An evangelical perspective on Jordan Peterson – Part 5



Peterson will likely remain a popular and polarizing figure in our culture for years to come. There is a great deal in his talks that Christians can appreciate. First and foremost, his opposition to critical theory is important. I worry that, under the guise of social justice, Christians are increasingly embracing an ideology that is antithetical to a biblical worldview. In calling attention to and resisting this ideology, Peterson is engaged in a crucial discussion. Second, Peterson’s emphasis on personal responsibility is valuable. While exhortations to speak truthfully and live a disciplined life are hardly revolutionary, they are increasingly relevant to young people who have lost a sense of purpose.

On the other hand, Christians should be cognizant of just how far Peterson’s religious views diverge from Christianity. First, his reading of the Bible, though often interesting, will be hindered by his philosophical presuppositions and particularly by his need to see everything in terms of archetypes and elaborate metaphors. His emphasis on stories means that he virtually ignores the didactic, propositional sections of the Bible that ought to inform how we read the narrative sections. Second, his practical advice is grounded in a non-Christian worldview and therefore must be read critically. For example, Christians do not need to “create meaning” because meaning is something that we derive from God. While we should indeed take responsibility for lives and live with discipline, we do so to honor and serve a God who loves us, not to make sense of an otherwise empty and purposeless life.

Finally, in emphasizing the beauty of the story of Jesus over its truth, Peterson has diminished its importance. If Jesus is merely the ultimate mythological Hero, then he can be a role model, but he can’t be a savior. The Christian claim is that in his death Jesus objectively redeemed us from the just punishment that we deserve. Christianity transforms individuals into people of love, truth, and humility who can then transform the culture around them. But it works because it’s true; it’s not true because it works.

In all his lectures, Peterson has shown a sincerity, an openness, and a passion for truth that is to be esteemed.  My hope is that he will be engaged by Christian intellectuals who can point him towards the evidence for the truth of Christianity. C.S. Lewis also admired Jesus as a myth before he embraced him as Lord. May Jordan Peterson follow the same path.

Back: Part 4 – Worldview considerations

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