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Why Jordan Peterson’s New Book Doesn’t Work

27 Jan

“Does that please God? Well, you’ll find out…” – Jordan Peterson

+++

His star continues to rise. He is indeed a force to be reckoned with.

Referring to last weekend’s BBC interview with Cathy Newman, Rex Murphy’s headline in Canada’s National Post announces: “The prime moment Jordan Peterson’s ‘gotcha’ was heard around the world.”

 

Indeed. The Atlantic Monthly took note, stating in a headline “Why Can’t People Hear What Jordan Peterson is Saying?” (evidently, given the url, the headline initially read: “Putting Monster Paint on Jordan Peterson”). David Brooks and Peggy Noonan quickly got caught up and read Dr. Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life, and writing articles respectively titled the “The Jordan Peterson Moment” and “Who’s Afraid of Jordan Peterson?”

I’ve said before that I can’t not love Jordan Peterson. I have learned much from him, this man from whom so much truth pours forth.

I have called him a “noble pagan” par excellence and will stand by that.

That said, his new book doesn’t work. Why? Because Peterson is a pragmatist and pragmatism is a false philosophy.

Jordan Peterson, endeavoring to “resurrect the dormant Logos,” says that the Logos is the central process by which human beings flourish in the world.

No.

“It’s” not, because “it” is not an it.

 

The Logos is not a principle to be adhered to.

The Logos is not the experience of feeling something meaningful (including an intimation of immortality)

The Logos is not the incarnation (enfleshment) of a “social revolutionary element” in the world.

The Logos is not the capacity to mediate between chaos and tyrannical order.

The Logos is not a thing to be learned and mastered.

The Logos is not a process to be managed and controlled.

The Logos is definitely not a system to be effectively – and even admirably – “gamed” like some Cathy Newman.

The Logos is not about the Sovereignty of the Individual – the Divine Principle of the Individual.

The Logos is An Individual who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – and the Logos is a human being, the very Son of God and Messiah, Jesus Christ.

And yes, because of Him, each individual has a sacred dignity and profound responsibility.

Dr. Peterson doesn’t know what – no Who – he is messing with. You never get to say “Gotcha” in a competence competition with the Good Lord.

Speaking generally, God’s blessings come to the nations through Christians — not by our understanding how the cosmos or even human nature “works”. They do not come about from our understanding the “machine” we call the universe and all that is therein (though we all do this, more or less: boats, for example, always float, do they not?)…

Rather, blessings and flourishing come through unquestioning obedience and loyalty to God and His commandments: “secularism,” the Enlightenment, modernism, postmodernism — and yes, Jordan Peterson’s pragmatic philosophy – ultimately depend on the Christian faith which is the faith that acknowledges God as He is.

But seeing external harmony and blessings, the “progressive Christian” or “Christian atheist” says “well, to some degree, it works”.

Well, I understand where you are coming from – and Christians writing books with a bunch of gears on the cover haven’t helped here – but, in truth, “it” never works.

 

We are alive and blessed in Christ as He sees fit, rewarding in this life and the next as He pleases, as we keep His commandments. .

As Dr. Peterson says, always tell the truth. “Life without truth is hell”.

Indeed, and hence we cry: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!”

Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

I pray that Dr. Peterson may be also.

FIN

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77 Comments

Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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77 responses to “Why Jordan Peterson’s New Book Doesn’t Work

  1. VG Reese

    January 27, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    It’s interesting that his book has several sections about not questioning God. It seems to go against what you are saying here.

     
    • Nathan A. Rinne

      January 27, 2018 at 4:30 pm

      VG Reese,

      Yes it does. What do you think that means?

      +Nathan

       
      • VG Reese

        January 27, 2018 at 4:59 pm

        I would say that it means you are imperfect. To question the world itself or existence itself is presumptuous, to say the least.

        My takeaway from Dr. Peterson on this topic is that you need to fully understand someone and their position before you can hope to begin properly questioning them. When dealing with God, you can’t fully understand his position. Thus, how can you question God?

        In the end, I am not sure what in the book would make you believe that Dr. Peterson puts logic first above all else. He isn’t making absolute moral statements based on logic. Nietzsche showed that that was useless, and I have not seen Dr. Peterson disagree with Nietzsche explicitly.

        The topic of chaos versus order which is prevalent also seems to say that we should not rely as heavily on logic, if that is our order. I rely on logic, and it motivates me to look at things I can’t understand. That would put me into chaos, which Dr. Peterson rightly points out is a place a person needs to be.

        I am not sure where you specifically disagree with the message in the book. What you are addressing doesn’t seem to be a part of the book that I read. Can you help clarify what I am missing?

         
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        January 27, 2018 at 7:20 pm

        VG Reese,

        It is fully understandable that Dr. Peterson would not fully unpack his views on God, Christ, Christianity, etc. in the book. He is trying to write to as broad an audience as possible.

        That said, these views can be gathered from many of his lectures, interviews, talks, podcasts, etc., many which I have listened to. You can find more on what he specifically says about many a topic in several of the posts I’ve written about him (just click the “Jordan Peterson” tag at the end of this post to get the others) – often, but not always, I have links to where he says this or that… Also, the discussions following some of my posts on Peterson have good content in them as well when it comes to Dr. Peterson vis a vis Christianity.

        “My takeaway from Dr. Peterson on this topic is that you need to fully understand someone and their position before you can hope to begin properly questioning them.”

        Certainly some knowledge of the person we question is necessary. But full understanding? Its not going to happen. In any case, the Christian message is that God has revealed what we need to know about Him in the person of Jesus Christ, who shows us His face.

        +Nathan

         
      • VG Reese

        January 28, 2018 at 1:20 am

        Properly question was a bad way to put that. When I said “properly question” I was referring to the idea that you could question someone in a way that changes their mind.

        I think the reason I am connecting with what you are saying is because you are a Christian. You are coming from the assumption that God exists and that Dr. Peterson’s message could be better if he presumed his audience thought the same.

        Logic leading to the idea that Christianity may have a point is what I see. I think what you want is logic assuming Christianity has a point, and expounding from there.

        I assume most of Dr. Peterson’s audience fits into one or both of these categories:
        * Someone lost and needing meaning.
        * Someone wanting to understand how a Christian views the world.

        I assume there are others who find what he says interesting, but I somewhat assume this is the majority of the audience. If logic wasn’t the primary part of Dr. Peterson’s message, someone like me would not have been interested in it.

         
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        January 29, 2018 at 2:02 am

        VG Reese,

        Understood. But Peterson is still wrong about the Logos as process. Frankly, that’s Hegelian nonsense, whether he is aware of it or not.

        “When I said ‘properly question’ I was referring to the idea that you could question someone in a way that changes their mind.”

        Taking into account external evidence, patterns, discernible existential currents, in human beings — sure. I submit the “process” stuff introduces all kinds of uncertainty into this though: https://reliablesourcessite.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/5-short-philosophical-reflections-from-hope-to-despair/

        Something like the classical essences the ancient philosophers spoke of is needed, but Peterson offers us other things. More in this post: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/why-i-cant-not-love-the-noble-pagan-jordan-peterson-and-be-concerned/?wref=tp

        +Nathan

         
      • VG Reese

        January 29, 2018 at 4:20 am

        So, you’d said you reject pragmatism completely. I don’t really want to have that argument as I am not as well equipped to argue it as I would like… But it seems you presuppose the needed conclusion with pragmatism, that it may lead people away from God. Is there something else that I am missing with why you think pragmatism does not work for people?

        I am not rejecting that Hegel would have an influence over Peterson. Hegel has had an influence over most liberal thought, so it would be close to impossible to reject post modernism and not accept some parts of Hegel. Is there a part of Hegel in particular that you are rejecting? What part is Peterson using?

        Out of curiosity, what philosophy do you subscribe to? I’ve done some searching over your blog, but it really isn’t clear to me. It is pretty clear to me what you are not and don’t believe in… But what is it that you see as useful or right?

        Again, as someone who has no interest in the religious message other than as it being illustrative, what Peterson offers is extremely useful to me. It is entertaining, incisive, and makes me more confident in my actions. Those actions may be productive things I need to do around the house or in not caring about writing things, but I am less inhibited in doing so. That says something, since I wasn’t very inhibited beforehand. 🙂

        What part of Peterson am I missing other than God not being the beginning and end in his philosophy?

         
  2. Folly of the Cross

    January 27, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    Very insightful post, Nathan.

    There is probably none more compelling of an intellectual figure in the public right now than Dr. Peterson.

    The postmodern culture is finally starting to devour itself, and the time is absolutely ripe for Dr. Peterson’s message to reach those in the world that are sensing that there is something seriously wrong with our world today but can’t quite articulate what it is themselves. I think Dr. Peterson will likely continue to rise in popularity as we further see the clash between old western society ideals and values and the new progressive ideals and values (i.e. postmodern and socialism/Marxism) continue to come to a head.

    That being said, ever since I heard Dr. Peterson’s first discussion with Sam Harris where he admitted to holding to an evolutionary form of pragmaticism, I knew that Dr. Peterson had some serious flaws underpinning his entire philosophical project.

    I have since come across other things that clearly show that Dr. Peterson just can’t seem to go all the way and realize the only way to ground all the objective truths that he is claiming and fighting for is in Jesus. I don’t know how he doesn’t see the irony in himself speaking out so eloquently against postmodernism and holding to a relativistic framework (his evolutionary pragmatism à la Rorty and Dewey) at the same time.

    Peterson is clearly torn over what to make of Christianity. You can tell he feels the pull of it and sees some deep psychological truth in the Christian story, but for some reason, he just can’t seem to get past the idea that God really could enter history and perform miracles. This is one of the most telling interviews I have seen him give yet on the subject: Am I Christian? | Timothy Lott and Jordan B Peterson

    Peterson is just unable to believe that Christ really rose from the dead. As such he is not a Christian, despite how much he may claim that he is. Until Dr. Peterson can figure out the necessity of Christ truly being God, he obviously will not be able to fully make the connection between the logos and Christ that you are pointing out this post, Nathan. Like you said the logos isn’t a what it’s a who!

    Worse yet, if Peterson is unable to make this connection, his project will ultimately end up in the same place that the postmodern ideologies he speaks out against end up in. He will make the individual the ultimate authority for all meaning, and whatever helps survival will determine what is “the good”.

    It is such a strange feeling to root so hard for someone while at the same time worry so much about the damage they are doing. Peterson is able to point out so many things that are wrong in the world today, and do so in such a persuasive manner, but he is still pointing people away from the gospel message and ultimately pointing them away from salvation and the truth.

    God’s peace,
    Chris

     
    • Nathan A. Rinne

      January 28, 2018 at 1:10 am

      Chris,

      “It is such a strange feeling to root so hard for someone while at the same time worry so much about the damage they are doing.”

      Can confirm.

      Nice post Chris — thanks.

      +Nathan

       
  3. Haley

    January 28, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    I am afraid to admit it, because his fans are rather rabid, but I think that Jordan Peterson is currently the King of Moral Therapeutic Deism. Yes, his writing is beautiful and insightful, but the core of his philosophy is essentially the same. His is a very high minded and loftly version of MTD, which makes it even more dangerous.

    I’ve heard him called “The Right Wing answer to Alain de Botton” and “The white man’s Deepak Chopra.” Inflammatory to be sure, but there’s some truth to it.

    I can’t help but fear at the masterful efficiency of Satan- who can turn something that appears at first to be good, into something terrible. How many people will be lost to Jordan Peterson’s modern Gnosticism? It seems that atheists are a little too on-the-nose for Satan nowadays. Jordan Peterson’s pretend Christianity is so much more effective.

     
    • Nathan A. Rinne

      January 29, 2018 at 12:06 am

      Haley,

      Your words demand to be taken seriously. Thanks for the comment.

      +Nathan

       
    • VG Reese

      January 29, 2018 at 4:28 am

      As a counterpoint, I was an atheist on days where I was irritated and non-secular on days where I was in a good mood. I am now strongly into the non-secular/agnostic/deist camp.

      Is the fear of Dr. Peterson moving Christians away from the proper path? Because, I can tell you, I’ve personally made about a dozen people stop believing in God over my years that I know of. I am not sure how many more were impacted beyond that by those people or who I influenced and lost contact with.

      The demographic he is speaking to has a different understanding of religion than the generations before. I no longer get physically angry when religion is brought up. I am working on making those I know get to the same point.

      It doesn’t help to be that upset at something that so many people believe in. I literally never had an outlet for understanding how a Christian could see the world and the Bible how they do. Dr. Peterson has presented Christianity in a way that opens that up for myself and many others.

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        January 29, 2018 at 10:50 am

        VG Reese,

        Yes I get that. Like I briefly alluded to in the post, I like much of what he says to.

        Much of what he says though is highly problematic as well. To quickly give just another example, he thinks it is reasonable to not doubt the historicity of Socrates, but to doubt that Jesus was a real human being.

        That is actually a rather extreme position, usually found among only the most virulent of atheists. Not only this, it makes Christianity similar to other religions, for whom history is a nothing. Kind of like how history is an afterthought among practitioneers of scientism as well, in like manner that it previously was for the classical philosophers…

        “Practical wisdom” is the main thing here then… the only major difference between modern secularists and the best of the ancient philosophers here is that “making life work” meant putting more stress on the matter of “the good” (and “the good life” ; virtue) for the ancients. Peterson brings us back to that somewhat, he seems, but again, for people to think that he is defending Christianity is definitely off.

        His focus on virtue and ethics is simply heavily influenced by Christian ideas (putting the focus on compassion and concern for the individual as he does).

        Thanks again for your comments VG!

        +Nathan

         
      • Haley

        January 29, 2018 at 2:22 pm

        Jesus says that “Because you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

        I was an atheist from ages 15-30, and I also was very hostile to religion. But make no mistake, there’s a reason why atheists (such as yourself) and the orthodox religious (like the publisher of this website) are always debating: because each believe they have found the Truth. I find that these polar opposites, which only compromise about 10% of the Western population, are the only people who care anymore about what is true.

        The rest of the population is purposely pluralistic at best, and downright apathetic at worst. Atheists and the deeply religious alike are generally disliked throughout the general population, because they have the gall to tell people that they are absolutely wrong about the purpose of life and the morals that govern it.

        Jordan Peterson’s answer to what it means to say a proposition is “true” is very… interesting. His interview with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast was simply awful. Peterson seems to be saying that any beliefs that help humans survive are true and any that hinder it are false. Peterson spent nearly 2 horrible hours circumlocuting like a right proper Sophist, and then wrote a meandering explanation in an abortive attempt to clarify.

        Peterson’s interview with Timothy Lott was similarly cringeworthy. The whole thing reads like a Christian Heresy Drinking Game: Gnosticism, Pelagianism, Apokatastasis, Modernism- take a drink every time and you’ll be indulging in the second deadly sin in no time at all!

        Maybe Peterson is useful in helping temper angry atheists, but I would think that literally anybody could find an exponentially superior biblical scholar- one that can read Greek and Hebrew and is intimately familiar with the history and geography of the region. There are both secular and religious bible scholars who have a PhD in this field of work, and are much more clear and concise to boot!

        The version of Christianity that Peterson presents is ahistorical and lazy. I appreciate that you hate Christianity less now, but purhaps you only do so because he’s presented you with a very watered down version of it. Jesus expected Christians to be hated because our religion is extremely polarizing- if you reject a faith in Christ, you run a serious risk of going to hell. Atheists and all non-Christians *should* think this a terrible thing to believe- it’s bizarre and cruel to a non-believer! Seriously, if Jesus, or Paul, or Luther, or any serious Christian were preaching, you would be right back to hating Christians again.

        I seriously doubt that Peterson is bringing many people to a real faith in Christ. More likely he’s presenting a dilute and easy version that will cause extreme complacency and indifference in the vast majority of his followers. Jesus didn’t ask his followers to have proper posture or make their bed- he asked people to pick up the cross and die for him.

        Stay a spicy atheist. Read Issac Asimov’s commentary on the bible. It’s better.

         
      • VG Reese

        January 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm

        Unfortunately, you are assuming quite a bit about me that I don’t think is accurate. I’d label myself as non-religious and unconvinced either way of the existence of God. I’d say it isn’t important to me.

        Understanding the biblical stories for me isn’t about the same thing as it is for you. I am not vexed by the idea of religion any longer. The thing that Dr. Peterson has done is made me see how people who are religious aren’t broken, pitiful people who lack all logic. They may even be psychologically stronger than I am with a better moral grounding. Christianity is foundational to who I am. That is what I learned from Dr. Peterson.

        I found the conversation on truth between Dr. Harris and Dr. Peterson to be very interesting. Dr. Harris is ridiculously logical and amazing with analogy. Dr. Peterson’s idea on truth was discussed further on a podcast with Joe Rogan, and that’s what made it work for me. Truth has to be more than knowledge, it has to be something that is useful under that definition.

        I’ve spent a lot of time researching the bible. When I was younger, I wanted to understand it. My best friend did missionary work with his church who traveled abroad. He preached in a similar way to what you are. I have watched PhDs discuss the topics. I have read their commentary. It had 0 meaning to me and I wondered what was wrong with these unfortunate people and what went wrong.

        I have not read Isaac Asimov’s commentary. If I decide my views on the bible aren’t useful any longer, I will take a further look at it. As it stands, Dr. Peterson gives me something I wanted. I no longer look down on people who are religious.

        It is funny how those things change. I try to aim for understanding everyone. I’ve poked this one enough, from my perspective. I just wanted to understand a practicing, serious Christian’s view on Jordan Peterson. And this has helped me towards that a lot.

        1 year ago, if someone tried to preach to me about how I was going to hell, I would see them as having insulted me and reach into their person and rip out what makes them their weakest, exploit it, and then make them realize they are going to hell if they truly believe what they preach. So few people actually know what they believe. My views haven’t changed on what is real but they have on what is useful. What is “true.”

        Today, I am doing the opposite. I had a conversation with one of the people who were infected with my zeal and logic indirectly, and he had said Jesus didn’t exist. He did not expect me to defend the idea that he did and as he got more and more shocked, he eventually asked if I were a Christian.

        It was beside the point. And that is the impact of Jordan Peterson.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        January 30, 2018 at 5:30 pm

        VG Reese,

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Jordan Peterson. As an orthodox Lutheran (fully subscribing to the Book of Concord), it is really interesting for me to see the number of non-Christians that have been attracted to Jordan Peterson’s message. I think the people that are attracted to Peterson are truly are waking up to the incoherence of the postmodern message and can sense that there is (and must be!) an objective nature to reality. Though we obviously don’t and can’t in theory ever hope to have full knowledge of the fullness of the objective nature of reality, we can know something of it, though. Peterson is showing people that it is intellectually ok to stand up to postmodernism. We don’t need to take the postmodern claim that everything is mere opinion and pure interpretation. Postmodernism is the logical (but in itself irrational) conclusion of the path that we have been on for a while now and is what lead to the chaotic and confused world that we live in today.

        A few thoughts on some of your comments.

        Again, as someone who has no interest in the religious message other than as it being illustrative, what Peterson offers is extremely useful to me. It is entertaining, incisive, and makes me more confident in my actions. Those actions may be productive things I need to do around the house or in not caring about writing things, but I am less inhibited in doing so. That says something since I wasn’t very inhibited beforehand. 🙂

        What part of Peterson am I missing other than God not being the beginning and end in his philosophy?

        I don’t mean to assume to know what you have all studied before, but I believe this statement is illustrative that you may not understand the true depth of the Christian message. We believe that God is what grounds, or that is to say, what makes things “good” and how we derive an imperative to seek after the good. There is a moral direction that is imbued in all of us and this is what we would term “natural law”, or what I also would argue, to use a more philosophical term, is the teleological nature that is found in all of existence.

        What I believe that you may be missing, as Dr. Peterson definitely is, is that to simply say that we should try to make ourselves better people and make the world a better place (using some of the extremely helpful methodologies that Dr. Peterson prescribes) needs to have an ontological grounding of some sort for it to be truly (that is ontologically) considered a duty or an imperative that all should follow. If this is what we truly think is “good”, it needs a grounding in nature as such, not just a man’s opinion.

        Without this ontological grounding, we are just left with the form of evolutionary pragmaticism that Dr. Peterson is selling. This is whatever helps our survival is true. This is not real capital “T” truth, though. It is a form of consequentialism; whatever gives us the outcomes that we desire is what we should do. Sam Harris was right to hit Dr. Peterson hard on this, as just because something aids our survival does nothing to show if it is objectively or morally true. You still run into the “how to derive an ought from an is” problem. Also, what if what I desire is not what you desire? How do we determine what is “true”?

        Worse yet, as Haley was pointing out, making ourselves better people is not the point of the Christian message. When Haley mentioned Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD, see Rod Dreher for more on this), Haley is pointing out that Peterson is trying to say one of two things. One is that the point of leading a “good” life is an end in it of itself. Again, under a pragmatic framework such that Peterson subscribes to, there is no imperative other than consequences to aim at a good life. Consequences do not bridge the is/ought gap, though.

        The second problem is more problematic to Christians. This is that even if you believe in God, under an MTD view of morality and theology, you will think that by simply doing your best, God will accept you for your efforts. This is completely anithetical to the Christian message. The gospel message is that we are unable to do anything to earn favor with God, and this is because basically everything we do is tainted with sin. I believe this makes perfect sense, as you can imagine that God, as the ground of all being, is perfect and holy in every way. Now imagine standing before God at the end of your life, in the presence of pure perfection and holiness, and trying to justify all things that you did in your life. It is a ridiculous thought that we could do anything to earn favor with a being that is perfect, holy, and knows everything (that is all of our true motivations and desires – the secrets in our heart).

        The Christian message is that since we are all sinners and unable to stand in the presence of God due to our sinful natures, God decided to fix it for us. He entered the world in the person of Jesus, fulfilled the law perfectly on our behalf, by leading a perfect life and dying on the cross at our hands. Neitzche was right, we did kill God! But this was all part of God’s plan. In fulfilling the law (leading an absolutely perfect life in every way), Christ won salvation over sin for all who do not reject Christ’s free gift of salvation. As you can see, Dr. Peterson’s message is nowhere in the ballpark even of the Gospel. In fact, by him teaching a message of MTD as described above, he is, in fact, pointing people away from Christianity.

        I certainly don’t mean to preach at you here, I am just curious if you have encountered much of historic, classical Christianity. Liberal theology infiltrated Christianity in and through the enlightenment era, and it is has been a message that has obfuscated the true gospel ever since.

        A few questions, then:
        Are you familiar with Lutheran Theology at all? There are so many variants of theology, and this is unfortunate as Lutherans truly believe that bible is not open to endless interpretation. We have a very specific hermeneutical tradition (rules for how to exegete or interpret text, derived from the text and language itself) and this has given us the full set of doctrine that we believe the Bible (and thus God) has communicated to us. Again, unfortunately, much of what you will learn in other Christian circles places human reason over the scriptures and comes up with a very skewed vision of Christianity. I think you may be surprised to learn the depth of what we confessional Lutherans believe God has communicated to us. If you haven’t learned anything about how Lutherans distinguish between “Law and Gospel”, especially, I suggest digging into it a bit.

        Have you read any of the authors of the philosophical tradition in classical theism? Augustine? Aquinas? If you have a philosophically oriented mind, I highly suggest looking into Aristotelian-Thomism (A-T) as you will find that the Christian philosophical tradition is extremely rich, and has excellent answers for any philosophical objection that I have ever come across. Furthermore, I have yet to see anyone deliver compelling arguments to these often overlooked classical theism arguments for God and Christianity. You could do none better than to read anything by Dr. Edward Feser in this realm. His books The Last Superstition
        and Aquinas: A Beginners Guide are great introductions to A-T. His newest book Five Proofs of the Existence of God I believe will become a classic in the genre and will be argued by philosophers for many generations to come.

        I can tell that you genuinely appear to be searching for truth, and this is why Peterson’s message likely is resonating with you too. I, myself, have been on a serious search for truth after going through an atheistic/agnostic period a few years ago. My journey surprised me by ending up in the classical theist tradition (historic Christianity). This is just where the truth lead me, though, so I followed. I hope that you will continue to stay open in your search for truth. If you haven’t been exposed to classical theism, before, give it a look and see what you think. I bet it may surprise you.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • VG Reese

        January 31, 2018 at 4:51 pm

        Hi Chris,

        So, I had typed out over the last 45 minutes or so a reply. I’ve always scoffed internally when people have said that their laptop crashed just before they had a chance to submit something. That actually just happened to me. We’ll take it as a test for my resolve to actually reply to you in detail. Regardless, I am less upset than I would have expected to be.

        I’ve decided to make a blog post out of this since if I am forced to create this again. I might as well get more mileage out of it. That isn’t to say that anyone but me cares about my blog. I do tend to read back through my entries and see if I still agree with them. That is not true with comments. Also, please excuse any serious typos. I don’t have the energy to proof read this after spending an hour typing this the second time. This is as far down as I got in my proof reading and decided to quit. 🙂

        About Me
        I’ll give you some personal background to start with. I had a best friend who was a missionary of some kind. I didn’t really understand what he said his denomination was since it didn’t matter to me at the time. My family was Lutheran and my mother is a second generation immigrant from Germany. My long time girlfriend was a Catholic.

        The friend was the one who would bring up the topic of religion, where my mom and girlfriend never would. I spent a good amount of time reading different articles or writings that he thought were relevant. I also read chunks of the bible during this time to competently argue with him. He was truly worried about me and was a good friend. He spent many hours going over things with me, but there was something missing at the bottom of the pile. I did not have the default understanding of there being a higher power. I also lacked the ability to see the process of eliminating other possibilities as proving Gods existence.

        Of the people who insisted on engaging me on religion, only this good friend came out of it without some kind of damage. The damage either happened to the relationship between us or their understanding of religion. It wasn’t my intention. I assumed they knew something I did not. That never proved to be true.

        Jordan Peterson
        The problem for me with messaging about Christianity has always been it presumes that I believe in God. The messaging doesn’t work if I must see God as a possibility or a likelihood. Even things that don’t presume God as a possibility presume that I am searching for it and just don’t know it yet. Dr. Peterson doesn’t present things with any such presumption. He looks at the psychological meaning of the stories and it allows me to see what others might see in them. Since he doesn’t have them stand on their own, they illustrate his broader message and are extremely interesting to me.

        Dr. Peterson’s Ethics
        I can summarize Jordan Peterson’s ethical philosophy as I see it pretty simply. Suffering exists. It is very obvious that everyone understands suffering. There are things that provably reduce suffering that you can do personally. You can choose to do them or not, but why the hell wouldn’t you reduce suffering within yourself? Further, the more meaning humans find in life the less they suffer. We can find meaning in doing things that directly or indirectly reduce suffering in others. Without meaning, we suffer in an intrinsic way we can’t fix. Why the hell wouldn’t you do something that gives you meaning?

        The rest of his philosophy on how to reduce suffering in yourself is about chaos and order. He sees this as being internal and external. To find meaning, you have to walk along the border of chaos and order. My favorite example of his is a home. If someone is in complete chaos and there is nothing but diapers and cat urine all over a house, it is disgusting. If you go into a home that is perfect, the order overwhelms and you are uncomfortable as well. The right mix is between chaos and order.

        This philosophy requires no externalities at its base. He ties it down with religion to illustrate that the writers of the bible understood these concepts long before it made sense for them to.

        If you don’t fear a God (me and maybe Peterson) or realize that the people you are talking to may not believe in God (Peterson) you don’t take the religious aspect any further.

        Truth
        As for truth under Peterson’s conception, it is a personal truth. You must determine what is true for you. People’s conceptions of what is true don’t have to line up, but it is useful if they do. That is how we form a productive society. We agree on important truths. If the majority of people are Christian, it is in society’s interest to accommodate their truth with our own. If this truth harms us personally, we can reject the parts that do. America is a Christian society. Being a part of that society doesn’t require a belief in God. I can say this with experience.

        If you want to work productively with people, you need a common ground. Propositions don’t cross the is/ought barrier, which is why I think they are very useful. You can make the determination on your own. If you choose the non-productive option, good luck to you.

        Truth for Society
        It is people like you who define what is true for society. An individual can follow whatever truth they like. Without your philosophy and understanding of the world, I suspect society would get pretty bad pretty quickly. Most humans naturally try to conform to the group. I am the opposite. My nature is to fight against the group. I am just as required, since I will sound the alarm when the path is wrong. My truth is just as important to society. I also shouldn’t expect others to let me misbehave in public because I see the world differently than them. That’s where we seem to be going wrong right now. We are trying to change society to an optimal one for those with aberrant behavior. That is backwards.

        Nietzsche says in Beyond Good and Evil section 228:

        I hope to be forgiven for discovering that all moral philosophy hitherto has been tedious and has belonged to the soporific appliances—and that “virtue,” in my opinion, has been MORE injured by the TEDIOUSNESS of its advocates than by anything else; at the same time, however, I would not wish to overlook their general usefulness. It is desirable that as few people as possible should reflect upon morals, and consequently it is very desirable that morals should not some day become interesting!

        That seems about right. We all play our part.

        Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
        I disagree with the idea that consequences don’t bridge the is/ought gap. As a free person, you can do whatever you want but there may be consequences. In fact, there almost always will be some kind of consequences. It is for you to determine if those consequences are what you want. There is no ought in that. If you want to kill a whole lot of people, there are consequences if society is constructed usefully. Society should determine the morals, and Christian morals are useful and appear good. You can follow them as a Christian or a pragmatist. I don’t want to live in a society that loses that moral compass.

        Further, the idea that being a good person isn’t enough for God doesn’t work for me. My goal in life has always been to avoid suffering. Lying and saying I believe in God seems useless to me. That applies to lying outwardly to others and lying inwardly to myself. It would cause me great suffering, and I have to assume God would know I was lying. Either God has created a system I can’t defeat or does not exist. Regardless, there is nothing I can do about it. I don’t say that lightly.

        Killing God isn’t a good thing. Society as we know it relies on God. We can mimic being Christians only for so long. Those who have no moral compass and no God will destroy society as time progresses. I believe we are seeing the start of that.

        Lutheranism
        I don’t believe that the Book of Concord explained away the contradictions in the biblical message well enough for me. I think to explain away those contradictions requires something akin to Antonin Scalia‘s originalist interpretation of the law. There is bias no matter how you try to look at it. Even if you accept the idea that the scriptures contain everything needed, the idea that you can understand them well enough to use them on themselves seems self contradictory. I won’t argue this better than others have before me.

        Aquinas
        The argument I am familiar with from Aquinas is that of the unmoved mover. It is a proof from elimination. The problem with those kinds of proof is that they are unverifiable. I have the same criticism of things like the big bang. They are unverifiable and require faith. Unfortunately, it is something I am lacking.

        Summary
        I’ve started reading more religious literature since I no longer am upset at the mere mention of God. I can even accept that someone believes in God. My most recent author was Kierkegaard because I know that Peterson likes his writing. I also read the Brothers Karamazov. I’ll take a look at Aquinas and Augustine and see what I can glean from there. I am working on finishing Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, which I can finally read without becoming enraged at all the references to God.

        It is important for me to understand other people. I am still missing something with how people get from where I am to being a Christian. It isn’t that I haven’t tried to bridge the gap, it is that I feel like I am on another planet from them. Dr. Peterson has made it so I can visit that other planet without gasping for air and feeling rage as I am assaulted from all sides. I don’t think I am normal in my thinking. I am certainly a counter example to Dr. Peterson causing harm to someone’s religious beliefs, though.

        Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me. I truly hope I am wrong about God and I can find something that proves it to me. Even if that doesn’t happen, Dr. Peterson has helped me. I can say the same about you and this conversation with everyone.

         
  4. Nathan A. Rinne

    January 31, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    Hey all — looks like I’ve missed a bunch here. Look forward to reading the above. Thanks for talking here, and I hope the conversations have been helpful to everyone.

    +Nathan

     
  5. Folly of the Cross

    January 31, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    This is great, VG Reese. Thank you for taking the time to respond, and this helps give me a much better idea of where you are coming from. I am so sorry to hear about losing your work. I have been there before! My suggestion would be to get a good clipboard manager, and then always just hit copy all every so often so you can go back into your clipboard history and get what you lost. This has saved me so many times!

    First off, let’s not get bogged down in the minutiae of the grounding of ethics and morality right now. I still think you are explaining a relativistic framework for morality (though it is a very well thought out and argued system). I do not see anywhere that we have made progress on my original idea that Peterson’s evolutionary pragmatism cannot give a metaphysical basis for turning an “is” (the consequences of certain actions) into “oughts” (making said actions truly good or bad, not just an opinion based on preferred consequences). I think we understand each other, it just seems that you may not think that we need objective morality in the first place, and I obviously think we do. Needless to say, I still disagree with your assessment here, but it is not nearly as important as some others things you have brought up, so let’s just set this aside for now.

    As I mentioned before, I too went through a period of unbelief. I truly was compelled by the objections to theism for a while, primarily through arguments related to the problem of evil. I am very thankful that one day realized that I never really put nearly as much effort into trying to understand theism, and specifically Christianity, as I had been trying to find reasons to not believe in it. I then started the journey that I am on now and made it a point to always try and study the best arguments for and against any issue.

    Side note – this is one of my favorite things about Thomas Aquinas. If you read the Summa Theologica, you will see that he always deals with every objection that he knows of against his stance before he even lays out his own case. Furthermore, he will “steel man” his opponents positions, often stating them in a much more coherent and tough to deal with manner than the original interlocutor may have stated his case. This, for me, is the only way to go after the truth. There is no topic that is off limits. I just want to believe what is true and I am willing to follow my questions and the resulting truth wherever it leads.

    Here is where I have now landed after 3 years of intense study into my theological questions. I hope you find these thoughts useful as I think they address many of the topics you brought up.

    It really boils down to two main points. 1. There is a very strong empirical case that Jesus was a historical person and is who He claimed to be (God). 2. There is very strong philosophical proof that God must exist, and this makes the idea of number 1 being true so much more believable.

    Now to try and briefly elucidate on both points. This is going to be challenging 😃

    Empirical Evidence

    There is external, empirical evidence for God. It is not philosophical consistent for people to just dismiss this evidence outright because they presuppose that God couldn’t work supernatural feats (miracles). I am not accusing you of this, but this is honestly the reason people usually cite for not taking Christianity seriously or believing Jesus rose from the dead. Dr. Peterson even is a good example of just not being able to believe that resurrection actually physically happened, despite the fact he finds so much other “truth” in it.

    Of course, the best bit of external evidence we have for God, then, is the Bible itself. There is a strong inductive case to be made that the Bible is reliable. There are many resources for this, and I have yet to see any compelling arguments against the Bible being historically reliable. I won’t take the time to go through them all here, but please let me know if this is one of your larger issues and then we can explore this further.

    If the Bible is historically reliable, we really need to grapple with what it claims. This is because through the Bible we then have historical evidence that Jesus really existed, claimed to be God, performed many miracles culminating in His rising from the dead, which confirmed that He is who He said He is. Again, I don’t expect this part to be easy to believe, but if you truly study the available evidence (and I am sure that you have to some degree) it shouldn’t be something that you can easily rule out. I think the evidence is much in favor of this all being an accurate representation of what really took place in history, than any alternative I have come across.

    Here, I imagine, then becomes the largest stumbling block for most people. We don’t see Jesus here right and now. We don’t see miracles happen every day, so it is incredibly hard to believe that it could happen. Again, ruling out miracles prima facie just is not being philosophically consistent.

    Philosophical Proof of God

    One reason I think people often make the mistake of ruling out miracles is they just don’t have a good conception of what/who Christians believe God is. This is another thing that I quickly found out as I studied theism more. To put it bluntly, most people’s conception of God is just too small. Christians do not believe in a Zeus like figure in the sky or an anthropomorphized version of a superhuman who intercedes in history every once in a while. The study of God quickly showed me how mistaken I had been about who God is and it showed me how coherent (and I now believe necessary) the idea of God as the ground of all being actually is. When you study classical theism and specifically its idea of divine simplicity, there are specific attributes of God that necessarily flow out of the conception of God being pure actuality itself; that is to say the ground of all being, perfect, and not containing any potentials. (If you are not familiar with classical theism, and especially Thomism, some of these words will likely not make any sense. Just keep them as placeholders for now, and please consider the few resources I will point you to at the end that will help make sense of them.) Of course, I cannot possibly go into all these details for this here, but this again is just meant to illustrate what convinced me that thinking that God couldn’t have done exactly what is recorded in the Bible, due to a presupposition against miracles, is a very naive philosophical position to hold to. Again, I am not saying this is your position, I am just laying out my thinking here.

    The problem with those kinds of proof is that they are unverifiable. I have the same criticism of things like the big bang. They are unverifiable and require faith. Unfortunately, it is something I am lacking.

    You mentioned that you typically don’t want to regard the prime-mover type arguments as persuasive because you don’t believe they can be verified (I assume you mean by empirical methods). My first response to this would be that I hope you don’t hold to a hard view of logical positivism (scientism), or the idea that the only things we can take to be true are things that are verifiable empirically. Hopefully, you already know that this statement of scientism itself is self-refuting as you can’t prove that its true by empirical methods. In other words, it is a philosophical claim that is being made, not a scientific one. Also, there are many things that we can’t verify, but we all take to be true anyways. The idea that the universe didn’t just pop into existence 5 minutes ago, including all of our memories of a false older universe, is completely unverifiable. Solipsism is also completely irrefutable by empirical means. We claim knowledge all the time without being able to empirically test it.

    I think it is especially important to realize here, that deductive knowledge, the knowledge that philosophy usually makes use of takes a place higher up in the hierarchy of knowledge than does inductive or empirical knowledge (scientific). This is just the nature of logic and reasoning.

    Scientism aside, I truly believe that the proofs for God’s existence that many of the classical theist philosophers have put forth in ages past have never been refuted. The unfortunate truth here is that most people do not study these arguments anymore. These are not the cosmological, moral or intelligent design arguments that you so often hear about. There are many reasons for this, one such being that during the enlightenment era philosophy turned to epistemology more and all but disregarded the study of ontology. Another reason for this was that the primary stance on metaphysics at the time before the enlightenment era was what is called moderate realism (Aristotelian or Neoplatonic realism). Aristotelian-Thomism (A-T), especially was one of the leading forms of these types of realism before the enlightenment. During the enlightenment era, many people started to believe that science had shown that A-T’s scientific claims (specifically Aristotelian cosmology) to be wrong, so they disregarded all its philosophical ideas including its metaphysics. The problem here is, that while it certainly is true that A-T philosophers held to a mistaken Aristotelian view of physics (e.g. the idea of spheres in space), this did nothing to show the underlying principles of their metaphysics was incorrect. It is called “meta” physics because it precedes the laws of physics. It is what grounds the laws of physics. Here too, I would argue that like morality, there simply is no way to ground the fundamental laws that govern nature unless you stop the chain of seeking for a deeper explanation of said laws in a primary, purely actual being (the metaphysical claim of the necessity of God). Let me be clear here that God is not an exception to the rule that everything needs an explanation of its existence. God is the conclusion of this argument. This is a very deep philosophical argument and I would point you to Edward Feser’s new book Five Proofs of the Existence of God for all the details on this (especially Chapter Five on the Principle of Sufficient Reason).

    This would take way to long for me to flesh out here, but I honestly implore you to dig in further to some of the ideas of A-T: act/potency, 4 causes, essence/existence, the analogy of being, etc. The book The Last Superstition by Edward Feser that I recommend in my previous post does a great job of explaining all this. Dr. Feser explains how not only did modern science not disprove A-T metaphysics, modern science is impossible without it! I cannot understate how important this conclusion is.

    Two quick common misunderstandings that people make when approaching these classical theistic arguments for God. One is that since A-T claims that everything that is actualized needs a cause, the natural next question is then “what caused God”? As I stated above, this has never been an issue for A-T. A-T has always viewed God as the purely actual being at the end of the chain that gives everything else its being. Without this end of the chain, nothing could have being as everything that is actual (exists) derives it actuality (existence) from something else. It also isn’t helpful to say that the universe could be this ground of all being itself because the universe itself is contingent. There is nothing necessary about it (and again there are many more points to be made here but I will simply point you to any A-T resources for answers on this one).

    The second common misconception is that the prime mover argument (and similar variants) is making the claim that universe needs a beginning. The objection then goes, who is to say that the universe can’t have always just existed. Why can’t it be infinite? Aquinas actually agreed that, in theory, the universe could be infinite and that you can’t philosophically prove it isn’t. His “Prime Mover” argument was not about a temporal series of causes (a linear series going back in time) but a hierarchal series of causes, here and now. This is like trying to explain all the causes of me sitting here typing on my computer right now, leading up the chain of causes (as far as we know right now) to the laws of physics; i.e. gravity and other fundamental forces that hold everything in place. The problem is that this hierarchical series cannot go on in an infinite regress. If everything is actualized by something else, including these laws of nature, you need to terminate in something that does not need to be actualized because it is pure actuality itself, or nothing would ever be actualized (exist) here and now. The laws of nature cannot explain themselves because they too are contingent and not purely actual (that is to say the laws of nature could have potentially been other than they are). This is true at each and every instant. Again, God is the conclusion of this argument as the only being that does not contain any potentials and is thus pure actuality itself. God gives everything existence.

    This is a ton to digest, and I didn’t even go into any details on any of these points. Please do let me know if you have any specific questions or are interested in learning more about classical theism. Even in Christian circles today, I believe part of the problem we face with modern disbelief is that we have disregarded classical theism for far too long. For a lot of Christians, Christianity is all about the subjective experience and emotional responses which have even lead to the infiltration of postmodernism in the church (especially in liberal theologies). This is simply not compatible with historic Christianity.

    This leads me to one final point on Jordan Peterson. Please don’t feel like he is presenting a novel way to make Christianity relevant to our modern culture. His message is the same message that liberal theologians have been making for the past few hundred years. I would argue that Peterson strikes a nerve with people who sense there is a deeper truth to reality and it is ok to look for it and even claim parts of it. Unfortunately, Peterson’s theological message is just a rehashing of many of the same arguments that have obscured the rich philosophy that would make Christianity much more appealing to certain people. This intellectual version of Christianity is making a comeback, though, as I think postmodernism was the spark that is reigniting the flame classical Christian theism.

    In summary, I truly think there is an objective nature to reality, that we can trust our experience of it, and that reality only makes sense if it is grounded in a perfect being. I also truly believe that this perfect being revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

    Please consider reading up more on A-T, then. Edward Feser’s books The Last Superstition,Aquinas: Beginners Guide, and Five Proofs of the existence of God are great introductions to this. His blog is an absolute gold mine on singular topics with many years worth of posts to sift through: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/

    Also, if I am way off in my assessment, and you have completely different hang-ups to Christianity, please let me know as I will see if I can offer anything more specific. I greatly appreciate the chance to discuss theology and philosophy with people, as it seems far too rare to meet people that are willing to engage in these topics who truly just want to learn from each other. We are all just seeking after truth, so I appreciate the chance to work towards it with you.

    God’s peace,
    Chris

     
    • VG Reese

      February 1, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      Hi Chris,

      I’ll be trying to keep this a bit shorter in some parts. I am not equipped to delve into the topics at hand to the level that you are, which means I just need to go read. I have some surface level objections, but I know you are skipping the meat and going straight to dessert for brevity here. I’m going to address the portion about Dr. Peterson, because I think we are more likely to see eye to eye here. I started reading about Thomas Aquinas yesterday and plan to look further into everything for the next week or two at least.

      Ethics and Dr. Peterson
      My ethics are relative on some level. Dr. Peterson’s ethics have the potential to make a Christian’s absolute ethics relative. I can see that is where the problem is for the posters here, and have not really addressed that. I look at Dr. Peterson less as a philosopher or religious speaker and more as a psychologist who uses those as his base.

      For someone who is non-secular, ethics are basically impossible without either making a logical mistake or taking your queues from someone else. The goal you choose is arbitrary and universal ethical systems without religion always have a failing, as far as I can tell.

      The thing that is unique to Dr. Peterson for me has been him being completely genuine, starting with philosophy and emotion, going into psychology and research, and then following it all up with religion and how Christianity got to these insanely complex places. These places shouldn’t be reachable by man. Much less man 2000+ years ago, without all the thought that has occurred and been written down.

      Christians as the Hero
      He doesn’t directly say this in every case, but most lectures he says something along the lines of “how did they bloody figure this out?!”

      He makes no attempt to cross is/ought with his lectures or book. At least not directly. He merely states that you have a choice. Hell (suffering) or meaning. He lays out the case that humans know what suffering is. He then lays out the case that we don’t know what meaning is. The next step is to say that there are things that provably give us meaning. It is up to you to decide if you want to creep towards hell or find meaning after knowing this. Alternatively, you can think he is wrong.

      Who is the Message for
      The message from Dr. Peterson isn’t intended for people who have meaning. He directly states that. The people he is talking to are mainly those who are struggling with nihilism or are suffering in other ways.

      Again, I think the issue for Christians who are well read, intelligent, and thoughtful people is that Dr. Peterson isn’t going to take people to where they are. For some of Dr. Peterson’s audience, it has the potential to have them take a step backwards from where those thoughtful Christians would want them to be. His message sets a baseline for his audience though. I’d also say that it has the potential for Christians who profess belief but don’t know why to become proud of their legacy and research it.

      The current message in the mass media is that Christians are the villain. I can’t think of a single popular show where a Christian who professes their belief in the least bit of a strong way is the hero. They are always the villain. That is what the mass audiences expect and have become accustomed to. Dr. Peterson makes Christians the hero.

      Quick Responses and Questions
      * I don’t reject miracles as such. I just don’t find them internally convincing at all. I can’t really change my reaction to things. I assume I am being lied to, there is another explanation, or it is hard to deduce the whole bible from a single thing I can’t explain. 🙂

      * I am fine with the idea of the bible being accurate as far as broad elements of history.

      * I’m not ready to make a jump from broad historical elements to anywhere else. As you said, this will be the major stumbling block for this line of reasoning. If the Romans had written something about miracles or the like, it would be a strong line of reasoning for me.

      * I am saying that you can’t get to the idea of the unmoved mover from inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning alone leads you to multiple possible conclusions, from what I have seen. Because of this, I find it unprovable. Neither deductive reasoning or inductive reasoning solve the problem for me.

      * Solipsism is one of my favorite things to ask people about who are building a house of logic. The house seems less real when you realize it is floating in space by itself. 🙂

      * I think ontology doesn’t have practical applications that are direct enough for the people who would decide on what education should consist of. Someone who studies ontology may not make a good factory worker or office drone. At least, not directly.

      * Metaphysics etymology is interesting. Your definition is similar to saying AD means “after death.” https://www.etymonline.com/word/metaphysics

      * I am not convinced that the laws of physics need to be grounded in anything. For me, that is like comparing and contrasting the rules of football and basketball. They have their own rules because they have their own rules. I’ll look into Dr. Feser’s argument and see where that takes me.

      * The idea that the universe just is and had no beginning hits the same problem for me as the idea we are living in a simulation. Effectively, the argument for God is the same as the argument we are living in a simulation for me.

      * A blog can be whatever you want it to be. For me, I used to write because I was trying to persuade people. I realized that isn’t really possible in the venue of a blog. What you are doing is accessing something they are already ready for. People won’t even click on my writing if they think they will disagree with it unless it is to find minutia to reject. That includes close friends or those who seem reasonable. If I weren’t already primed to have been looking for this (I always have been) I would not be in this conversation with you.

      ** On that note, write the blog for yourself. If people want to read it, that is great. If they don’t, it is how you organize your thoughts and you can show people who you are in conversation with an organized, written record of what you believe or thought. I’ll channel Dr. Peterson here when I say that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

      ** You could spend 30 minutes taking edited versions of these posts and put them up on your blog. And then based on my responses you could write a blog entry and just link it to me. There is no reason to hold yourself to a level of perfection that you can’t achieve. If writing makes you happy or helps you, just do it. (my unsolicited advice.)

      ** The level of writing you are doing here would be important for someone who is patient and searching for meaning after listening to too many of Dr. Peterson’s lectures. 🙂 Directly addressing things with information for a specific audience is very valuable and the true experts pushing knowledge and understanding won’t have the time to cover all of those niches.

      * I struggle less with the idea of sin and salvation and more on the idea of free will in regards to logic. I lack the free will to choose to believe in God. I have the free will to pursue the information to lead me to that belief. There would be some question on if I am truly exercising free will, since I am primed to understand all arguments and people.

      Thanks for taking the time to write everything here. I think more people are ready for this message today than they have been. On this note, do you have any idea if anyone has grappled with Sam Harris or the like with these ideas? I don’t really follow Sam Harris, but I feel like he recently was made to look a little silly by Ben Shapiro. I enjoy cleaning my house, cooking, and playing my video games while listening to podcasts / audio books, and would be very interested if you are aware of anything that fits the high level topic we are covering.

       
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 1, 2018 at 4:59 pm

        This may be a duplicate post – Sorry, Nathan. I always have trouble with hyperlinks and getting my post to take, so I took them out and am retrying. You should be able to find them with quick google searches of my descriptions.

        VG Reese,

        Thanks yet again for the reply. I have many thoughts in reaction to your points but want to digest it a bit more before diving too far into a response.

        In the meantime, I would very much like to answer your last question, as there are many great resources on classical theism out there. Obviously, by now you can guess that I would recommend anything by Dr. Edward Feser. I just don’t think there is a shaper person out there when it comes to neo-scholasticism (A-T). He has a few very good lectures on YouTube that you can easily find.

        Fr. Thomas Joseph White and David S. Oderberg also do come to mind too, though.

        There are some great podcasts (I also love getting information this way) that I would recommend to dive into classical theism philosophy more.

        Podcasts:

        Pints With Aquinas – this is a fabulous new podcast that goes through short topics in Aquinas’s philosophy. It is extremely well done, and the host Matt Fradd is very good about talking about these high-level concepts at a lay level.

        Please, please, please at least check out this episode (2 parts) with Dr. Edward Feser (PWA – Feser Episode 79 and 80) as in it Dr. Feser talks about how Richard Dawkins completely misunderstands the arguments for God that Aquinas is making. It covers many of the things that I mention in my previous post about common misconceptions of Aquinas and his arguments for God.

        Word on Fire – This is Bishop Robert Baron’s podcast. Bishop Baron is very fluent in Thomistic philosophy and has a knack for explaining it to lay audiences as well. This particular 2 part episode has Bishop Baron dissecting a Crash Course philosophy video from YouTube that completely misunderstands Aquinas’s arguments as well. See a pattern here? Word on Fire Episode 96 and 97

        The Thomistic Institue – This is a deep dive, so be warned! This group has a huge and ever-growing set of lectures from the leading Thomistic philosophers that they give at workshops and symposiums. These lectures are usually not at a lay level, but if you want to get to the “real meat”, this is a good place to look. Thomistic Institue Lectures

        I am sure there are many other good resources out there, but these few should get you a big jump start on what classical theism teaches.

        I actually enjoy listening to Sam Harris from time to time myself. He is extremely intelligent, and as you said, is great with analogies. I do not know of any specific podcast, video, what have you, where a Thomist has dealt with Harris specifically. Edward Feser’s book The Last Superstition is probably as close as you will get, as that book was Dr. Feser’s response to the New Atheists in general. If my memory serves right, I do believe that he calls out Harris in particular in a few spots (I think on his system of ethics or free will).

        The unfortunate truth is, though, that many of the New Atheists (with the exception of Richard Dawkins failed attempt) do not even approach Aquinas and classical theism metaphysics. This goes back to my working theory that these arguments have never been refuted. The few people in history who have tried have usually gone after strawmen version of the arguments (Hume, Russell, and Dawkins) without touching the real arguments themselves.

        Again, it is unfortunate that classical theism has been mostly obscured by the modern world (and there are a ton of reasons for this), as it has caused much of the world to not be familiar in the least with what I believe are the strongest philosophical reasons for believing in God. I commend you for taking the time to dive in a bit more. Hopefully, it may change your mind a bit on the importance of metaphysics and ontology as we all carry assumptions in these areas though many of us just aren’t aware of them. I certainly wasn’t until I started learning about it just a couple years ago!

        More hopefully to come.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • VG Reese

        February 2, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        Chris,

        Thanks, that’s exactly what I was hoping you would have handy. I’ll start diving in this weekend. I am in the middle of reading about critical theory, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and Locke, but want to make getting at least partway into what you’ve linked here before too much time passes.

        I am on a sabbatical from work (I was in IT sales and quit the position I had) that may be cut short by a good opportunity to start a business with a former colleague, so I might rush into it a bit more than I normally would.

        I keep track of the conversations on WordPress, so we can continue down the line here. Otherwise, you could give me a preferred way of reaching out in a week or two. I have a contact form on my site that would keep that info private, if you wanted.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 5, 2018 at 4:25 am

        VG Reese-

        It sounds like you are grappling with the utility of metaphysics in general. I can certainly relate, as when I was first encountering A-T it all sounded like a bunch gobbledegook. Honestly, one of the hardest things to do is to simply become acquainted with the technical jargon of the system. The thing is that even though A-T may seem at first as if it is just a giant tautology, especially with their concepts of the distinctions in act/potency and essence/existence, it is deriving its system through observing the things around us in nature – specifically beings (that is to say things that exist) and how they change. In this sense, it actually is a deductive system built up from induction, through studying nature. This is the reason that many A-T philosophers have argued that A-T is truly a science in its own right.

        After studying more into A-T metaphysics and comparing the first principles it is built up from against the first principles of other philosophical systems, I have come to realize that all worldviews are tautologies – that is to say systems that try to be self-consistent in describing existence given the limitations of our knowledge as subjects contained within it. The best I believe we can do and hope for, then, is to compare these tautologies (models of reality) against the world we observe around us and see which ones explain it the best.

        Where is the utility in studying metaphysics then? I think it is easy to see the utility in Peterson’s evolutionary ethics, as it gives people meaning and reason to be moral, especially as you pointed out it gives meaning to those who tend towards nihilism. This certainly could help stave off more of the atrocities we saw in the 20th century as the result of bad state-driven philosophical worldviews. For many people just having a reason to be moral is enough. For others, though, they may keep prodding down to the level of first principles, and there they may find that Peterson’s form of evolutionary pragmatism is nothing more than a “noble lie” to encourage group survival (as is my estimation, at least).

        Earlier this week, Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson were both the just on The Rubin Report, and Shapiro called him out on exactly this. At one point, Shapiro says that while he and Peterson both argue for objective morality in the face of postmodern relativism, Shapiro grounds his system in the perfect being God and he is unsure where Peterson can ground his system. Again, I totally understand the sentiment of just wanting to use something because it works (thus the word pragmatism, right?), but if we look down to the level of first principles, I feel that, like Shapiro is hinting at, Peterson’s system of morality is not grounded in anything and is just floating in air.

        I also get this sense from your comment about not needing to ground the laws of physics.

        I am not convinced that the laws of physics need to be grounded in anything. For me, that is like comparing and contrasting the rules of football and basketball.

        I have always been attracted to learning about cosmology. As such, I have become fairly acquainted with many different physicist’s attempts at a theory of everything or attempts at explaining the universe’s origins (cosmogony). I usually find that in this realm, physicists have to make use of philosophy, often without realizing it, and they usually do a very poor job of it making many logical fallacies.

        One physicist that I really have come to appreciate more than others is Sean Carroll. Though he is a staunch Atheist, I have found that Carroll is a bit more philosophically literate than the average physicist (e.g. Lawerence Krauss or Niel DeGrasse Tyson). When Carroll gets pressed on his philosophical grounding for his naturalistic materialism, though, he too will start to disregard philosophy (especially the principle of sufficient reason) as he often says that he thinks the fundamentals of nature are themselves just brute facts. One example of this is to be found in his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast.

        Studying A-T metaphysics showed me that God is not just a brute fact as Carroll posits for explaining the universe. In fact, when you become more acquainted with the classical theism arguments for God, you will see that what Carroll is claiming is actually a logical fallacy (specifically the taxi-cab fallacy, where you require a level of explanation for everything but then make an exception for the laws of nature). As Dr. Feser would put it, it is liking building a shelf and then trying to hang it in thin air.

        A-T metaphysics has a lot to say in this realm and is one of the reasons that I have found so much utility in studying it. Hence, I do hope that you find some utility in metaphysics and start to see that not only is it useful in building up a teleological view of morality, but it is also useful in grounding all knowledge in a perfect being whose existence is the conclusion of many different arguments from the A-T metaphysics system.

        I will certainly be interested to hear what you think of A-T as you get time to digest some of the basics more. Especially how Thomists move from observing change in nature to the necessity of a purely actual being that actualizes everything else and gives existence to everything else. From this premise is where all of the concepts of teleology is grounded (the same teleology that even the ancient Greeks saw in nature) and from which the teleological view of morality is built up from.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • VG Reese

        February 8, 2018 at 1:21 pm

        I’d say without a belief in God, everything is “hanging in air” as you said. That includes the computers and systems we use to write these comments. I don’t take that as a very strong argument against something. It proves too much.

        It’s basically the root of the difference of opinion we’re always going to have. Science by definition can’t find the root of everything. There is no way to falsify things that happened in the past. Even further, there is no way to falsify things that can’t be measured.

        I do reject metaphysics in general as not very useful for me. I find them interesting sometimes and they help in spotting logical fallacies and sophistry. Beyond that, we haven’t advanced far past Descartes and Kant and I don’t think we can. It is just the limit of reasoning.

        I reject ontology for the most part because it discusses things that cannot be falsified. Once I looked at something like the brain in the vat or the idea of being in a simulation, it becomes clear that using reason itself proves nothing in ontology. Since I can’t disprove many options, all options are just as valid.

        I also have a problem with the Thomist conception of God in general. The proofs of God don’t seem to require a sentient God. I think the ideas of the ignostics become relevant here. Further in Aquinas’ writing, there is attribution of a slightly more anthromorphic God, specifically in regards to the beatific vision from how I understood it. There seems to be a bridge crossed several times that I don’t think was actually well built.

        Thanks for responding, as always. I am trying to get at the root of what is being discussed, and think I am closer to doing that.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 5, 2018 at 4:56 am

        VG Reese-

        I struggle less with the idea of sin and salvation and more on the idea of free will in regards to logic. I lack the free will to choose to believe in God. I have the free will to pursue the information to lead me to that belief. There would be some question on if I am truly exercising free will, since I am primed to understand all arguments and people.

        As I don’t know your exact level of familiarity with Christian theology, I don’t know if you are aware of how profound of a theological question you are raising here. For Lutherans, you have just touched on one of the things that separate us from basically all other Christian denominations, and one of the cornerstones of our traditions.

        To some, this question of man’s free will toward God will make the gospel even more offensive, as Lutherans also believe there is no free will in coming to have faith in God. We believe that coming to faith in God is an entirely passive process on the part of the person and is entirely an act (a gift) of God. In this sense, then, God chooses who will have faith, not the person themselves.

        Now, just to clarify, we do not take what would be called a double predestinarian stance (a view that a lot of Calvinists hold) and think that God also chooses who does not have faith, thus damning people to hell without any choice in the matter (hard determinism/fatalism). Lutherans are single predestinarians, in that we believe God gives certain people saving faith, and the rest He for some reason lets freely reject the gospel (the potentially offensive part).

        In this sense, Lutherans are the middle way between those who hold to hard determinism (Hyper-Calvinism) and those who believe in a pure libertarian free will when it comes to choosing to have faith (Arminians, such as Methodists).

        Lutherans believe this about free will because this is what the Bible teaches. Lutherans have a very strict hermeneutical tradition. We only make church doctrine out of what we can confirm in the Bible. Others denominations don’t believe in this version of single predestination because they come up with philosophical objections to what the Bible teaches, thus placing reason above revelation. Lutherans believe that when it comes to revelation from God, our reason must always be ministerial to God’s revelation (in our present case, the Bible). For Lutherans, this is what we speak of when we talk of the magisterial vs. the ministerial use of reason.

        I believe this actually makes logical sense. If God is real (that is to say the perfect being as described in classical theism) anything that God reveals to us must be truth itself. Even if it is hard for us to believe or understand, if it is revealed to us by God, it is true. Lutherans believe that we can and should use reason, but we should always check what we think we know against scriptures. The Bible, therefore, norms all of our knowledge.

        This was something that took me a bit of time to work through, but again I now believe it makes sense. God wants all to be saved (John 3:16). God truly does offer everyone a free choice to accept the gift of salvation that Jesus won with His atoning death on the cross. However, as result of original sin, God knows that no one (truly, no one) would ever freely choose God over our sin. This is because our desire to sin is just too great (we call this concupiscence). Thankfully, God intervenes and gives some people faith.

        Why does He choose some and not others? We don’t know because we don’t know God’s full plan. The apostle Paul called this seeing through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). This is such a famous question that Lutherans have termed it the crux theologorum. Luther called this the hidden vs. revealed God. In the Bible, the classic example is the Book of Job. As finite beings, we are not meant to know everything. If we did know everything we ourselves would be God.

        I bring this up to just let you know that there are many different conceptions of free will in Christianity (though, of course, I believe only the Lutheran view is biblical). It sounds like you may actually have realized on your own, what Lutherans too believe about free will. What may surprise you as it did for me, then, is this is the same thing that the Bible teaches about free will when it comes to having faith in God.

        This is a very deep topic and long debated in Christianity, but it is also extremely important. It is so important that many in Lutherans circles will say that it is what is at the heart of the dispute that caused the Reformation. This is something that comes out especially in Martin Luther’s famous work The Bondage of the Will.

        So, if you weren’t already familiar, I hope this helps point you in the direction of some strains of thought when it comes to free will and Christianity. Please don’t think this leads to fatalism. Remember that Lutherans do believe that free will exists, we just believe that our will is so bound to sin that no one would ever freely choose God without His help. We also believe that God gives people faith through external means. God gives us faith through his preached word (and Lutherans also believe God gives us faith through baptism and the Eucharist). This is why we share our faith.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • VG Reese

        February 8, 2018 at 1:26 pm

        I’ve spent some time reading about grace. It seems to me I have been selected to spend eternity in Hell, which is my original problem with Christianity. Being told I am going to suffer eternally due to my sloth makes me cranky.

        I now understand that I can’t eliminate Christianity. I also see Christianity’s utility. So my interest in pursuing a change here doesn’t really exist any longer. To me, this is all fine. The topic is easy enough to avoid, normally.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 8, 2018 at 3:33 pm

        VG Reese-

        I think you are very perceptive and able to get down the crux of the matter very quickly.

        It’s basically the root of the difference of opinion we’re always going to have. Science by definition can’t find the root of everything. There is no way to falsify things that happened in the past. Even further, there is no way to falsify things that can’t be measured.
        I do reject metaphysics in general as not very useful for me. I find them interesting sometimes and they help in spotting logical fallacies and sophistry. Beyond that, we haven’t advanced far past Descartes and Kant and I don’t think we can. It is just the limit of reasoning.

        Reading Aquinas is great in his own right, but if you are looking for reactions to the objections of the enlightenment thinkers, you, of course, will need to read the authors that came after them. Descartes and Kant are exactly what modern neoscholastic philosopher (A-T) have spent much time reacting to and trying to correct their the errors of the enlightenment thinkers first principles. Feser’s blog is a great place to start to look for answers to individual questions and he also will often point you to the good resources for further research on certain topics.

        Here is one link from Edward Feser’s blog that will point to a few quick critiques of Kant link. Again, you will see that Feser references his own book The Last Superstition for a deeper look at his own critique of Kant’s metaphysics and epistemology.

        For a deep dive (and I mean very deep) you can do none better than Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange has a book God, His Existence and Nature: A Thomistic Solution of Certain Agnostic Antinomies (1914). In this book, Garrigou-Lagrange helps build up the first principles of A-T while contrasting them against other modern agnostics and also Kant in particular.

        I reject ontology for the most part because it discusses things that cannot be falsified. Once I looked at something like the brain in the vat or the idea of being in a simulation, it becomes clear that using reason itself proves nothing in ontology. Since I can’t disprove many options, all options are just as valid.

        The objections you mention (brain in vat or simulation hypothesis) I do not believe serve as adequate objections to the arguments for God in the A-T traditions. This is because your objections would still be prone to needing the same explanations that the arguments for God are trying to give. This is what grounds any and all being, whatever form it may be (even if it is a simulation, whatever the simulation is running in is prone to the same metaphysical questions and I believe logically necessary conclusions of A-T arguments for God). Again, this is why it is called “meta” physics, because it precedes, supersedes, what have you, physical explanations from science. It is meant to be the highest level up of abstraction that we can do in studying and thinking about existence.

        This is a huge topic, but really Descartes started the divorce between the mind and reality (mind-body dualism) and, in a sense, Kant made us even more skeptical of our minds. This all really stems from an older debate over the nature of universals; between nominalists and realists. If you are interested in studying what A-T people would say is the root cause of all modern philosophical conclusion, nominalism (especially as a result of William of Ockham) is where you need to look. Feser on Ockham and Nominalism

        Again, modern neoscholastic (A-T) philosophers have responded plenty Descartes and Kant. I think they have done so very adequately, but again, most people are not aware of any of this, because most people do not study ontology much and A-T anymore. They just think the questions raised by Descartes and Kant have no solutions.

        I also have a problem with the Thomist conception of God in general. The proofs of God don’t seem to require a sentient God. I think the ideas of the ignostics become relevant here. Further in Aquinas’ writing, there is attribution of a slightly more anthromorphic God, specifically in regards to the beatific vision from how I understood it. There seems to be a bridge crossed several times that I don’t think was actually well built.

        The interesting thing to me was, that if a purely actual being is necessary (which at this point I don’t see how it can be avoided), this being must have the attributes of God. These attributes too are logical conclusions that I just cannot see how they can be avoided. These “attributes”, along with all the others are only in an analogical sense, though. The A-T concept of analogy of being is extremely important to their philosophy. So while we must say God is a mind of sorts and has a will, at the same time, it is not exactly in a univocal way to how we have these attributes or properties. (side note – we use analogical language in science all the time too if you think of how we often explain the world of particle physics and especially quantum physics.) If you look up “Feser classical theism” you will see a very good post that he gives serving as a primer on the subject. In his newest book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, in Chapter 6, he gives a much fuller defense and explanation of the necessity of these attributes of God.

        Thanks again for the thoughts. I would especially like to hear your reaction to Feser if you get time to read any of his books.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 8, 2018 at 3:34 pm

        VG Reese-

        I think you are very perceptive and able to get down the crux of the matter very quickly.

        It’s basically the root of the difference of opinion we’re always going to have. Science by definition can’t find the root of everything. There is no way to falsify things that happened in the past. Even further, there is no way to falsify things that can’t be measured.
        I do reject metaphysics in general as not very useful for me. I find them interesting sometimes and they help in spotting logical fallacies and sophistry. Beyond that, we haven’t advanced far past Descartes and Kant and I don’t think we can. It is just the limit of reasoning.

        Reading Aquinas is great in his own right, but if you are looking for reactions to the objections of the enlightenment thinkers, you, of course, will need to read the authors that came after them. Descartes and Kant are exactly what modern neoscholastic philosopher (A-T) have spent much time reacting to and trying to correct their the errors of the enlightenment thinkers first principles. Feser’s blog is a great place to start to look for answers to individual questions and he also will often point you to the good resources for further research on certain topics.

        Here is one link from Edward Feser’s blog that will point to a few quick critiques of Kant link. Again, you will see that Feser references his own book The Last Superstition for a deeper look at his own critique of Kant’s metaphysics and epistemology.

        For a deep dive (and I mean very deep) you can do none better than Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange has a book God, His Existence and Nature: A Thomistic Solution of Certain Agnostic Antinomies (1914). In this book, Garrigou-Lagrange helps build up the first principles of A-T while contrasting them against other modern agnostics and also Kant in particular.

        I reject ontology for the most part because it discusses things that cannot be falsified. Once I looked at something like the brain in the vat or the idea of being in a simulation, it becomes clear that using reason itself proves nothing in ontology. Since I can’t disprove many options, all options are just as valid.

        The objections you mention (brain in vat or simulation hypothesis) I do not believe serve as adequate objections to the arguments for God in the A-T traditions. This is because your objections would still be prone to needing the same explanations that the arguments for God are trying to give. This is what grounds any and all being, whatever form it may be (even if it is a simulation, whatever the simulation is running in is prone to the same metaphysical questions and I believe logically necessary conclusions of A-T arguments for God). Again, this is why it is called “meta” physics, because it precedes, supersedes, what have you, physical explanations from science. It is meant to be the highest level up of abstraction that we can do in studying and thinking about existence.

        This is a huge topic, but really Descartes started the divorce between the mind and reality (mind-body dualism) and, in a sense, Kant made us even more skeptical of our minds. This all really stems from an older debate over the nature of universals; between nominalists and realists. If you are interested in studying what A-T people would say is the root cause of all modern philosophical conclusion, nominalism (especially as a result of William of Ockham) is where you need to look. Look up “Feser razor boy” for a good post on Ockham and Nominalism.

        Again, modern neoscholastic (A-T) philosophers have responded plenty Descartes and Kant. I think they have done so very adequately, but again, most people are not aware of any of this, because most people do not study ontology much and A-T anymore. They just think the questions raised by Descartes and Kant have no solutions.

        I also have a problem with the Thomist conception of God in general. The proofs of God don’t seem to require a sentient God. I think the ideas of the ignostics become relevant here. Further in Aquinas’ writing, there is attribution of a slightly more anthromorphic God, specifically in regards to the beatific vision from how I understood it. There seems to be a bridge crossed several times that I don’t think was actually well built.

        The interesting thing to me was, that if a purely actual being is necessary (which at this point I don’t see how it can be avoided), this being must have the attributes of God. These attributes too are logical conclusions that I just cannot see how they can be avoided. These “attributes”, along with all the others are only in an analogical sense, though. The A-T concept of analogy of being is extremely important to their philosophy. So while we must say God is a mind of sorts and has a will, at the same time, it is not exactly in a univocal way to how we have these attributes or properties. (side note – we use analogical language in science all the time too if you think of how we often explain the world of particle physics and especially quantum physics.) If you look up “Feser classical theism” you will see a very good post that he gives serving as a primer on the subject. In his newest book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, in Chapter 6, he gives a much fuller defense and explanation of the necessity of these attributes of God.

        Thanks again for the thoughts. I would especially like to hear your reaction to Feser if you get time to read any of his books.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 9, 2018 at 3:44 am

        VG Reese-

        How about this for timing! Sean Carroll (the physicist I mentioned in a previous post that posits brute facts) just released a philosophy paper on Arxiv titled Why Is There Something, Rather Than Nothing? where he tries to lay out a philosophical argument for brute facts. You should definitely check this out!

        From what I have sensed from your positions as stated elsewhere on in this comment string, I imagine that you will largely agree with Carroll’s positions throughout the paper. For me, too, this paper demonstrates exactly my point and what we have been discussing above. Most people do not know about A-T, do not study ontology enough, and do not interact with what I believe are the best arguments for God while dismissing God.

        I really wish that someone out there who is defending scientific naturalism would interact directly with A-T. Remember I pointed out that Aquinas would always try to find the best objections to his positions and even “steel man” his interlocutor’s positions – present them in their strongest form possible. I firmly believe this is the fastest and best way to grow and learn as an individual and is the only way to move towards truth. This paper demonstrates my belief perfectly that modern skeptics do not interact with the strongest philosophical arguments for God and also straw man their interlocutor’s positions. In most cases, I imagine this is not intentional, they probably just don’t know any better. It is just another sad sign that classical theism has been unrightfully disregarded by the modern milieu of science and philosophy. It is no wonder, then, why there is more skepticism now than there ever used be. If you went back a few hundred years, you would be hard-pressed to find a true agnostic or atheist as they would have been seen as irrational, now theists are often seen as being irrational and are moving towards becoming the minority.

        I must say that I greatly appreciate Carroll attempting this, though. I truly do. It shows that he cares enough to realize that science is built upon the foundation of philosophy. He also realizes that scientific naturalism faces very tough philosophical hurdles.

        This paper also shows that he doesn’t understand classical theism in the least, though. He doesn’t interact with any of A-T’s best objections, and instead, he just refutes straw men against Aristotle and Leibniz and points out things that don’t matter.

        I won’t take the time to go through point by point what I think is wrong with this paper here. I will likely do something like this for one of my first blog posts on my forthcoming Folly of the Cross blog. (I just finished building it and anticipate on starting to post things in the coming days. I truly appreciate your advice and encouragement to do so!). Here are just a few of the high points, though.

        At multiple points, Carroll denies the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). It is incoherent to deny things like the PSR and simply assert brute facts. It is a case of sawing off the branch you are perched on because science depends on PSR being true. Otherwise, we couldn’t trust any experimental results because literally, anything could happen if PSR is false. We would have no reason to even trust reason itself.

        Edward Feser was recently on the Unbelievable podcast with Arif Ahmed and they both got heavily into the topic of PSR. To me, this perfectly demonstrates the incoherence of scientific naturalism. It is, again, the taxi cab fallacy to say we are going to use the uniformity of the laws of nature in studying causes and effects in nature (or as Carroll, a la Hume, in even trying to deny causation says symmetries and patterns), but then to say that there doesn’t have to be any reason for these laws or for why the universe is the way it is. Carroll points out that our universe doesn’t have to be the way it is, though. This means it is contingent and not necessary. Why is it the way it is, then? Brute, contingent facts are incoherent. Materialistic naturalism makes use of logic and PSR all the way up to an ultimate explanation, and then they say PSR might not be true and jump out of the cab and posit contingent brute facts.

        This is absurd to me because naturalists will then say that there is no evidence for God, not realizing that the PSR and prime mover arguments (that is arguments for a purely actual actualizer of existence – the thing that causes all change and does not change itself) point to the necessity of God. To avoid this conclusion some naturalists are willing to be utterly philosophically inconsistent and saw off the branch they are perched on by denying PSR. Again, I think that it is likely that most naturalists just are not familiar with A-T. It is not their fault per se, it is rather an accident of history that classical theism has been disregarded for so long.

        The few times I do see a naturalist interact with classical theism they get all twisted up in logical knots like Arif Ahmed did when they are confronted by it. If you are willing to deny causality and the PSR, to me you have made a serious misstep in your reasoning for there would be no reason to ever trust our reason. It is predicated on the PSR being true.

        See Della Rocca on PSR from Edward Feser’s blog for more on the A-T perspective of PSR.

        I hope that you do get the chance to read for yourself from some of the modern neoscholastics authors and interact with all the reasons they think God is necessary, PSR is necessary, and why the scientific enterprise doesn’t even make sense without A-T metaphysics ultimately being grounded in a perfect being. You seem like a very reasonable person. I would be very interested to hear your reaction to these A-T concepts, then. Even if you ultimately disregard A-T and metaphysics, I would still like to hear what are the reasonable reasons you chose to do so, for I don’t believe I have ever heard a good reason to yet.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • VG Reese

        February 9, 2018 at 1:38 pm

        I tend to simplify things. The cosmological argument can be seen as an argument for physics not applying at the start of the expansion of the universe. There are a handful of plausible theories as to what happened during that time. None are more likely than the others, in my view. The descriptions I have seen of the religious argument don’t lead you to a sentient God, and just as well can lead you to science.

        Going from those cosmological arguments to any arguments in favor of Christianity or a sentient god in general all break down for me. They either require special pleading or faith.

        Because of these two things along with the fact that none of it can be tested or falsified, I find it personally completely unconvincing. I don’t believe we have a good understanding of the universe at all. With theories about dark matter and with the existence of black holes and quantum mechanics being complete mysteries in many ways it is clear to me that we are at the edge of our understanding to even rationally explain everything on the earth as we can discover.

        I don’t have the expectation that we’ll ever have a theory of everything in physics. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. I don’t think that is required for a practical understanding of the world that I need to interact with. I never think about the start of the world or how “everything” works.

        The Thomist philosophy seems to be based on an older understanding of the world. It is one where the universe is one “thing.” I don’t think that is correct. The universe is a vacuum of nothingness. Matter is what we consider to be the “universe” normally. The question is, is the matter in the universe or the vacuum what we refer to when we say everything or universe?

        Motion is all relative. If there is only one thing in the vacuum, by definition it cannot move. Once a second thing exists, movement is relative to the two things. Things naturally move towards each other, we observe this as gravity. It is very unclear what would happen if all matter came together at one point. There is no way to know where that matter came from or what rules apply to that point. Further, we don’t understand gravity at all without something like dark matter.

        It is very clear, with our observations of gravity, that at some point the matter in the universe will stop expanding. All stars will die. Once that happens, the matter in the universe will come together. We don’t know what will happen when that occurs. We will be dead billions or trillions of years before that occurs. It isn’t a question I see as needing an answer.

        All of that happens without the concept of God. It may be wrong. I don’t really care either way. Practically, it has no impact on me or the next 100 generations of my children.

        I could not lay out a cogent argument for getting from the big bang to the Christian God. With the big bang theory and our understanding of the universe, I don’t see a need for a God that makes everything “move.” Thus, I don’t see a need for a deity. One may exist, but there is a logical way to see the world that doesn’t involve one.

        Ockham’s Razor says to select the answer with the fewest assumptions. I suspect this is why you would select Thomism. Here’s my theory of how earth exists.

        * Matter collapsed into a single point.
        * We don’t understand what happens when matter is this condensed, but evidence shows that galaxies are moving outwards from “something” in the same direction.
        * We’ll infer that a massive force repelled all matter away from this point.
        * That massive force was something we can’t understand.
        * The galaxy and earth are the result of matter being attracted to other matter.
        * The laws of physics as we understand them are just how we understand the world.
        * The world we know just “is.”

        Here’s the Thomist version

        * Nothing existed, and the deity created it.
        * The deity sent everything hurtling in the same direction.
        * This deity continues to make everything move and animate it.
        * The world we know is created and controlled by this deity.

        However, I don’t think you can stop there. I think you need to add a huge number of steps. The following are the problems I see.

        * Showing this deity exists without infinite regress or special pleading.
        * Showing the old testament is accurate.
        * Showing the new testament is accurate.

        Once you include those, the “best guess” scientific view is much simpler than believing in the Christian God. It also has more we can observe to back it up.

        32% of the world’s population are Christian. It is a minority viewpoint. It becomes a majority viewpoint if you count all monotheistic religions together, but that calls into doubt 2 of the problems above with the old and new testament. Further, the groups that are recognized as Christian are so varied that many believe large portions of those followers will be suffering eternally due to their lack of grace and errors.

        It isn’t the idea that a deity is a simpler explanation for the start of the universe that is the challenge. It is getting from there to the bible that is the problem.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 9, 2018 at 1:01 pm

        VG Reese-

        I am not sure why the links work sometimes for me and others not. Here is the link again: https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.02231

        I also forgot to point out that Carroll makes the exact common mistakes that others (like Dawikins) make in trying to refute the arguments for God in the previous post with the podcast links. Carroll does so by saying that God is a brute fact just like he is posting for the universe. He also thinks the “if God made the universe who made God?” question has force against every argument for God. Both of these are elementary mistakes against A-T arguments for God.

        While a creator could explain the existence of our universe, we are left to explain the existence of a creator. In order to avoid explanatory regression, it is tempting to say that the creator explains its own existence, but then we can ask why the universe can’t do the same thing. Thus we are left to identify the creator as a necessary being, in contrast with the contingent nature of our universe. But as we have seen, the idea of a necessary being doesn’t really hold together; there just isn’t any such thing. p.14

        Carroll thinks that he somehow adequately demonstrated that necessary beings and the PSR are false concepts without providing any arguments for why we should believe him. The arrogance of his attacks on the cornerstones of logic is staggering! And, again, he did not spend even one bit of effort in arguing against A-T which are the exact arguments that show the weakness in all of his points.

        I have heard Feser say in a recent interview that he is making it his life mission to show people that the “who made God” question is a complete misunderstanding of classical theism’s arguments for God. I truly hope Feser responds to this paper in particular, then. I would be surprised if he doesn’t as he is usually pretty tuned into things like this.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
  6. Folly of the Cross

    February 1, 2018 at 4:19 am

    VG Reese – A few quick other thoughts on your very insightful and important comments here:

    Further, the idea that being a good person isn’t enough for God doesn’t work for me. My goal in life has always been to avoid suffering. Lying and saying I believe in God seems useless to me. That applies to lying outwardly to others and lying inwardly to myself. It would cause me great suffering, and I have to assume God would know I was lying. Either God has created a system I can’t defeat or does not exist. Regardless, there is nothing I can do about it. I don’t say that lightly.

    You have touched on some very deep theological points here. I certainly do not want to take anything you say lightly and I hope I can do even a small bit of justice to these sincere and profound questions you are grappling with.

    First, the gospel is offensive to those who don’t believe. I know because I used to find it offensive too! When Paul wrote the Corinthians he went as far to say that when the world looks at the cross it sees only foolishness; it thinks it is utterly absurd. But God, being beyond all human wisdom, chose what is foolish to the world to shame the wise and deliver salvation to those who simply will not reject it. This is why I have the screen name Folly of the Cross and still mean to turn it into my own blog someday (if only there were more time in the day!).

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God……27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God.

    What I would wish that I can convey to you effectively is that, as foolish as it may sound, what God did for us by dying on the cross is infinitely more than any amount of good deeds that any of us mere mortals could ever do. There is nothing for us to do to earn our own salvation, then, because it has already been fully done when Christ perfectly fulfilled the law (that is to say lived a completely sinless life, something that no mortal man had ever done or would ever do).

    Our very Lutheran identity resides in the idea that we are saved by our faith alone. Sure, we should strive to live a good life. This is what God created us for, to seek the good (fulfill our telos). There is not one person that has ever done this perfectly, though. The Bible also teaches us that our good works add nothing to our salvation because Jesus accomplished everything in our stead.

    Jesus is the most counterintuitive, but strangely logical answer (I believe), to how God could create a world with free creatures (having the ability to choose right and wrong) and still remain perfectly just by not destroying us all as punishment for our rebellion against him. Ultimately, this is what all sin really is. It comes in many forms, but it is always a rejection of God and His design for how he wants us to live (a denial of our telos). Because we all have chosen to reject God in our lives, God stepped in to do what we were unable to do ourselves. Yes, we all reject God, even Christians continue to sin every day and still should deserve punishment for these sins. On account of Jesus, though, God completely overlooks our sins. Every one of them. Without Jesus, God would have to punish us for our sins in order to remain perfectly just. Instead, He took our punishment upon Himself.

    This too really ties into classical theism and the attributes of God (specifically God’s benevolence and being perfectly just). I mention this because it can have a very deep philosophical component to it too if or when you may want to look at it more from that angle. The ideas of telos and natural law play heavily into the realm of atonement as well. Philosophy is not usually the hang up for people here, though. It is usually just though to get over the idea that you don’t need to try and justify yourself before God. In fact, you can’t. There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation. The “good news” of the gospel (or the foolishness depending on your perspective) is that God did all this for you and simply wants you to have His free gift of grace.

    Again, I don’t mean to just preach at you here. I am truly just trying to clear up what I believe are some misconceptions of Christianity. I hope this does a bit of help in shedding light on why Christians have hope in our salvation and God’s plan for creation. If not, blame the messenger (me) and not message!

    God’s peace,
    Chris

     
  7. Nathan A. Rinne

    February 1, 2018 at 5:47 pm

     
    • VG Reese

      February 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      Now you’re going to make me read about Gnosticism? 🙂

      I think I see a bit more of the link to history there. I’ll see if I can understand the stance on it a bit better. That’s definitely a good start on me understanding your reaction to things. As an outside observer, I am aware of the history only in the fact that the Gnostics weren’t much liked by early Christians. I’ll see if I can find the parallels and understand your point of view a bit better from that perspective.

      Thanks for the link!

       
  8. As It Is Written

    February 28, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    JORDAN PETERSON’S SOCIAL DARWINISM

    (1) “What I think about religion is VERY DARWINIAN. I think religion is an evolved–it’s evolved knowledge.”

    (2) “You can reduce religion to sort of DARWINIAN principles and sort of destroy it that way. Or, you can expand your notion of DARWINISM, so that it actually encompasses the genuine phenomena of religion.”

    (3) BRENT McKAY (interviewer): “As you were talking, it sounds like these narratives or these metanarratives or these archetypes, there’s sort of A DARWINIAN THING GOING ON. You talk a lot about SURVIVAL AND FAILURE and the stories that are useful for people to thrive in this world. Those are THE ONES THAT SURVIVED, and we still have them today because they are transcripts.”

    JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, I would say that that’s part of what I’ve added to the Jungian corpus of thinking, is I’ve tried to place the idea of the functional myth IN A DARWINIAN CONTEXT and take seriously the idea that our FUNDAMENTAL RELIGIOUS NARRATIVES which are associated with these great myths ARE ACTUALLY EVOLVED STRUCTURES, and they’ve evolved at multiple levels. First of all, they’re expressions of our physiological being, because we act in certain ways in the world as a consequence of the manner in which we’re constituted physiologically.
    Our physiological constitution is OBVIOUSLY A PRODUCT OF DARWINIAN PROCESSES, insofar as you buy the evolutional theory as a generative, as an account of the mechanism that generated us. Our physiology evolved, our behaviors evolved, and our accounts of those behaviors, both successful and unsuccessful, evolved. As those accounts evolved and we shared them, we also changed the landscape in which we were being selected. All of these things tangled together, but they tangled together in a way that embeds these great stories deeply within us, I would say BOTH PHYSIOLOGICALLY and PSYCHOLOGICALLY.
    Yeah, I THINK about it as a DEEPLY DARWINIAN PROCESS.”
    https://www.artofmanliness.com/2017/08/31/podcast-335-using-power-myths-live-flourishing-life/

    After spending many hours with Peterson’s videos, books and articles, I have concluded that his entire “system” can be boiled down to “Survival of the Fittest” as an ethical principle. Survival of the Fittest is the AXIOM or Biological law upon which everything else in his system is based.

    It is true that Peterson teaches some things that appear to contradict Survival of the Fittest as his ethical axiom. I propose two ways of viewing that.

    First, Peterson well realizes that openly promoting “Social Darwinism” will lead to him being delegitimized and ostracized, by both Liberals and Conservatives (nearly all Conservatives, except some Far Right/Alt Right people). So he consciously disguises his Social Darwinism, using, as fig leaves, concepts and terms from Christianity, Libertarianism, Heidegger, Hegel, Jung, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Piaget, etc.

    But there’s an old saying: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Peterson’s pig is this: a thoroughgoing application of Darwin’s theory to every area of human life. In academia, this goes by such names as: Evolutionary Psychology; Sociobiology; Human Ethology.

    Second, a part of Peterson’s “evolutionary pragmaticism” (a phrase I’m borrowing from the commenter above named “Folly of the Cross”) is the idea that survival justifies everything and anything. Therefore, Peterson’s use of concepts and terms from Christianity, Libertarianism, Individualism, Heidegger, Hegel, Jung, etc., to mask his Social Darwinism, is itself a part of the processes and dynamics of Biology (and we are Biology, according to Peterson).

    In other words, Peterson’s whole theory is that any religion is simply a “cover story” to enable Human Group A to compete more successfully against Human Groups B and C, thereby enabling Human Group A to gain more resources and thereby survive and reproduce, and thereby causing, eventually, Human Groups B and C to go extinct.

    Peterson is using Christianity as his preferred “cover story” because, like many Conservatives, Peterson’s reading of human history is that Western Civilization has evolved into the “fittest” human group, and he expects that it will ultimately dominate the planet and will cause the extinction of human groups that can’t or won’t adopt the values, traditions, and behaviors of Western Civilization.

    In this short (or short-ish!) comment, I know I haven’t provided enough evidence to “close the case” for readers here. But I believe the evidence is out there, to be seen, despite Peterson’s considerable efforts to obscure it.

    I encourage anyone engaging in “Jordan Peterson Studies” to keep an eye on the “Darwin Thread” that I believe that I have detected running through everything Peterson teaches.

    The advocacy of Darwinian Ethics is hard to spot, because it is usually dressed in an elaborate disguise. So, you must really have Darwin’s theory firmly in your mind.

    In this regard, I strongly encourage the reading of Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species,” especially the 5th or 6th editions, and especially these sections: Introduction; Chapter XIV: Recapitulation and Conclusion.

    And if nothing else, read the famous final paragraph of Darwin’s book. The final paragraph contains the famous phrase “There is grandeur in this view of life.” That final paragraph summarizes everything Peterson teaches, cherishes, and glorifies.

     
    • Folly of the Cross

      February 28, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      As It Is Written,

      These are very perceptive comments. I think as Peterson keeps reaching a wider audience, many in the “realist camps” are waking up to Peterson’s relativism.

      I think it will be very interesting to watch what happens to Peterson’s line of thought in the coming years. I don’t think his Darwinian view of the world had been challenged much before. Now recently, Peterson has run into tough conversations with Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, William Lane Craig, and Patrick Coffin. These are all people that are forcing Peterson to evaluate if his pragmatic interpretations of truth can hold up to intense scrutiny. They can’t.

      He is also being challenged on his psychological interpretations of the Bible. There are grains of truth in a lot of what he says. He is completely missing the fact that the Word of God has many different levels of meaning. He has caught on to some of the very complicated psychological components, but he is missing the obvious and most important part. The Bible is a historical record of God’s interaction with the world.

      I don’t believe that Peterson has had many interactions with people that can articulate a realist view of the world as well as some of the people he is now coming in contact with (especially Christians). The encouraging thing is that Peterson really seems to relish these conversations. You can really see him analyzing what people are telling him. He seems open to the idea that some of his complex archetypal analysis of Christianity might, in fact, have a completely historical component to them too. In
      the recent dialogue with Patrick Coffin , when asked specifically about the resurrection Peterson says just this: “sometimes the metaphysical, religious, and literal are all true at once.”

      I pray that he will keep evaluating the resurrection, and someday the Holy Spirit will break through to show him the truth.

      Right now, his entire system of thought (especially ethics) is hanging in the air. It is ultimately relativistic just like the postmodernism that he so eloquently speaks out against.

      God’s peace,
      Chris

       
      • As It Is Written

        February 28, 2018 at 8:41 pm

        (1) Folly of the Cross wrote this comment above: “The encouraging thing is that Peterson really seems to relish these conversations. You can really see him analyzing what people are telling him.”

        Yes, I see that too, but I interpret it differently. I believe that for Peterson absolutely everything is a Darwinian competition or struggle to get to the top of the “Dominance Hierarchy.”

        So, yes, Peterson relishes these debates, but he’s not there to learn, change his views, or acknowledge the validity of opposing views. He’s there to WIN and to be recognized by viewers as WINNING.

        Several times a day Peterson on Twitter posts a screenshot of a webpage showing his new book to be Number 1 or Number 2 on some bestseller list. Peterson and Trump are twin brothers.

        (2) Folly of the Cross wrote this comment above: “I pray that he will keep evaluating the resurrection, and someday the Holy Spirit will break through to show him the truth.”

        I pray that prayer too. I pray that for everyone.

        But given Peterson’s long history of deception (e.g., passing off his Logos as the Biblical Logos, as Nathan Rinne documents), don’t be surprised, if ever Peterson begins to be rejected by Christians, if he simply rephrases his teachings to better obscure his hatred of the “folly of the Cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

        Peterson is a master of high I.Q. doublespeak, in my opinion. Peterson is not an innocent, like some professorial Forrest Gump. He is not naive. He knows exactly what he’s doing, I believe. Neither Peterson nor Trump are stupid men.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        February 28, 2018 at 9:20 pm

        As It Is Written,

        Once again, very perceptive comments.

        I have heard enough Catholics, especially, say that Peterson sounds like a crypto-catholic to say it seems he may be a case of a person that is on the intellectual path to Christianity. Maybe in the vain of an Alasdair MacIntyre or C.S. Lewis, even.

        I have also seen enough atheists in YouTube comments that say they finally get Christianity to know that Peterson’s current message is not even in the ballpark of the gospel. They see the Bible as an evolutionary tool to organize a flourishing society. These are the people that are likely to use Peterson’s message as a tool in their perceived battle for western civilization right now. Or maybe, just to try and tame the “chaos” in their own lives.

        These are all empty solutions to the real problem of rejecting God.

        It is interesting to see Peterson strike a nerve with so many people. These are people (like me just a few years ago) that live their lives awash in a sea of relativism. They likely have never encountered ideas like Peterson’s and they are immediately struck by the idea that there may be objective truth in the world. We are taught the opposite at almost every turn today. These people are not likely to see the “doublespeak” that you rightly warn of.

        I don’t know Peterson’s true intent. His very well may have pernicious motivations. I must admit that I do take a more cautiously optimistic stance with Peterson’s relationship to God.

        Ultimately, God is sovereign over all. He is in control of choosing whom He chooses to have faith. I don’t think it is up to us give up on anyone. We need just continue to preach the truth and pray God’s will be done.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
    • VG Reese

      February 28, 2018 at 8:56 pm

      I am not sure I understand the premise here. Are you saying evolution isn’t a scientifically supported theory? I think it is pretty clear that you are correct on what Peterson is saying, but I don’t see where you said that it was inaccurate to say those things.

       
      • As It Is Written

        February 28, 2018 at 9:37 pm

        To VG Reese: In my first comment on this article, the three numbered points are quotations from Jordan Peterson. Perhaps I presented them in a way that made that unclear.

        VG Reese wrote above: “Are you saying evolution isn’t a scientifically supported theory? I think it is pretty clear that you are correct on what Peterson is saying, but I don’t see where you said that it was inaccurate to say those things.”

        My response: I’m NOT here arguing for or against Darwin’s theory. I just saying that Darwin’s theory is ALL that Peterson is teaching.

        What’s wrong with that? Aren’t there respected academics all over the world who apply Darwin’s theory to every aspect of human life and claim to have shown that Darwin’s theory is the best explanation for everything that humans do and think and feel? Yes. These academics practice in the fields known as Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, Human Ethology.

        My objection is this: That Peterson obscures and hides the fact that his entire teaching is nothing but Darwin’s theory applied to every aspect of human life.

        My objection is that Peterson uses concepts and terms from Christianity, the Bible, Libertarianism, Heidegger, Hegel, Jung, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Piaget, etc., to disguise what he’s actually teaching: Social Darwinism.

        For the sake of this discussion, I’m not even objecting to Social Darwinism or any form of Darwinism.

        It’s simply Peterson’s profound DECEPTIVENESS and intellectual DISHONESTY that I’m objecting to.

        This article, “Why Jordan Peterson’s New Book Doesn’t Work,” by Nathan Rinne, documents very well Peterson’s deception in trying to pass of his concept of “Logos” for the Biblical Logos.

        This is very much like the “sleight of hand” that stage magicians or pickpockets engage in. This sort of mass deception of people who aren’t equipped to recognize it makes me ANGRY.

        How can I be sure that Peterson is a deceiver, and not just incompetent or perhaps mentally disturbed? Don’t we all have a moral duty to assume good faith on the part of people we are dealing with? Yes, in general, we do have that duty.

        But when someone has tricked and deceived you and others over a long period of time, the presumption of good faith no longer applies.

        Peterson is a fraudster and a thief. He’s like a man using counterfeit bills.

        By quoting and pretending to interpret the Bible, and teaching falsehoods instead of what the Bible teaches, Peterson is stealing from people the change to hear the real Biblical Truth.

        The Bible says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

        I have spent many hours with Peterson, via his videos, books, and articles. I believe I’ve gotten to know the man. My judgment is not infallible.

        But given the great amount of Peterson quotes available, when a judgment about his character is built up from what he has actually said, I believe it is worth considering.

        Just because an intellectual or politician says to you over and over, “I am telling the truth!” and “I am a truthteller!” and “I love the truth!” and “My whole life is a fight for the truth!” (as Peterson and Trump both do, constantly and ostentatiously) doesn’t mean that anyone is duty bound to believe them.

        Peterson frequently expressed anger at people he calls “Marxists” and “Postmodernists.” He frequently accuses them of being deliberate deceivers. So, using Peterson’s own conduct as a standard, why shouldn’t we get angry at Peterson’s apparent deliberate deceptiveness?

        Peterson is beloved by many or some Biblical Christians. But Peterson’s “Survival of the Fittest” ethical theory actually makes impossible a faith in, or the practice of, Biblical Christianity. Peterson hides and obscures this from his followers.

        Peterson is beloved by many or some Libertarian Individualists. But Peterson’s “Survival of the Fittest” ethical theory actually makes impossible a faith in, or the practice of, Libertarian Individualism. Peterson hides and obscures this from his followers.

        If Peterson were just some typical Conservative pundit, like Rush Limbaugh, Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, etc., I wouldn’t be half as angry. But Peterson is trading on his 20- or 30-year career as a university professor of psychology to give credibility to his deceptions. And so, he’s committing the further deception of giving people a false and misleading example of how a true scholar teaches, thinks, and communicates.

        Well, I hope this comment was of some use to someone. If not, shame on me. Best wishes to all, and for those who can accept it, God bless you.

         
      • VG Reese

        March 1, 2018 at 12:54 pm

        Ah, I had forgotten that people would assume a rejection of evolution. Yes, Peterson is pragmatic (I don’t understand the rejection of pragmatism, either.) and looks at things through an evolutionary lens. It isn’t exactly hidden since he has said that he ascribes to those things on multiple occasions. He isn’t being deceptive since he has stated he is a pragmatist and a Darwinist.

        Obviously, a majority of people believe in evolution and that is why he has a large audience.

        http://www.pewforum.org/2013/12/30/publics-views-on-human-evolution/

        And since pragmatism is something that (I can’t find studies) a majority of Americans are fine with based on appearances, I’m guessing that is why he isn’t rejected on those grounds either.

        Thanks for helping me hash out where the disagreement is. I don’t think anything more needs to be said unless I missed something. I am not interested in exploring pragmatism or evolution here.

         
  9. Nathan A. Rinne

    February 28, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    As it is Written,

    “In other words, Peterson’s whole theory is that any religion is simply a “cover story” to enable Human Group A to compete more successfully against Human Groups B and C, thereby enabling Human Group A to gain more resources and thereby survive and reproduce, and thereby causing, eventually, Human Groups B and C to go extinct.”

    Why not a win-win for the moral Darwinist?

    +Nathan

     
    • As It Is Written

      February 28, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Nathan, I don’t see what you mean by “a win-win for the moral Darwinist.”

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 1, 2018 at 11:00 am

        AIIW,

        I mean this (from an old post):

        “Whatever someone’s philosophy, they are seeking what they call the “good life”, and they will attempt to state what this life entails as positively as they can. Finally however, examined negatively, this is actually an attempt to be able to live with themselves – to be content in the face of the questions of meaning that may haunt them…. To be able to find answers that they take some satisfaction in regarding their questions of life, death, guilt, etc…..

        And how do we get back to Darwin in all this? Unbelief leads to sin which leads to death which leads to fear which leads to an obsession – though knowledge of this is also suppressed – with survival. Still, the hard-core evolutionist looks to “bravely” face the “truth”: it is not only ideas in our minds which are selected for their survival value – not truth value – but everything. It is True that everything is about survival – particular truths being valuable only insofar as they aid survival…

        Surely, when matters are put this way, even some non-theist evolutionists will balk. That said, I wonder if any outrage they might feel can last. After all, thoughts of “selfish genes” aside, more “liberal” (i.e. idealistic, Romantic, historicist) evolutionists could – in complete harmony with what I have put forth above – also think about this in terms of the survival of love – of fighting to continue life not just for myself but for those I love! And maybe I really do feel like – and think – I am eager to love the whole world….

        And in the midst of all of this kind of thinking, I suggest that we can find many grains of truth. After all, as those created in the image of God, we certainly were made to love our neighbors. I would even posit that all communication, for example, exists primarily for the sake of love between persons, particularly the Creator and the crown of His creatures, man. Further, I would assert that the key purpose of communication, specifically but not limited to oral language, is that it enables us to share, intelligently navigate, pursue goals in, and enjoy the world and with other persons, present as well as past (i.e. remembering)…

        https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/how-darwin-helps-us-see-the-truth-life-is-about-helping-our-neighbor-survive/

        Mind you, I don’t believe in Darwinian evolution, but I hope you see what I am saying. The only question in my mind is whether it is the Marxist Darwinists or the Nietshian Darwinists that are worse. I don’t think any of them see what the endgame of this is: namely, fitness as truth (hawking another post of mine):

        https://reliablesourcessite.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/sola-commoditas-truth-is-fitness-alone/

        +Nathan

         
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 1, 2018 at 11:08 am

        AIIW,

        I don’t know if you can say what you say because Peterson may well suspect that God is directing everything, leading people’s beliefs to evolve towards him, etc. The fact of the matter is that Peterson is without excuse for not believing in God. The Bible says all know there is a Divine Mind responsible for the cosmos but suppress this truth. Peterson may be deceiving himself more than anyone, but we know that the Devil is the greatest deceiver here.

        BTW, regarding the post that you led with here: JORDAN PETERSON’S SOCIAL DARWINISM, feel free to post it again and again on relevant posts (like the one I posted yesterday to). You can also do it on the more prominent Just and Sinner blog, where I cross-post, if I’ve done one on Peterson there….

        +Nathan

         
  10. As It Is Written

    March 1, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I’M FOCUSING ON PETERSON’S USE OF DARWINISM AS A BASIS FOR ETHICS

    VG Reese wrote in a comment above: “He isn’t being deceptive since he has stated he is a pragmatist and a Darwinist.”

    Yes, that’s true. The deception that I see is this: Peterson claims that he is, and anyone can be, BOTH a Christian AND a believer in and practitioner of Darwinian “Survival of the Fittest” Ethics.

    Peterson KNOWS that real Biblical Christianity rules out and condemns Darwinian “Survival of the Fittest” Ethics.

    Peterson KNOWS that the ethics of Jesus Christ as found in Christian New Testament are centered on the concept and practice of “Agape.”

    Agape is a Greek word that, in the New Testament, means something like “undeserved kindness.”

    Agape is generally translated into English as “love,” but many people believe that is wildly misleading, given the various and conflicting connotations of the English word “love” in our present-day culture.

    Jesus Christ’s “Agape” involves a commandment to love the Most High God, and also a commandment to love, forgive, and have mercy on neighbors, strangers, sinners, and even ENEMIES. Yes, enemies! Ever hear Peterson talk about that?

    Jesus Christ’s core teaching on Agape as the basis of ethics is completely absent in Jordan Peterson’s “Christianity.”

    This is isn’t the only thing objectional and deceptive in the “Christianity” of Peterson and his followers.

    Nathan Rinne, in this present article, documents Peterson’s “bait and switch” regarding Jesus Christ’s teaching on Logos (another key Greek word in the New Testament).

    Now, some Christians do accept that human beings came into being through the biological processes described in Darwin’s theory. Other Christians reject this entirely or partly. But that’s not relevant to my point here.

    What I am objecting to here is NOT that Peterson accepts as true Darwin’s biological theory on the origin of the human being and other living beings.

    What I am objecting to here is Peterson’s claim to be a teacher of Christian Biblical ETHICS while actually teaching the Darwinian principle of Survival of the Fittest as the core ETHICAL principle by which human beings are forced by the “structure of life” (Peterson’s phrase) to live their lives.

    This is a classic “bait and switch” or “sleight of hand” maneuver, in my opinion.

    The belief that the Darwinian principle of Survival of the Fittest is the core ETHICAL principle, by which human beings are forced by Nature to live their lives, has sometimes gone by the name “Social Darwinism.”

    Lots of people, religious or non-religious, who DO believe in Darwin’s theory, nevertheless DENY that Survival of the Fittest must be the core ETHICAL principle by which human beings are forced by Nature to live their lives.

    “Social Darwinism” had obtained a bad reputation, especially following the immense violations of human rights carried out by a certain regime, based in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, that was very clearly partly motivated and inspired by Social Darwinist ideas.

    But I contend that the whole of Peterson’s lectures, writings and interviews indicates that Peterson is a committed Social Darwinist, though he’s taking great care to keep people from seeing this clearly.

    Charles Murray, author of the book “The Bell Curve,” is a figure who is very similar to Peterson, in that Murray, like Peterson, appears to be a Social Darwinism who denies being so, so as to avoid being socially delegitimized and ostracized.

    I also content that whole of Peterson’s popularity is due to him providing a religious-philosophical “cover story” which enables, empowers, and inspires men to give into their sinful desires to conquer, defeat, dominate, and in some cases exclude and destroy, other people. That’s the essence of what Social Darwinism is.

    So, I join with others who are working to expose Peterson’s phony religious-philosophical “cover story” for what it is.

    In doing this, we are simply imitating Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, the Prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist, and many others in the Bible who worked to expose the lies of the World.

    John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

    1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

     
    • VG Reese

      March 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      I don’t agree that Peterson has an ethical system based on Darwin. His ethical system is pragmatic. He doesn’t claim to be teaching ethics from the bible. He is teaching psychological stories from the bible. You can derive ethics from what is psychologically correct, but he doesn’t jump that gap himself.

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 2, 2018 at 1:39 pm

        What does pragmatism mean? “The cash value of an idea”, or, it works. It works for what? Survival. My point, seen above (March 1, 2018 at 11:00 am) is that even the drive to survive can be understood biblically, and even idealistic secular persons may very well want [earthly] survival for all (ideally), and not just those they truly desire to be found with, associate with.

        +Nathan

         
      • VG Reese

        March 3, 2018 at 5:14 pm

        Survival is the lowest form of a pragmatic idea, from my perspective. You are generally looking at falsifiability and fallibility. The reason Peterson prefers Christian ethics is because they have proved to be correct on a personal and societal level. That is pretty clear to me from his biblical lectures.

        As a pragmatic, you would look for things that prove you wrong. That is fallibility. You would also only look to spread things that have a use compared to something else. That is falsifiability.

        It’s fine that you are not the audience for Peterson’s message on this. If you are already convinced that Christianity is good, his message would have a lot less value for you. I am someone who had Christianity on a pretty terrible ethical judgement until Peterson went through the ideas and ethics within the bible. I assumed most Christians either completely ignored the bible or were truly monstrous people who, at their core, hated everyone in the world.

        Your fear is that Christians will see his message and take it as gospel over actual biblical scholars, it seems to me. There is definitely some truth to that for people who are only Christian in name, but I can’t imagine his message overtaking another one for someone who is actually learned on the subject. If you already have an understanding of the Christian ethical framework and aren’t nihilistic, Peterson may hold less value for you. I think that is clear.

         
  11. Folly of the Cross

    March 1, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    These are great insights As It Is Written. Thank you for sharing.

    The part that has been frustrating me the most with Peterson over the past few months is that most people do not realize that he practicing exactly what he is preaching against (postmodernism and Marxist Socialism). It’s relativism. As you say, it’s Social Darwinism.

    There definitely is a slight of hand here. I still do wonder if it is intentional on his part, or not. I think you make some very interesting points that show that it may be.

    Either way, Christians do need to continue to heed Jordan Peterson’s advice and “always speak the truth”. Now that Peterson is repeatedly starting to come into contact publicly with Christians and the truth, it will be interesting to see how he reacts.

    Anything that leads people away from the truth contained in scriptures, no matter how good it may be for living a “better life”, is ultimately a lie. These are fleeting distractions with eternal consequences.

    I hope all Christians are perceptive enough to see through the smokescreen that Peterson has created, and continue to preach the truth. Thank you to Nathan and yourself for doing your part!

     
    • As It Is Written

      March 1, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      THE BASIS OF PETERSON’S “OBJECTIVE” MORALITY: BIOLOGY

      Folly of the Cross: Forgive me, but I find that I somewhat disagree with you when you write that Peterson is teaching and practicing relativism. In a sense he clearly is teaching relativism, and the examples you point out are clear examples of this.

      Perhaps this all comes down to how one defines the terms “relativism” and “objective morality.”

      But in a sense, at a deeper level, Peterson’s “system” is (perhaps) saved from relativism by the fact that he grounds his ethics on evolutionary biology.

      In other words, Peterson believes that he has discovered and developed an ethical system based on the objective SCIENCE of biology.

      The key process, mechanism, or dynamic of Darwin’s theory is Natural Selection, which Darwin also began calling “Survival of the Fittest” in the later editions of his book “Origin of Species.

      For Darwin and for Peterson, Survival of the Fittest is a LAW OF BIOLOGY.

      As such, no one can really disobey it, avoid it, or transcend it. Thus, it is an “objective” basis for morality.

      Peterson uses the phrase “structure of reality” to mean this law of biology, and also some other laws that Darwin described (see the final paragraph of the 5th or 6th edition of “Origin of Species”).

      Peterson’s objection to Marxists and Postmodernists, and nearly all Progressives really, is that they refuse to base their ethics on the inviolable, “transcendent” Biological Law of Survival of the Fittest. Peterson believes that old adage, “You can’t fight Mother Nature.”

      Peterson is comfortable over in the political Conservative camp because, to a large degree, many or most Conservatives, consciously or unconsciously, do promote an ethics that is significantly similar to Survival of the Fittest. They deny this, and for sure some Conservatives, especially some of the Christian ones, hate and reject Social Darwinism (Darwinism-as-ethics).

      But I digress.

      Peterson believes that he has solved the problem that he thinks Biblical Christians could never really convincingly solve with their Divine Revelation, Theology, Philosophy: the problem of Objective Morality.

      Peterson holds the view, of many scientists, that Divine Revelation, Theology, Philosophy are lacking in credibility, and therefore lack authority and objectivity. He sees all religion as myths and storytelling, which are useful for certain purposes, but not for objective knowledge.

      Peterson believes he’s solved the problem of Objective Morality with the science of Biology, and, to be more specific, Evolutionary Biology.

      Martin Luther gave a famous speech that ended with him saying: “”Here I stand; I can do no other.” Peterson, in essence, also says “Here I stand; I can do no other,” but Peterson is standing on the “rock” of Biology rather than on the rock of the Word of God.

      But in doing this, Peterson had done nothing novel or original. Hundred or thousands of scholars before him have stated this same view, writing in the fields of Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, and Human Ethology. You can even go back to Herbert Spencer and find the same basic view.

      What is perhaps somewhat new or original in Peterson is that he’s used a mish-mash of German and Russian thinkers, from a hundred years or so ago, to convince people of the Big Lie that Darwinian ethics and Christian ethics are identical or compatible.

      But you of course realize that Darwinian ethics cannot be “objective” in the sense that someone like William Lane Craig uses the term “objective.” For Dr. Craig, “objective” morality is a morality that is eternal, true and right, and unchangeable, for all people in all times and places. For Dr. Craig, objective morality requires a God as its author and source.

      But, to play the devil’s advocate, Peterson thinks his Darwinian morality is objective because it is based on Biological Laws of Nature, which Peterson (and others) think are as natural and unchangeable as the Laws of Physics and Chemistry (gravity, speed of light, etc.)

      Peterson, like most scientists, has no explanation for where the Laws of Biology or the Law of Physics came from, but he doesn’t care. He sees such information as utterly useless and unnecessary for we humans living, struggling, and suffering on the earth today.

      But lest it seem that I am vindicating Peterson, let me say that I hate and reject Peterson’s “Survival of the Fittest” Ethics. I believe it is utterly untrue, from both scientific and Christian points of view, that human beings are forced by Biological Laws of Nature to act and think essentially or mainly like the lower animals, say, the lobsters, or the chimpanzees, or the alligators.

      Yes, we are creatures of flesh. Our bodies and brains are biological. There are limits to Social Progress. The Marxists are fools or monsters (but we didn’t need a Canadian psychology professor to tell us that).

      But we humans are more than biology, we are more than animals, and many scholars of greater accomplishments than Peterson have shown this very convincingly. (See, e.g., the book “Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, by Thomas Nagel)

      (Note: Perhaps I have misunderstood what Folly of the Cross was saying. Perhaps I am misunderstanding Peterson, too. I admit I’m kind of “winging it” here. By the way, I can take no credit for the view that Peterson’s “objective” morality is based on Evolutionary Biology. I got it from a comment written on this article: “The Curious Case of Jordan Peterson.” https://areomagazine.com/2017/09/17/the-curious-case-of-jordan-peterson/ )

       
      • Folly of the Cross

        March 1, 2018 at 9:03 pm

        No worries As It Is Written. I think you basically understand what I am saying, and I agree with you have said above.

        My use of the word relativism is shorthand for many arguments that I have made here and elsewhere. Sorry, I shouldn’t just assume that everyone will know what I mean by simply using this word, especially since it often seems Peterson is arguing for the opposite as he is a very harsh critic of postmodernism.

        One quick aside, contradiction seems to be a theme with Peterson. For example, in his biblical series lectures, he often is using the same techniques of deconstruction on the text of the Bible that he cries out against the postmodern theorists for in other areas of life.

        Back to the matter at hand. When I say that Peterson holds to a form of relativism, I mean in reference to what he holds to be true, ontologically speaking. I think there is only one objectively true perspective for everything in the world. If we were God, we would know what the truth claim is of any given proposition, and there could only be one for each proposition (law of excluded middle).

        Sure, Peterson has chosen an objective criterion to adjudicate truth (Social Darwinism), but he also does admit that there can be many multiple levels of truths and that that there can even be contradictions between them. This by definition is relativism. I can give a couple examples.

        Here is what Peterson said during his recent interaction with William Lane Craig:

        https://www.hashcut.com/e/xD34qY8

        Around 1 hour 17 minutes

        Peterson: “At that level of analysis, you have to start questioning your initial presumptions like the idea that the most true truth is objective. I am not sure that it is. I don’t think we understand what constitutes true very well. There is the truth that you act out and the truth that tells you what the world is made of. And those are not the same thing. Things get very murky at this level of abstraction.”

        Again, Peterson has an objective criterion that he has chosen, survivability (Social Darwinism). But, this criterion is just one choice among many options for truth. And this is according to Peterson’s own words.

        It is easy to demonstrate instances where a mistaken belief that could aide survivability. Alvin Plantinga has a well-known example of this in his evolutionary argument against naturalism:

        “Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. … Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it; but he also believes that the best way to pet it is to run away from it. … Clearly there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behaviour.”

        Peterson would say that truth is relative to survivability. If he is consistent with his pragmatism, he would have to say that it is true that the tiger is “large and friendly”. This is absurd, though. There is only one objective truth here. It turns out in this case that an incorrect belief aided survival. This does not make the false belief true.

        Here is another example from the now infamous Harris-Peterson dialogue part 1 on the Waking Up podcast. Harris is going to lay out a thought experiment where studying the small pox virus may create a strain that gets loose and kills every person. The truths about the smallpox virus are objectively true. Truth doesn’t change because everyone died.

        Around 43:00

        Harris: The reductio ad absurdum of the Darwinian conception of truth would be that If something got us all killed they weren’t true,

        Peterson: they weren’t true enough, I would say.

        Around 53:00

        Harris: No it doesn’t undermine it epistemologically, it undermines it as something you want in your life right? It undermines it in terms of its value to us as a species, if knowing what is true got you all killed, well then that would be a truth that wouldn’t be worth knowing, but it wouldn’t make it less true.

        Peterson: Okay, so that’s okay. So let’s imagine for a moment, I understand what you’re saying and I don’t see that there’s any logical problem with it, but I would say that we’re actually starting from different fundamental axioms. The fundamental axiom that I’m playing with is something that was basically expressed by Nietzsche and its a definition of truth. And so I would say if it doesn’t serve life, it’s not true. But what we’re arguing about…

        Harris: Jordan, I have to pull the brakes there. I agree morally, ethically, given my concern about the well being of humanity. I agree with that as a moral starting point. We want to know what is worth knowing, we don’t want to know everything, and we certainly don’t want to know truths that will get us all killed or make us all needlessly miserable…..

        Around 1:03:00

        Harris: …I think you’re simply deciding at the end of the day to say that any truths that led us down a path where we suffered unnecessarily or died weren’t true.

        Peterson: Right. You have to choose what you mean by true. You have to. And I’m not accepting the same definition of truth that you operate under because, and it’s partly because I believe that Darwin trumps Realism let’s say, I believe that Pragmatism trumps Realism.

        Harris: But even the truth of Darwinism is not anchored to a Darwinian conception, in your view, of truth is anchored to a realistic one. So Darwinism will not prove to be false if knowing about Darwinism get us all killed. That’s entailed in your claim. Darwinism would bite its own tail there and disappear.

        Just because something helps you survive, doesn’t make it true. Conversely, just because something kills you doesn’t mean it was false. Peterson genuinely argues survivability really makes things true.

        Ultimately, this covers his ideas of ethics and morality too. I think morality is an objective part of reality. Like William Lane Craig, I believe there is an objective standard to which we can compare human action against. It is not just relative to what aides survivability or what helps society flourish the most.

        Martin Luther gave a famous speech that ended with him saying: “”Here I stand; I can do no other.” Peterson, in essence, also says “Here I stand; I can do no other,” but Peterson is standing on the “rock” of Biology rather than on the rock of the Word of God.

        I agree that Peterson thinks he is standing on a rock with Darwinism and biology. When you look closer, though, you see that his rock is floating in the air. For me this is the rub, it is the fault of his entire system. William Lane Craig called him out for this in the clipped linked above. Ben Shapiro also did in their appearance on the Dave Rubin Show.

        Ontologically, I think that God is the only way to ground objective morality. This is one reason that I think the moral argument can be so persuasive. We all experience morality daily. It is a very deep argument, and I would immediately want to look at a teleological view of morality to fully flesh it out, but the basics concepts are easily grasped and experienced by everyone.

        The more I listen and review what Peterson has said, the more I see a person who is very confused on the most fundamental levels. I think his starting point of truth is what makes his entire project based on a form of relativism. This is what I was calling his evolutionary pragmatism.

        I hope this helps clear up some confusion.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • As It Is Written

        March 1, 2018 at 11:55 pm

        Yes, thank you. That filled in the blanks in my understanding in many ways.

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        March 1, 2018 at 9:06 pm

        As It Is Written – Random question. How did you embed your YouTube videos in your original comment like that? I didn’t know that you can do that and can’t figure it out.

         
  12. As It Is Written

    March 1, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Folly of the Cross: How did I embed those YouTube videos in my original comment? As a matter of fact, I was NOT intending to embed those videos. I was simply intending to provide the links for people to click on. I was surprised when the videos appeared there.

    I don’t know why it happened.

    As I recall, when posting that comment, I copied a comment that I had written earlier on another web site That earlier comment I had saved on a WordPad document, and saved it on my computer. Then I copied the comment from that WordPad document and pasted it onto this article.

    Maybe videos became embedded due to something relating to having copied this comment intact and as a whole from a WordPad document.

    In the past, when I simply paste in a weblink individually, it has not created the video embed.

    If you learn what the “trick” is, please advise.

     
  13. Nathan A. Rinne

    March 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    First of all, to both of you: thanks for having this conversation here. I think it is well worth promoting and will do so in the future (via Twitter).

    Let me be clear that I hate social Darwinism. I don’t think evolution is true at all. That said, we are in a fallen world which, yes, the Spirit of God begins to help us overcome. To defy what the world sees as gravity, so to speak. This is the answer to Steven Pinker: Any good you speak of in Enlightenment now has to do with Christianity and us being under its influence.

    Sorry – getting back to the fallen world, it is brutal. Red in tooth and claw as Tennyson said. Nasty, brutish and short, per Hobbes. We blithely dismiss their words at our peril. Nature is positively brutal. Its not just human beings.

    I think this must be acknowledged.

    As it is Written,

    Here is my issue. I do not doubt that Peterson is a committed social Darwinist, but he also embraces Jung and I believe that he really does think that God is real, and perhaps Jesus is a manifestation of the divine. That complicates things for a social Darwinist.

    “I also content that whole of Peterson’s popularity is due to him providing a religious-philosophical “cover story” which enables, empowers, and inspires men to give into their sinful desires to conquer, defeat, dominate, and in some cases exclude and destroy, other people.”

    And here is another issue. A man better have a desire to not only turn the other cheek when it comes to his own person for the sake of the Gospel, but he also needs to be ready to conquer, defeat, dominate, and in some cases exclude and destroy anyone who threatens his family. I know you don’t agree with that, but I do. I can love my enemy by not hating him but mourning for him as I take these necessary steps. This is simply just war theory.

    Not only this, but Christians as a whole, acting not on the basis of sinful desire, but the Holy Spirit, certainly do aim to” conquer, defeat, dominate, and in *all* cases exclude and destroy” false teaching which tempts us to sin. We should also destroy falsehood, which, ironically is something that I see some social Darwinists doing when it comes to their fighting leftism propaganda (for example, much of Murray’s and Pinker’s work is valuable).

    We are to be aggressive here. Luther believed Adam would have aggressively rejected Satan had he started with him and not Eve.

    If we don’t acknowledge this than Peterson carries the day with many Christians.

    +Nathan

     
    • As It Is Written

      March 2, 2018 at 7:07 pm

      Nathan A. Rinne, I found your March 2nd comment to be very interesting. Thank you. Best wishes, and God bless.

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm

        As it is Written,

        Hoping “interesting” does not mean “heretical” — I had a feeling though that it would be hard to swallow, given what I believe are your more pacifist sympathies (I had these once to, btw, reading more Hauwerwaus and Yoder and feeling much sympathy for the arguments…).

        +Nathan

         
    • VG Reese

      March 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      How much value do you put into the fact that someone like me went from being a militant atheist to someone who argues for Christian ethics? I have a circle of a few hundred people I know and influence along with attending meetups on topics that interest me. I may be getting some speaking engagements on a few topics from those meetups. I used to present to audiences in the hundreds for my work, and am quite comfortable influencing a crowd.

      I no longer have the desire to influence that crowd towards atheism. The engagements that I may be presenting at would be around a dozen people to start, but those things tend to grow if they go well.

      I find it interesting that our end goals are the same but I have a feeling you would perceive me as an enemy based on your ideals. The same can be said of your view on Jordan Peterson from my perspective.

      Can you help me understand your desire to have a purity test here? I’d like to find a way to speak on this subject without offending someone like you.

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 4, 2018 at 1:08 am

        VG Reese,

        In culture and politics, co-belligerency is a good practice, I think. I am very happy that you are more interested in promoting Christian ethics. More than that, I’m sure we’d get on well to and I’d like to have a persons like you as a neighbor. Real friendship is even possible between persons who have different beliefs.

        But as regards, theology, just understand that we ultimately have a real King. And as Luther said, the Holy Spirit is no skeptic and you can’t be a Christian unless you love assertions so that just comes with the territory. Teaching that makes our King either not good enough or strong enough — and hence a king with a small k in this or that sense — doesn’t cut it because that kind of thing kills faith.

        That’s all that is going on here. Its about recognizing the proper sphere of reason vis a vis revealed truth in theology. There will be some overlap to be sure and toes will inevitably get stepped on here and there. I won’t ever stop wanting to share the message and love of Christ but I’ll always aim not to be obnoxious, particularly as regards one on one relationships I have.

        An answer to your question I hope as well as some of my general philosophy. Lots of folks I know would be similar….

        Thanks again for being here to talk about this stuff.

        +Nathan

         
  14. As It Is Written

    March 3, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    DOES PETERSON BELIEVE IN JUSTICE AT ALL?

    Nathan: Regarding your comment in which you discussed Just War Doctrine. That certainly got my attention and took me by surprise.

    When I wrote my earlier comment about “sinful desires to conquer, defeat, dominate, and in some cases exclude and destroy, other people,” I did not have in mind military warfare at all. That’s why your comment took me by surprise.

    I had in mind what goes on in business, politics, professional sports (with both participants and spectators), and even in academia and institutional religion (in largely hidden or camouflaged ways in the cases of academia and religion). I had in mind what might be called “the spirit of war.”

    But I’m glad you brought up the issue of literal War. You were right to do so. It was an oversight on my part to omit that factor. Your comment gave me an impetus to think of Jordan Peterson’s theories in connection with the issue of War.

    I began to think of Clausewitz’s statement that War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.

    War is a fact of life, whether initiated by the leaders of one’s own nation (as in 1776 and 2003) or by the leaders of another nation or group (as in 1941 and 2001). And the issue of War has become infinitely more grave since 1945: the next big war could actually become an Extinction Event for the human race.

    This prompted me to reflect on “What is Justice”?

    For a pure Darwinian, Justice is simply winning: becoming dominant and remaining dominant, either as an individual, as a family, or as a nation. I believe this might be Donald Trump’s theory of Justice.

    But no true Christian who knows the Bible and loves God could ever endorse that concept of Justice.

    Has Jordan Peterson ever laid out his theory of Justice? I’ve never seen him do so.

    He does almost constantly denounce “Social Justice.”

    But some people ask, “Isn’t all Justice social in nature?” It seems so. Justice by definition deals with obligations between or among individuals or between or among between groups.

    Are Progressives the only people concerned about Justice? Peterson might think so. But it’s not true. The Bible is full of instances of Almighty God commanding people to act justly towards each other, and of instances of God punishing people for failing to act justly towards each other. The Bible commands social concern about the well-being of the poor and the hated (e.g., Samaritans).

    And so I am left wondering if, consciously or unconsciously, Peterson isn’t against just Social Justice, but is actually against the very concept of Justice. And maybe this isn’t a possibility only of Peterson, but of many other thinkers in the political Conservative movement.

    His constant denigration of the concept of rights might really constitute a rejection of the very concept of Justice.

    If I’m right about this, this would then be yet another way that Peterson’s philosophy is a Nietzschean anti-Christ philosophy disguised as a Christian philosophy.

    I’m acutely conscious of the fact that I don’t have this all “sorted” (to borrow the phrase Peterson uses), and that I don’t have any satisfactory solution to all of this. I look to others to show the way.

     
    • Nathan A. Rinne

      March 4, 2018 at 1:15 am

      AIIW,

      Another good thing to pay attention to. Good thoughts.

      “His constant denigration of the concept of rights might really constitute a rejection of the very concept of Justice.”

      Well, the concept of rights has gone a bit crazy in the West, hasn’t it? Still, again a worthy point of consideration.

      +Nathan

       
    • VG Reese

      March 4, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Peterson’s claim to be a classical liberal shows his view of what government should do in regards to justice. He doesn’t focus his discussions on things like free speech often, but it is very obvious his optimal society requires it, for example.

      He doesn’t reject rights, but the focus on rights has a corrupting influence on people. If you have no duties to yourself, your family, or God you become corrupt. Currently, people feel none of those duties.

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 5, 2018 at 2:13 pm

        VG Reese,

        “Peterson’s claim to be a classical liberal shows his view of what government should do in regards to justice.”

        I think the questions that we Christians have regards this is: how viable is this without a real Christian base? We say this because of truth (well, see end of the OP!), and Peterson, because it works.

        For more on subtle distinctions and the nuance here, I found this critique of Steven Pinker’s new book to be thought-provoking:

        https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2018/02/20/enlightenment-and-progress-or-why-steven-pinker-is-wrong

        +Nathan

         
  15. Folly of the Cross

    March 3, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    AIIW,

    As I said before, I don’t claim to know Peterson’s true motivations. Whatever they may be, I am afraid the effects of his current work is exactly what you said here:

    If I’m right about this, this would then be yet another way that Peterson’s philosophy is a Nietzschean anti-Christ philosophy disguised as a Christian philosophy.

    I think you nailed this on the head. I too have caught this Nietzschean line of thought in a lot of Peterson’s work.

    Here is just one example of Peterson talking about the “divine individual”:

    VG Reese – this will partly answer your question as well, though there is much more that I would like to say on that topic:

    I find it interesting that our end goals are the same but I have a feeling you would perceive me as an enemy based on your ideals.

    The most important idea in all of Christianity is that we saved by faith in Jesus’ death for our sins on the cross. As I explained in a post above, we do absolutely nothing to earn our salvation. Peterson is preaching the Nietzschean idea of the Übermensch (there are lots of definitions one can give, but I am thinking along the lines of the perfect man). Peterson thinks that the Christian story culminates psychologically in Jesus, who was the incarnation of the Übermensch. Likewise, Peterson thinks we can avoid a “hell” for our own lives and our lives collectively if we all strive to be like Jesus, which he saw as being the Übermensch.

    For Peterson, life is about avoiding suffering. He thinks living a better life is the solution to this problem. He thinks to emulate Christ, the perfect man, is the means from which to do so.

    For Christians, we expect to suffer too. The solution for us, though, is to look to the life to come. Again, Christianity is not about what you can do to earn favor before God. It is simply about stopping to reject the free gift God has given all of us. God did all the work already.

    The answer to why Christians find Peterson’s message so offensive is that it is anti-gospel. It is anti-Christ.

    Matthew 12:30 – “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

    2 Timothy 4:3-4

    3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    We learn in scriptures to watch out for false teachers. VG Reese, I hope this helps at least shed a little light on why Christians are so sensitive to even a person like Peterson.

    God’s peace,
    Chris

     
    • VG Reese

      March 4, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Chris,

      It’s interesting to me that there is no middle ground to stand on here. By any definition, Peterson would certainly be on it. With what Nathan had said above and you have said here, it definitely strengthens my thought that this is a purity test. The thing that is interesting to me is that each Christian denomination has this purity test that other Christians often do not pass.

      I feel on an intellectual level for a discussion like this, it has value. I have certain topics I take a hard line stance on unless someone is willing to take certain other positions. Free speech is an example. If you are against free speech but want to live in a liberal democracy, that doesn’t work for me. If you want to remove free speech, I only accept that position as being the correct position if you also want an authoritarian autocracy.

      Having said that, it makes the realm of religion fraught with landmines. I question if the average person can navigate them at the same time as extracting meaning and knowledge from the bible. I think the answer is pretty clearly no, there is a single correct interpretation and you need to align with it. It reveals to me why I had read more of the bible than almost anyone I spoke with that was a Christian. Actually looking at the texts potentially leads to an incorrect interpretation which can be psychologically negative.

      I feel like this conversation is an old one that has been had many times before. Less so on the Internet, but certainly during past schisms. The idea that Peterson and potentially a group he anoints doing this kind of interpretation of the bible could effectively cause a schism and a Christian sect is quite interesting.

       
  16. Nathan A. Rinne

    March 5, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    VG Reese,

    “I think the answer is pretty clearly no, there is a single correct interpretation and you need to align with it.”

    Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, etc. Yep. There is a long pedigree there. And us Lutherans have the nerve to believe, teach and confess that the 1530 Augsburg Confession is a necessary addendum for the churches of the west (given the abuses around the time of the Reformation).

    I’d encourage you to check out the review of Pinker’s book I mention above, and also Mangalwadi’s: The Book that Made your World and Alvin Schmidt’s How Christianity Changed the World. I’d go as far as to say that the world in the West that we know has been as good as it has for so long largely because of how strong orthodox biblical convictions held hearts and minds captive (either in those who had real faith, those who gladly imitated them, or those who felt repressed but didn’t rebel too much) for so long.

    In other words, we are going on a lot of borrowed capital right now…. and bills are coming due. Peterson is a light that points many toward the truth, even as there is peril and danger in his not getting things quite right and his great deference to Darwinian notions (has he not heard of the men like David Berlinski and others who do a good job of causing doubt even here?).

    +Nathan

     
    • VG Reese

      March 6, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      So, I build this a bit differently. I think your point of view is valid and correct on many levels, but without a holistic understanding of all the kinds of people who end up the leader of men it will not penetrate into society again. What I mean by that is I think you are close to a compelling narrative for people who are looking for a next step after Peterson. I’d assume it would be better to appeal to that crowd than battle them.

      My belief is that the the enlightenment was built on Christianity. Another belief of mine is that the United States has created the current economic progress. Yet another belief is that the economic progress that raises all boats makes peace and space for progress in general.

      I’d say the founding of the United States was 60/40 based on the enlightenment ideal and Christianity. You could argue it was based on 100% Christianity since the enlightenment thinkers that most founders took their ideas from grounded those ideas in Christianity. I’d say the delineation should be kept, though.

      For me, the holistic understanding of society I am trying to work towards is a tool to seeing the different periods, events, and people in a way that is useful for today. It is 100% correct, in my opinion, that the lack of Christianity as the grounding for society is a major problem.

      To be clear, I think Peterson, you, and I are all on the same page here. Too many people have lost sight of their past. Not only that, far too many people hold the past in contempt. I think the three of us diverge after this in regards to what the future should look like, but remain relatively similar on what the present seems to be in regards to society and religion.

      As for why I engage here, if I assume you are not trying to appeal to a broad audience, I feel that I am arguing a different point than you are entirely and am just wasting both our time (less so mine, since this is a good learning opportunity for me.) When I assume you are trying for a broad appeal, I feel compelled to engage and make sure you understand the gap I am seeing.

      To me, Peterson points people back towards Christianity as a foundation. People forget Christianity is the foundation of the western world. If he changed his message even slightly towards what you wanted, it would lose almost every person I know, me included. I am an older millennial, and any hint of a rejection of Darwin or a requirement for faith will shut down a lot of reasoning within my generation. It is akin to someone being brilliant in their field, but taking a crap in a trash can while presenting the topic. We can accept that you would need to do that, but it shouldn’t be in public among other complaints.

      Just as there are obvious land mines when talking to a studied Christian, there are land mines when appealing to most millennials. Peterson seems extremely aware of those land mines on both sides, and tip toes around them as best he can.

      I’m aware of the arguments against evolution. I am sure Peterson is as well. I find exactly zero of the arguments against evolution and the sciences that have popped up around them the least bit compelling.

      My wife is a biologist, and can explain in detail how Darwin’s theory is proved out in her understanding of genes. She has a PhD in this field. My brother is a biologist whose friend was home schooled and an Evangelical Christian. While that friend was pursuing his PhD (in biology) his religious views completely changed, mainly due to evolution. I really don’t see Darwin as a good battleground, based on my experiences. There are certainly people who see it differently, but religion is not seen as the default position here. Most see it as being at odds with this kind of science.

      I see science for what it is, and each discipline within science as something that is useful within its bounds. There are definitely people who take conclusions too far. That doesn’t mean the rejection of areas of science is correct. That same mistake is what lead me (and my whole peer group) to reject anything with religion. It is hard to come of age in the Bush years with eyes wide open, consume the liberal media, and conclude that the Christian agenda is up to anything good. I see now where I was manipulated, but many do not.

      For some info on where the younger generation sees things:
      http://www.pewforum.org/2010/02/17/religion-among-the-millennials/
      http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

      In my experience, religious millennials are rarely religious in a way that will stick. The most religious people I have known have consistently had their faith eroded, even without my influence. Society as a whole is doing it today. I don’t see that as a positive thing, but it is what I see.

      So, again, this comes back to what I referenced above. If you are looking at this holistically, Peterson is a positive for religion. Millennials have the same predisposition for religion, in my opinion. They are less religious due to societal blockers that prevent people from participating or exploring in that direction. Peterson is currently bridging that gap for many.

      It is up to you if you are targeting a general audience or preaching to the converted. Having Peterson as a target tells me you are preaching to the converted. If you agree with that, then carry on.

      I appreciate you and everyone else here taking the time to discuss these things with me. I hope I am making sense. I tend to think I am being clear and find myself having hopped a chasm that I previously built a bridge across, not realizing that only people with PhDs in that field or other obsessives had done the same. It’s hard to know in the ways others think differently, but I am working on it.

       
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 8, 2018 at 5:55 pm

        V.G. Reese,

        Major apologies from me — I did not realize that this comment for some reason got stuck in moderation. Looks like a meaty post — thank you, and I’ll try to get to the content soon…

        +Nathan

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        March 8, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        VG Reese,

        I greatly sympathize with your sentiment here:

        As for why I engage here if I assume you are not trying to appeal to a broad audience, I feel that I am arguing a different point than you are entirely and am just wasting both our time (less so mine, since this is a good learning opportunity for me.) When I assume you are trying for a broad appeal, I feel compelled to engage and make sure you understand the gap I am seeing.

        I think you and I actually see eye to eye on a great many things. I especially agree that engaging in civil discussions with people that you disagree with like we are here, is a great learning opportunity. We are helping each other to sharpen our understanding of our own views and learning how to better live alongside one another. We can also help each other understand the “gaps” in each other’s understanding of things.To this end, I too, thank you again for sharing your points of view.

        One thing that I would like to make sure that I clearly get across is that in my previous comment talking about why Christians are guarded against someone of Peterson’s ilk, I was not trying to be combative, put your viewpoint down, or shut down the conversation. I was simply trying to explain to you what the Christian perspective on this is.

        A simple summary of my point in that comment is that Christians are warned be wary of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Anyone who is preaching something contrary to Christ is a potential wolf. Just because there are many wolves out in the world, doesn’t mean that Christians should shut themselves off from the world, though. Actually, heeding Peterson’s own advice, Christians have a duty to themselves, each other, and God to always speak the truth.

        Furthermore, Christians can and should learn from people that we disagree with on the fundamentals of reality. We certainly can separate the “wheat from the chaff”. And with a person like Peterson, there is much wheat! The problem is that the chaff is very seriously anti-Christian. The idea that religion may just be a useful myth that helps society align their group behaviors in a way to aid our survival, is antithetical to Christianity. Even taking Peterson on his most mystical interpretations of religion (he honestly is hard to pin down on this), he still denies the most basic Christian tenant, Christ’s resurrection.

        1 Corinthians 15:17 New International Version (NIV)

        17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

        One thing that I find interesting is that two people with these two competing views, traditional Christianity and a Darwinian Christian Pragmatist, will find their values in most specific situations align.

        VG Reese said:

        It’s interesting to me that there is no middle ground to stand on here. By any definition, Peterson would certainly be on it. With what Nathan had said above and you have said here, it definitely strengthens my thought that this is a purity test. The thing that is interesting to me is that each Christian denomination has this purity test that other Christians often do not pass.

        Does this alignment of values count as a middle ground? I don’t necessarily think so. It does show you can arrive at similar effects from different starting points. And don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful that Peterson is getting people to reevaluate a Christian Ethical view of the world. The larger problem is, as I explained in my last post, a flourishing society isn’t the main goal of Christianity. This is the main goal of Peterson’s ethic. The fundamentals are not in alignment in the least. This isn’t even a case of the ends justifying the means, then, as the ends are truly different.

        I liken it to how constitutional conservatives and libertarians often find themselves “on the same team” nowadays. This works for 90% of issues that arise. It is only when the need to evaluate the other 10% do conflicts begin to arise.

        Above all, I just want to believe what is true. I believe the same is true for you. This is why you and I both want to dive into that 10% of disagreement. I want to stand side by side with anyone who wants to agree on the other 90%, but at the same time, I know that errors in fundamentals will always eventually cause problems somewhere down the line. What we are discussing here isn’t just differences in political policy, though. We are discussing whether Christianity is true or not, for which the stakes are eternal, so I, of course, want to make sure that I have done everything I can to arrive at truth.

        Again, I really can sense you mean the same.

        I better leave this comment here and save the rest for later, lest this become a book-length response.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • Nathan A. Rinne

        March 9, 2018 at 2:38 am

        V.G. Reese,

        What Chris said: “I know that errors in fundamentals will always eventually cause problems somewhere down the line.”

        He said a lot of other things I agree with, but that line stuck out to me.

        Again, I rejoice at the similarities, and again, I really, really appreciate your willingness to share all that you have. I also do try, often, to avoid landmines at times when I am talking with people initially. I also don’t want them feeling like I hid things from them early on, only “springing” that stuff on them later!

        The fact of the matter is that the first things that Christians want to get to when talking about the Bible — and fast — is the death and resurrection of Christ. See, e.g., Acts 17 and especially 30 and 31. That is what it is all about.

        That’s for the broadest audience possible. That message doesn’t get old. : )

        +Nathan

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        March 10, 2018 at 10:52 pm

        VG Reese,

        Just a quick reply here before I respond to your ideas surrounding evolution.

        My belief is that the the enlightenment was built on Christianity.

        I would like to point the following out because I believe it may be a sign that you have not interacted much with scholasticism, classical theism, and church history. Please, don’t take offense. Most people haven’t. I grew up going to church most of my life and I only just started learning about classical theism because philosophy lead me to it. It just isn’t taught much anymore, and I believe this is a bad thing (for Christians and non-Christians alike).

        The enlightenment was actually a reaction against many of the long-standing philosophical traditions in the church. These are the ideas of the scholastics (like Thomas Aquinas).

        Granted, many of the Enlightenment thinkers were Christians or raised Christian, but they were actually doing much damage to many long-standing ideas of the Church.

        Enlightenment thinkers mistakenly thought that science was disproving things like essentialism and Aristotle’s four causes. It didn’t. The enlightenment thinkers were attacking strawmen versions of the scholastic’s ideas.

        Descartes, Kant, and many others have been argued at length against by Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophers. Most people have not read from these traditions, so they are not aware of the counter-arguments against the Enlightenment. Here is a place where Edward Feser, and some other modern neo-scholastic philosophers, excel at. They are showing that it is impossible to do science without these concepts of essentialism and teleology.

        If only more people were aware. I know why many would like to continue to deny classical theism’s propositions, though. They all lead to the conclusion that God necessarily must exist!

        Again, if you haven’t checked out any of Edward Feser’s books yet, The Last Superstition is a good place to start. He covers some of this ground showing that people are often taught a very skewed view of history when it comes to the enlightenment and the disregard of classical theism.

        This is a link to a book review where Feser lays out some of the basics of this topic as well.
        http://www.libertylawsite.org/book-review/perception-is-everything/

        There honestly is much out there on this topic if you look around. Much ink has been spilled by Catholic theologians and philosophers on the damage the enlightenment (and especially nominalism) did to western philosophy.

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
      • Folly of the Cross

        March 10, 2018 at 11:01 pm

        In the spirit of the last post and offering perspectives, I will attempt to offer a brief explanation of your important questions surrounding evolution. I don’t expect this to convince you, but I do hope it helps you to see where someone in my position is coming from better.

        For clarity sake, these are four main areas of study that lead me to my conclusion:
        1. Nature and limits of science – philosophy of science
        2. Classical theistic arguments for the necessity of God
        3. Historical evidence for the divinity of Jesus
        4. Authority of scripture in my epistemology

        To me, Peterson points people back towards Christianity as a foundation. People forget Christianity is the foundation of the western world. If he changed his message even slightly towards what you wanted, it would lose almost every person I know, me included. I am an older millennial, and any hint of a rejection of Darwin or a requirement for faith will shut down a lot of reasoning within my generation. It is akin to someone being brilliant in their field, but taking a crap in a trash can while presenting the topic. We can accept that you would need to do that, but it shouldn’t be in public among other complaints.

        Just as there are obvious land mines when talking to a studied Christian, there are land mines when appealing to most millennials. Peterson seems extremely aware of those land mines on both sides, and tip toes around them as best he can.

        I’m aware of the arguments against evolution. I am sure Peterson is as well. I find exactly zero of the arguments against evolution and the sciences that have popped up around them the least bit compelling.

        These are some very important and insightful ideas. Your point about “any hint of a rejection of Darwin or a requirement for faith will shut down a lot of reasoning within my generation” especially resonates with me.

        The topic of creation vs. evolution is one of the most sensitive topics for people our age (I too am an older millennial). I struggled with this very topic for a great while before I joined the LCMS church just a couple years ago. It would be next to impossible to do this topic justice in comment boxes, but I will try to at least give a brief outline and point you towards some resources that brought me to where I am today on the topic.

        Let’s get two things out of the way and then I will try to further explain how I came to these conclusions.
        1. I do not have an answer for why the Bible appears to say the earth is young and science points to an old age for creation. Call it cognitive dissonance if you like, but I simply trust the Bible here. I hope to try and explain why I am “comfortable” accepting this tension.
        2. I completely understand how evolution could be a non-starter (landmine) for you. I agree that this is probably one of the single biggest non-starters for people, especially the millennial generation.

        I too held the exact same position just a few short years ago. in fact, when I was going to classes with my then future wife to become a member of her church (WELS – a very conservative Lutheran denomination), I had to eventually tell the pastor that I couldn’t join their church because I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that evolution is false. And yet, here I am, now a member of the LCMS Lutheran church (equally conservative Lutheran denomination) and have an entirely different perspective on evolution.

        What changed?

        I studied theology and philosophy. Specifically, I found confessional Lutheranism and classical theism philosophy (Aristotelian-Thomism).

        There is a very good LCMS CTCR report called In Christ All Things Hold Together that can serve as an initial primer on the topic of science, philosophy, and faith from a Lutheran perspective. It doesn’t get into all the classical theistic philosophy that I also greatly utilize, but it is a good primer of some basic concepts none the less.

        Nature of Science

        One of the most important distinctions for me was understanding the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. I don’t mean to presume what you already know, so I will just explain as briefly as I can under the assumption that you may not be familiar with some of these ideas. Inductive reasoning is using premises based on observation (evidence) to point to a potential conclusion. The key insight here is that inductive reasoning only arrives at probable conclusions.

        Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, arrives at a certain conclusion. If the premises in an argument are true, the conclusion necessarily follows. The debate is, of course, then over the truth claims of the premises.

        Science utilizes inductive reasoning. In case you are familiar with abductive reasoning, the difference between it and inductive reasoning aren’t really pertinent to our discussion here. Again, what is important is that science can only ever arrive at probable conclusions.

        I also would highly recommend Thomas Kuhn’s classic work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions on the topic of philosophy of science. Thomas Kuhn argued in The Structures of Scientific Revolutions that science by its very nature will always have major paradigm shifts. Interestingly, he argued that it isn’t even often new data that drives these shifts, rather it is a new synthesis of old data and views into a new system of thought. I would argue this new system is really a new tautology.

        I bring this up because I think people often wrongly assume science proves things with absolute certainty. They also believe that science is always progressing on a nice linear trajectory towards truth. Kuhn’s views of paradigm shifts in scientific models show a different view of history.

        Don’t get me wrong, I don’t distrust science. I just try to remember its conclusions are tentative and history has shown a track record of complete upheavals of what used to be taken as “settled science”.

        Another problem I see especially with modern science is it has built very abstract and complex models of reality. Some of these theories are so abstract (e.g., many worlds theories, string theory, the holographic principle, etc.) that they might in theory not even be falsifiable. In other words, we may be hitting the limits of science. At this point, science cannot offer any further explanation based on evidence against what theism claims on the big questions like “why does anything exist at all”?

        I would argue, then, that all worldviews, including those based on science, are tautologies. Or to put it another way, all worldviews are just models of reality. None can be absolutely certain, they can just be compared against one another to see what best explains all the data we see in the world around us. Unfortunately, I do feel that science is often used to rule out (or not to even bother with) other areas of study and evidence that point towards Christianity.

        Classical Theistic Philosophy

        Classical theism is also one of the main reasons I am able to somewhat comfortably live with the tension between science and the Bible. Classical theism just seems to make more sense of reality than does a scientific naturalistic view of the world. One reason I believe this is that classical theism has deductive arguments for God that show He is necessary to exist. I actually do think it is absurd to think that universe could exist without God as the necessary being to ground all of existence. See Edward Feser’s Five Proofs for the Existence of God for a good summary of some of these arguments.

        Historical Evidence for Jesus’ Divinity

        In addition to the deductive arguments for God, there is also the inductive arguments from the historical account Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Of course, I realize that you probably do not find this line of argument very compelling. I have studied it extensively over the past few years, and I have come to the conclusion that any attempt to make sense of the evidence we have for Christianity is simply far more ad hoc than the explanation that Jesus is who He claimed to be. William Lane Craig’s Reasonalbe Faith is a very good introduction to the philosophical look at the historicity of Jesus. Gary Habermas is also one of the better modern scholars on the topic of the historicity of the resurrection. His book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus is a good primer on the topic.

        Again, it really comes down comparing the total evidence. I think we can both agree that to simply rule out the possibility of Darwinian Evolution being wrong, prima facie, is an error in logic. I also realize that the scientific arguments against evolution aren’t considered mainstream science, but to again, simply pretend they don’t exist or rule them out prima facie isn’t very logical.

        I completely understand that you think this single line of reasoning with evolution weighs strongly as evidence against Christianity. However, I do ask if you maybe have had the opportunity to read extensively into the historicity of the resurrection, the philosophy of science, and especially classical theistic philosophy?

        If you are looking for scientific arguments against Darwinian evolution, Evolution News seems to be one of the better science-based intelligent design publications out there. There are many others, of course.

        Biblical Epistemology

        Finally, here is my “Lutheran” perspective on creation. The Bible does not give us an exact date for creation. As such, I would not claim the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old as many Young Earth Creationists (YEC) a la Answers in Genesis do. These YEC tend to try to read the Bible into their science. This is not a good way to do science.

        However, the Bible does all but rule out an Old Earth interpretation, meaning that I don’t believe creation is 13.8 billion years old. This was the hardest one for me to let go of, but I sincerely trust the Bible to be God’s revelation. Strictly logically speaking, there could be a multitude of reasons why the universe looks old, but it isn’t.

        For more on this specific Lutheran view of creation, see this currently ongoing series of blog posts by the Dean of Theological Research at Concordia Seminary A Travel Guide To The Evangelical Creation Debates

        Lutherans exist because of our epistemological approach to the Bible. Truly believing scriptures are God’s inerrant revelation to us, we have a strict hermeneutical tradition that is what I would really say was at the heart of the Reformation.

        Here is a typical synopsis of the Lutheran hermeneutical method:

        1.Pay attention to the context, both literary and historical.
        2. Begin with the plain meaning of a text.
        3. Scripture interprets Scripture.
        4. Interpret Scripture in light of the rule of faith.
        5. Interpret Scripture in view of Christ.
        6. Distinguish Law and Gospel, sin and grace.
        7. Attend to the “then and there” meaning as well as the “here and now” meaning.

        In following rules such as these, Luther arrived at the key Lutheran doctrines such as the distinction between Law and Gospel and salvation by faith alone (sola fide).

        So, if the Bible truly is the word of God some things just logically follow. If God cannot lie, everything contained in it (in its original inerrant form) must be true. Following our hermeneutical approach as outlined above, there just does not appear to be a way to interpret scriptures in a manner that would allow for evolution, or even an old age of creation. Therefore, despite the fact science maybe appears to come to different conclusions, scriptures must be right. Again, I can’t tell you where science is wrong, but it seems far more likey to me that it is than the Bible containing error. Especially considering the inductive nature of science and Kuhn’s paradigm shift hypothesis.

        Conclusion

        In my experience, religious millennials are rarely religious in a way that will stick

        I completely agree. Again, I think the problem is that our modern millieu has all but forgotten many important principles from classical theism. It was wrongly thought to be disproven by science, and in fact, many are now arguing modern science is impossible without these concepts.

        I know letting go of evolution would be one of the toughest pills for many to swallow in becoming Christian. I greatly sympathize as it was for me too. I really like Randall Rauser’s analogy of the vacuum in the back of the closet being like our deepest held beliefs. To get anyone to change their deepest beliefs, there are many things in the front of the closet that need to be moved to get to the vacuum. In this case, the vacuum is God, and evolution would be some very big and heavy boxes in the front of the closet.

        In all honesty, there are of course, other denominations of Christians that would view this differently. Again, I believe the Lutheran epistemological approach to theology is simply the best. We place God’s revelation as the ultimate arbiter of truth and it norms all of our knowledge. When we see contradictions between scriptures and the world, we go with scriptures.

        Much more should be said on all of these points. I hope this at least gives you some better perspective on how a conservative Christian like myself can both follow scriptures and still study and appreciate science. (I truly find science fascinating and especially enjoy reading about cosmology.) I also hope that you find some of these resources potentially helpful.

        Finally, like you said, I hope that I too am making sense, as it is hard to do these huge topics in a condensed form. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I am finding them very thought-provoking!

        God’s peace,
        Chris

         
  17. As It Is Written

    March 12, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    JORDAN PETERSON’S SWASTIKA VIDEO

    I’m not sure if others will find this is relevant to this discussion, but I do consider it a possible sign of some underlying, unstated, or unconscious values that Jordan Peterson may hold, and it may be useful in endeavors to interpret and categorize Peterson’s eclectic body of thought.

    I’m referring to the fact that in one video produced by Jordan Peterson and included on his own YouTube channel, Jordan Peterson included an image of a Swastika. Yes, a Swastika.

    To see this Swaskita, go to time point 3:43 (or a second or so earlier or later) in this video:

    Intro to SelfAuthoring
    299,622 views
    Jordan B Peterson
    Published on Aug 25, 2015

    Of course, it is well known that the Swastika had a history of use in Tibet, and Asia generally, long before Hitler and the Nazis used it.

    But given that there are people calling Dr. Peterson a “Nazi philosopher,” (see: http://toronto.citynews.ca/2017/10/27/community-safety-bulletin-calls-u-t-prof-racist-alleges-ties-neo-nazis/ ) does it make sense for Dr. Peterson to be using the Swastika in a video that he produced?

    Furthermore, there are many pictures available of statues from ancient Asian cultures that do not carry the Swastika symbol.

    So, did Dr. Peterson consciously choose to include a Swastika in this video? If so, why? Does Dr. Peterson have an affinity for pre-Nazi uses of the Swastika? If so, why?

    Some interviewers have questioned Peterson about the fact that Peterson posed with some activists holding a Pepe flag. (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n8iMI-e95A ) Peterson has given justifications for that. But I think what interviewers should be asking him about is the Swastika that he placed in his own video.

    I can’t help but think of some statements made by Peterson’s apparently favorite philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote the following in a book that Peterson often quotes:

    “It has gradually become clear to me what every great philosophy up till now has consisted of—namely, the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary and unconscious auto-biography; and moreover that the moral (or immoral) purpose in every philosophy has constituted the true vital germ out of which the entire plant has always grown.”

    “I do not believe that an ‘impulse to knowledge’ is the father of philosophy; but that another impulse, here as elsewhere, has only made use of knowledge (and mistaken knowledge!) as an instrument.”

    “How malicious philosophers can be!”

    “philosophy is this tyrannical impulse itself, the most spiritual Will to Power, the will to ‘creation of the world,’ the will to the causa prima.”

    “A living thing seeks above all to DISCHARGE its strength—life itself is WILL TO POWER.”

    (From Nietzsche, in the chapter titled “The Prejudice of Philosophers,” in his book “Beyond Good and Evil”)

    (P.S. Forgive me for quoting the rancid, ruinous, hate-filled, immoral, Satanic man Nietzsche. I only quote him because he receives so much praise from Jordan Peterson, and because Nietzsche’s analysis in this instance seems like it might possibly describe Peterson.)

     
    • VG Reese

      March 14, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      As it is Written is the name of a book that is racist, orientalist, and entirely unremarkable. It was written in the 80s. I think your theory proves too much.

      Jordan Peterson rarely discussed philosophy directly. He discusses psychology and politics. These things are not the same. He touches philosophy just as he touches Christianity. It isn’t the primary point.

      Also, I find it interesting that you feel the need to run a purity test on yourself. I guess you’re afraid of someone else running it for you? I guess more likely you are afraid of someone running that test, you failing, and them never telling you?

       
  18. As It Is Written

    March 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    JORDAN PETERSON’S THREE-YEAR PLAN

    For those who follow Peterson’s various zig zag claims or indications that he is a Christian along with his near simultaneous statements and indications that he is not a Christian, I thought I would post a link to Peterson’s recent announcement on the subject.

    Here’s the article I saw:

    “Jordan Peterson: I Need ‘Three More Years’ Before I Can Give My Position on the Historical Jesus”
    February 13, 2018
    by Dorothy Cummings McLean, on LifeSite News.
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/jordan-peterson-i-will-explain-my-position-on-the-historical-jesus-in-three

    Here’s part of that article:

    “Peterson stated that when the spiritual and material touch, ‘that’s a miracle when that happens, and I do think that happens.’ However, the professor is not ready to assert belief or disbelief in the historical Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ‘I need to think about that for about three more years before I would even venture an answer beyond what I’ve already given,’ he told Coffin.”

    How exciting! I can’t wait.

    In just three years (“about three years,” to be exact, so maybe 20 years) His Sovereign Majesty the Lord Jordan of Peterson, the Rightful King of Middle Earth, will issue forth a decree on whether we mere hobbits and groundlings should take literally all that Resurrection stuff that the Scriptures, the Holy Martyrs, and the Church in general have been talking about for 2,000 years.

    What a great service Doctor Peterson is providing to us! He really cares for us, like a father! Daddy!

    Could Doctor Peterson be a Latter-day Prophet, or a reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, or the real Doctor Who? Or perhaps all three?

    What a blessing to have been born in the Age of Peterson. Now (if I can live just 3 more years) I can die knowing the Truth, the Logos, at last! Now I will be able to rest, knowing that the Eye of Sauron and the filthy SJWs will not triumph in the end! Hail Peterson!

    (P.S. For all you unbelievers, cynics and SJW trash out there, it’s just a coincidence that Peterson’s book will almost certainly be off the bestseller lists within three years. That’s right buckos! No collusion at all!)

     
    • VG Reese

      March 14, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      You should be excited that he thinks in three years he can explain it in a way that makes sense to his audience. No one else has. Obviously, you aren’t a part of his audience.

       

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