The Australian’s Greg Sheridan has been proving himself a great writer about Christianity, but his recent piece declaring Canadian Psychologist and academic Jordan Peterson to be a Christian is likely a clanger.
Reporting from the recent major gathering of conservative leaders in London, which was convened by Peterson, Sheridan reported “Jordan Peterson is, after all, a believing Christian. For millions of people around the world, this will be a powerful revelation, for others a long-anticipated confirmation, devoutly to be wished. It is, perhaps, the most striking thing I learn in a long discussion with Peterson at one of the most remarkable and distinctive conferences I’ve attended, the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship, which took place this week in London.”
Reporting a critical moment in that discussion, Sheridan quotes an exchange with Peterson: “When I had the chance I asked him: ‘“’Do you yourself believe that Christianity is true, not just true in the sense that it gives us a helpful framework to understand how we function, but true that Christ is the son of God?’
“Peterson answered: ‘I’m certain that it’s true. I wouldn’t claim to be able to explain what that means because I don’t know what it means.’
“Later in our conversation, he says: ‘Full acceptance of the conditions of existence means the redemption of existence itself. I think this is true. Does that mean that Christ is the son of God? It might mean that, it seems to mean that, it probably does.’
For many readers of Sheridan’s piece, this signified Peterson might be close to being a Christian but is probably not quite there.
Two other Australian Christians, Stephen Chavura of Campion College ( who was at ARC Foerum), and Martyn Lles, newly appointed as Executive CEO of Answers in Genesis don’t belive Jordan has crossed the Jordan into faith.
“Yes, as much as I admire and love Jordan Peterson, we must understand that his reading of Scripture is NOT Scriptural”, Chavura has posted. “Perhaps if pushed he’d actually agree and say that he’s trying to make it speak to modern man. In this way his reading of Scripture is really a revival of mid-20thC liberal Protestantism. By all means listen to the man, as I do, but be under no illusions that he’s genuinely Christian.”
Ile’s diagnosis is similar: “What has Peterson done to scripture? He has denied the transcendent and replaced it with the immanent.
“He has even gone so far as to take a concept that is explicitly about the transcendent God and made it about psychological man.
“No greater perversion of the concept is possible. He has literally reversed it!
“He does this *all. the. time.*
“And it is very attractive, because it makes everything about us and our world.
“We get truth which comes from within, not from beyond.
“We get salvation which is psychological and self-obtained, not gifted from above.
“We get a cross that has nothing to do with reconciliation to God, and everything to do with making ourselves better.
“We get a god that is not beyond, but within.
“We get spirituality that rises from the hidden depths of the cosmos, not the transcendent heights of heaven.
“Because god is part of the stuff of creation.
“Yes, it’s complicated, sometimes subtle, and muted by various other influences.
“But it’s still neopaganism.
“Just like Carl Jung, his #1 influence.”
It may be that Peterson is hearing the Gospel up close. His daughter Mikhaila has reportedly become a Catholic after her mother “found god” folowing cancer.
But when pressed to decribe his beliefs, at ARC Forum by Sheridan, Peterson falls short.
“Christ’s sacrifice, Peterson thus argues, is both the transcendent story and the most pure story: “Carl Jung said that the Christ’s passion is the archetypal tragedy. It’s not possible to write a more tragic story. It’s the worst possible punishment delivered to the least deserving person. The Christian story is a limit case. I would say it’s acceptance of that limit case that redeems the world. What does that mean practically? It means we’re going to suffer the tragedy of our own lives. In the Christian passion two immense things happen. Christ has to accept the reality of his own death. But that’s not enough. Christ also heralds hell.
“The psychological implication there is in order to accept life fully you have to accept not only your own mortality and death but also the reality of malevolence.”
This confirms Iles’ description of Peterson holding to a non-transcendent God while having lots of insightful things to say about human existence.
Another speaker at ARC Forum, Ayaan Hirsi Ali HAS become a Christian. She describes it this way: “
The lesson I learned from my years with the Muslim Brotherhood was the power of a unifying story, embedded in the foundational texts of Islam to attract, engage and mobilise the Muslim masses. Unless we offer something as meaningful, I fear the erosion of our civilisation will continue. And fortunately, there is no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness. Christianity has it all.
“That is why I no longer consider myself a Muslim apostate, but a lapsed atheist. Of course, I still have a great deal to learn about Christianity. I discover a little more at church each Sunday. But I have recognised, in my own long journey through a wilderness of fear and self-doubt, that there is a better way to manage the challenges of existence than either Islam or unbelief had to offer.”
We should long for Peterson to say, “i have found a saviour, Jesus who died to remove the wrongful things I have done by dying on the cross,” declaring his repentance, and turning to Christ, not only for meaning but for saving grace.
Let’s hope this story is quickly out of date.