Gen Z’s favourite self-help dad is out of rehab and ready to rumble.
Jordan Peterson has re-entered the fray of the culture war with some reality bombs about beauty and gender on Twitter that have gotten him suspended and made headlines all over the place. He’s followed these up with YouTube videos about ideological possession, political utopianism and totalitarianism, and the inescapability of biological reality.
It’s wonderfully inspiring stuff, especially for Biblical Christians under attack from the culture and let down by Christianity, Inc’s response. Peterson says things many men wish their pastor, reverend or priest had the gumption to say, and he says them very well. He knows his enemy, and because so many of his enemies are also our enemies, this has led many younger Christians to put their faith in him.
Peterson knows this. He knows that disaffected Christians, and particularly disaffected young Christian men, are a key market demographic because he’s releasing videos addressing them directly. In ‘Message to the Christian Churches’, released on July 13, Peterson focuses directly on young men and the damage that postmodern Western Marxism is doing to them.
The video has triggered the worldly church establishment he’s critiquing, as you’d expect. This is reason enough for a muted fist pump from those of us tired of flabby churchianity and its tiresome moral compromises.
By addressing the Christian churches and then Islamic communities in a follow-up video, Peterson is positioning himself as a religious commentator, even a religious figure, for a broken and dying culture. Christians need to therefore carefully consider our response to Peterson and the other pseudo-Christian commentators emerging onto the cultural scene alongside him.
Other writers on these pages have considered whether Peterson is a Christian and left the question open. That’s a gracious and Godly approach. I find myself less able to be generous, however. Let us take some quotes from Peterson’s message to the churches in the video above to see what we can make of them.
Hi all. It is, of course, completely presumptuous of me to dare to write and broadcast a video entitled ‘Message to the Christian Churches…
Yes, it is, JBP. Go on.
… but I’m going to do it anyway because I have something to say and because that something needs to be said.
Great logic. Unfortunately, the humility of Peterson’s introduction was short-lived. Let’s skip now to the spicy bit.
The Christian church is there to remind people, young men included and perhaps even first and foremost, that they have a woman to find, a garden to walk in, a family to nurture, an ark to build, a land to conquer, a ladder to heaven to build and the utter terrible catastrophe of life to face stalwartly in truth, devoted to love and without fear.
Bollocks. The church is here because it is the body of Christ in creation, representing God to a broken world lost in darkness, waiting for and desiring earnestly his return when he will destroy darkness once and for all and judge the living and the dead. That’s why the church is here.
This particular quote goes to the heart of why Christians, and indeed pagans seeking the fruit of the Christian life but not (yet) willing to come to the tree that provides it, must be careful of men like Jordan Peterson. Peterson is hailed as a saviour by many Christians horrified at the demonic turn Western culture has taken in recent years, and because he speaks Christianese so well he has the attention of many young believers more than any salaried youth pastor ever could.
Peterson is being welcomed in many Christian quarters, and for understandable reasons. He gives commencement addresses at Christian colleges in the US and is interviewed by Christian media outlets. He has the ear of many esteemed and eminent Christian thought leaders too.
This is a problem. It’s a problem not because he’s right-wing or reactionary. It’s a problem because he’s not a Christian.
Peterson remains stuck in materialism, and therefore denies the power of God. He teases his devotees constantly about his engagement with the spiritual, but ultimately Peterson remains stuck in the world of matter and therefore gives lip service to a god of earthly means rather than adoration toward the God of heavenly ends.
Peterson’s religion is a form of moralistic Jungianism. He did an extended series applying Jungian philosophy to Genesis back in 2017 which was riddled with blasphemy, heresy and secular hot-takes. He is a psychotherapist academic, after all. His pursuit of truth and use of Christianese language to frame his arguments have made many Christians, and even many among the unsaved who are revolted by the excesses of cultural Marxism, to see him as a trailblazer for Christ. He’s not.
He’s a self-help guru selling books and courses.
Self-helpism is the attempt to fix our outside under the power of our own strength and the guidance of our own reason. It’s a futile endeavour. Only the power of Christ can wash the inside of our earthly vessel and repeat that work daily well enough for that cleanliness to emanate out and purify the world. We cannot make ourselves salt. Peterson’s personal troubles in recent years are evidence of the futility of self-helpism.
He needs Jesus. The real one, not one constructed from psychobabble.
Peterson is but one of a host of online thought leaders who has leveraged technology to cultivate mass audiences. These cultural entrepreneurs are filling a void left by a worldly, risk-averse and overly conventional church and speaking to lost individuals alienated by a perverse and degenerate culture.
Few pastors have the reach or the impact of people like Joe Rogan, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro, or Alex Jones. The common denominator with these alt-media influencers is that they presume no authority and speak what are perceived as suppressed truths by anyone who’s not a rabid Marxist in the current year. This appeals to young Christians and to secular conservatives alike.
What should give Christians pause, however, is that none of these men point to Christ.
These men are spiritual mixers. They know there’s a huge market of Christians who are feeling alienated from a culture that increasingly hates truth. They provide a natural form of truth alongside oblique references to Christianity and lip-service to ‘Christian values’ in order to build their personal fame, wealth and prestige.
This fame is being fed by a youth hungry for truth in a culture of lies, and to our shame, this mission field is being neglected by a self-absorbed, self-satisfied and too often self-deceiving church comfortable in spiritual Babylon. These e-celebs are making much more sense to a lost generation than timid pastors with a five-point sermon plan and limited life experience outside church culture.
The success of these cultural commentators, most of whom are highly compromised and somewhat suspect individuals, should rouse church leaders to speak bolder truths to a demonic culture their children and grandchildren are having to face each day in school and on campus. Secular moralism is not the answer to the demonic onslaught of the unhinged left. No matter how often you clean your room, the demons remain because they’re on the inside. Only God can clean there (Luke 11:24-26).
In Matthew 24, the disciples asked the question of Jesus that should still burn in every believer’s heart. What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? Jesus’ first response was not that we beware of sin or hardheartedness or hypocrisy or lukewarmness. His first warning to them, and therefore to us, was to beware of deception.
Take care that no man deceives you, brethren. For Satan comes dressed as an angel of light.