“Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller – Introduction: The Idol Factory

Opening Prayer


What hopes, desires, expectations do you have as we begin reading and reflecting on “Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller?

Focus What thoughts or images come to mind when you hear the word idolatry?


Timothy J. Keller (born 1950) is an American author, speaker, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York. He is the author of several books, including The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, which garnered awards from World Magazine and Christianity Today and rose as high as #7 on the New York Times Best Seller list for non-fiction in March, 2008.

[He also wrote The Prodigal God, Counterfeit Gods and Generous Justice:  How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (due to be released on Nov 2, 2010.]

Keller was asked by the PCA to start Redeemer in 1989 despite his relative lack of experience and after two others had turned down the position. The church grew from 50 people to total attendance of over 5,000 people each Sunday as of early 2008, leading many to call him “the most successful Christian Evangelist in the city.” His target audience consists mainly of urban professionals, whom he believes exhibit disproportionate influence over the culture and its ideas. In his preaching, “he hardly shrinks from difficult Christian truths, [but] he sounds different from many of the shrill evangelical voices in the public sphere.” Indeed, he shuns the label “evangelical” because of its political and fundamentalist connotation, preferring to call himself simply orthodox because “he believes in the importance of personal conversion or being ‘born again,’ and the full authority of the Bible.”

Redeemer, according to Christianity Today, is “one of Manhattan’s most vital congregations” and, according to a 2006 survey of 2000 American church leaders, is the 16th most influential church in America.[1]

*  *  *

The financial crisis of 2007 to the present is a crisis triggered by a liquidity shortfall in the United States banking system. It has resulted in the collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and downturns in stock markets around the world. In many areas, the housing market has also suffered, resulting in numerous evictionsforeclosures and prolonged vacancies. It is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It contributed to the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in the hundreds of trillions of U.S. dollars, substantial financial commitments incurred by governments, and a significant decline in economic activity. …Governments and central banks responded with unprecedented fiscal stimulus, monetary policy expansion, and institutional bailouts.[2]

*  *  *

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (French pronunciation: [alɛksi or alɛksis də tɔkvil]; 29 July 1805,Paris – 16 April 1859, Cannes) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) andThe Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies. Democracy in America (1835), his major work, published after his travels in the United States, is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

An eminent representative of the classical liberal political tradition, Tocqueville was an active participant in French politics, first under the July Monarchy (1830–1848) and then during the Second Republic (1849–1851) which succeeded the February 1848 Revolution. He retired from political life after Louis Napoléon Bonaparte‘s 2 December 1851 coup, and thereafter began work on The Old Regime and the Revolution, Volume I.[3]

*  *  *

Martha Beatrice Webb (née Potter; 22 January 1858– 30 April 1943) was an English sociologist, economist, socialist and reformer, usually referred to in association with her husband, Sidney Webb. Although her husband became Baron Passfield in 1929, she refused to be known as Lady Passfield. She coined the term collective bargaining.[4]

*  *  *

Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946) was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary. Together with Jules Verne, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”.

Wells was an outspoken socialist and sympathetic topacifist views, although he supported the First World Waronce it was under way, and his later works became increasingly political and didactic. His middle-period novels (1900–1920) were less science-fictional; they covered lower-middle class life (The History of Mr Polly) and the “New Woman” and the Suffragettes (Ann Veronica).[5]


  1. What is the difference between sorrow and despair (p. x)?  How does idolatry lead to despair?
  2. How is the human heart an “idol factory” (p. xiv)?
  3. What kinds of things can become idols (p. xvi)?
  4. What is the consequence of having idols (p. xvii)? (See Psalm 115:1-8)
  5. What is an idol (p. xvii)?
  6. Read John 14:1-4.  Are those words Good News if you have an idol?  So what is another consequence of idolatry?
  7. What is a benefit of loving, trusting and obeying the one true God (p. xxiii-xxiv)?


  1. What is the way out of despair (p. xxiv)?


Closing Prayer

[1] “Timothy J. Keller,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet: available at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_J._Keller; downloaded 7 October 2010.)

[2] “Financial Crisis of 2007-2010,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet: available at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crisis_of_2007-2010; downloaded 7 October 2010.)

[3] “Alexis de Toqueville,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet: available at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_de_Tocqueville; downloaded 7 Oct 2010.)

[4] “Beatrice Webb,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet: available at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrice_Webb; downloaded 7 Oct 2010.)

[5] “H. G. Wells,” Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia (Internet: available at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells; downloaded 7 Oct 2010.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s