfort, control--stuck out. Surface idols are the things through which our deep idols seek fulfillment. Dante call your office. Saying I'm going to stop being greedy (surface idol) won't work unless I address the deep idols of power and control.

I was
May 12, 2012 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read another Timothy Keller. Counterfeit Gods is a book about idols in our lives. It brings those idols to the reality of what they are... sins. It shows there ugliness and he talks about the reason for these idols- the root of the problems. Another highly recommended book! We all have idols and need to call them out for what they are.

"The true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy daydreaming about? Wh
Nov 04, 2014 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another encouraging and challenging read by Timothy Keller.

My favorite quotes:

"The living God, who revealed himself both at Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you" (p. xxvi).

"You don't realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have" (p. 19).

"We know a good thing has become a counterfeit god when its demands on you exceed proper boundaries" (p. 23).

"We learn that through all of life there r
Jul 12, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: Chris Lohroff
The first quote that pops out (actually Tim Keller quoting Alexis de Tocqueville: "the incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the (human) heart."

And from there, Tim Keller goes on to dig into the nature of modern idolatry... from the commonly discussed duo of money & sex to the various permutations of power (fame, politics, etc.). Late in the book, he begins to delve into the difference between "surface" idols and "deeper" idols - a discussion I'm not sure I can do justice to in th
Melissa Stebbins
Timothy Keller shows how good things become idols when they become ultimate things, when we look to them for our meaning. Throughout the book he uses biblical characters to illustrate how idols work in our lives to cause destruction. I felt that sometimes he pushed the explanations a little further than the biblical accounts warranted.

Keeping God front and centre in your life is always difficult and Keller is realistic in his assessment that in this life we will need to continually removing the
Jaison Abraham
Aug 26, 2015 Jaison Abraham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-living
Keller does a great job of not only discussing the idols that we so often put in God's place, but relating them to a deficiency in our understanding of the Gospel, using Biblical parallels to illustrate the principles. Though the buckets he puts idols in are simplistic, he does a lot to try to incorporate the nuances and complexities that make individual idols so deep and hard to deal with. He also does a great job relating these to culture without compromising the message. Nothing flashy here, ...more
 Gloria Maria  Vazquez
This is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of idols and false gods. Wow. Perfect topic for our contemporary culture. Tim Keller, lead pastor of Redeemer Presb. church in Manhattan tackles a difficult topic, that so needs to be addressed. He writes about the false god of politics, power, money, family, relationships, work, etc. Really he gets down to the "nitty gritty" details. It was an eye opener book for me, and made me realize what my own "idols" are and what the solution is. ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

He is also Chairman of Redeem
More about Timothy J. Keller...

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“When people say, "I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself," they mean that they have failed an idol, whose approval is more important than God's.” 99 likes
“Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.” 65 likes
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