Note: This article is not the final word, as many have noted that JBP’s belief about God and Christ have continued to evolve. Praise God! However, the assessment below has not changed. He’s not their yet (1/31/22) . This discussion entitled “Searching for God within Oxford and Cambridge from 9/21 gives good insight into what he believes.
Article originally written in 2019. Updated 1/2022.
My fascination with Jordan Peterson goes back a few years now. Here are my impressions of what he believes about Christianity based on my exposure to his videos and his book, 12 Rules for Life. See links throughout the article for sources that inform that is article.
Jordan Peterson is a Clinical Psychologist and a prominent University Professor (Harvard University and University of Toronto) who has risen to prominence due to his public stand against political correctness, the use of genderless pronouns, and his interview regarding the gender pay gap. That coupled with his Science-based Conservative leaning views around marriage, family, and personal responsibility has made him a darling among Politically Conservative Evangelicals. He considers himself a Christian and the subject of God and his beliefs comes up in many of his interviews.
While I’m not here to cast aspersion on Peterson, a brilliant thinker who I love listening to, I am pointing out that his unorthodox views about Jesus lead to a radically different understanding of how a Christian is made right with God and therefor how a Christian lives.
Peterson isn’t sure if Jesus rose from the dead. He only believes His Spirit lives on in as much as “spirit” refers to continuing influence, saying “it’s had a massive effect across time.” When asked about the Divinity of Christ, he questions what is meant by Divine. Peterson defines the Logos as divine, but then defines divine as “of ultimately transcendent value” and that “it’s associated with Death and Rebirth.” We see in all of this, that the words “spirit,” ”logos,” and “divine” don’t refer to a personal deity but rather to ultimate ideas.
In Peterson’s varying descriptions of Christ throughout his videos he jumps from ancient heresy to ancient heresy, the content of which is beyond the scope of this post. But suffice it to say, he questions the Orthodox views of the Trinitarian formulas for God as well as the two natures in one person of Christ. The impact of denying the Calcedonian formulations regarding Christ in this way is manifold.
Peterson talks about people increasingly embodying the Logos, holding up Buddha and Christ as those who have. For Peterson, the implication for the Christian Life is that one can reach this higher plane of spiritual reality through suffering and seeking “the light,” although as he admits this is obviously near impossible. In this scheme Jesus Christ is an example of what to become. To Peterson, who believes Jesus is a historical figure, that is less important than what he symbolizes, the process of taking up one’s cross, suffering, death, and rebirth. His 12 Rules for Life provide great life tips and advice, but repackages Christianity into a works based system for “salvation” (a process by which through suffering and hard work one more and more improves their life thereby embodying the Logos) which is absent of the essential Christian concept of Grace.
Note: His book is not meant to be Theology, but a Self-Help guide. In that it is very good. It is a great book that is needed. However, it does delve into Theology and Scripture quite a bit, and in that it easily can devolve into a works-based system.
As a clinical Psychologist, Peterson’s theology is heavily influenced by Carl Jung who he readily references in many interviews. It is Jung’s archetypes that forms the basis for Peterson’s insights (some of them very good) and classes on Genesis and Exodus. This spiritualizing of the text yet denying its historicity is nothing new either. Furthermore, he has consistently held out that the Bible is true even if it is not true historically. As can be found in this 2019 discussion with Sam Harris or this with with Ben Shapiro and in this 2022 discussion with Joe Rogan. One quote that summarizes it from the Rogan interview is “it isn’t that the Bible is true, the Bible is the precondition for the manifestation of truth.”
Note: There is a way that sees the Patterns in stories and the lives of Old Testament Characters and gives their meaning, yet also acknowledges their historicity and their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. See these Videos on Typology
This repackaged Eastern Mysticism and Gnostic idea of transformation is attained by following Christ’s example to obtain the logos (light, knowledge, spark of the divine). Not much is known or spoken of regarding salvation or the afterlife,. Sin is a category of failing one’s self and society, not an affront against a holy God. On the one hand this view of the Christian life deludes people into believing they can achieve inner peace through this process and at the other extreme it leads to hopelessness in the realization that only a couple of humans have succeeded at that. Of course, it is a damning idea because in this scheme Christ isn’t God. He isn’t even a savior.
To the Christian, Jesus Christ is not an example of one who attained the Logos through his suffering and obedience, but rather He IS the Divine Logos from the beginning of all time.
In the beginning was the Word (LOGOS), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men….14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1, ESV)
And so, for the Christian, this has serious implications for life and salvation. While many try to divide their Orthodoxy from their Orthopraxy, the two are intertwined and dependent on one another. That is to say, what we believe impacts how we live and how we live decries what we actually believe. To that end, followers of Christ will only “follow” “Christ” in as much as they understand who Christ is and what he asks of us.
Let us pray that God sends His Spirit to reveal the truth about His Son to Jordan Peterson. He is no doubt a brilliant thinker and a needed voice in the public sphere where reason and logic are so often lacking. However, my hope is that Christians who are enamored with his articulate reasoning regarding modern day social issues and family values aren’t so captivated that they can’t rightly discern his error regarding Christ and Christianity.
Here is the latest statement I’ve seen from JBP on the subject. Its touching and beautiful. He’s on a journey and I pray it comes to fruition. But even if he does actually come to faith in Christ, we will really need to understand what and who his view of Christ is. Does He fit in with our concept of the Trinity, making Him God, is He Savior by virtue of his Penal substitutionary Atonement received by faith? Until then, enjoy this reflection.
I’m amazed at my own belief and I don’t understand it (pause) because I’ve seen (pause) sometimes the objective world and the narrative world touch, you know that’s Jungian synchronicity. And I’ve seen that many times in my own life and so in some sense I believe its undeniable. You know 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, its real, like we treat it like its 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, but I don’t know what to make (sic) but that seems to me to be oddly plausible. But I still don’t know what to make of it, (sic) partly because its too terrifying a reality to fully believe. I don’t even know what would happen to you if you fully believed it.
-2021, Jordan Peterson Interview with Jonathan Pageau, 23:00 min mark
Indeed Jordan! It’ll…HE’ll change your life. Let us all pray for Jordan B. Peterson, that Christ would reveal Himself to this man, so he can fully receive the freedom and joy he is clearly seeking.