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.

One thought on “Dr Jordan B. Peterson”

  1. I listened to J. Peterson’s answer to the question whether he believes in God. More than evading the question, I think his answer is an attempt at honesty. The question itself can mean so many different things, so that answering it arguably gives little real insight about the respondent, but invites listeners to project their own understanding and hopes into the responents words. If J.Peterson say’s “I believe in God”, then some might think, ok, he’s “one of us”, or ok, there is something of deep significance that I have in common with this man. But this may be what J.Peterson prefers to avoid, because there is also a likelihood it would create misunderstanding, not understanding.

    “To believe in” does not have a clear cut meaning. Where do different people draw the lines between “belief in God”, “faith in God”, “trust in God” and “knowing God”? Most would agree that understanding God is beyond human awareness, so what do humans actually mean, when they speak of God? Do they always mean the same, when they refer to God?

    Possibly J.Peterson has an intuition (or an unconscious desire) to seek real union with the divine and knowing God, but does not see much point in declaring “belief” in God, which he may see only as a intermediary stage of limited value.

    There is nothing wrong with giving a psychological viewpoint on biblical stories and on certain aspects of Christian beliefs and teachings. On the other hand obviously God cannot be psychologized, interpreted or organized. The article does’t convince me that J.Peterson is not aware of that.

    More disturbing than J.Petetsons views on God, are his fragmentary comments on same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting. As far as I know he fails to state that same-sex attraction is unnatural and that same-sex “marriage” is immoral and not in accordance with archtypes of the collective unconscious.

    He rightly refers to missing male or female role models and differences between mothering and fathering as serious disadvantages, but suprisingly does not specifically mention that same-sex parents always set a false example to children and that it is essential that children grow up in an innocent environment based on natural relationships. True love and respect for children can only exist in the context of natural families. Children in same-sex headed housholds represent trophies of the egoism and lifestyle of their “parents” . The environment of anti-innocence and tension caused by the unnatural emotional attatchment, lust and perversion involved with same-sex relationships is not suitable for children. Same-sex parenting is always harmful. J.Peterson misleadingly suggests there could be strategies to compensate.

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