5 Basic Home Truths on Jordan Peterson – and Others

Thoughts on scrutinising well-known public figures:

It seems to happen quite often: a bunch of articles or podcasts or interviews by Christians will appear, all having to do with Canadian public intellectual Jordan Peterson. And many of them are expressing big concerns. On the extreme end, we hear that Peterson is a false prophet, or is deceiving many, or should be avoided like the plague.

Less harsh are those Christians who are happy to say Peterson has a great mind and so on, BUT… And that ‘but’ becomes the main part of what they have to say. A few sentences offering some positives about JP are quickly swamped with a page full of negatives.

Now if there are any Christians absolutely idolising JP, and believing he is an inspired prophet of God, or almost the messiah, then yes, such correctives are certainly in order. The trouble is, I am not aware of any thinking Christian who believes JP is any of that. I never hear Christians singing his praises as if the Second Coming has just occurred.

So while seeking to present a balanced view of JP and his ideas is worthwhile, I never quite see where he has been put on a pedestal to such an extreme in the first place. I never quite see where believers think he presents us with an infallible and inerrant word for today.

Peterson – and others like him – are never far from the news, including Christian news, so he will always be a topic of discussion and debate. I have already written a number of articles on JP, and other public figures, including Elon Musk. You can see a few of these pieces here for example:

https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/07/14/jordan-peterson-christianity-and-spiritual-pilgrimages/

https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/10/29/elon-musk-conservatism-and-christianity/

So my general response that I often give when I encounter these sorts of critiques of JP tends to include some or all of the following 5 points. I think all are necessary points to make, but the first two especially may be the most important.

1. Critics often tell us many of his ideas are not fully biblical or Christian. They worry that he is pushing more of the gospel of Jung than the gospel of John. To which I always must scratch my head and reply: Well duh. If he is not yet a Christian, then why are we so surprised that he is not yet talking fully like a biblical Christian?

Why do we expect someone who may well not yet be a Christian (and JP can be a bit ambiguous on this matter) to sound and act like a Christian? This always puzzles me when I read some of these critics – even the friendly critics. And of course we have plenty of folks who ARE Christians who are often not talking or acting like a Christian as well – but that is another matter.

2. Whenever I hear or read these various criticisms of JP, I always feel like saying – and sometimes do say – the obvious: Um, why not pray for him? The truth is, I pray for him daily. If we want him to think and talk more like a Christian, instead of just criticising him, why not start praying for him for a change?

The best way we can get JP offering us much more Christian views and insights would be to have him become a Christian. That is a no-brainer it seems to me. And yes, I assume that at least SOME of his critics also do pray for him as well. But I suspect most Christian critics are not, sadly.

3. I always like it when truth is spoken. All truth is God’s truth, as the saying goes. If truth comes from Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22), or from a pagan king like Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel 4), or from the very stones crying out (Luke 19:40), I am OK with that. I am happy to run with that. JP often speaks more truth than most Christians – all the more reason to pray that he does indeed become a real-deal Christian.

Sure, we must be careful in this regard. Cultists for example speak some truth but it is mixed with lies, so one must be very discerning about what they are saying. However, if a Stalin or a Hitler says that 2+2=4, they have spoken truth, and on that matter at least I can agree with them, even though disagreeing with almost everything else they said – and did.

4. There is a place for co-belligerency. This too is something I have made the case for time and time again. It simply means being willing to work with others to a certain extent on limited objectives, even though we might differ with them quite a bit on, say, theological or spiritual matters.

Thus I am happy to join forces with non-Protestants, even non-Christians, in something like a pro-life march. Just because someone is not a Christian does not mean we can never work together with them on certain important projects or tasks. Complete separation from everyone who is not fully on our same theological page is not all that helpful or wise. But see more on this here:

https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/12/12/co-belligerency-again/

5. There are differences between constructive criticism and gossip that we need to keep in mind. The latter can entail things like critiquing or attacking someone, sometimes decrying or slamming a person in public, and is often done from a cosy armchair.

The former MAY involve all those things, but would also include this: you pray for the person and you hope he is improved, or repents, or gets saved, or whatever is needed. It seems to me there are far more gossips around (a sin that is regularly warned against in Scripture), than there are constructive critics.

In sum, only God knows those who are truly his. Whether Peterson is a Christian, or is on the road to becoming one, I am not privy to. But I do know that often he will share much-needed truth that far too many Christian leaders will never speak out on. That alone scores him some points in my book.

By all means, we must critically assess all those who come along and have some influence and a public impact – be they Christians or non-Christians. We must do that for JP and others. But sometimes we must remember that our prayers are as vital as our assessments. And no, it is not one or the other – we can and should do both simultaneously.

So as I say, I pray for JP every day. Who will join me in this?

Afterword

BTW, while most Christians seem keen to offer criticisms of JP – whether a gentle and helpful criticism, or a more irrational and unhelpful criticism – there are some Christians who are more or less rallying to his defence. Most recently, Dr. Jim Twelves did so in a useful piece: https://blog.canberradeclaration.org.au/2022/12/06/is-jordan-b-peterson-a-prophet/

Also, the left of course hates Peterson and wants him fully silenced. Another brand-new piece speaks to this matter as well: https://caldronpool.com/why-did-australian-communists-protest-jordan-peterson/

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25 Replies to “5 Basic Home Truths on Jordan Peterson – and Others”

  1. Briefly, I am inspired to say that watching a debate with JP and Stephen Fry on one side and some unknowns on the other impressed upon me that there are issues where people find themselves on the same side of an argument where there normal stance is on opposite sides. It definitely was an odd couple of intellectuals but thought provoking nevertheless. I believe it was on a subject related to the rise, prevalence and influence of woke culture.

  2. I can’t believe that Christians would take the view that you rightly address.
    ||
    JP has made a lot of useful comments, but everything in this world is up for discussion, so we discuss!
    ||
    Jungian, yes, but so what; if you know the paganistic underpinnings to Jung’s thought, you know how and what to filter out.
    ||
    Then, if he becomes Christian, he may still not be who some would like. It can take many years to fully think through the intellectual implications of Christian faith, and for even Christians, this is a long journey as we drag ourselves to live out Romans 12:1-2.

  3. As he speaks from his profession, which is, ‘clinical psychologist’, I am not sure what people want to attack him over.
    He became famous for refusing to use government ordered speech, that is it.
    I quite like what he has to say, because, he says what I already believe, on many subjects, in a way that I understand. some things I agree with him on, some I disagree with him on.
    He has stated publicly that he believes the Bible is true, Jesus is who he says he is, and that he believes himself to be a Christian.
    I just pray for his safety, especially with the violence from certain groups.

  4. It is interesting to have people criticize JP when he is one of the view persons from the intellectual elite that is not attacking Christianity. All the current wisdom of the world was taken from the Bible and the filtered out God. Another great intellectual speaker to listen to is Steven Myer: Revisiting the God Hypothesis

  5. Defence of Christianity comes from non-Christians, Jordan Peterson, Andrew Bolt.

    From Christians, crickets.

    Why is that so?

  6. I like Peterson’s articulate cut-through manner. He is not constrained by politically correct speech, and doesn’t shy away from disagreement. He implores individuals (mostly men) to take responsibility in their lives. I don’t go to sleep listening to Jordan!

  7. God sometimes uses “threshold” ideas and individuals to plant seeds in the minds of unbelievers. Peterson seems to be standing on the boundary between faith and apostacy … I don’t know. I am certain, however, that Peterson is doing a world of good among 20-something, faithless males who desperately need a father-figure and some sensible advice.

    Among this cohort, Peterson, perhaps unknowingly, is pushing the needle toward making a decision for faith. Interestingly, he does so by talking about morality. Most Christians don’t talk about morality (unless they’re championing immorality). I can’t remember the last time I have heard anyone speak about adultery, for example. Peterson is pointing out our failings in this area.

    These young men wouldn’t be morally ungrounded if we — mature Christians — were doing our part by talking about male/female relationships, generic moral principles, the difficulty of developing character, what to do when moral failure occurs, etc.

    Would I prefer Peterson be unabashedly Christian? Sure.. But … God is sovereign and is using Peterson as he is.

  8. Well said, Kristen. JP also says some valid things about finding meaning in doing menial jobs, even temporarily, until conditions improve your industry. In a volatile economy, one sometimes has to adapt to keep paying their way in the world. In my experience, some Christians are more likely to criticize or put you down rather than encourage you.

  9. So true.

    Einstein said much about respecting truth. Confucius said you should treat others as you would be treated. Plato said homosexuality was against natural law. Hypocrites said abortion was immoral. Etc. etc. etc. We celebrate these people because they did have some aspect of truth. Are we simply to abandoned these truths because these people were not Christians?

    Of course we should :-

    “Accentuate the positive.
    Eliminate the negative.
    Don’t mess with mister in between”

    As some very wise philosopher who probably was not Christian once said.

    This, of course, is what Christianity has always attempted to do albeit not always successfully.

  10. Isn’t this a question of a case of sharing a common enemy?
    Because of the sectarian tensions of Northern Ireland, do I as a Protestant, eschew all of Catholicism? While there are some traditions which I disagree with, there is a majority of agreement with their faith. Is the church’s encyclical on abortion any less truthful?
    St.Augustine followed the Manichaeans and studied Hellenism and Neoplatonism. Are his treatises on Christianity to be derated?
    Victor Frankl was an Hasidic Jew, a humanist and Freudian disciple, yet his seminal “Man’s Search for Meaning” should be compulsory reading for any Christian apologist.
    Do I not listen to and take counsel from the likes of Dennis Praeger in issues of social conservatism, because he’s a Modern Orthodox Jew? He continually goes in to bat for Christian morality and is known as one of Christianity’s greatest supporters.
    If one is not a 5 point Calvinist, do we discard Calvin’s teaching? We could go on.
    But could it not be said that, as “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”, the power of reason was given to all in our inheritance from the first born of God. The difference between the reasoning power of the believer and the unbeliever is the addition of wisdom and the power of discernment- a gift of the Spirit.
    Maybe Christians who jealously guard God’s truths are themselves a little insecure in their own beliefs.
    Just a thought.

  11. I try to remember the admonition to “Judge not” as well as the instruction to judge a tree by its fruit. So I’m a fruit inspector, not a judge.

    I know many Christians who are well versed in, and have been schooled on, the specifics of their own denomination’s beliefs and differences from other denominations. They know the “right beliefs”. I met a girl once who was upset because someone told her she wasn’t a Christian as she didn’t meet the five criteria they heard in a sermon. I told her if she believes in her heart and confesses with her mouth that Christ is Lord then she is a Christian.
    I think that many of us sometimes get too dogmatic, too focused on feeling we believe “correctly” and this may lead us to be judgmental. We may focus on the speck in someone’s eye and miss the log in our own.

    I’m always happy when someone has that experience where God’s love breaks through.
    I hope and pray the best for JP.

  12. I love your wise words on JP. Christian’s are so quick to put the responsibility on others as they have with JP. However, Paul reminds us that the Bereans were considered more noble because they did not except even his words but examined the scriptures.

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