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Monday 25 March 2019

Christians Will love The Anti-Christ

“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.”
Jordan Peterson

“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, 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: here), 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:
Peterson, Jordan 2019. Cambridge University Rescinds my Fellowship:

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. 

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