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The light has dawned

Andrew T. Walker | Observing the hunger for truth in the world around us


Jordan Peterson speaks in Dallas, Texas. Wikimedia Commons

The light has dawned

I do not believe that popular public intellectual and psychologist Jordan Peterson is a Christian, nor has he identified as a believer. Indeed, as the Canadian intellectual skyrocketed to fame, he spoke of Christianity only as an outsider. In his more recent work, however, it is apparent that Peterson is God-haunted. He’s a spiritualist who attempts to ground morality and ethics in the confluence of evolutionary theory, myth, and psychology.

But, more recently, he has been remarkably respectful of Christianity. One does not see in Peterson the cynicism and wrath that typifies the New Atheists. He’s made statements that suggest, ironically, he understands the cosmological and existential gravity of Jesus Christ better than some Christians.

In a remarkable video, Peterson is overcome with tears in reflecting on what the truth of Christianity would entail if it were definitively true. The context of his comments comes in comparing Jesus Christ to other religious narratives. Peterson says:

The difference, and C.S. Lewis pointed it out as well, the difference between those mythological gods and Christ was that there’s a historical representation of his existence as well. Now you can debate whether or not that’s genuine. You can debate whether or not he actually lived and whether there’s credible objective evidence for that. But it doesn’t matter in some sense. There’s a sense in which it doesn’t matter since there’s still a historical story. And so what you have in the figure of Christ is an actual person who actually lived plus a myth. In some sense, Christ is the union of those two things. The problem is I probably believe that, and I’m amazed at my own belief. I don’t understand it. Sometimes the objective world and the narrative world touch. That’s union synchronicity. I’ve seen that many times in my own life. So, in some sense, I believe, that’s undeniable. We have a narrative sense of the world. For me, that’s been the world of morality. That’s the world that tells us how to act. It’s real. We treat it like it’s real. It’s not the objective world, but the narrative and the objective world touch. And the ultimate example of that in principle is supposed to be Christ. That seems to me oddly plausible, but I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s too terrifying a reality to fully believe. I don’t even know what would happen to you if you fully believed it.

This is a powerful admission, one that makes the Christian’s heart ache in seeing a troubled soul on the cusp of grasping who Christ is but remains unable to bring himself, as yet, to the point of saving faith. According to Peterson, Jesus Christ, the God-man, would unlock the mysteries of the universe. In Him, the objective basis for reality breaks into space and time. Christ is Peterson’s would-be cosmology.

But all of this is conjecture for Peterson. What ails Peterson is that he cannot find a definitive place to ground his thought. For all his insight, Peterson is a spiritual seeker at best, or a confused agnostic at worst. Scripture warns against this condition. Paul encourages his young protégé Timothy to reject “myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3–4). Elsewhere, Paul says to avoid those who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

Jordan Peterson is what you get with natural theology void of special revelation—someone searching for the truth, hovering around it, beneath it, and above it, but never able to arrive at it. None of this is written to take aim at Peterson in particular. Far from it. I find some of his work a bastion of sanity compared to other unbelieving intellectuals. We should all pray that Peterson comes to a personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God that we have His Word that directs us to such faith. What Christians celebrate at Christmas is that this Word, this grand-ordering Logos, became flesh—that the very organizing principle of the universe that Jordan Peterson is grasping for is not a mystery, but revealed.

Revelation stands behind the heart of this project of offering Christian opinion. As the Managing Editor of WORLD Opinions, I want to thank our readers for embarking on this new journey with us. The only reason we have the audacity to say what we say in these pages and amid the destabilizing acids of secularism is because God had the loving audacity to reveal Himself to us. As Christians, we believe we have a place to stand because of the divine revelation given to us in God’s Word. In a world of spiritual searching, we are wanting to give the Christian a firm and immovable place to stand (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 15:58). Revelation is what makes that possible and is at the heart of the gospel; for God so loved the world that He made Himself known to sinful creatures.

We should pray that Jordan Peterson, and all persons everywhere, experience “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:16)—that the transcendent Word of God, who became flesh for us, and who is still made known to us in His written Word, would come to him as well.

Christmas can easily be taken for granted, but what it occasions us to remember is that Christians are not fumbling about in the dark—that a people who formerly “walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). In Christ, the light has dawned.


Andrew T. Walker

Andrew T. Walker is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

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Phil Cotnoir

Thank you for this article. It should also be noted that Peterson's immense popularity and his engagement with the Bible and Christian ideas has served as a gateway towards Christ for a small subset of his listeners (which, given his audience, is still a sizeable crowd). There are quite a number of testimonies on YouTube and elsewhere from people (mostly young men) who make credible professions of faith in Christ and state explicitly that it was Peterson who led them to examine (or reexamine) Christianity and the Bible. These new believers are finding their way to churches in various denominations and streams of Christianity; we baptized one such believer at our little Baptist church not too long ago.

I for one am thankful for this, and pray that the teacher would follow the students who have gone ahead of him into the Kingdom of light and life.

DAVE B

Peterson's comments make me think of CS Lewis on the cusp of becoming a christian. His honest intellectual approach is wrestling with truth. I would rather the author focus on this honest quest for faith rather than continually reflect on how he lacks faith in this way and that way. His view of the objective and narrative (logos) world is so inspirational. This is the heart of the gospel. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He who truly seeks, finds! To him who knocks, the door will be opened.

HFAI4545

So glad to read an opinion on Jordan Peterson, whom I highly respect and suspect is on the threshold of faith. I hope he embraces it someday soon, that our God moves in his life to reveal the place where myth and history meet (as CS Lewis said) - in Jesus Christ. My son and I will be going to see him on his tour soon; we both recognize his brilliance and not-quite-there Christianity, and will be praying for him while we listen to his thoughts.

BFRA3599

Well written. Dr. Peterson is also very aware of his own depravity. I’ve heard him say multiple times in the context of some devastating social condition, “I’m the problem.” Many who claim Christ don’t understand this necessary prerequisite to salvation. Yes, I do pray that the Lord has mercy on Dr. Peterson’s soul.