Why We Should Pray for Jordan Peterson

May Peterson continue his search for God, until God finds him and draws him to himself.

Jordan Peterson addresses students at the Cambridge Union on Nov. 2, 2018, in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.
Jordan Peterson addresses students at the Cambridge Union on Nov. 2, 2018, in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England. (photo: Chris Williamson / Getty Images)

Ah, timing! When Jordan Peterson announced that he had resigned his position as tenured professor at the University of Toronto, I was already carrying Christopher Kaczor’s and Matthew Petrusek’s book about him, Jordan Peterson, God, and Christianity, around in my car — reading chapters or paragraphs as time permitted, attempting to better understand the academic and philosopher who has schooled at least five million readers about his “12 Rules for Life.

Peterson is a challenging thinker and a compelling writer, and his popular books and podcasts have led many young people to ponder the deepest questions about the meaning of life. Peterson himself is still pondering these questions, still searching for answers that will help him to understand his ultimate purpose.

There is an immutable logic to his resignation, which he detailed in his opinion piece for the National Post, “Why I am no longer a tenured professor at the University of Toronto.” Peterson saw echoed in Toronto the maladies which have befallen universities across the United States. Pulling no punches, he mourned, “The appalling ideology of diversity, inclusion and equity is demolishing education and business.”

Peterson objected to the quotas for racial admissions and research grants currently in place at university level, and said that the all-pervasive racist/sexist/heterosexist charges make it impossible to test students objectively. He pointed a finger of blame at university administrators whose short-sighted emphasis on skin tone caused them to overlook highly qualified candidates; and he pointed, too, at those — professors, business leaders, musicians and artists and writers — who have stood by silently as the culture falls to the demands of propagandists. Citing the Scripture passage in Hosea 8:7, Peterson warned, “He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.”

So the highly educated professor can quote Scripture. But does he believe it?

Critics have answered that question differently: He has been called, alternately, a Taoist (for his dualist view of order and chaos), a Jungian (for his affection for the existentialist views of Søren Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich), a Pelagian (for his embrace of the fifth-century theologian’s heretical insistence that humans can save themselves by their own merits).

As for Peterson himself, it seems he’s got one foot in the door — he believes, and yet he is afraid to believe. “What you have in the figure of Christ,” he explained in an interview with Jonathan Pageau, an Eastern Orthodox artist, “is an actual person who actually lived, plus a myth, and, in some sense Christ is the union of those two things.”

In an interview on Joe Rogan's popular podcast, Jordan Peterson talked about the Bible. “It isn’t that the Bible is true,” he said.

It’s that the Bible is the precondition for the manifestation of truth, which makes it way more true than just true. ... It’s a whole different kind of true. I think this is not only literally the case, factually. I think it can’t be any other way. It’s the only way we can solve the problem of perception.

But Peterson’s faith, like the man himself, is a study in contrasts. Asked in a 2017 interview whether he was a Christian, Peterson responded, “I suppose the most straightforward answer to that is yes.” But then, asked whether he believed in God, the confused Peterson admitted, “I think the proper response to that is ‘No’ — but I’m afraid he mightexist.” Kaczor and Petrusek describe Peterson’s confused faith/not-faith as a “tensive suspension between archetype and reality — between the ideal of Christ and the God who acts in history.”

Since his recent illness, Peterson has inched toward greater acceptance of the Christian faith, and toward Catholicism in particular. He describes the Catholic faith as “profoundly sane” and makes frequent mention of its tenets. Is he moving toward deeper understanding and ultimate acceptance of all that the holy Catholic Church teaches?

We can pray that he is. We should pray that he is. In fact, we must pray that he is. Let us pray that Jordan Peterson — and not just him, but all who have come in contact with Catholic teachings and found them sound — will be led by the Holy Spirit to continue down that path, to study and learn and pray. May Peterson continue his search for God, until God finds him and draws him to himself.

That intention is on my daily prayer list. Join me?

The front page of the new L’Osservatore di Strada, which will be available June 30.

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