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Jordan Peterson Doesn’t Claim to Believe in God Because He Doesn’t Understand God

Jordan Peterson is probably best described as a Christianity sympathizer without any real conviction on the matter.

Jordan Peterson is probably best described as a Christianity sympathizer without any real conviction on the matter.  

On Friday, DailyWire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo wrote an article about a PragerU interview with Jordan Peterson.  Jordan Peterson has been influential over the past few years due do his common sense approach to many issues that have divided society.  Young conservatives have been interested in his politics and philosophy.

For Christians, his worldview may seem acceptable in terms of politics and a general inclination toward espousing the benefits of Christianity, but we know that his worldview is based on an aberrant and frankly deficient theology.

Peterson is supposed to be someone who represents that objectivity of the conservative viewpoint.  That worldview is based on a real, tangible, and common sense approach to issues that have been flipped upside down by the left.

Yet Peterson’s views on religion abandon that scientific approach and instead venture into metaphysical obscurity and nonsense.  He has more in common with Soren Kierkegaard, but at least it can be argued that Kierkegaard wasn’t completely outside of orthodoxy. 

Peterson’s existentialist psychology and theology come into conflict with the revealed truth of God.

Here is the exchange according to the DailyWire,

Prager sparked the comments by noting that “one of the most important things” Peterson repeatedly says is that he “lives as if there were a God.”

“People ask me if I believe in God … people kept asking me that question, which I really don’t like,” Peterson responded. “I don’t like that question, so I sat and thought about it for a good while and I tried to figure out why. And I thought, well … who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God? If they examined the way they lived, who would dare say that?”

“To believe, to believe in a Christian sense, to actually — this is why [Friedrich] Nietzsche said there was only ever one Christian and that was Christ — to have the audacity to claim that, means that you live it out fully. And that’s an unbearable task in some sense,” he continued.

Peterson then referenced a recent event with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, and noted that he “said something very brilliant” about God.

“He talked about Christ’s moment of crises on the cross, when he cried out to God that he had been forsaken,” Peterson explained. “And what Žižek said, was that what that meant was that the conditions of human existence are so tragic that even God himself in human form lost faith for a moment in the goodness of being.”

“I thought that was a remarkable observation, because, well, if even God himself were to lose faith under such conditions, what would you expect from normal human beings confronted with what we’re confronted by?” said Peterson.

“And so I’ve never been comfortable saying anything other than, I try to act as if God exists, because God only knows what you’d be if you truly believed,” he noted. “That’s the central idea in Christianity, that if you were capable of believing it would be a transfiguring event, a truly transfiguring event. And I know people experience that to one degree or another, but we have no idea what the limit of that is, and we have no idea what the possibility is within each person if they lived a life that was maximally courageous and maximally truthful. … God only knows what you’d be if you believed.”

“So while I try to act like I believe, I never claim that I manage it,” concluded Peterson.

Peterson’s understanding of God and Christianity is grounded in something other than scripture and doctrine derived from it.

The first issue we encounter is an inclination toward a human-centric belief expressed in both his expectations for himself and for religion as a whole.  His main hang-up here is that he must live as if there is a god and people shouldn’t dare claim that given how they live.  This implies that there is something within humanity that is capable of pleasing God. It implies that it is solely a matter of personal choice as to whether a person believes in God or not.  While he is certainly right to point out that many do not honor the God to claim to believe in, his human-centric viewpoint denies the power of regeneration.  We can profess faith in God with boldness because our sin is no match for God’s grace and the effects of justification and sanctification.  Christians who fail are still being made more like Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peterson thinks that it is solely up to him to manage his “living as if there were a god.”  His agreement with Nietzsche highlights that he does not understand the nature of Christ in salvation.  To say that Christ was the only Christian is to say that Christ is a liar.  Why?  Because salvation is not based on our own ability.  Every believer is a true Christian because salvation exists outside of ourselves.  Peterson effectively denies imputed righteousness where our sin is placed on Jesus and He credits us with His righteousness.  Every believer is righteous because Christ is.

The second and final issue is that Peterson mischaracterizes the nature of Christ in His death.  Peterson claims that God the Son lost faith in God the Father when Jesus asks, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Peterson ascribes a sinful motive to Jesus i.e. not trusting God.  He implies that God did not in fact forsake Jesus.  Odds are Peterson’s existentialist views cannot account for the nature of sin.  Jesus wasn’t losing faith when he asked why God would forsake Him.  Jesus was accurately identifying that God the Father was in fact forsaking Him.  Because of sin, God the Father had to forsake Jesus.  A Holy and Just God cannot permit sin to exist in His presence.  On the cross, Jesus became sin.  It’s this idea of imputation.  Our sin was imputed to Jesus.  It’s a grand legal exchange.  Jesus takes the entirety of our guilt and receives the full punishment that we deserve.  That is why God had to forsake His Son.  On the cross, sin deserves the eternal wrath of the Father.  Fortunately for us, we weren’t on that cross. Jesus was.

Christians have to be careful.  Differing worldviews may seemed aligned to our cause, but getting the Gospel wrong and misunderstanding the nature of Jesus will inevitably lead to problems down the road. At the end of last week, I wrote about the religious left. Conservative Christians have to be aware that scoring political points for the religious right is not the end goal.  Peterson may help you achieve those goals, but you will find the truth of God distorted and that harms the only real goal we have… making disciples of all nations.

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