Here’s one more follow-up post from my message on idolatry last Thursday night with Kaleo, the young adults group here at Eastbrook. In his book book Counterfeit Gods (pages 167-170), Tim Keller shares four questions you can ask yourself to discover your idols.
- What are we dreaming about or imagining? As William Temple said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.”
- How are we spending our money? As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also” (Matthew 6:21).
- What are we truly living for – what is our functional master? Tim Keller writes: “When you pray and work for something and you don’t get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god.”
- What are our most uncontrollable emotions? Again, Keller says, “Look for your idols at the bottom of your most painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things you know are wrong.”
If you are willing to do so, I’d encourage each of us to spend some time prayerfully asking these questions through our week. We may learn some important things about our idols. We may need to clean house.
Last Friday night, I gave a message to our young adults at Eastbrook as part of their series on idolatry. Drawing upon Exodus 20 and 32, as well as Psalm 115, and 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10, I attempted to paint a picture of what idolatry is, what it does to us, and how God set us free from idolatry in Christ.
Tim Keller offers a very helpful overview of categories of idolatry in his masterful work Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. This overview is tucked away in the footnotes of the book, found on pages 203-204. On a side note, if you read Tim Keller’s books but don’t read the footnotes, you are robbing yourself of some of the best material in his writing. Do yourself a favor and read his footnotes, and then read the books that Keller is reading to understand where some of his best thinking is coming from. Okay back, to the categories of idols:
- Theological idols: Doctrinal errors that produce such distorted views of God that we end up worshipping a false god
- Sexual idols: Addictions such as pornography and fetishisms that promise but don’t deliver a sense of intimacy and acceptance; ideals of physical beauty in yourself and/or your partner; romantic idealism
- Magic/ritual idols: Witchcraft and the occult. All idolatry is in the end a form of magic that seeks to rebel against the order of a transcendent reality rather than submitting to it in love and wisdom
- Political/economic idols: Ideologies of the left, right, and libertarian that absolutize some aspect of political order and make it the solution. Deifying or demonizing free markets, for example
- Racial/national idols: Racism, militarism, nationalism, or ethnic pride that turns bitter or oppressive.
- Relational idols: Dysfunctional family systems of codependency; “fatal attractions”; living your life through your children.
- Religious idols: Moralism or legalism; idolatry of success and gifts; religion as a pretext for abuse of power.
- Philosophical idols: Systems of thought that make some created thing the problem with life (instead of sin) and some human product or enterprise the solutions to our problems (instead of God’s grace).
- Cultural idols: Radical individualism, as in the West, that makes an idol out of individual happiness at the expense of community; shame cultures that make an idol out of family and clan at the expense of individual rights.
- Deep idols: Motivational drives and temperaments made into absolutes: a. Power idolatry…b. Approval idolatry…c. Comfort idolatry…d. Control idolatry.
Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York and author of many outstanding books such as The Prodigal God and The Reason for God, has just published a new book entitled Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.
Keller is one of the pastors I respect the most for approaching crucial life and cultural issues from a deeply biblical and intellectual basis, and communicating them in ways that are widely relevant.
Listen to Tim Keller talk about his new book via the embedded video below.
You can also read some of Scot McKnight’s early comments on the book here.