Perhaps one of the most stimulating and deep thinkers in the world today is Jordan Peterson. These two video clips come from one of his most challenging full length videos ever. It is part of a playlist with two other videos on his belief in God. I embed the playlist at the end of this post.
When asked a question Peterson will often answer “I have spent years thinking about that”. Not for him a trite careless answer.
He is at the forefront of nothing less than a revolution of thinking which is appealing to many believers and non believers alike.
He has digested ancient philosophical and theological writings, as well as 20th century psycho-analytic thinkers, psychological research, and is a fierce critic of our inspid modern culture which seems intent on destroying itself.
It is no accident that after Neitche declared “God is dead” we had the most deadly century ever when man killed more other men than had ever been done before. The 20th century stands as a testimony of what man is capable of when he no longer believes in God.
Peterson says we should act as if we believe in God. He argues that to believe in God should totally transform your behaviour, because it is such a crucial belief. And if we do not believe in God we lose a lot of the basis for our moral behaviour. Here are some quotes from Peterson, the short videos are well worth watching, as well as the longer ones.
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. (Mark 10:18; see also Luke 18:19). Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21, KJV). I have been asked many times by many people if I believe in God. I don’t like this question. I generally respond by stating that I act as if God exists, but that’s not sufficiently true. Who could do that? Who could conduct themselves with the moral exactitude and care necessary of someone who would dare to make that claim? Either claim?”
“I act as if I believe in God to the best of my ability. I am afraid that he might exist!”
From the video transcript: “Let’s say you say you do believe in God . . . that’s hypothetically pretty impressive . . . it’s like you believe that there’s a divine power that oversees everything that is fundamentally ethical that’s watching everything you do . . . so what effect does that have on your behavior if you believe it . . . are you sacrificing everything to this transcendent entity that you proclaim belief in? Have you cleansed yourself of all your sin . . . If you believed in God actually like seriously you’d be a good person right now because well for obvious reasons . . . if that hasn’t happened in some sort of miraculous sense so that you’re the best person you could possibly imagine being on an ongoing basis and then terrified of deviating from that path in a serious manner then I don’t see why you have the right to say that you believe in God… One of the things Nietzsche said about Christianity was . . . as far as he was concerned there was only one Christian and he died on the cross . . . There’s a heavy moral burden that comes along with that just to allow yourself to utter the words without feeling that you should be immediately struck down appropriately by lightning . . . Israel means those who wrestle with God . . . it just flattens you to think that if . . . Israel is the chosen people of God . . . that seems to me to be such a hopeful idea because . . . what characterizes the true people of God is that willingness to wrestle that’s really something because it . . . indicates that you’re here as a contender you know you’re not here to be happy you’re not here to be complacent you’re not here to be materially satisfied . . . you’re here to contend with the structure of reality . . . I’m not going to say something virtuous like I’m a believer because there’s plenty wrong with me that needs to be fixed before I would dare utter words like that.”
“You can tell a lot about a mans character by how much truth he can tolerate”
“I realised that almost anything I said was one form of lie or another”
“Need to develop a relationship with something that is profound. What is more profound than the truth. It might be good to have that on your side”
“Whats the decision that you make? You decided to believe. You know it’s a risk an existential risk it’s an act of faith. You believe that the truth can set you free you believe that people have an intrinsic divinity about their soul you decide that you’re going to live in that manner and that you’re going to let every part of yourself that isn’t worthy of that goal die. And that might be almost everything that you are and that’s a terrible thing to contemplate. The only thing that’s worse I would say is the alternative because the alternative is those sorts of hell’s that we manage to produce around us and that we produced with particular expertise during the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and it would be a good thing if we decided collectively and individually not to go back there again”.
Here is another clip from Jordan on why belief in God is so important
I hope you find these video clips thought provoking. Be encouraged that wrestling with God is the whole point of life.You do not have to have all the answers, and what seems to be missing from what Jordan says is the extraordinary grace and kindness of God. But for sure you would have to conclude that as Jesus once said of someone “he is not far from the kingdom of God”. My concern is that many of us who attend church and consider ourselves to be Christians do not take the Bible half as seriously as Jordan Peterson seems to. That ought to be a serious provocation to us, and an encouragement to spend some of the thousands of seconds we waste on really thinking.