By Joel Settecase / 6-minute read
Who is Jordan Peterson?
“Adulting is hard,” or so goes the popular Millennial saying. Can you relate? Millions can, and many of those millions have become followers of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. If you are a Christian familiar with Dr. Peterson, it is probable that you have asked questions like, “Why does he matter?” “How biblical is his message?” And “Is he a Christian?” If you are one of the millions he has helped with “adulting,” these questions are even more urgent.
In this episode, the Sons of Thunder (Joel and Parker) expound on the Jordan Peterson phenomenon, in order to answer those questions once and for all.
Jordan Peterson is a Jungian psychologist and professor from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He rocketed onto the (inter)national scene first in a dust-up over the Canadian government (allegedly) mandating that Canadians use the so-called transgendered people’s preferred pronouns. Once people started listening to him, many found that he had other ideas that they found appealing.
What is Jordan Peterson Known For?
Today Dr. Peterson is known across the English-speaking world as a thinker and commentator on how to live a fruitful and productive life. His ideas often land him in the crosshairs of those on the political and cultural left, and therefore he is followed by significant controversy. That controversy, by the way, seems to have only helped his star to rise (remember the “catastrophic” Cathy Newman interview?).
Controversy and all, Peterson has garnered a massive following of young men, who view him as something of a father figure. Peterson’s message is simple: he calls people (again, especially young men) to personal responsibility and self-respect.
He matters, especially to those keeping track of ideological trends, because of the prominence of his ideas as well as the controversy that surrounds him. He is a psychologist, but he is not content to stay within the field of psychology, likely because he recognizes the necessary overlap between disciplines. He dabbles in theology and philosophy as well.
Where is Jordan Peterson From?
Geographically, he comes from Toronto. Ideologically, however, he is notoriously difficult to locate. Where is he coming from? Bible-believing Christians, in particular, have grappled with what to think of him in terms of his message, and whether believers can (and should) listen to him and learn from him.
What Jordan Peterson Believes
This is a key question. It is one that many Christians want to answer, because of the warnings in Scripture about believers partnering with nonbelievers. It is especially pertinent, given Jordan Peterson’s common causes with conservative, Bible-believing Christians.
The appropriateness of Christians partnering with non-Christians on social issues is one believers have been asking for years (see this “Ask Pastor John” episode from 2016, “Should Christians Partner with Non-Christians on Social Issues?”). So it would really be a lot easier, many believers may be thinking, if Jordan Peterson were just a Christian. Then partnering with him would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately it is not that easy.
In this podcast episode Joel and Parker analyze Peterson’s own statements about his beliefs. Specifically, Dr. Peterson refuses to say he believes in God, expressing his own failure to live up to the moral expectations of a believer. It seems he understands a form of law, but has no meaningful conception of grace.
By comparing what he says to the biblical Gospel, the Sons of Thunder conclude that Jordan Peterson is not a Christian. They then discuss the value of “eating the meat and spitting out the bones,” and how much of what Jordan Peterson gets right is found in the Bible anyway.
To learn more about the Christian message that Peterson approaches but does not quite fully embrace, read the Think Institute’s series on the biblical worldview, especially “The Biblical Worldview, Part 4: What Is Man?” and “The Biblical Worldview, Part 7: Who is Jesus”
Jordan Peterson rose to prominence as a psychology professor at the University of Toronto
He got into a brouhaha over the Canadian government’s alleged enforcement of compelled speech
He has been no stranger to controversy since then
It turns out Dr. Peterson has a lot more to say, especially about archetypal heros and concepts supposedly genetically engrained into humanity.
He even analyzes Disney movies psychologically.
One interesting idea he discusses is the so-called Matthew principle.
Dr. Peterson plays in the theological and philosophical sandboxes
Jordan Peterson gives good advice that resonates with many young men
He has expressed sympathy with Christian ideas and professes to be some kind of Christian
He will not expressly say he believes in God, due to ethical concerns
He also promotes evolution, deriving lessons from lobsters
Given his statements on God and whether he believes in God, it is unlikely that Jordan Peterson is a Christian
Christians are free to (cautiously) appreciate the good things Jordan Peterson says, without wholesale adopting his worldview (eat the meat; spit out the bones).
We should recognize that, while Jordan Peterson has many good things to say, the things he gets right are really restatements of truth from the Bible we already have
He prompts Christians to ask new questions, which is valuable.
People, Resources, and Articles Mentioned in this Podcast Episode
Jordan Peterson debate on the gender pay gap, campus protests and postmodernism (interview with Cathy Newman)
Connect with Joel and Parker
Listen to the Think Podcast (and remember to leave us a review!)
How do you explain Christianity?
Get resources, articles and more podcast episodes at the Think Institute website, Truthinconversation.com.