Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Jordan Peterson: The Lowering Standard of Acceptance

By the testimony of many varied substantial sources, Jordan Peterson is the most popular public intellectual in the world right now, if not just all English speaking people.  He went from zero to hero in less than one year and it's only been a year and half since he emerged from nowhere.  He has published only two books, the first in 1999, an almost unknown academic textbook, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, in the category of behaviorism psychology, a real page turner.  That was the zero Jordan Peterson under a rock in Toronto, Canada.  After rocketing to new found fame, the hero Peterson wrote number one bestseller in 2018, 12 Rules for Life:  An Antidote to Chaos.

Peterson's now everywhere, but his rise from the ashes traces to his unwillingness to subjugate himself to the Canadian government in the use of preferred gender pronouns.  That's it.  He refused to call a woman "he" or a male "she," pitting himself against the establishment and the likes of the Canadian prime minister -- instant fame.  Then his youtube channel took off, latest count, 1,025,489 subscribers.  He skyrocketed with a certain interview, where he left his inquisitor gaping like a guppy out of water.

Peterson doesn't want you to call him a conservative, but a classic British liberal, which reads like at least a modern American libertarian.  It's an understatement to say he's being celebrated by conservatives.  That being said, I'm saying that this is what they've come to.  Conservatives have one public intellectual, from Canada, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, weighed against the entire North American University system -- whatever they can get.

(I want you to know that as I write this, I'm sitting in a Whole Foods in Oakland, listening to a crazy man near the cafe, right in the middle of the store loudly orating a speech to no one -- intense, completely sincere, some coherence to random disconnected lines, accompanying authentic gesticulation, very decent eye contact with anyone who might look at him, multi-syllabic, a grocery cart with five large boxes of bottled water and one crowbar in a small, canvas Whole Foods bag, and everyone ignoring him as if he were invisible.  Where is Jordan Peterson when I need him in person?).

The Times of London invited Peterson to write an Easter column (which you can read here).  Someone might say that he believes in Jesus.  Awww, let's just say he does.  I've talked to several others out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, who believe in Jesus like Peterson does and like Martin Heidegger did or Carl Jung, the latter whom he references very often when he speaks, all, I would call, reheated Rudolf Bultmann.   If this is your Jesus, you may as well not believe in Jesus, because this isn't Jesus, the true and only Jesus of the Bible.  It's worse than sweeping one demon out of the house and seven demons taking his place.

To put Peterson's "view" of or spin on Easter or the resurrection of Jesus Christ in my own words, Jesus is the foremost edition of a story crucial to man's progression as an animal, one that, therefore, should not be ignored.  The scorning of the success derived in Western civilization from its concession to the idea depicted by Jesus warns of its demise.  Peterson uses several narratives of the Bible to account for the principles and practice of effective living.  He's not saying they happened, but that they are powerful in their message, connected to what is fundamental to the advancement and preservation of mankind.  Concerning the resurrection itself, he writes:
The story of the dying and resurrecting God is one of the oldest ideas of mankind. It is expressed in the most ancient shamanic rituals. It finds its echo in the ancient stories of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece. It manifests itself in allegorical forms — in the figure of the phoenix, which immolates itself, regains its youthful form and rises from the ashes. It permeates popular culture. Marvel’s Iron Man saves the world from demonic forces, plummets like Icarus from the sky to his near death, and then arises. Harry Potter — possessed, like Christ, of two sets of parents — dies and is reborn in his battle with Voldemort, a very thinly disguised Satan. That all speaks of a deep, ineradicable and eternally re-emergent psychological reality. 
The idea that the Saviour is the figure who dies and resurrects is a representation in dramatic or narrative form of the brute fact that psychological progress — indeed, learning itself — requires continual death and rebirth.
The first paragraph reminds me of what junior high students say when they knock something off their desk:  "It fell."  "It finds its echo" and "it permeates culture."  It has a mind of its own.  I really am not sure what "it" is -- perhaps natural selection or chance, neither of which can do anything.  Years ago, when I was very young, I remember overhearing a song by the Satler brothers, ending with this final stanza:
Now there are those who don't believe
In miracles or Santa Claus
But I believe what I believe
And I believe in Santa's cause
What the Satler brothers did to Santa, Peterson does with Jesus.  I'm not sure what Santa's cause is, but I know Jesus, and Peterson doesn't believe in Him or His cause.  The point of the resurrection is not psychological progress, at all.  At all.  There are several points of the resurrection, and Peterson's isn't one of them.  Not one of them.

I had heard of Peterson's theories on Jesus twenty-five years ago on a morning radio show here in the Bay Area, where Ronn Owens of KGO interviewed Uta Ranke-Heinemann for her new book, Putting Away Childish Things.  A few years before that, I was in the library of Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and saw a gigantic chart on the wall espousing Peterson's position.  Peterson takes it further, however, by joining psychology with the speculation that the resurrection story was a later iteration of early mythology.  He is saying that Western civilization, including its Bible, sprung from a consciousness proceeding from an evolutionary process.  He attempts to give scripture credibility with a rational and pyschological approach.  Peterson's defense of the Bible as integral or necessary for the success of American culture delights popular conservative figures.

When I heard Ranke-Heinemann, I was angry.  I called the Owens show and never got through.  Expecting to talk with more people who thought like her in the San Francisco Bay Area, I bought and read her book.  She was a liberal.  Her teaching was liberal.  Peterson teaches the same view as her.  Maybe classic British liberalism really is liberal, but with where we stand today and a lowered standard of acceptance, old liberalism sounds like conservatism.  Peterson's teaching is powerless and unconvincing with a bleak present and dreary future.

Peterson's teaching on the resurrection isn't good news for anyone.  Conservatives shouldn't commend it.  It's liberal theology.  It is not a strict construction of the text.  It will do no good to any of his listeners to apprehend his perspective.  If they do, they, like him, will be lost in their sins.

Jesus' resurrection happened.  The gospels present historical testimony.   The Bible itself authenticates the resurrection through many various and credible means.  History attests to the resurrection.

God is real.  Satan is real.  Since the beginning, as recorded in Genesis, Satan opposes God's plan and he does that by means of counterfeits.  Jesus' resurrection did not arise from early superstition, but false religion and teachers pervert, confuse, and cloud the truth before and after a real, true resurrection.

Life comes from life.  God gives life.  God raises from the dead.  God has power over death.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is alive.  After He was buried, He rose again, appeared before many witnesses, and then ascended through the clouds before many more and into the third heaven.  He fulfilled many prophesies.  He said He will return in the same manner.  Believing in Jesus brings life.  Jesus lives to make intercession.  Jesus lives to fulfill His promises.  He lives to deliver from sin: the penalty, power, and then presence of sin.  Jesus lives to sustain everything and especially those who believe in Him, preserving their life now and into eternity.  Jesus lives to resurrect the dead from the grave.  Jesus lives to prepare a place for those who receive Him.  All of this is real.  All of it is true.   It has all occurred and will occur.  If you believe it, you're saved.  If you don't, you're not.  If you don't, you're damned.

I believe what I believe in and I don't believe Jordan Peterson.


Theophilus Chilton said...

Politically speaking, American conservatism is an utter failure. It has conserved nothing. This is because it is a variant of liberalism (the "British liberalism" mentioned re: Peterson) and still rests upon the godless foundation of the "Enlightenment" and its exaltation of man as a sovereign unto himself. This leads it to make the same error of assuming "inevitable progress" which socialism/Marxism/progressivism make, and which renders it, ultimately, unable to combat these. The end result is that "conservatism" ends up merely being a speed bump on the way to total progressive, secular humanist control, which is exactly what we're in the process of seeing completed.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello Theolophilus,

How would you define conservatism? Have you read The Conservative Mind, by Russell Kirk?

I would agree that conservatism itself is not the answer.