30 December 2018

Jordan Peterson's Struggle with Christianity

Mr Holdsworth discusses Dr Peterson's problems with accepting the Faith.

His introduction:

Let me start off by saying that I’ve really enjoyed getting familiarized with Dr. Jordan Peterson’s perspective. I think he has a lot of great insights and I’d recommend anyone with an open mind, to check him out and listen to what he has to say. One of the things I really like about Peterson is his ability to simultaneously use language that appeals to a variety of starting points. Because some people will approach truth with a more religious lens, some people with a more philosophical lens, and others with a purely materialist or scientific lens. You can see him getting animated when he starts to discuss the kinds of euphoric religious experiences that have been documented, even in clinical scenarios, where the spiritual and metaphysical reality collides with the material world. This idea that religious myths can and do convey truth is something that he has helped a lot of people appreciate. But I think truth is bigger than mere material facts. There is a whole depth of reality that facts, as variables that we can understand, don’t infiltrate. Things like morality, beauty, or even the underlying assumptions of the laws of logic. So myths and legends do a great job of penetrating transcendent truths and finding ways for us to appreciate them in the context of our lives and Peterson does a great job of explaining that and helping people gain an appreciation for it. One of my favourite autobiographies is CS Lewis’s. In part because I’m such a fan of his writing, but also because it’s such an endearing story of friendship. Lewis had this amazing community of friends called the Inklings. They were a group of academics who would meet regularly to discuss literature, history, and politics, but especially mythology. They all had a passion for reading Norse mythology and then discussing the themes and the apparent truths that were conveyed within them. Among this group was JRR Tolkien. Because several of the members of the group were Christians, including Tolkien, the conversation would often drift towards that topic. Lewis loved the subject matter of the mythology that they would discuss. He believed that they meant something significant even though he couldn’t necessarily say what, but that they somehow spoke deeply to his soul. He was also troubled by the fact that these stories somehow connected him to some truth that did not correlate to any factual incarnate reality which made him feel like he was being tricked by lies. Tolkien and others in the group pointed out what I was trying to say earlier - that truth isn’t limited to mere material facts and the truths that Lewis had such a deep affection for in these stories was a very real thing. But in the case of Christianity, Tolkien argued, it is the myth that conveys these same truths but with one difference. It actually happened. The life of Jesus was the incomparable moment when metaphysical truth, was made manifest in material reality. Christians call this the incarnation. The deep transcendent mysteries of all reality could be touched, could be spoken to and listened to, and could be embraced as a friend. That’s what Jesus means to the world and that’s why unlike all other prophets, his message wasn’t, “I’ve found the way to truth,” but rather, “I AM the way and the truth.” Jesus was a real person who lived and walked and said extraordinarily shocking things. And the people that knew him witnessed his arrest and execution and, as you’d expect, were scattered and demoralized by it. But then something strange happens. Shortly after, they emerge from their hiding places utterly convinced that the same Jesus whose loss destroyed their morale was alive again and truly was the messiah they had hoped for. And from that moment, they devoted their entire lives to telling anyone who would listen. Most of them suffered a similar fate as Jesus for refusing to change their tune. Now these are claims of historical, material fact. Unlike pagan legends, we can’t just treat them as archetypal stories but we have to confront the claim that they actually took place in time and space. I think Peterson struggles to face that confrontation, and I don’t blame him… it’s terrifying. I once heard him say that he doesn’t understand the resurrection of Jesus which is why he struggles with it. Well, he’s not alone. None of us understand it because this thing, if it happened, is an encounter with God. If God exists and reveals himself to us, the least logical response is to say, I won’t respond to that revelation unless I can understand it fully. God, by definition, is beyond our comprehension. All we can do is submit to the mystery and allow it to envelope us in an adventure that is beyond our understanding.

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