Preaching and teaching in the heart of Manhattan, Tim Keller is no stranger to the allure of money, sex, and power. In Counterfeit Gods (Dutton Adult), the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church shows how these good gifts of God become idols. CT online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey asked Keller how Christians can grow more aware of the temptation to bow down to these and other false gods.
How should Christians think of money, sex, and power?
All three are vying to be counterfeit gods in our culture because the living God is, culturally speaking, no longer much of a factor. In the Christian community, they shouldn't be calling the shots. Richard Foster wrote a book on money, sex, and power, which offered a good understanding of how a Christian view of society differs from the world's. His book was about how to do it in Christian community. I'm trying to do a cultural analysis, using the category of idolatry, to help Christians see how they get sucked in.
What makes these three so enticing and difficult to control?
We tend to worry about drugs, drinking, and pornography. But it's not bad and nasty things that are our biggest problems. Sex, work, and money are great goods. They are intrinsic to our being made in God's image. If God is second place in your life and one of them is first, you're cooked. These things are candidates for first place because they are so great. I'm not saying, "Let's move out to the desert and pray and read our Bibles."
Do Christians have blind spots when it comes to false gods?
An idol is something you rely on instead of God for your salvation. One of the religious idols is your moral record: "God accepts me because I'm living a good life." I'm a Presbyterian, so I'm all for right doctrine. But ...1
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