Let us pray that God sends His Spirit to reveal the truth about His Son to Jordan Peterson. He is no doubt a brilliant thinker and a needed voice in the public sphere where reason and logic are so often lacking. However, my hope is that Christians who are enamored with his articulate reasoning regarding modern day social issues and family values aren’t so captivated that they can’t rightly discern his error regarding Christ and Christianity.
My fascination with Jordan Peterson goes back a few years now. Here are my impressions of what he believes about Christianity based on my exposure to his videos and his book, 12 Rules for Life. See links throughout the article for sources that inform that is article.
Jordan Peterson is a Clinical Psychologist and a prominent University Professor (Harvard University and University of Toronto) who has risen to prominence due to his public stand against political correctness, the use of genderless pronouns, and his interview regarding the gender pay gap. That coupled with his Science-based Conservative leaning views around marriage, family, and personal responsibility has made him a darling among Politically Conservative Evangelicals. He considers himself a Christian and the subject of God and his beliefs comes up in many of his interviews.
While I’m not here to cast aspersion on Peterson, a brilliant thinker who I love listening to, I am pointing out that his unorthodox views about Jesus lead to a radically different understanding of how a Christian is made right with God and therefor how a Christian lives.
Peterson isn’t sure if Jesus rose from the dead. He only believes His Spirit lives on in as much as “spirit” refers to continuing influence, saying “it’s had a massive effect across time.” When asked about the Divinity of Christ, he questions what is meant by Divine. Peterson defines the Logos as divine, but then defines divine as “of ultimately transcendent value” and that “it’s associated with Death and Rebirth.” We see in all of this, that the words “spirit,” ”logos,” and “divine” don’t refer to a personal deity but rather to ultimate ideas.
In Peterson’s varying descriptions of Christ throughout his videos he jumps from ancient heresy to ancient heresy, the content of which is beyond the scope of this post. But suffice it to say, he questions the Orthodox views of the Trinitarian formulas for God as well as the two natures in one person of Christ. The impact of denying the Calcedonian formulations regarding Christ in this way is manifold.
Peterson talks about people increasingly embodying the Logos, holding up Buddha and Christ as those who have. For Peterson, the implication for the Christian Life is that one can reach this higher plane of spiritual reality through suffering and seeking “the light,” although as he admits this is obviously near impossible. In this scheme Jesus Christ is an example of what to become. To Peterson, who believes Jesus is a historical figure, that is less important than what he symbolizes, the process of taking up one’s cross, suffering, death, and rebirth. His 12 Rules for Life provide great life tips and advice, but repackages Christianity into a works based system for “salvation” (a process by which through suffering and hard work one more and more improves their life thereby embodying the Logos) which is absent of the essential Christian concept of Grace.
Note: His book is not meant to be Theology, but a Self-Help guide. In that it is very good. It is a great book that is needed. However, it does delve into Theology and Scripture quite a bit, and in that it easily can devolve into a works-based system.
As a clinical Psychologist, Peterson’s theology is heavily influenced by Carl Jung who he readily references in many interviews. It is Jung’s archetypes that forms the basis for Peterson’s insights (some of them very good) and classes on Genesis and Exodus.