We Can Learn from Jordan Peterson.
Jordan Peterson is a phenomenon. He is taking the world by storm. Part worldly prophet, part therapist and part caring dad figure, he is on a worldwide campaign to save the world..from itself. It is a mission very similar to ours as Christians. If we listen closely, Peterson also laments many of the same things as we do.
His Youtube videos have been watched more than 50 million times. His book 12 Rules for Life is a breakout Bestseller. He travels around the world lecturing and debating the ways to save our societies from themselves. He attracts crowds wherever he goes. His following among the younger generations is particularly enthusiastic.
In some ways, Jordan Peterson’s work reminds us of what we should be doing in this very lost society.
In a world with thousands of options for entertainment, what is it about Jordan Peterson that makes people stop, pay attention and follow along?
More importantly, what can we learn from him?
Here are 5 things we as the church can learn from Jordan Peterson.
1) He Cares About His Audience
Peterson’s presentations are unusual for someone fighting the power. He is not just railing against the evils of the world. He does not want to burn things down or destroy the other side. Rather, he obviously cares for the people being hurt. He believes people are suffering and is pained about it. He weeps for the generations being swept away by postmodernism and our dysfunctional societies. He is fighting for the soul of Western culture.
His fight is about people. He cares about individuals rather than being right or to gain power. It is not an intellectual exercise for Peterson. It is a rescue mission. It is fascinating to observe.
Peterson is like Ward Cleaver from the old Leave it to Beaver show. He says some hard things and disciplines his kids, but it is because he loves them. He wants what is best for them. His goal is to protect his kids, society, from the bullies of out of control government, radical politics and bad ideologies.
No matter how much we may disagree with him, it is obvious he cares and is trying to help. This is a big reason why Peterson connects with so many young people, men in particular. He cares for them and is willing to show it.
What the Church Should Learn
We need to care about people. Jesus certainly did.
Jesus weeps openly when He looks over Jerusalem before His crucifixion. His people are about to reject Him. They are about to spit on Him, insult Him, defame Him and nail Him to the Cross. Yet, rather than anger and judgment, Jesus experiences great sorrow over the lost. He is willing to leave the 99 to go after the 1 even when they are going to kill Him.
This is the heart that we as His disciples should have for the lost of today. This should be obvious. Yet, it is so easy to fall into the traps set by Satan when we look at the world.
What is our viewpoint on the lost and suffering of the world? Do we have the same heart for the lost Jesus does?
It is easy to become moralistic and despise the lost.
It is easy to become self-focused and never think of the lost.
It is easy to think of the unsaved as a number or accomplishment.
It is harder to actually care about the person lost to addiction or sin. It is painful to watch young men give their lives to things that destroy them. It is being like Jesus when we weep over the lost.
The lost sheep can tell if we really care. It makes a huge difference. Jesus wept over those who would kill in Him in a few short hours. Do we have the same heart like Jesus?
2) Jordan Peterson Believes What He Says
The certainty of Peterson is clear from the moment he begins speaking. It ranges between merely attention-grabbing to borderline alarming. He knows what he wants to say. He believes it as truth with every fiber of his being. He is a man clear in his convictions and undivided in his loyalty. This sureness of thought is inspiring.
The post-modern culture declares there is no absolute right or wrong, just a range of opinions. This world view is pervasive. It is drilled in so thoroughly there is discomfort stating something is absolutely true. We just don’t want to offend anyone, even with the truth.
Peterson refuses to go along with this false idea. He boldly challenges logical errors and cuts through falsehoods. He clearly states the Emperor has no clothes and calmly breaks down the dysfunction that caused the world to pretend otherwise. In a world filled with double-talk and accommodation, Peterson does not suffer fools or lies. He is a truth seeker.
People respect those with clarity of opinion. We tip our hats when they are expressed well even when we strongly disagree with them. There is something magnetic about those with conviction. People listen to men with a fire in their bellies. They follow such men and are influenced by their ideas.
What the Church Should Learn
Those who heard Jesus were amazed that He spoke with authority. He knew what He was saying was absolutely true and that nothing in creation could top His message.
We are armed with this same truth. We are filled with the Holy Spirit in us and therefore have access to this same authority. Each time we speak for God with His truth, we wield more truth and power than Jordan Peterson can ever comprehend.
Do we believe it? Have we wrestled with our faith to know its truth with certainty? Do we know the power of the Gospel? Have we wrestled out our fears and doubts so we are ready to speak the truth of Jesus to lost generations?
Charles Spurgeon put it this way:
“The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”
There is power in the Words God entrusts to us. The salvation of the many is not based on our abilities or talents. It is from our sharing the simple truth that changed the entire world.
Do we believe it?
3) Jordan Peterson Takes Life Seriously
The male arch type shifted after World War II. We said goodbye to the characters like Ward Cleaver and the roles of John Wayne. The strong and serious men of older media started to gradually disappear. They were replaced with something very different.
The new prototypical male was funny, clownish and ridiculous. He is the constantly wisecracking male characters of most media. Humor, fun and a general idea of “being happy” became the things to strive for above all else. Everything is open to mockery and joyful derision. We cannot take ourselves to seriously became the mantra of the world. The ridiculous carnival Vanity Fair of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress became our reality in many ways.
Peterson pierces this facade without apology. He seeks to get his listeners to deal with real life. Man’s experience can be tremendously painful is one of his talking points. He doesn’t sugar coat it. That is just life.
Peterson argues living is all the more painful when we pretend that it does not hurt. There are heartbreakingly serious matters to be dealt with. They should be respected as much. Hard truths deserve serious examination. Peterson digs down into them to attempt to provide an answer. He deals unflinchingly with the things that society tries to pretend don’t exist for the good of those how are hurt by them.
The result is people listen. Hugely important issues of life are not meant to be handled on morning talk shows. They require serious people.
What the Church Should Learn From Watching Jordan Peterson
There is no greater enemy to a Spirit-filled life than a Christian who tries to water down the painful truths of the Bible or life. They will tell you that everything is perfect in Jesus and all your troubles will be gone. They try to smile and excite us into a church. They try to entertain us sufficiently and make enough promises to keep us coming back. They have fancy suits or a light bouncy appeal and promise the same to us if we just keep coming to church. The problem is this is not the whole truth. It is certainly not what Jesus Himself preached or what the Bible records about the Apostles.
Life in Jesus can hurt a lot at times. Jesus says that we will face suffering and persecution. He compares the process of growing in Christ by taking up our crosses daily. This means lifting the instrument of our fleshly death every single day until we are more like Jesus.
Yes, life in Jesus is joyful and wonderful. It is often fun and light. But it started with God nailed to a cross in a horrible way so that we can be saved from the judgment that we deserve. Those who choose to reject that salvation are headed to a terrible eternity.
This is important business. This requires serious men and women ready to fight with every ounce of us to reach those who are willing. It requires those who have wrestled these issue out themselves and are ready to speak about joy in the trials, not just the happy parts. Tribulations come but salvation makes them more than worth it.
This doesn’t mean that we cannot have fun, joke around or be general goofballs. Life is a gift to be enjoyed. But if we are to reach the world, we must understand the urgency and seriousness of what we are doing and who we are. There are times to laugh and times to be grave.
We are the ONLY SALT and ONLY LIGHT. This is a big deal.
4) Jordan Peterson Does His Homework
A listener may walk away unconvinced by the arguments Peterson presents and many do. Yet, no one would accuse him of being unprepared. It is obvious that he studies and prepares for his presentations. He has spent years working out these issues for himself and therefore is prepared to defend his position. He says he spent countless hours researching people, studying history and formulating his opinions. Given the gravity of the issues, this makes sense. If he just went on stage and said we should listen to him because he lives a happy life, this would not be very impactful.
Peterson obviously works hard at what he cares about and that is impressive. People listen as a result.
What the Church Should Learn From Watching Jordan Peterson
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
God can do anything. He can take the testimony of a child and convert a King. This is very clear from the Scriptures. It is about God’s power and not ours. However, we as the church have an opportunity that is unprecedented in history. There has never been a better time to be a Christian in regard to resources. We have the Bible in 30 different translations at our fingertips when most generations did not even have one Bible. We have thousands of hours of teaching, preaching and Christian content available in all types of media.
Do we take advantage of these resources?
Paul would spend every day while on his missionary journeys either preaching, teaching or working to support his teaching and preaching. At one point, the church met in the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus. This indicates the church met to study Scriptures and learn about Jesus each day in the middle of the day when everyone else was home. It was so hot in that climate they would not work during the midday hours taking a break to go home and rest.
The church was so eager to learn, they met at the school while it was empty and blazingly hot to study. After the workday was over, they also met at night for fellowship and further instructions. They were desperate to know their Savior so they choose great hardships in order to do so.
Today, many of us don’t pick up the Bible for more than the time it takes to go to church for an hour or two on Sundays. Some of us don’t have Bibles or don’t read them regularly. With the thousands of pages of resources available to us, we choose to fill our homework time with the junk of this world.
Are we doing our best to be prepared to present the case for Jesus? Are we doing our homework?
5) Jordan Peterson Is Not Ashamed of What He Says
Jordan Peterson makes people mad. There is a certain segment that calls him names and gets apoplectic whenever he is mentioned. He is openly mocked by others. He doesn’t appear to care. He seems to believe that the issues are too big, the individual people involved are too important and his information too important to stay silent.
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell
It would be monumentally unjust to stay quiet in the face of a coming onslaught if he can help. So when you see Peterson in debates or interviews, he is polite and generally soft-spoken. Yet, he does not back down in the face of what he sees as lies, double talk or misrepresentation. He sticks to his guns and presets his case unapologetically. He knows what he believes after careful study. The truth always offends those are opposed to truth. That is part of the job and doesn’t change the truth. Evil triumphs when good men stay silent.
What the Church Should Learn From Watching Jordan Peterson
Jesus warned us that since we are His disciples, we will be hated by some. It is not because of us but rather they simply hate Him. Our sharing of truth is not going to be received well by the stiff-necked and rebellious. Jesus was nailed to a cross for proclaiming the truth. He then rose again and gives us a mission.
Go, make disciples, baptize and teach – they are the core of the church’s mission and hinge on preaching Jesus’ Gospel to the lost world.
Proclaiming the Truth is the only way to make disciples and change this world for Jesus. This starts with what fundamental realization for man? That men are sinners. The stiff-necked and rebellious don’t like this message. It is still the truth. There is no other. Nothing else can set them free. Salvation from our sins by Jesus is the core of the Gospel.
Are we comfortable with explaining this truth to people? Are we watering down the Gospel to avoid offending people? We may be successful in avoiding offense, but it requires that we sacrifice the Gospel in the process.
We will never offer a chance of salvation if we offer a gospel that is different than that of Jesus Christ. It may offend but it also saves.
The World is Desperately Looking for Answers
Jordan Peterson Does Not Have Them
There is a tragedy in the work of Jordan Peterson. It relies solely upon man. He is not a believer and greatly misses the point of many of the Bible passages he cites. Though he mentions Genesis and the fall of man, he fails to comprehend the meaning and implications of it. This lack of understanding dooms his attempts to provide solutions.
He completely misses the answer that only comes through Jesus.
Peterson properly notes many of the problems of the world today. He accurately notes the behavior of man, the corrupting influences of power and tyranny. He even acknowledges this life is filled with suffering. These are hard truths for anyone to accept.
The problem comes when he sets out from there. After noting the horrors of Hitler, Stalin and other tyrants of history who prove the inborn tendency of man to do evil, he essentially chooses mankind as the answer to mankind’s evil.
Men just need to be good. We need to try harder to be good and recognize the value in others.
If we each undertake to be noble and free and work off each other, our lives and society will improve. I am greatly simplifying his points, but this is what his action points come down to – man should do better. This completely misses the point. Man is sinful.
Man on our own will always revert to doing bad things in our own name. It is inevitable. It does not have to be every man. There are many who are noble and moral in the world. The problem is that there are not many such people and even they fall prey to the same evil temptations of their brethren, just in a different form. This is the ultimate lesson of the history of the Nation of Israel recorded in the Bible. Man left up to his own devices with his own desires leading him will always turn to evil eventually. There may be golden times with a good president or good King like David, but the sinners always the moral. For all those who read 12 Rules for Life and actually try to change, there will be very few who are actually successful, none of whom is in right standing with God.
It is this utter hopelessness that is meant to leads to Jesus. It takes a literal miracle of God Himself to change man’s nature and ultimately makes sense of this world.
This is why Jordan Peterson does not have the answer to Eternal Life or the problems of life. He thinks man can fix our own problems. God says only Jesus can.
Yet, Peterson’s methods remind us of who we should be as we proclaim the Way, the Truth and the Life in this world. We do have the answer. We do have Jesus and He has called us to preach His gospel in love, with certainty, seriously and unashamed. He has called us to do our work to be ready in season and out to preach to the lost for their benefit, not ours.
God gave us the answer and the method. Jordan Peterson secular crusade just reminds us what it looks like.
Tom Neary is loving life as an on fire follower of Jesus. Helping others see to the glory of Jesus and to live abundantly in Him is his mission. He is a Christian, husband, father, lawyer and a regular guy called to teach God’s Word simply. To check out more of what Tom is doing visit pastorunlikely.com and calvarycatonsville.com. Tom has also just launched a podcast “Come Let Us Disciple” focused on informal discipleship.