Hey, Calvary Fremont –
How is a Christian to think about Jordan Peterson? Some people love him and other people hate him. Dr. Peterson (a clinical psychologist) is considered the most public intellectual in America and Canada today. He has gained this reputation by speaking out against what is considered politically correct. He speaks to the complex cultural revolution we are going through. He takes issue with the philosophical underpinnings of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, Feminism, and the Transgender Movement. He speaks into this swirling mesh of complicated and interconnected perspectives from a remarkably simple platform. From listening to him, reading him, and reading about him, I have distilled the foundational assumptions out of which all his argumentation flows.
#1 Human nature is flawed.
People are not selfless at their core. People are selfish and must learn to respect the rights of others. He states that good and evil are the deepest realities and the battle between good and evil is the defining struggle of reality.
#2 Responsibility, not rights give meaning and purpose to life.
Therefore, what you contribute to society is more important than what is owed you by society.
#3 Individualism trumps the group.
Therefore, collectivism, compelled speech, and groupthink do violence to human nature and cannot long endure.
#4 Inequality is inevitable.
People are equal before God and law – that’s it. Every system creates inequality – even those meant to eliminate it. Marxists think that inequality of outcome is due to capitalism, yet the inevitability of inequality is the fruit of human nature – which Marxism demonstrated when they created their own unequal system.
Out of these four root assumptions arise the positions Dr. Peterson argues for and the positions he argues against.
Dr. Peterson is conservative in his anthropology and liberal in his theology. He has a Biblical view of human nature and an unbiblical understanding of God. The four foundational presuppositions of Peterson’s thought (see above) are quite compatible with what the Bible teaches about human nature – this is Biblical anthropology. The Bible teaches that 1) human nature is flawed, 2) that personal responsibility is the way to go forward in life, 3) that the individual is not to be smothered by the collective, and 4) inequality is inevitable. Inequality is inevitable because human nature is flawed. It is inevitable because some will take more responsibility and exhibit a greater industry than others. Any system seeking to eradicate inequality generates a new kind of inequality because human nature is flawed, etc.
Though he is conservative in his anthropology, Dr. Peterson is liberal in his theology – he has an unbiblical view of God, of Christ, and of the Bible. The Bible is not objectively, historically true – it is mythically true. Its fabricated stories convey to us universal, timeless truth. Like the fables and myths of all cultures, they teach truth through stories – stories that never happened or are vastly embellished. The following Peterson quote is from a YouTube presentation dated April 28, 2022.
“Christ is symbolically the way/truth/life. Embracing the voluntary death and rebirth that is identical with psychological development, means determining to move forward and upward despite the horrors of life. It is through identification with the process symbolized by Easter, that we are each redeemed, and our culture revivified and salvaged. The Christian command is to act out the proposition that courage and truth and love are more powerful than death and despair and to accept what transpires as a consequence. That is Easter and the death and resurrection of Christ.”
Peterson believes that Jesus lived and led an exemplary life and was the greatest teacher humankind has ever had. Jesus died, but the resurrection was not a historical and objective event, but a symbolic one meant to convey the essence of the story of the heroic individual willing die for what he/she believes in.
Sean Oesch writes: “When Peterson uses Scripture or talks about Jesus, he does so not because he believes Jesus is God or that Scripture is God-breathed, but rather to illustrate his meta-myth of chaos and order to a Western audience heavily influenced by the Bible. Jesus, in Peterson’s teachings, is not the risen Lord who gives literal never-ending life through his death and resurrection. Rather, Jesus is one of many mythical heroes who show us the way to navigate chaos and order.”
Informed by the Judeo-Christian understanding of human nature found in the Bible, Dr. Jordan Peterson is a formidable ally in the culture wars whose voice is raised against the cultural and philosophical totalitarianism that is gaining traction in the West. He is a powerful friend to all who hold to a Biblical understanding of human nature. Yet his mythic approach to the Biblical narrative brings him to downplay the deity of Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.
So, how is a Christian to think about the message of Dr. Jordan Peterson? Be like Popeye – eat the worms and spit out the germs. Rejoice in his philosophical friendship and pray for his eternal salvation.
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim