In a recent podcast with Jonathan Pageau, Jordan Peterson explains his “amazement”, as well as “terror”, at being irresistibly drawn to believe in the person of Christ Jesus. The full interview can be viewed below, but note in particular what Peterson says from the twenty-minute mark, a transcript of which is reprinted below:
I know that there’s a strong line of Christian thinking that has identified the conscience with divinity, sometimes with Christ inside, sometimes with the Holy Spirit… and those are very interesting conceptualisations. But you can think of them psychologically and you can even think about them biologically to some degree because we’re so social. If we don’t manifest an appropriate moral reciprocity, we’re going to become alienated from our fellows, and we won’t survive. And we’ll suffer, and die, and we certainly won’t find a partner and have children successfully.
And so, to some degree the conscience can be viewed as the voice of reciprocal society within, and that’s a perfectly reasonable biological explanation. But the thing is, is the deeper you go into biology, the more it shades into something which appears to be religious, because you start analysing the fundamental structure of the psyche itself and it becomes something… well, with a power that transcends your ability to resist it!
So, you can think about Christ from a psychological perspective… and this particular critic which I’ve been reading said, “Well, that doesn’t differentiate Christ much from a whole sequence of dying and resurrecting mythological gods.” And of course, people have made that claim in comparative religion — Joseph Campbell did that and Jung to a lesser degree I would say, but Campbell did that — but the difference (and C.S. Lewis pointed this out as well) — the difference is that those were mythological gods and Christ was, that there’s a historical representation of His existence as well.
Now, you can debate whether or that’s genuine. You can debate about whether or not He actually lived, and whether there’s credible, objective evidence for that, but it doesn’t matter in some sense because — well, it does — but there’s a sense in which it doesn’t matter, because there’s still an historical story.
And so, what you have in the figure of Christ is an actual person who actually lived, plus a myth, and in some sense, Christ is a union of those two things. The problem is, is I probably believe that, but I’m amazed at my own belief and I don’t understand it. Because I’ve seen…
At this point Peterson breaks down in emotion, and with tears goes on to say…
Sometimes, the objective world and the narrative world ‘touch’ — you know, that’s Jungian synchronicity — and I’ve seen that many times in my own life. And so, in some sense, I believe it’s undeniable. You know, we have narrative sense of the world. For me that’s been the world of morality, that’s the world that tells us how to act. It’s real, we treat it like it’s real. It’s not the objective world, but the narrative and the objective world touch.
And the ultimate example of that in principle is supposed to be Christ. But I don’t know what to do with that… it seems to me to be oddly plausible. But I still don’t know what to make of it. Partly because it’s too terrifying a reality to fully believe. I don’t even know what would happen to you if you fully believed it.
The interviewer then asks the question, “If you believed in the story of Christ, or if you believed that the history and let’s say the narrative meet?” to which Peterson responds:
Both, because when you believe that you believe that both those stories — both the objective and the narrative — can actually touch.
The interview goes on to talk about other things, but what Peterson is struggling to articulate here is a profound philosophical and theological truth. For in the incarnation of Christ Jesus, the most history-altering event has occurred. God became man. The Creation has entered into His own creation. As C. S. Lewis once wrote in Mere Christianity:
The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
Following on from this, what Peterson is describing is the spiritual experience of being divinely empowered to put one’s faith in Jesus Christ. This is something which both the New Testament Gospels (John 1:12-13) and Epistles (Ephesians 2:8-9) clearly teach. While faith itself is a gift rather than something which is merely generated by the individual, C. S. Lewis relayed his own conversion in very similar terms. As Lewis wrote in Surprised by Joy:
You must picture me alone is that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.
Like so many, I have been praying for Jordan Peterson, especially over the previous twelve months as he has endured significant mental health issues. It may well be the case that the King in Heaven is graciously answering our prayers. That through Peterson’s many struggles, He is sovereignly drawing him to a saving faith in His One and Only Son.
And while it’s too soon to know for sure, I certainly hope that He is.