The way to love someone
is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul
until you find a crack,
and then gently pour your love into that crack.
~Keith Miller

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Counterfeit Gods a book by Timothy Keller

True North

Read on the drive yesterday ... Highlights ... notes from 7 August 2011 .

First of all, it's a very insightful book. Discussing it with One today, I noted that even if you don't think you have idols worship going on in your own life, it's still an extremely helpful book in that it enhances the meaning of some of the Bible stories I've been kinda thinking surely there is more to it then that. I remember the first of the Ten Commandments ... 3 “You shall have no other gods before me". Exodus 20. Right there at the top of the "to don't" list. Some one, oh yeah, a Canadian pastor, James McDonald, said (my paraphrase) Where ever you read don't in the scriptures, think: Don't hurt yourself by doing this... . That seems like a great way to think about the "don'ts" ... Every single one of us can see the negative outcomes experienced by doing the don'ts. And also, how seductive don'ts are ...seems like the closer you get to them, the more captivating and blinding they become. (Romans 7:19 NIV For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.) Don't hurt yourself ... waste yourself ... on serving little man-made gods ... it seems pathetically laughable, and yet ... this inclination seems to be first place strong. I'm looking at my life ... for altars to these little gods.

Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted; "There are more idols in the world then there are realities." ... good quote, but I don't know why the author would choose to quote Nietzche ... who is at best an unhappy camper and who would, I believe, chew this book up and spit it out. I just don't see any connection other then referent intellectualism ... or maybe lickin' up to the scholarly ... a sort of idol worship.

"In Christianity neither Morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point." the Antichrist Neitzsche "God is dead." and "Morality is herd instinct in the individual.". Gay Science also Neitzsche "Is man merely a mistake of God's? Or is God merely a mistake of man's?" Twilight of the Idols, Maxims and Arrows

"For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and greatest enjoyment is - to live dangerously." Also;
"A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions--as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all."
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (particularly enjoy these two quotes)
No doubt Nietzsche contributed unique, thoughtful ideas, but I'm pretty sure he didn't speak in support of Christianity or the Christian notion of Creator God.

The sort of definition of idol used in this book is -> where ever ... To whatever your mind wanders to when you have time to just relax ... there you may find your idol. Sort of the idea of where your heart is so are your treasures. He is not specifically thinking of primitive people bowing down to their totems, rather each of us going where we go to make our sacrifices and doing what we do to procure the good life ... Paying homage to the gods of beauty, youth, power, money, sex, achievement, etc. trying to dull the pain of inner emptiness. Here's a paragraph out of the intro:

The biblical concept of idolatry is an extremely sophisticated idea, integrating intellectual, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual categories. There are personal idols, such as romantic love and family; or money, power and achievement; or access to particular social circles; or the emotional dependence others have on you; or health, fitness, and physical beauty. Many look to these things for the hope, meaning, and fulfillment that only God can provide.xix

He mentions possible cultural idols ... possible intellectual idols ... vocational idols ... .

He looks at where the disenchantment with these idols leads us ... unsatisfied ... starving.

I think the book got interesting over around page 27 when he began to explain some of the stories in the Old and New Testaments as metaphors for our own lives. Jacob's longing (and why he was hollow to start with), the amazing story of Zacchaeus and his capitulation from greed to grace (it affected his whole house), or the powerful Naaman who was unable to control his health (leprosy), incredulous when his money and most excellent standing could not procure healing, and eventually how he set aside pride for spiritual humility and received a gift of new life. And there are others ... .

He talks about this illusion that we like ... That we are in control, while he points out that we may be the product of these three things ... Genetics, Environment, and Personal Choices. And he states, " - but two of these three factors we have no power over." Ummm ... That seems a little simplistic to me ... Genetics you are stuck with ... environment also to some extent, but the effects of both may be tweaked by our choices ... I'm certainly not saying that I believe choice trumps all ... Just that personal choice seems to be rather a big deal to me ... and choice is welded as a two edged sword. Poor choices may place me in an inhospitable environment ... poor choices may exacerbate my genetic predisposition towards colon cancer ... That sort of thing.

Over on page 110 the author uses Niebuhr to slam the poet Henley ... Invictus ... I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul ... Asserting that it was defiantly penned, a view of reality distorted and "infected with the sin of pride". Guess we all read things differently. I see the poem as an affirmation that while you can not control circumstances, you can chose your attitude towards them. I must choose by God's grace to steer clear of the water of bitterness ... Or I may neglect the call of grace and wallow in the acidic wash of rage ... or whatever my chosen means of self defeat may be.

I like thinking about his notion of "deep idols" expressing themselves through a variety of "surface idols". The 17th century English minister David Clarkson preached one of the most comprehensive and searching sermons on counterfeit God's ever written. About idolatry he said, "though few will own it, nothing is more common." if we think of our soul as a house, he said, "idols are set up in every room, in every faculty". we prefer our own wisdom to God's wisdom, our own desires to God's will, and our own reputation to God's honor. pg 154
The book closes with a call to find and replace your idols ... saying that it will be a continuous process.

I think the book is worth a look for sure.

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