The Gospel According to Jordan Peterson

A sense of embattlement can make for some strange alliances. Some good and faithful Christians, feeling pressed by “woke” culture, CRT, social justice movements, gender and transgender legislation, are willing to make pacts with nearly anyone who shares their traditional, conservative values. And that concerns me.

Jordan Peterson is a case in point, and the quote presented shows the problem. The first and most obvious concern is that Dr. Peterson is, at best, an agnostic with an affinity for the Christian story; but he is not a Christian. That the Church should take its mandate, its marching orders from him, is prima facie questionable if not disloyal to the true head of the Church. It smacks of hubris for someone outside the Church to declare the nature of the Church’s mission and how that mission is to be accomplished — particularly when he/she does not understand that mission.

“Quit fighting for social justice,” Peterson demands. With what as the Christian alternative, I wonder: being content with social injustice, being unconcerned about and indifferent to social justice, abandoning the body politic to its own baser instincts with no prophetic voice calling it to repentance and pointing toward a better way? The consistent witness of Scripture is that God cares deeply for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the strangers — those most at risk and on the margins of society. God himself is their defender, not least through the Law he gave to Israel, a law that mandated social justice — adequate care — for these and other imperiled groups. The prophets consistently called God’s people in both Israel and Judah to repentance for two major transgressions: idolatry and social injustice. My strong suspicion is that the two sins are inextricably linked one to another. “Quit fighting for social justice?” Hardly, if the Church wants to be faithful to God. What we cannot do, though, is to embrace our culture’s definition of social justice nor its means for giving it birth. It is God’s definition of social justice to which the Church must be committed, and it is by means of the Gospel — God’s people living and proclaiming the Gospel — that justice will spring forth here and there, now and then.

“Quit saving the bloody planet,” Peterson says. Does he mean the planet that God created and called good, the planet over which he gave Adam and Eve stewardship, the planet whose rocks and streams, whose mountains and valleys, whose trees and stones God created to praise Him? That planet? And, what is the Christian alternative: to pollute without concern, to mine and drill and harvest with no care for future generations, to make pristine water undrinkable and air in cities unbreathable? We Anglicans — and others — regularly say or sing one the great canticles of the Church, “Benedicite, Omnia Opera Domini (A Song of Creation).” One of the stanzas makes the point eloquently:

Let the earth glorify the Lord,
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,
and all that grows upon the earth,
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams,
O whales and all that move in the water.
All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild,
and all you flocks and herds.
O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

“Quit saving the bloody planet?” Then what will glorify the Lord with us? The Church must take up once again the human mandate given to Adam and Eve to steward creation, to rule over it — not in a domineering and usurious manner, but as God’s viceroys — so that at least outposts of Eden may be seen.

“Attend to some souls,” Peterson directs our attention. Yes and no. As it stands, the whole of Peterson’s exhortation is a Platonic or neo-Gnostic misunderstanding of the Gospel focused on disembodied souls. But, that is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the proclamation that, in and through the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated on earth as in heaven, the proclamation that all the powers of death and hell have been defeated, that God will finally put to rights all that is wrong with the cosmos, and that all people are invited to become part of new creation — the union of heaven and earth when New Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth. This is not about disembodied souls being fitted for and one day snatched off to heaven, but rather about the bodily resurrection of the righteous to the life of the ages in a redeemed and new creation. “Attend to some souls?” Not quite. Attend to flesh and blood image bearers of God. Proclaim the full Gospel of Jesus Christ who took on flesh and blood to redeem flesh and blood and who even now bears our humanity eternally before the Father.

Peterson seems concerned — whether his concern is real or not I cannot say — that the Church and its mission will be co-opted and compromised by what he deems to be the worst elements of “woke” culture. But his remedy would simply co-opt and compromise the Church in his own image. Better simply to proclaim the full Gospel that certainly includes Godly social justice, Godly stewardship of creation, and the salvation of our souls and bodies through Jesus Christ our Lord.

About johnaroop

I am a husband, father, retired teacher, lover of books and music and coffee and, as of 17 May 2015, by the grace of God and the will of his Church, an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Diocese of the South. I serve as assisting priest at Apostles Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN, and as Canon Theologian for the Anglican Diocese of the South.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Gospel According to Jordan Peterson

  1. says:

    I have enjoyed your recent blogs. It’s given me a lot to meditate on. I’ve also enjoyed your 1 Peter sessions. This post reminded me about people who focus on one issue, ignoring everything else. We are called to be good stewards of the planet and to care for one another. This country is so polarized. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; we can do both!I hope everyone in your family is feeling better.Eileen Judice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s