Jordan Peterson, Christianity and Spiritual Pilgrimages
Like all of us, Peterson is on a journey:
We are all different and we are all on different journeys. While the journey itself is important, even more so is the destination or goal of your journey. As a Christian I of course believe the ultimate and quintessential end of all our lives is to be reconciled to God through Christ. Any other telos or end point does not really mean beans in the long run.
It is quite clear that the world-famous Canadian behavioural psychologist, professor, and public intellectual Jordan Peterson is on a journey. He has made this perfectly clear so many times and in so many ways. Because he is so very well known – and so often so controversial – his journey is there for the whole world to watch, examine and assess.
I must confess however that I am at something of a disadvantage here in discussing all this. While Jordan Peterson has written a lot of material (and I have his two most recent books), he mainly communicates via the spoken word in public lectures and the like, most of which ends up as videos, podcasts, webinars and so on. So if you love videos, Peterson is your man. And he is now a regular on the Daily Wire as well: https://www.dailywire.com (for a subscription fee).
But I am a reading kinda guy, not a video watcher. While I may have seen, all up, perhaps 20 or 25 hours of Peterson, he must have tens of thousands of hours of online material. So I am a bit limited in terms of what I know about the guy. I have of course written about him a number of times before, with my first piece on him appearing nearly six years ago: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/11/05/pronoun-police-political-correctness-death-freedom/
And a year later I said he deserves a Rahab award. That is, just as the pagan prostitute Rahab in the Bible is praised as a hero of the faith (see Hebrews 11:31), so too should folks like Peterson be recognised and celebrated: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/12/01/time-rahab-awards/
So I have been following his journey, as have so many others, including so many other Christians. Is he now a Christian? That is a good question. By his own admission he seems to certainly have renounced any residual atheism that may have characterised him.
Let me briefly point you to just three recent videos on or by him. The first is from January 30, 2022. It is an 18-minute discussion of Peterson on faith with this title: “Jordan Peterson’s INCREDIBLE Journey To GOD | Heartbreaking Moments on His FAITH.” It already has 4.5 million views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6_ESSfyiYE
More recently we have a 4-minute video on why he has abandoned atheism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr1l41gkY78
And then we have a brand-new 11-minute talk released just yesterday (already with over 600,000 views), called: “Message to the Christian Churches.” It really is a message to young men, telling them that even though the culture around them is warring against them, the Christian churches of all places should be supporting them, affirming them, and celebrating them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7ytLpO7mj0
There would be more recent videos like this, but they do give you a flavour for where he is at. It will be noted in the three videos I mention above that we nowhere seem to hear Peterson using the regular Christian jargon about being “born-again,” “repenting of his sin,” and so on. This might disappoint some Christians.
So what can we say about all this? Just where is Peterson at in his spiritual pilgrimage? Is he now an actual Christian? I cannot say for sure, and I am sure that Peterson would answer those questions in the same way. But one thing I do know: it would be foolish in the extreme – and quite unChristian – to simply dismiss him and write him off and claim he is not a Christian so we should pay no attention to him.
First of all we are all works in progress. If he is not now a Christian, that does not mean he will not be tomorrow, or the next day. Also, even if, tragically, he never does come to a full saving relationship with Jesus Christ, he still has a lot to offer us, especially to struggling young men who he has helped in the hundreds of thousands.
Sure, I want him to keep up his terrific work AND be part of the household of God. But as I say, we are all on differing journeys. I just wrote about this a few days ago: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/07/10/cookie-cutters-and-differing-journeys/
In that piece I spoke mostly about how all Christians are on differing journeys. But I could have also written about how those who do come to Christ can do so in so many different ways. The billions of people who have become Christians over the centuries would be able to provide billions of different conversion stories, and quite different accounts of how they came to faith, what led up to it, and so on.
So we must forget about cookie cutter Christianity, and we must resist the temptation to think that if a person did not come to faith in the exact same way that we did, that he is not a real deal believer. God has made us all different. Sure, there are some common core features we would expect, such as some sort of repentance and some sort of faith. The thief on the cross praised by Jesus had basically no time for much of either however.
What has been the point of me writing this piece? If you thought it was for me to inform you that Peterson has definitely become a Christian, well, I am sorry to disappoint you. I do not know, and I take it Peterson does not really know – at least not yet.
But clearly he is on some sort of spiritual pilgrimage, and the main reason I write this is to get you to do the most important thing you can for the guy: pray for him. I pray daily for Peterson. I hope you can find time to pray for him as well, even if now and then.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see him become a true blue Christian, on fire for Christ and sharing the gospel? Sure, anyone who gets saved – even a lowly ditch-digger – is an amazing trophy of God’s grace. But sometimes to see such very public figures come to saving faith can be a real blessing as well.
I am sure that when Saul of Tarsus was going around with all his great zeal, learning, passion, and dedication persecuting the early Christians, many of the believers thought something like this: ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if Saul gets converted and lives the rest of his life for Christ?’
Well that is just what happened as we all know. I am praying the same for Peterson. Please join me in praying for him. And if you are the sort of Christian who has simply been complaining about him and saying he is a no-hoper and a fake believer, why not just pray for him instead of all the armchair criticisms?
13 Replies to “Jordan Peterson, Christianity and Spiritual Pilgrimages”
As you know, I’m on a journey too, like Jordan Peterson.
In my pursuit of genuinely understanding, what do you think about JP saying vociferously “Protestant’s are the worst” during his message to Christian churches?
Why is it important to hear him say he is “born again” and what does that mean to you please?
His ideas on promoting young mens spiritual health are brilliant ideas for evangelisation.
Thanks Justin. As to Peterson on Prots, I am not sure what he was getting at – it was in the context of reaching out to young men. I guess we would have to ask him what he specifically had in mind! As to being born again, that is crystal clear: it of course comes from the direct words of Jesus in John 3:1-15 which you should have read somewhere along the line. It has to do with the need to be spiritually reborn. It is this:
I too believe Bill your comments and outcome regarding Jordan.
I listened to his last video.
He addressed Christians, Muslims and Jews and said we all believe in God. But which God?
It’s wonderful that he is no longer an atheist and is on a genuine journey to the true God, our Heavenly Father.
He is having a major impact on millions maybe tens of millions of people so yes I will pray that he commits his life to Jesus and as you say, could be a modern day Paul.
1/ Ok, I’ll ask JP as he’s here soon.
2/ I’m familiar with the Bible quote.
My question was why do you think it’s important JP says he’s born again and what does being born again mean to you personally?
Thanks again Justin. My concern for Peterson is of course the same concern I have for everyone else on the planet. Jesus said you MUST be born again. Not having a spiritual rebirth means we stay lost in our sins and headed for a lost eternity. The New Testament is fairly clear on how this is remedied: Christ took the punishment we deserved on the cross, so that those who come to him in faith and repentance can be made right with God and live with him forever.
Thus Protestants tend to use the same language that Jesus used of the necessity of being born again. But as I said in my piece, the exact terminology is not so crucial – but the reality of the actual experience most certainly is. So my prayer for Peterson and all others who may not yet have a saving relationship with Christ is that he does have that encounter. As I say, perhaps he has already taken some initial steps in this regard, and he is trying to get his head around it all. As such, he can only go so far with Jungian concepts and terms, but needs to now start thinking biblically.
At the end of the day only God knows the human heart perfectly, and knows those who are truly his. But just as Peterson can now say atheism is no longer viable for him, it is hoped that soon he can say what the former slave ship captain John Newton said in his old age: “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great savior.”
Speaking of which, my own personal story is found here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/27/coming-home-my-testimony-part-1/
But having said that, it is not so much an issue of what being born again means to me personally – or to anyone else – but what God has said in his Word about what it means, why it is so important, and whether we have individually made that decision for ourselves.
Thank you for this very timely article. I had heard about Peterson before and people jumping up and down saying “Jordan Peterson is now a Christian!” I tend to be skeptical now when anyone gets put up on a pedestal knowing that the majority really have no idea about a person beyond the few words they have heard come out of their mouth.
I have watched many of his videos. In this day and age it is refreshing to hear someone speak so intelligently and, quite honestly, almost go right over my head that I have to go back and listen to parts again to get what he is saying. I will say he seems to be especially drawn to catholicism due to his wife’s faith and his own and her own health scare they have had.
I agree that he would say “I’m on a journey.” I also agree with your point that just because someone doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior the exact same way we did or has been taught to us doesn’t mean they aren’t a Christian. I do pray that is the result of his journey because it would be great to hear someone who so boldly stands up against the evil tide no matter the costs. I also think society jumps on someone’s bandwagon to quickly to have that “messiah” they can worship which I think many do today not realizing what they are ultimately being set up for.
I just appreciate your article giving a perspective as I listen to videos and maybe get a couple of books now that you have discussed them. I have so many books to read it is astounding right now. My project this year is reading the Bible all the way through first and then I can read anything on my stack after that. Will have to add him to my stack.
Many thanks Belinda.
Thanks guys. Having posted links to this article on the social media, a fair amount of discussion has ensued there. Let me say a few things in reply to some of the comments that have come my way:
One: the MAIN point of my article was that we pray for Peterson. I wonder how many people who have argued so far about this or that concerning Peterson have not prayed. If that is the case, you have completely missed the point of my article!
Two: IF he is not yet a Christian, then it would be a bit foolish of us to expect him to fully think, talk and act like one! All the more reason to keep praying.
Three. Yes he has been rather weak on things like homosexuality and Islam. But that is true of most people who ARE actual Christians as well! So first and foremost let’s pray that he becomes a real deal follower of Christ, and then pray he gets some of these other key issues straightened out. OK?
Four. Some have complained that anyone who becomes a Christian should be celebrated, not just the celebs. That is exactly what I said in my article, but as is often the case, many folks will comment without bothering to read the article first!
I am pretty much in the SAME boat regarding reading vs watching videos…
In any case, here is a review of Peterson’s 1999 book: Maps of Meaning, which covers Peterson‘s drift away from socialism into postmodernism and touches on rumours that Peterson has become a “Christian”…
Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: A Review
True sometimes it takes a while for some to make a journey others make quickly. It depends on the path we’ve taken in life and how far from God that path has taken us. Some path wind around and around yet distance-wise don’t go very far from God yet others are quite straight and can go VERY far from God. We have to realize our path may have twisted and turned a bit so that while LENGTHWISE it was the same DISTANCE-WISE it was much shorter!
I met people online who seem to have their own conversion formulas and insist the person stick to it. If they don’t then, this person figures, they don’t really want to come to Christ and this person leaves them. I felt that they could be not only losing an opportunity to save someone but could cause them to become lost forever because they wouldn’t abandon their formula. I wonder how much damage gets done by such Christians???
“some sort of repentance and some sort of faith. The thief on the cross praised by Jesus had basically no time for much of either however.”
That is exactly the reason we can preach that very same story to a person in a coma.
Who know what God will do, or how that person will respond
Very good Bill…. Yes he has been on my prayer list since C16… especially when he and Tammy were on deaths door. He believes in TRUTH and since Jesus IS THE TRUTH I believe he is in…! Certainly he has “led many” to Christ in his teachings.