Monday, 25 March 2019
“I don’t think facts are necessarily true…And I know that I am gerrymandering the deﬁnition of truth, but I’m doing that on purpose.”
“Let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
Jesus Christ of Nazareth
“Truth is that which is, whether we like it or not.”
The current support of Christians for Jordan Peterson has taught me something I kind of already suspected but am now absolutely certain of: many Christians will love the anti-Christ and depending on the political system in play at the time of his coming, they will vote for him in droves. What makes me say this? Well first let’s take a look at the Anti-Christ, then we will take a look at the Christian response to Jordan Peterson, and we’ll see what we can learn from all this.
The Bible tells us some interesting things about the Anti-Christ. He will be a man of lawlessness. What the scriptures mean by a man of lawlessness is one who has no regard or respect for the commands of Christ. He will be a man without proper boundaries, or at least a man who flaunts the boundaries of Jesus. The Anti-Christ is contrasted with the faithful in Thessalonians who are described as those who obey the gospel (2 Thess. 2:3, cf. 1:8, 11). Obeying the gospel is good, rejecting Christ’s commands is bad. He will deceive people with power, false signs and wonders, and very significantly with ‘wicked deception’, those who will be deceived are those who ‘refuse to love the truth’ (2 Thess. 2:9-10). So, he will be crafty, likely reasonably smart, and have some kind of power to do things which impress people, and he will be very, very, good at deception.
The Apostle John tells us that the Anti-Christ is coming, but before he does many lesser Anti-Christs have and will come (1 John 2:18). These are false believers who do not remain in the faith, though they may claim to be in it at one stage, they will move on from it (v. 19). They will be liars, who deny that Jesus is the Christ, that is the actual Messiah of Israel, who suffered, died and rose again. They may even phrase it this way: “it depends what you mean by Christ?” In fact, they will often offer a different definition of Christ than that which Orthodox Christians believe. They will deny the father and son, that is they will deny who they really are and what they really did (vv.22-23). These teachers will try to deceive you because they are people of the lie (v26). The best way to not be fooled by them is to know the truth and know it very well, in other words to be people of the truth. John says abide in what you have been taught, in other words, know the truth so much you live in it and it lives in you (vv. 24-25).
Jude tells us that these false teachers are like hidden reefs at our love feasts, feasting without fear, shepherds feeding themselves. In other words, they are taking advantage of people to make a profit and look after their own interests, and they are doing it right under everyone’s noses. They are skilled at getting uninformed or unwary Christians to trust them. I love how he describes them as waterless clouds and fruitless trees (vv.12-13). What he is saying here is that they offer teaching but it bears no fruit, is not connected to God’s truth in anyway, and leaves people barren in the true spiritual sense. Peter uses similar harsh language to describe these false teachers, these precursors to the Anti-Christ. He tells us that there will be false teachers amongst us who “secretly bring in destructive heresies”, in other words they are sneaky about it, and they will blaspheme the way of truth (2 Peter 2:1-2). But a key phrase that describes how they work is this: “in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (v.3). Enter here Jordan Peterson.
I understand the attraction of Jordan Peterson, at first I was enamoured with him as well. In a world which increasingly seems to be filled with public figures mocking men, blaming men, particularly white men, for the ills of society, a man who stood up to his university and his government and said: “You can’t compel my speech” seemed like a breath of secular fresh air. Finally, here was a very well-educated and reasonable man whom we could support who was going to speak common sense to the ever-increasing craziness of the Social Justices Warriors. If he had just stuck to his advocacy against crazy extreme left-wing policies then I would really never have had any reason to criticize him. But then Peterson decided he wanted to be a religious guru.
Some people balk at that description of him. They respond: “he’s not trying to be religious guru, he’s just seeking to give us insight into humanity.” But take a step back and ask yourself how else can you really describe someone that seeks to give many hours of lectures on the actual meaning of the scriptures, applies it in spiritual ways, largely through dream and myth interpretation, and then seeks to teach people to apply it to their lives? The only way to describe that person is that he is presenting himself as a religious guru. Jordan Peterson (2019, jordanpeterson.com) himself describes his work in his response to Cambridge: “I don’t think there is another modern religious/psychological phenomenon or happening that is genuinely comparable.” He thinks his ecumenical teaching is the greatest thing on the planet right now religiously/psychologically speaking. Even his book 12 Rules for life is just another way of saying 12 Commandments. Indeed, he is even offering salvation through his teachings:
“Thus, the person who wishes to alleviate suffering—who wishes to rectify the flaws in Being; who wants to bring about the best of all possible futures; who wants to create Heaven on Earth—will make the greatest of sacrifices, of self and child, of everything that is loved, to live a life aimed at the Good. He will forego expediency. He will pursue the path of ultimate meaning. And he will in that manner bring salvation to the ever-desperate world” (Peterson 2018, Rule 7). (Emphasis mine).
But the best way to tell he is a religious guru is by the responses of his fans. No matter what evidence they are presented with that he is untrustworthy they explain it away. He has them captivated. Point out that he lied about being awake for a month in his discussion with Joe Rogan when the record is around 11 days (Day 2018, Joe Rogan Podcast) they reply he exaggerated. Mention that he walked back that statement in the same conversation to 25 specific days, and they reply, “Come on Matt obviously he was exaggerating. No one would lie like that and think they could get away with it.” But Peterson did, and has. When you walk back an exaggeration the walk back is no longer an exaggeration, it is the position you have retired to after walking back from the exaggeration.
Mention that Peterson (2018, Rule 8) defines life as suffering just as the Buddhists and Gnostics do, and that the Bible specifically rejects this idea, and you get really strange responses from people, that this kind of fits with the Biblical worldview. But it doesn’t. The scriptures teach that suffering is part of life, but so is joy, pleasure, fun and more. To say life is suffering is a bleak and un-Christian way to see life. But for some reason people are determined to make this un-Christian perspective fit with the Christian worldview.
Mention the dream he says he had about his grandmother (Peterson in Day, 2018), and people say, “Come on Matt, everyone has dreams like that.” Leaving aside that no, not everyone does, still most reasonable people that did have such a dream would do us the favour of never mentioning it, yet Peterson writes about such dreams publicly. Mention that the Bible says to be wary of people who claim to be dream interpreters, and they will respond and say: come on Matt, he’s a psychologist that’s part what they do, it’s his profession. So? Dream interpretation has been the favoured past time and profession of many charlatans going back at least as far as Daniel’s day and even Nebuchadnezzar knew that dream interpreters were making up their interpretations out of thin air (Daniel 2:1-12). Shouldn’t we be at least as wise as Nebuchadnezzar, if not more so?
Point out to people that in every specialized field Jordan Peterson wanders into the experts in that field say he does not know what he is talking about (for example: ), and people just respond…well actually again I have heard no good responses to this. Likely this is because this is a serious red flag. This does not mean Peterson has nothing to offer. He does have flashes of good insight. For example, his observation that Genesis shows we live in a post-cataclysmic world is a great observation and brilliant way to phrase the fall. His observation that delayed gratification makes for a healthier life is wise (Peterson 2018, Rule 7). But his ramblings about the meaning of God in his Bible lectures are incoherent nonsense, and show he does not really know what he is talking about.
Note the first time Peterson actually carried out a public discussion with a serious intellectual, Sam Harris, he was made to sound rather foolish and incoherent. In an interview with Joe Rogan he literally blamed his incoherence in that discussion on a cider he had consumed prior to that interview which caused himself to not be able to sleep for a month. Listen to that again slowly: he blamed a month’s worth of lack of sleep and inability to think clearly on one apple cider that would have passed completely through his body in hours.
But worst of all, and the greatest indictment on Christians, is their inability to see through Jordan Peterson and his way of approaching truth:
“I don’t think facts are necessarily true. So I don’t think these scientiﬁc facts, even if they’re correct from within the domain that they were generated, I don’t think that that necessarily makes them true. And I know that I am gerrymandering the deﬁnition of truth, but I’m doing that on purpose. Your truth is something only you can tell, based as it is on the unique circumstances of your life” (Dr. Jordan Peterson, in Day 2018). (Emphasis mine).
“I don’t think facts are necessarily true”???? Facts are by definition true, and Peterson knows this, that is why he tells you that he is gerrymandering, aka twisting, breaking, contorting, bending to suit his will, the definition of truth. And his purpose? “Your truth is something only you can tell, based as it is on the unique circumstances of your life.” For him truth is subjective, and pliable to the situation. Again Peterson:
“See the truth. Tell the truth. Truth will not come in the guise of opinions shared by others, as the truth is neither a collection of slogans nor an ideology. It will instead be personal. Your truth is something only you can tell, based as it is on the unique circumstances of your life. Apprehend your personal truth. Communicate it carefully, in an articulate manner, to yourself and others.” (Peterson 2018, 12 Rules). (Emphasis mine).
Peterson presents here a subjective definition of truth, in a chapter about telling the truth, or at least not lying. But truth is not personal. Truth is objective and true whether we like it or not. We can personally know truths, there can be truths that apply to us personally, but these truths are still objective facts whether or not we want them to be. Truth is not personal, truth is that which is whether we like it or not.
How did Jesus define truth? “Let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt 5:37). Let me ask you this? Is what Jordan Peterson says here in line with what Jesus says about truth, or what the evil one says? I think the answer is obvious.
I hope by now you can see my issue with Jordan Peterson is not so much with Jordan Peterson himself. There are plenty of secular thinkers out there, many of them famous and influential that I just don’t really care about. My issue is with so many Christians who have been taken in, hoodwinked, and gone utterly gaga over an obvious charlatan who has no regard for the plain teachings of scripture, no regard for actual truth, and is therefore not someone whose teachings should be trusted. I am actually shocked at how so many wonderful Christians have been conned by this guy, and it now gives me an insight in what Jesus said about the elect in the latter days: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
I had always wondered how this would even be possible, but now I see. Peterson is not THE Anti-Christ, but, especially when it comes to his approach to truth, he is a clear false teacher, and Christians, otherwise reasonable, wise, and godly Christians, have totally fallen for many of his lies.
My issue with Peterson is not the man himself, when he was just another psychologist seeking to stand against anti-free speech laws I was in the guys corner. But when he started to teach untruths about the Bible and Christians started to lap those untruths up, almost uncritically, then I became really concerned, not about Peterson, but about the state of the Church. We are so easily fooled. Peterson is just one example in a long line of past and current false teachers who draw Christians in in their thousands, or even millions. Tele-evangelists, megachurch pastors, itinerant teachers, we Christians often fall for people who have a less than honourable approach to the truth.
In a sense I can understand why so many people react strongly to criticisms of Peterson, because I have been in their shoes. I remember when people criticised Mark Driscoll. I used to think their criticisms were weird. That guy taught me a lot about being a godly man in Christ, he sought to teach the Bible clearly, he was bold, brash yes, but also very honest. Or so I thought. At first I defended him vociferously, but as his wrongdoings became more clear and piled up and up, I had to eventually admit that he wasn’t the leader I thought he was. That wasn’t easy, but it was the truth. So, I can understand why people who have been mesmerized by Peterson, or who have found his teaching helpful in some way, may be incredibly offended and angry when I criticize Peterson. But this guy has tipped his hand in so many ways that he is not an honest actor.
Peterson (2018, Rule 8) tells us this: “The Word that produces order from Chaos sacrifices everything, even itself, to God. That single sentence, wise beyond comprehension, sums up Christianity.”
Ah what? Does this sound like he understands Christianity to you? For one his own opinion of his own statement is a little bit haughty; wise beyond all comprehension? But tell me is this not a better summary of the message of Christianity and the cross: Jesus sacrificed himself for the sins of fallen humanity, to pay the penalty we deserve, paving the way for our salvation for all who believe. Or you could put it this way: Jesus gained victory over sin, death, and the devil on the cross, paving the way for our salvation, for all who believe. Which of these lines is more closely representative of the teaching of Christianity?
Take this quote from Peterson (2018, Rule 8): “Life is suffering. The Buddha stated that, explicitly. Christians portray the same sentiment imagistically, with the divine crucifix.” However, neither the crucifix, or the cross symbolize that life is suffering. The crucifix symbolizes that Jesus suffered for us on the cross, but every Christian knows this is not the full story, suffering is an unavoidable part of life, but life is not suffering. This same Lord died and rose again to achieve for us eternal salvation. This same Lord who suffered on the cross offers us the abundant life of knowing him, an abundant life filled with joy and struggles, but not just struggles. Again this guys does not understand Christianity, or the Bible.
But even worse he insults Christianity and those who believe it:
“But I was truly plagued with doubt. I had outgrown the shallow Christianity of my youth by the time I could understand the fundamentals of Darwinian theory. After that, I could not distinguish the basic elements of Christian belief from wishful thinking” (Peterson 2018, Rule 7). (Emphasis mine).
The implication here is strong; if you believe the Bible and its teaching to be true, according to Peterson you are engaging in wishful thinking.
Do you really want to lift this guy up as a brilliant Bible teacher?
If we fall for so many lesser false teachers, what’s it going to be like when the Anti-Christ actually comes?
List of References:
Review of Jordan Peterson’s Stupid Lecture Alexander Douglas, Jun 2, 2018
Day, Vox, 2018, Jordanetics: A Journey Into the Mind of Humanity's Greatest Thinker. Castalia House. Kindle Edition.
Peterson, Jordan, 2018, 12 Rules for Life. First published in Canada by Random House Canada. Kindle Edition.
Tuesday, 19 March 2019
I have been waiting for other Christian leaders on Facebook and other public platforms to take the bull by the horns and address the elephant in the room. It’s the elephant no one wants to address because it is an elephant that tells us that so much of what we hold dear about western civilisation is a lie. But as these much more experienced and well spoken leaders are refusing to address the elephant, I decided I would have to make my own attempt to not only point out the elephant, but paint it bright pink and make it so unavoidably noticeable that people who refused to address it would themselves look ridiculous. To do this we need to do a little tour through history.
In the mid 1400’s BC something phenomenal happened. A significant portion of a population living in Egypt migrated out of Egypt and made their way to their Promise Land. These people were the Hebrews, and according to the Bible they migrated out of Egypt and took 40 years to travel the wilderness and eventually settle in the Land of Canaan. Now for our purposes here we do not need to discuss why they wandered the wilderness, nor do we need to discuss who told them to leave Egypt, or why they left Egypt. All we need to note is this: what happened when a massive movement of possibly a couple of million people moved into a land already settled by other peoples? War! Clashes of cultures and war. In fact several cities were completely destroyed, other cities were conquered and subjugated, and in other cases Israelites settled next to and among the remaining people of the land of Canaan. What was the result of divergent cultures living in cross proximity because of mass migration? Clashes of cultures and war.
Indeed, for a couple of centuries or more the Israelites experienced a cycle of being subjugated, attacked and then liberated, all this happened on repeat. Divergent cultures living in close proximity did not get along, and though there were periods of peace, there were many more periods of war and cultural clashes. You don’t have to be a believer in God to know this is factually true, because destruction layers in the ruins of Canaanite cities display this pattern of warfare and destruction among warring cultures. Mass migration led to the clash of cultures and to war.
1177 BC: The Year Civilisation Collapsed. This is the title of a brilliant book written by Eric H. Cline. It recounts the fascinating invasion of Egypt by the ‘Sea Peoples’. We don’t know exactly who the sea peoples were. It is believed they were at least partially made up of remnants of Mycenean Greek civilisation, including people from Crete and the civilisation we call Minoan, and perhaps including other people’s as well. After this mass migration Egypt was never the same again, and other cities states fell into ruins. These sea peoples wreaked havoc on the ancient Bronze Age civilisation of the 12th century BC and were at least partially credited with the collapse of this multi-national civilisation that spanned much of the eastern Mediterranean sea. What we know for sure is that wherever these sea peoples found settled lands they clashed with the existing civilizations and war ensued. It’s even possible that some of these sea peoples settled the land of Canaan and founded the Philistine city states. You will not be surprised to find out that these Philistines made war with the Israelites who lived in the land of Canaan. Again, mass migration lead to the clash of cultures and war.
A little bit later in history we see a relatively young Roman Empire expanding across the Mediterranean and up further into Italy and setting its sights in all directions. In the late 2nd century BC a mass movement of Germans invaded Gaul, Italy and Hispania. This migrating mass of Germans clashed with many people’s in these lands, but particularly with the Roman legions. In fact later on Julius Caesar would use such invasions as a partial justification for annexing Gaul. This mass migration of peoples led to a clash of cultures and to war.
Fast forward to the fall of the Roman Empire and what do we find? We find again a mass migration of people. Between the 4th and 6th centuries a terrifying group called the Huns migrated from central Asia into western Europe. These terrifying Huns conquered everyone in their path and terrified the German people’s that were in the way of their migration. Many of the Germans fled from the Huns and were pushed into the borders of the Roman empire. This event is one of the significant moments in the fall of the great Roman empire that had stood for centuries as the dominant power in Europe , North Africa and Asia Minor. The Huns clashed with the Germans, and then forced some of the Germans to seek refuge in Rome, and this mass migration of Germans clashed with the Romans, and this hastened the collapse of a declining empire. Again, the mass migration of peoples led to a clash of cultures and to war.
We could talk about so many other mass migrations. The movements of Scythians, which is likely actually several different, but similar, steppe tribes migrating over different periods of the time. The movements of Medes and Persians into Mesopotamia, the movements of the Aryans into India, the movements of the Parthians into Persia, the migration of Arab armies into Syria, Palestine, Anatolia, Egypt and eventually further up into Spain and other parts of Europe. The movements of the various steppe tribes, the Magyar’s, the Bulgars, the Turks, and eventually the most terrifying steppe tribe of all, the Mongols. We could talk about the mass migration of Zulu African tribes in South Africa, or the mass migration of European settlers into the Americas, and Australia and other parts of the world. All of these mass migrations of people have something in common, and yes you guessed it: the mass migration of peoples led to a clash of cultures and to war. Many, many, many more examples could be given.
Are you noticing a pattern? A very distinct pattern? It appears that throughout history low levels of migration work relatively well. For example, the small amount of Arab traders who lived on the outskirts of the Roman empire actually worked quite well with the peoples of the eastern Roman empire. But a mass migration of Arab armies out of the Arabian peninsula into the Byzantine Roman Empire nearly caused the collapse of the entire empire. When people move to a foreign society in small numbers they tend to integrate to a much higher degree, or at least they tend to function reasonably healthier in that foreign society. But when people move in mass migrations, or continuously increasing migrations, something else happens reliable every time: the clash of cultures and war.
For the last several decades western nations have participated in the mass migration of peoples to their lands. For a while the numbers were quite moderate, but more recently they have been increasing the uptake. Everyone is familiar with the mass immigration of people that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed into her country, and indeed into all of the European Union. But down here in Australia immigration rates have been kept very high for several decades now. Why do they do this? Two main reasons, those of European decent are not having enough children to replace the population (hence why John Howard gave us a baby bonus to encourage more babies), but the reason why our former treasurer and now Prime Minister gives is this: keeping immigration at sustained levels allows us to consistently grow our economy.
In other word’s the primary reason that our leaders are seeking to flood our countries with mass immigration is money. Importing workers means importing tax payers. Importing tax payers means the government can pad its budget and pay for the increasingly large government welfare and government service systems that they promise to increase at every election.
Meanwhile history is looking us in the face telling us what happens every time there is a mass migration of peoples into a settled nation, reliably there is the clash of cultures and war. This is the elephant in the room that most people know intuitively and those of us who know history know it is a consistent trend. But to admit this trend and admit that the beginning rumblings of the clash of cultures we are starting to see is evidence of this trend repeating itself, means that we have to face the biggest lie we tell ourselves about our modern western civilisation: that we are better than those who came before us in history.
It was for this reason that I posted this comment on Facebook:
I've developed a new term: modern supremacist. A modern supremacist is someone who thinks they are better than those who lived before us in history. And they believe we are not prone to the exact same social conditions and pressures as humans of a past era.
It's not a new concept, C.S. Lewis called it chronological snobbery. But I think the term modern supremacist better gets across how foolish and dangerous such thinking is.
A lot of the public response I have seen to the evil terrorist attack in NZ last week can be described as the response of modern supremacists. So many people refuse to learn from human history and the mass movements of people and the social conditions that such mass movements cause.
I for one never want to see something like that happen again. As a historian...well you know the saying, those who do not know history are destined to repeat it. Those who do know it are destined to watch those who do not repeat it.
Currently I see every significant leader on Facebook, in the Church or in politics, avoid discussing this trend, because it makes them uncomfortable. But the elephant is in the room, he is painted pink and is singing loudly and clearly: “Look at me, and learn. Learn from history, or become just another example of a generation of people who thought they were outside of history.”
I never want to see an attack like what happened in New Zealand ever happen again. I never want to see another attack going the other way either. But we need our leaders to look the truth in the face, and realize that we are just as prone to the social pressures of mass migration that every other people group in history were. We need to learn this lesson.