A Critique of Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is a popular agnostic philosopher whose arguments have attracted some Christian attention. While some think his arguments are in line with Christianity in terms of agreeing with categories of moral absolutes, this article will be speaking about how he gets at those absolutes differently that those born of God do.

But first to consider the basic issue he's dealing with, namely the implications of Nihilism, which proposes that we're nothing but dust and thus that there is no meaning and purpose in life, the result of which is despair, anxiety and depression. Existentialists basically counter the implications with Nihilism by proposing people pretend that there is meaning and purpose in life by making up their own and living their life as a fantasy pretending to be blind to the implications of their own philosophy.

Peterson goes the other way and alleges that there is actual meaning and purpose in life. You don't make it up, rather you discover it by being honest with yourself, though he's vague on the foundation of his hypothesis whereby one can say this is right or that is wrong. As evidence he'll defer to Jung's concept of the "collective unconscious" which asserts among other things that seeing as civilizations tend to have common moral values, these point to the being an absolute moral standard. Being a psychologist Peterson points to the human pschye as being where the absolute moral standard resides, and that if people were just honest with themselves they would discover such.

His argument is much along the line of Plato in the idea of there being an archetype of things, like a tree, even though no two trees look exactly alike, but the fact we have the word "tree" which encompasses all of them implies the existence of an archetype. Same concept with moral standards.

The problem with Peterson's philosophy is that you can't really argue this is absolutely right or wrong based purely upon subjective opinion. Though he may argue that his opinions of what is right and wrong is based and his "scientific" Jungian analysis of civilizations, but it's really just pseudoscience and elsewhere he argues what counts are the honest views of individuals, not collective groups. He claims that political ideologies like Marxism are unnatural and people don't really honestly believe them, but that they are forced upon them. But his basis for saying so is that it's his opinion. More to the point consider this argument:

One man says that in his honest estimation homosexuality is bad. The second man, a homosexual, claims that it seems natural to him and his conscience doesn't bother him about it, so it's good. The first man responds that the homosexual is not really being honest with himself. The homosexual claims he is and that the first man's opinion about homosexuals is evil.

So you can see where that argument goes, nowhere. It's just a squabble, each side presenting their own subjective opinion, and while Peterson objects to moral relativism by simply stating that morals are absolute, he just stating his own opinion, so he didn't really add anything constructive.

How Peterson is Different than Bible Believing Christians

While Peterson may happen to agree with Christians on certain issues, he gets there on a different basis. Consider that argument with the homosexual above. For Bible believing Christians the argument ends with the scriptures. "Because it is written". Which is the same argument Jesus used in his temptation in the wilderness.

Peterson's archetype concept of moral standards doesn't deal with as to why there should even by archetypes. Whereas Christians have a reason why there are moral absolutes. Namely because God said so. God made it that way. Secondly Peterson method of uncovering such alleged archetypes is itself a matter of subjective opinion. Whereas Christians have scriptures.

Now some may argue that interpretation of scriptures is a matter of subjective opinion. And while they may have a point, in fact God foresaw that issue (smart guy), and dealt with in as described in 1Corinthians chapter 2.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" —  but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

So God gives his Spirit for deeper understanding of scripture. Debates over the meaning of the scriptures is largely over the fact that one or both parties don't actually have the Holy Spirit, or is a matter of maturity, where one or both don't have a common understanding because of different levels of spiritual maturity. But the latter would not be the case regarding essential or fundamental matters.


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