Is Truth What Works?

13 Jul

Not quite?


For a man like Jordan Peterson, interpretation is only “true” if it works, which means it is credible, taking into account material and social constraints. For Christians, an interpretation is true if what is stated is what is – what is actually the case. Christianity offers a knowledge (justified true belief) that is stable and even eternal.* The world, purging the word “secular” of any connection with religion, has only a “knowledge” which is constantly in flux — it is conceivable useful trust — depending on the latest intellectual desires and fashions.

In the classes on beginning Christianity that I teach, one of the questions I ask later in the course is this: “Is Christianity true because it works? Or does it work because its true?”

I get a lot of interesting answers, but invariably, as students have already read much of the Bible by this point, they choose the second option.

Of course, I then go on to qualify that we need to talk about Christianity as an “it” and define “works” in this context (i.e. we are not talking about what the world calls “success”). The cross, after all, might not seem to have worked very well.

In sum, the Christian faith tells a distinct story, or history, of the world which is meant for all persons (see Acts 17). And this narrative offers us not only stable but eternal truths that we can cling to with our whole lives.

I can’t say it better than this:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only‐begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men** and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian*** and apostolic Church I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Man. Church isn’t church if I don’t hear those good words. Amen indeed!



*”Becoming” in the world is part and parcel of what is.

**Us men means all people.

***Christian: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine.


Posted by on July 13, 2017 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “Is Truth What Works?

  1. follyofthecross

    August 1, 2017 at 6:56 pm


    Thank you for bringing some Confessional Lutheran perspective to the work of Dr. Peterson’s. While I greatly admire many things about his output so far – speaking for objective truth, conservative principles, and his altruistic sensibilities – I worry that he is ultimately going to lead many people further away from Jesus and the Gospel.

    I sense that he is a very genuine person, though, and I hope and pray that he will find the true Gospel.

    His pragmatic vision of truth, his psychological interpretation of the bible, and ultimately, his teaching that man is able to save themselves by sorting through the maps of meaning in their lives leads really only to a new version of the Nietzsche Ubermensch. I cannot believe how many people I see on his biblical series videos that say they are atheists who can now finally “understand” the truth of religion.

    I think it is sad because the type of person who is attracted to Dr. Peterson’s work is likely attracted to a sense of objective truth as a reaction to waking up to the realities of all the relativism and postmodernism that we now face in the world today. They see there is no bottom to ground the secular worldview. Unfortunately, Dr. Peterson is offering these people the wrong “red pill”. In fact, though Peterson talks often about objective truth, his version of pragmatic truth is really just another form post-modernism.

    I wish that there were more Confessional Lutherans in the world of media that were willing to engage with the current false gospels found in popular culture. I think there are many people who are obviously looking for the truth, but they are ultimately just finding more false Gospels.

    We need more people like yourself in the Confessional Lutheran circles to help deliver the intellectual side of Christianity, as I think this message is one that is likely to resonate with the same people that Dr. Peterson is reaching. Thank you for the high-quality output from your blog and over at the Just and Sinner blog. I am happy to have found your work and wish you continued success!

    In Christ,


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