How is Jordan Peterson’s worldview different from traditional Christianity?
An attempt to respectfully differentiate the two using the tooth fairy to illustrate
A fascinating personality, Jordan Peterson speaks with great conviction and eloquence about matters of character, society, and symbolism. If you are unfamiliar with Jordan Peterson, I’d recommend checking out his website or this podcast describing him as an introduction to him. He is famous for speaking positively of the Bible and Jesus a lot, but he chooses to not identify as a Christian or as a traditional person of faith. So I thought I’d also write down the ways that I feel he differs from the Christian faith that I know and ascribe to. I hope you find it interesting and insightful.
Difference between him and traditional Christianity
Adapting a metaphor found in “Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life” by Irwin Kula, the following is what I can as the big difference between his worldview and that of traditional Christianity.
- Thinking that the tooth fairy is made up and stupid
- Thinking that the tooth fairy is made up but worthwhile to pretend
- Thinking that the tooth fairy represents something deeply transcendent and wanting to comply your life with it as if it were true
- Recognizing that the tooth fairy is real and it is in your best interest to interact with it
Jordan Peterson is the third, traditional Christianity is the fourth. Admittedly, the distinction between the second and the third is faint, but I believe it is an important nuance. The second is a more experiential approach, something closer to a subjective reality. Where as the third hints at something objective. The first is more around the lines of humanism and atheism.
Stated differently, traditional Christianity emphasizes divine revelation whereas he emphasizes symbols and archetypes that have echoed throughout the generations from within us.
In more bullet-point format, the following are key parts of traditional Christianity that he does not emphasize, or at least I have not heard him emphasize yet.
- the exclusivity and commitment to one God, Yahweh of the Bible, Jesus and his gospel
- the personal interaction with a knowable God
- an emphasis on prayer
- a trinitarian view point
- miracles of any kind, like healing, or anything supernatural. I should point out that he did acknowledge that he is open to exploring the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection.
- involvement in a church body
Let me know if you can think of any other differences, but that’s what I have so far.
As a bonus, I thought I would try to summarize the main things I’ve taken away to him.
- Who dares to say they believe in God? A mighty bold thing to say because if you actually meant it your life better look different.
- A great call to responsibility and personal ownership, and acknowledgement of the evil we see in the world is inside of us, and that we need to start here. We are no better, no different than the others we might see or think as terrible
- Relational conflict can be a good thing for the long game if done right
- There’s deep symbolism in the biblical narrative, and this makes it the evermore compelling to me
- An appreciation for others’ worldviews and philosophies. There’s something deeply transcendent that has echoed throughout the generations of humanity, and it would be in our best interest to explore these echoes because it is exploring our history — it is exploring ourselves.
- An big emphasis on being precise in speech
- A deep acknowledgement that life is suffering, and anything more that’s pleasant is abnormal
- He models a person of deep conviction, yet someone who is an excellent listener