A friend described to me recently how his nephew, a young man who had walked away from his Christian faith, has since returned to a new found interested in Christianity after attending one of Jordan Peterson’s lectures. I’ve heard similar accounts from several people. Not surprisingly, these stories have all been about young men; a testament to Peterson’s appeal to that particular demographic.
The resulting question I get asked is, “Do you think people are becoming Christians because of Jordan Peterson?”
My short answer again is, “I don’t know.” I have no idea what is happening in the hearts of other people. I also do not doubt that God can use whatever instrument he pleases to draw a person to Christ.
In my last post, I gave my reasons why Jordan Peterson’s message as he is presenting it, is not the message of the gospel. The Jesus he presents is not the Jesus of the Bible. However, he is bringing Jesus and the Bible back into mainstream conversation, and I think this presents an opportunity as people become open to talking about them. What will be crucial for Christians is to present a biblically clear and faithful witness of
Peterson Is Tapping into A Resurgence of Spiritual Searching:
One thing I appreciate about Peterson is his genuine search for answers and openness to the existence of the supernatural. He seems to be a sincere spiritual seeker who no longer accepts the simple materialistic worldview that has dominated our secular academic culture for so long. And the fact that he has amassed such a large and loyal following, especially among university students, tells me that he is someone worth watching.
The reason I say this is because Millennials share many of these same characteristics when it comes to spirituality. Like Peterson, Millennials resist religious boxes of any kind. Instead, they are most likely to self-identify as “no religious affiliation”1 Despite this aversion to religion, however, there appears to be a definite openness to spirituality and the supernatural. According to a survey done among Millennials by Reginal Bibby.2
- Around 80% say they have thought about the existence of God.
- 67% believe there is a greater force at work in the world.
- 40% say they have experienced the presence of a Being or Higher Power.
- 50% say it’s possible to have contact with the spirit world.
- 80% believe in life after death.
Why Should We Watch Jordan Peterson?
I think Jordan Peterson is worth watching because he seems to be a man on a genuine quest for ultimate, God-sized answers. He is approaching the subject from a highly disciplined and rational perspective, which appears to be delighting audiences around the world. He resists making any definite statements about ultimate beliefs because he wants to remain open to all possibilities. As he puts it: “I need to stay outside of boxes because then I can look at what’s inside of them without being part of them.”3
I think this is resonating with many Millennials because it lines up with their approach, which values openness and experience as essential to being spiritual. Says Dr. Siobhan Chandler of spiritually minded Millennials:
“They are attracted to holistic thinking, integrated everything, but are not always articulate about what they believe. They are not following a rulebook, but rather discovering what feels right as they go. Their spirituality is seamlessly woven into the fabric of their lives.”4
What I think Dr. Peterson and such Millennials share in common is an excitement and enthusiasm about searching for ultimate answers. This posture of “openness” however, carries a real weakness in that it seems to make spirituality all about searching with little expectation that the search will end in finding the truth. “The thrill is in the hunt” seems to be the nature of the spiritual quest that captivates Peterson and his followers.
But you can only search, and ask questions for so long. Eventually, answers are needed. My curiosity is to see what happens to Dr. Peterson and his following.
Why The Gospel Alone Will Satisfy True Spiritual Searching
What a contrast the gospel of Jesus presents. Here the thrill is not in searching for, but in finding Jesus; or to be more precise in him finding us. In Jesus, we learn the truth about the one true God, who is completely ‘other.’ When we come to know Jesus, we meet God himself, coming to know him in a personal way as our heavenly Father. And when we place our trust in Christ, Jesus binds his life with ours, closer than even the most intimate human relationships we could have.
Just listen to how Jesus describes what happens when we place our trust in him.
“[Father,] I have given them [his followers] the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23
When you put your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and eternal life, God immediately removes your guilt and adopts you to be as much a child to him as Jesus is; looking upon you now with the same relational intimacy and love that he has for his eternal Son. Amazing!
Peterson seems to be scratching the surface of a mystery that he believes is the key to ultimate answers. I think it is this sense of mystery that creates the thrill among those who listen to and follow his teaching. I believe that God could indeed use this awakening to
The exciting news of the gospel is that the mystery of God has been made known. (Ephesians 1:8) God wants to make rebellious sinners into beloved children. (Galatians 3:26-27) He wants to restore his Creation to himself through Jesus his Son. (Colossians 1:15-20) He wants to establish an eternal Kingdom where we can live in his presence and enjoy him forever. (Revelation 21:1-4)
I hope and pray that Peterson and his followers’ spiritual search leads them here one day soon.
- Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Center, [accessed online: www.pewforum.org/2013/06/27/canadas-changing-religious-landscape/]
- Reginald Bibby, Sarah Russell, and Ron Rolheiser, The Emerging Millennials: How Canada’s Newest Generation is Responding to Change and Choice (Lethbridge: Project Canada Books, 2009) 25-27.
- Siobhan Chandler, The Spiritual But Not Religious Millennials, Aug. 6, 2014, www.spiritualbutnotreligious.ca/millennials-spiritual-but-not-religious/