“You know the message…”

Acts 10 records a significant new phase in the spread of the gospel (Acts 1:8).

Its importance is signalled by the amount of space that Luke gives to this episode: the messenger from God to a God-fearing centurion in Caesarea (vs.1-8); the preparatory heavenly vision given to the Apostle Peter in Joppa, and the invitation from Cornelius to come to Caesarea (vs.9-23); Peter’s meeting with the centurion and his household, with the proclamation of the gospel (vs.24-43); and the astonishing response of those gathered, marked by a Pentecost-like outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and their baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (vs.48).

So important was this new stage in the spread of the message that it is recounted in 11:1-18, concluding with the other apostles and brothers conclusion that “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

Here I would draw your attention to some words of Peter, recorded in 10:36, and repeated in 10:37: “You know.”

This account is sometimes said to record information about Jesus coming to a group of bog-ignorant Gentiles for the very first time. But that is clearly incorrect: Peter recognises that they already knew many things about Jesus.

And yet, God sent a messenger to Cornelius to summon Peter to tell his household “everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us” (v.33).

What did they already know? What important things were missing that required the presence of an Apostle?

What they already knew
Peter reminded the large gathering (v.27) of what they had already learned about Jesus, a great leader who had brought a message of peace (v.36). They were familiar with the events that followed the preaching of John the Baptist; the anointing of Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and his God-empowered ministry of healing and deliverance from evil spirits.

Peter’s short summary here looks like an outline of the Gospel of Mark.

How did they know? It’s clear from the Gospels that Jesus’ fame spread far and wide, both through people’s direct experience of his words and work, and through the reports that spread like wildfire throughout the region. (Jesus had even visited this area, as Mark records in Mk.7:24ff. He had unsuccessfully tried to remain anonymous, but “he could not be hidden”). Luke records in Lk.4:37 that “the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area” near Galilee. Compare Lk.4:14,Mt.4:23-25; 9:26; etc.

Given Jesus’ notoriety in the region, it is impossible to suppose that these Gentiles had not also heard of the end of Christ’s ministry — his miserable trial and crucifixion in Jerusalem (v.39). Perhaps some of them, like Cleopas and his friend on the Emmaus road, would have said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…” (Lk.24:21).

What they needed to know
So what information were they missing, that required someone like the Apostle Peter to come personally to provide?

Recall the qualifications for an Apostle: he must have accompanied Jesus during his years of ministry, and also be a “witness” of his resurrection (see Acts 1:21-22). He must be someone who had actually seen the risen Christ, and Peter was such a man! That was why God chose him to bring the message to these Gentile people.

Peter proclaimed to them what they did not yet know: that God had raised Jesus from the dead (v.40), and appointed him to judge the living and the dead (v.42). And the wonderful truth to which the prophets had testified: “that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

“Everyone” – even Gentiles! (Though we shouldn’t be surprised at this, if we have read the story of Abraham in Gen.12ff.) Everyone who “believes in him.” The word is in the present-continuous tense in Greek, and refers not simply to believing things about Jesus but actually believing or trusting in him personally as the Risen Lord of all (cf.v.36).

This was what they didn’t know, but when Peter told them, it’s clear that they turned from their former ways to put their faith/trust in the Risen Christ – God “granted them repentance unto life” (11:18).

The message for us?
Why did the Holy Spirit cause Luke to record these things in such detail? Surely not for mere academic interest!

No, to this very day, there are many people who have heard the reports about Jesus. They have been told of his deeds and words while on earth. They have heard that he died on the cross to pay for sins. And they have been led to think that believing these things is what it means to have faith. But as the Apostle Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1Cor.15:17). And James: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (Jas.2:19).

You may believe everything you think the Bible says “about” Jesus without having trust “in” Jesus. You may believe in a wishy-washy hippie-Jesus, pussyfooting through the daisies, or a risen, powerful glorious One who will judge the nations. But unless you put your trust in the One who is actually revealed in the Bible, and who is alive today, you cannot be saved.

From beginning to end, the Book of Acts is telling us that the message of the gospel is that Jesus is Lord through his resurrection from the dead, and that all who entrust themselves to him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It is never enough to believe things “about” Jesus if you don’t also put your trust “in” him as your Saviour and Lord.

“Simply to the cross I cling”

There are some hymns that speak of clinging to the cross. For example:

Rock of Ages (Augustus M. Toplady, 1784-1872)
3. Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Saviour, or I die.

The Old Rugged Cross (George Bennard, 1873-1958)
So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

What should we think of this idea of clinging to the cross? What does it even mean?

First, there seems to be no reference in the Bible to clinging to the cross of Christ.

In Gal.6:14, the Apostle Paul speaks of “boasting in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is an important matter, to which we will return later. But for the moment, it is hard to see any connection between boasting and clinging. They are distinct actions and one doesn’t imply the other. Clinging is not boasting is not clinging.

The Bible doesn’t call us to cling to things. It is a mark of idolatry to cling to an object, like a model cross, or rosary beads, if you think that will do you some spiritual good. And how can we cling to something that existed 2000 years ago? Before his ascension to heaven, Jesus even told Mary to “stop clinging to me” (Jn.20:17). She wasn’t to cling to the newly resurrected body of Jesus, let alone to the wooden cross upon which he had died.

Faith does not take hold of earth-bound objects, persons or institutions. Faith or trust is directed to Jesus: he is the one to whom the believer “clings” by faith. Our trust is in the risen and now glorious Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Is there any sense in which we “cling to the cross”? Yes. Consider where the Bible tells us about taking up the cross (see Matt.10:38, 26:24; Mk.8:34; Lk.9:23). A mark of being a disciple of Jesus is that he “takes (up)” his own cross, and follows Christ. This means to deny oneself, putting oneself to “death” in order to serve Christ, to follow in his footsteps of self-denying love. This way of death is the way of life! For as Jesus went on to say, ” For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mk.8:35).

The reference is not to the cross upon which our Lord died, but the cross that he gives us to carry as we follow him. In this cross we boast (Gal.6:14) because it is in our weakness that God’s strength is perfected (2Cor.12:9). This is the cross to which we are to cling all through our lives, as we follow the once-crucified now glorious Jesus who secured victory over evil by his death and resurrection.

“Wolf! Wolf!” …Naahhh.

Paul Kelly states, “The complacency of the Australian public and the relentless invasion of the virus have driven leaders into draconian steps. Life in Australia will begin to be transformed this week” (The Australian, 23/03/20).

How to account for the national complacency that Kelly alleges? I was reminded of one of Aesop’s fables:

A shepherd boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, “Wolf! Wolf!” and when his neighbours came to help him, laughed at them for their pains. The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: “Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep;” but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock. There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.

For decades now, the Australian population has been subjected to numerous apocalyptic predictions about global warming. “Only ten years to do something about climate change.” How many times has this, and like prophecies, been promulgated by an uncritical, compliant and scientifically ignorant media?

Australians are not stupid. At national elections they have shown that they are not taken in by hysterical predictions of “climachange.” The world goes on as it ever has, extreme weather events occur like they always have, bush-fires and floods likewise. Carpet-bagging researchers spruiking for “funding” have continued with their scare-tactics, but Aussies have become complacent about people shouting, “Wolf, wolf.” “Yeah, right” they say. As Graham Richardson says from time to time, “The mob will always work you out.”

But now we have a real and massive problem. An extremely virulent and dangerous virus is spreading like wildfire. It is not a computer-modelled simulation like climachange… it is really happening. But the laconic Aussie is very possibly thinking, “Ah well, just another scare campaign to manipulate me or relieve me of my hard-earned.”

If we are showing complacency in the face of all the medical warnings, maybe it’s because we have too often heard the cry, “Wolf, wolf!” when there was no wolf. But now, the wolf really is at the door.

To Obey God or Men?

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb.10:24-25, ESV).

You have probably heard these words quoted on many occasions to encourage folk to be more diligent about attending upon the “means of grace,” by which is usually meant the scheduled worship services of the congregation. Maybe you have quoted them yourself in this connection, as have I. A neglect of the corporate worship of God has been seen by many as a symptom of spiritual decline, and indeed that may well be the case.

Alongside these words let me place some other words. These were spoken by Peter and the apostles to the Jewish authorities who were trying to shut down the preaching of the Name of Jesus:

“We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

So, when the Government tells us, in effect to limit, or cease the physical gatherings of the church (allowing 4m2 per person, for example), should we appeal to Heb.10:24-25 as revealing the infallible will of God in the matter, then quote Acts 5:29, and take the consequences?

It should be said immediately that if Heb.10:24-25 does indeed convey the infallible will of the Lord regarding attendance at worship services, then yes, we should obey no matter the consequences. But does it?

May I suggest that such is not the meaning of our text? The text has a context, which is Heb.10:23 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Far from seeing our Faith as an individual matter, it is a “con-fession,” where the “con” means “with.” That is, with other Christians. If we let the sins of others discourage us, and retreat from them, we are denying that God has called us to be his family – brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our text in Hebrews 10 is not a legalistic demand for attendance at meetings: it is a warning against isolationism and individualism. Meeting together is one (important) way to “hold fast our confession,” as we encourage one another. When that is not possible, which it may be for various reasons, then we must find other ways to encourage, to edify, to bless. And all the more, as we see the Day of the Lord drawing near. Don’t let social distancing be an excuse for failing in the duty of mutual love and edification.


“Oh, I wish I had your faith!”

Has anyone ever said that to you? Many Christians have. Maybe you’ve been talking to a neighbour and spoken of your trust in God, and the neighbour has uttered those words. What do you say in reply to that?

It’s important to ask, “What does my friend think faith is?” Perhaps she thinks it’s a learned skill, like knitting or knotting, fishing or football. Or a facility with languages or music: “I wish I could play the bassoon like you do.” Or maybe he thinks it’s an innate thing – something you’re born with. “Oh I wish I had 20/20 vision like yours.”

What is faith, according to the Bible? Is it really a “thing”?

I think it can be helpful to find another word that means the same thing as “faith.” My best suggestion is the word “trust.” Faith is trust.

How do you develop trust in someone? By getting to know him or her. It’s not enough simply to know things about that person; it’s not even enough to believe that those things are true about her. Trusting someone means being confidant in him because you have come to know him well. And the better you know a trustworthy person, the greater will be your trust in her.

Faith, or trust in the Lord Jesus is not something you can drum up by hard work! In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, he recounts a conversation between Alice and the Red Queen:

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Alice was right. No matter how hard you try, you can’t believe things if you don’t think they are true! And you can’t trust someone you believe to be untrustworthy.

So what do you say to your friend who says, “I wish I had your faith”?

Maybe this: “Well, you can! My faith in the Lord is about trusting him to save me from my sins, and keep me in his love for ever. I can do that only because he has shown me that he is totally trustworthy. And I’ve come to know him because he’s revealed himself to me in the Bible. Would you like to meet together to read the Bible over a cup of tea or coffee? I’d love for you to get to know him, and trust him too.”

Faith is not something we “do” – it’s not a work in that sense. It’s our God-given response to what the Lord reveals of himself, for “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (trust)—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph.2:8-9).

– Peter Gadsby

Gospel Summary in Romans 1

His Letter to the Romans is Paul’s most systematic exposition of the message that he preached both to Jew and Greek. It seems that, wishing to visit the church in Rome and to gain their support for the mission to Spain (see 15:24), Paul spells out his gospel in a systematic way so that his readers will have confidence to receive and support him.

While Paul elaborates his message in great detail, the first section (1:1-7) forms a ‘capsule summary’ of his message. It is informative to read it, and to see Paul’s stated purpose in preaching his message: it is to ‘bring about [the] obedience of faith’ (1:5) in all the nations. He repeats this in his final words, that what God has disclosed is ‘to bring about [the] obedience of faith’ (16:26).

What is this “obedience of faith”? It is not “obedience that flows from faith,” but rather, “faith that consists in obedience.” If we ask “Whom do we obey when we believe,” the answer is clear. It is the One to whom all authority in heaven and upon earth has been given, to whom we are called to submit as his disciples, keeping his commandments (see Mt.28:18-20).

It is no coincidence that the Lordship of Jesus is the focus of Paul’s ‘capsule summary’ in Rom.1.

In this passage, he first identified himself as Paul, a servant, who has been set apart for the gospel of God. V.2 commences with a ‘which,’ so he’s going to say something about this ‘gospel’ that God has given him.

  • it was promised beforehand in the Scriptures through God’s prophets.
  • it is about God’s Son. (Note: Paul does not say that it is about our forgiveness at this point.)

Now the Apostle tells us something about this Son of God:

  • he was descended from King David, according to the flesh
  • he was declared to  be God’s Son in power, according to the Holy Spirit
  • he is none other than Jesus Christ our Lord!

Through telling this message among all the nations, God is calling people to belong to Jesus Christ.

So there, in brief, is the summary. The gospel is about the Lord Jesus, and in it God is calling people to obedient faith or trust in the glorified Son of David. That is why the consistent message recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts is that Jesus Christ is Lord through his resurrection from the dead, and that we are all called by God to become his disciples.

Of course, there is much more to be said! Romans goes on to spell out the costs, and the benefits of becoming disciples of Jesus, eg. sins forgiven, a new identity, the gift of the Spirit and gifts from the Spirit, and so on. But the starting point of salvation is accepting that Jesus is Lord, putting our trust in him, and becoming his disciples.


Baptismal Regeneration in the WCF?

Does the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) teach baptismal regeneration (new birth)? Does it say that the sacrament of baptism actually confirms an individual’s regeneration, conversion, justification, etc? A quick reading of Ch.28, section 1 might give that impression:

BAPTISM is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

Many, if not most would agree that baptism is a sign (or symbol) of these spiritual blessings, but is it a “seal” (confirmation) of them in every baptized person? Does the WCF teach that every person baptized possesses these spiritual blessings, among them regeneration?

There is a maxim of biblical interpretation which says that “a text without a context is pretext for a proof-text.” We must interpret every passage of Holy Scripture in its context, both immediate and ultimately, the context of the entire Bible. This is a principle which applies just as well to other forms of communication: don’t take people’s words out of their context.

If we read on in Ch.28 of the WCF, we find this in section 5:

V. Although it be a great sin to contemn [despise] or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

This statement in pretty clear, once you wade through the double-negatives! There is no certainty that all who are baptized are regenerated. There is no inseparable link. That’s what it says, very plainly. The WCF denies baptismal regeneration in section 5.

But how does that fit with the statements in section 1 which say that baptism is a sign and seal of the person’s ingrafting into Christ, etc?

Let’s be generous to the Westminster divines (top theologians), and NOT assume that they contradicted themselves within a few sentences!

We must ask, in what sense did they use the word “his” in section 1? “…a seal… of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life…”

 Baptism doesn’t guarantee salvation, whether in the case of the children of believers (paedobaptism) or in the case of professing  believers (credobaptism). In both cases, people have been known to fall away from the Lord. However, we may speak of the blessings of salvation “belonging” to all the baptized insofar as it is the sign of admission to the church (the WCF would say, “visible church”), and these are blessings that belong to Christ’s church in a general sense. So if you belong to that church, in one of her congregations, these blessings are said to be yours (“his”). Through faith, cultivated in the covenant communities of church and family, you partake personally of these blessings. However, by forsaking Christ and his church, you lose those privileges and blessings.

Here’s an illustration: someone deposits a million dollars in your bank account, but you never draw on it; you never receive any benefit from it. In one sense, it’s yours, but in another, it’s not. Christ is that great fortune. As a baptized member of his church, he’s offered to you, he is yours for the taking, but you must actually take him in order to receive his benefits!

Baptism preaches the gospel of Christ. But just as a sermon won’t do you any good unless you believe and obey God’s Word, so with baptism. In fact, it will add to your condemnation on the Day of Judgment, because you had it, but you didn’t use it.

The Voice of Conscience

Not long ago, the Tasmanian Parliament enacted a statute compelling their citizens to use preferred pronouns when requested. According to an ACL spokesman, “This move could see people dragged before Tribunals for causing unintentional offence to trans people, by misgendering them. That is a new threshold in compelled speech, never before seen on Australian shores.”

(Incidentally, it was this issue of compelled speech that helped to propel Dr Jordan Peterson into international fame. See here, for example.)

What is going on here, and with other legislation legitimising particular gender expressions?   Why should such folk want to enforce recognition upon others? Why not simply accept that their activities, etc. are no longer illegal in most Western societies, and that others have no desire to persecute them?

The Lord Jesus said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). The Jewish leaders counted the affirmation of others more important than that of God himself. They had elevated personal peer review to an art form!

What was the problem? I think that it’s the matter of the conscience – that inbuilt sense of right and wrong, implanted in mankind at creation. It’s the facility that exercises judgement (“It’s not fair”), and either praises or condemns others (see Romans 2:1).

We are all rebel-sinners both by nature and by choice, but our conscience still nags us – at the start, anyway. However, conscience is a sensitive beast and it can be suppressed. When we choose to sin, we suppress conscience, and the more we do that, the more hardened in sin we become.

How do we suppress the protests of our conscience? There are many ways, but one of them is to seek the approval of others for our actions. The voices of our friends drown out the quiet pleadings of conscience, and so we plunge ever deeper into self-justification for our behaviour and for our rebellion against the holy God.

I think that this is a major factor in the push for ever-expanding legislation: it’s to drown out the voice of conscience, and compel others to join in the chorus of approval — whether they want to or not. Because it’s not about the freedom of others, their preferences or beliefs: it’s all about ME and what I want. It’s about drowning out my conscience.

But what really matters in the end? Jesus said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?”

Pearls and Pigs

Pearls and Pigs

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Mt 7:6)

Traditionally, verse 6 has been seen as balancing’ our Lord’s words in v.1, “Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves.” To those who said, “Oh, but you mustn’t judge,” we have said, “Jesus wasn’t forbidding the right use of discernment, for does he not immediately encourage us to classify some men as dogs or swine?” For example, D.A.Carson writes that, having been warned (in v.1) against being judgmental, the disciple of Jesus “is in chronic danger of becoming wishy-washy, of refusing legitimate distinctions between truth and error, good and evil“ (The Sermon on the Mount, Baker, 1978). He needs the advice of v.6, requiring the application of wise judgment.

In general, commentators have assumed that in v.6 our Lord is giving an essentially straightforward piece of advice, commending to us some form of discretion. Is that right?

In the first place, the terms, “dogs” and “pigs” were (and still are) strongly derogatory terms. Commentators explain that men earn these titles by actively rejecting every prudent offer of divine instruction, thereby excluding themselves. But does this not reverse the order of the text? It is not after, but before they reject “what is holy” that discernment must be exercised. Indeed, the point seems to be to prevent rejection of the truth.

Secondly, why should animals turn to attack when given pearls, or “that which is holy” (often taken to refer to left-over sacrificial meat)? Many picture a man feeding pearls to pigs, which, when they discover them to be inedible, attack him. But is this really the way pigs behave? And why should dogs attack the one who has given them meat?

Thirdly, we should ask, What is being actually protected by this proverb‘s injunction? The traditional answer is, the “holy thing” and the pearls. But isn’t the warning is to the person who “gives” and “casts”: he is danger of being attacked, even as his pearls are trampled. The thing to fear is the vengeance of the animals, their retaliation.

Perhaps we should search for a better interpretation of Matthew 7:6.

Firstly, given the proverbial nature of this verse, we should be open to a less definite understanding of it. For instance, we may paraphrase: “Give not [what you consider] holy to [what you consider] dogs; neither cast [what you consider] your pearls before [those whom you consider] swine.” What if we now stress the “you”? What if the “holy thing” and the “pearls” are not intrinsically valuable, but only judged to be so by those who give or cast them. This raises the question as to whether there is sarcasm involved in our Lord’s words here…

In the second place, consider the immediate context of verses 1-5. In v.1-2, Jesus’ hearers are warned to keep their judgments to themselves, lest those whom they judge apply the same standard to them “measure for measure.” Jesus’ own estimation of his audience’s ability to judge emerges in vs.3-4, where the key word is “hypocrite.” The hypocrite, so ready to judge others, is blind to his own weakness, and in danger of attracting the revenge of those whom he condemns.

In v.6, we may identify “what is holy” and “pearls” in a way which accounts for the retaliation which is attracted by giving them. They are “your judgments,” so precious in your sight, perhaps, but better kept to yourself lest they be returned, measure for measure!

In this case, the primary emphasis of this saying is that retaliation can be avoided if one is reticent to condemn (vs.1-2, 6). And the secondary emphasis contains the rationale: You are not fit judges anyway (vs.3-5).

This understanding of the verse answers the several objections which are raised against the traditional interpretation:

First, Jesus is not really classifying men as dogs and pigs: he is referring to the subjective assessments of those hypocrites who make such damning judgments. Second, the attack of the “dogs and pigs” is the retaliation of “being judged” in return, as in v.1. And third, this retaliation may be avoided by not making hypocritical judgments in the first place.

In conclusion, Jesus’ words are laced with sarcasm directed to those log-eyed hypocrites who dismissed others as “sinners,” when Jesus himself said ironically, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” They are a restatement of the command in v.1, “Do not judge, lest you be judged yourselves.” Hypocrites should keep their “precious” judgments to themselves.

– Peter Gadsby (with thanks to Thos Bennett, WTJ 49.2 369 (1987))

Dr Jordan B. Peterson

There can’t be many clinical psychologists who become international celebrities, but Prof. Peterson is the exception. At time of writing he is in Australia on another tour talking to large audiences about his second book “12 Rules for Life.” As an index of his popularity, I understand that his lecture at the Sydney Opera House sold out in five minutes!

The man seems indefatigable… along with an intensive lecture tour, he conducts numerous interviews, and on 25 February 19 appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program. The final viewer question on that episode (iView file around 1:02:20) concerned God, and whether we can uphold belief in the dignity of mankind without belief in a personal God. The panel and its moderator managed to miss the point, and instead each panellist indicated his/her position on belief in a deity. Dr Peterson was the last to comment.

Now, Jordan Peterson is notable for not evading hard questions. In innumerable interviews he has expressed his opinion on a large variety of topics, and hasn’t been backward in revealing personal struggles with depression, etc. However, and strangely, the Q&A question, “Do you believe in God” prompted him to waffle and evade. This was all the more strange because Dr Peterson has had much to say about the Bible, religion and God — just check out his YouTube channel here. Why might this be?

Many, and especially younger, people are very keen on Jordan Peterson. People come up to him in the street and tell him how he has ‘saved their lives.’ His YouTube channel has 1.8M subscribers and rising. He is also popular among Christians. Former Deputy PM, John Anderson – a believer – has had Peterson on his ‘Conversations’ program three times now, most recently on 22 Feb.2019, after his Opera House gig. See here. Dr Peterson is strong on personal responsibility (“Clean up your d*** room!” — I’m reminded of Dr Jay Adams!) and many other themes familiar to biblical Christians. It’s not hard for believers to see him as an ally.

So why the reticence about belief in God? Here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. Dr Peterson is a fan of the Swiss psychologist and spiritualist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). Jung believed in the existence of ‘archetypes’ – fundamental themes or beliefs common to all humanity, and transmitted through ‘racial memory.’ Such themes can remain unconscious in the mind, but still influence our thinking, expressed in religion, poetry and other ways.

Jordan Peterson believes in evolution and, as far as I can tell, regards humanity’s collective unconsciousness as being the product of millions of years of evolution. The archetypes have evolved as the human species transitioned from pre-human to human, and as consciousness appeared. In Peterson’s view, when the archetypes move from the unconscious mind to conscious expression, they generate myths and legends, and other effects that indirectly show their existence.

What about God? Listening to Peterson, it seems that ‘God’ is a synonym for ‘reality.’ And, I would guess, archetypal reality. Thus, the Biblical stories along with other mythical accounts are the outworking into consciousness of those archetypes. If you watch Dr Peterson’s lectures on “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories: Genesis,” this becomes clear.

Therefore, I believe that Christians need to be very wary of Dr Peterson’s approach, and listen to/view him with great discernment. In essence, he psychologizes religion, including the Christian Faith. That is why, in my opinion, he was reticent to say whether he believes in God: to say “Yes” would have been misleading in that situation; but to say “No”could have alienated large numbers of (Christian) fans. While I don’t doubt his integrity, I suspect that while we may learn much from Dr Jordan Peterson, he is not far from being a ‘goat in sheep’s clothing.’ Caveat Emptor.