Robertson: A Christian perspective of Jordan Peterson's book '12 Rules for Life'

Robertson: A Christian perspective of Jordan Peterson’s book ’12 Rules for Life’

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[David Robertson ministers at St. Peters Free Church in Dundee Scotland and is associate director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity.]

(I have been asked so much about my article Is Jordan Peterson the New Messiah? on  and the book that I decided to forego  The Great Deception – Part 1 for this week and write a full review of 12 Rules for Life, complete with quotes so that you can judge  for yourselves –  Peterson is not a preacher but there are enough quotes here to keep a preacher happy for many sermons!  of course reading the book is better.  The following is my review from a Christian perspective.  I have to say it is a long time since I have been so excited about a book!)..

VIDEO: Bishop Barron provides his comments on the Jordan Peterson phenomenon and his book ’12 Rules for Life’

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is already a bestseller and deservedly so.  No. 1 on Australian Amazon, no. 3 in the UK, no.1 in the US…..I found it challenging, stimulating and frustrating. It is a wonderful mix of psychology, theology, history, narrative and social philosophy from someone who is clearly influenced by Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Freud, Jung and, above all, the Bible.

I want to briefly review each of the chapters – but first to make some general comments. The book is well written and the highest complement of all is simply that it is one of the few books I found to be unputdownable! I also stopped highlighting passages because there were so many.   The chapters are a bit uneven, and at times from my perspective, quite frustrating. It was as though we entered into a conversation and then just as it got interesting – we stopped! Peterson’s great forte is his ability to analyse the problem. His weakness is his solutions, which largely only go part of the way. I was left saying ‘Yes, but’ a lot! However if there is a more stimulating thinker and writer in the secular world, I have yet to meet them! (In the Christian world I would suggest that Os Guinness and Tim Keller are on the same wavelength and have the same abilities as Peterson). Nevertheless as Dr Norman Doidge says in the introduction about Peterson: “People have kept listening because what he is saying meets a deep and unarticulated need.”

Each of the rules is a chapter – so lets have a brief look at each of them.

The Overture:

in his own introduction Peterson sets up the whole book nicely, by giving us an explanation of how it came to be. It’s clear that the Bible, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Goethe’s Faust and Dante’s Inferno as well as his fascination with the Cold War and totalitarian states; along with Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and Jung are the background to this work. There is one stunning quote that took my breath away!

“I knew that the cross was simultaneously, the point of greatest suffering, the point of death and transformation, and the symbolic centre of the world”.

Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back

This is the lobster chapter in which Peterson talks about nature and territory, the neurochemistry of defeat and victory, the principle of unequal distribution; and most fascinatingly of all, the nature of nature. He is basically suggesting that we have to rise up and take responsibility for ourselves.

“To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life”

Overall this was the most disappointing chapter. I felt it lacked humility, was too based on evolutionary psychology (I have no intention of looking at the ‘350 million year old lobster’ for inspiration), and was completely missing any real concept of sin.

Rule 2 Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping –

Here Peterson delves into the Creation story of the Bible. In particular he is interested in the concept of chaos, out of which order came.   He holds to the notion of Being, and of male and female, parent and child, being fundamentally part of our being (not just a social construct).   There is a duality between the order we inhabit and the chaos that surrounds it.   He then gets the idea of sin – the snake within.

The worst of all possible snakes is the eternal human proclivity for evil. The worst of all possible snakes is psychological, spiritual, personal, internal. No wall, however tall, will keep that out”

He then goes on to look at the idea of nakedness, good and evil and especially the human capacity for wrongdoing. There is no ‘humans are basically good’ here.  He asks what is to be done – and speaks of Christ’s death as an example of how to sacrifice ourselves to God.   His solution is that we copy Christ’s example and try to make the world more like heaven than hell. It is a fascinating chapter but at the end of the day it is just moralistic, therapeutic deism.   The problem is identified – the solution doesn’t work!

Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you –

This article continues at [TheWeaFlee Blog] 12 Rules for Life – A Christian Perspective

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