Part I – Genesis: In the Beginning

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.  If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”

Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 1:18-20

In the Beginning

            The genesis of this work was a colleague’s enquiry, asking if I had read Jordan Peterson’s The 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos (hereafter, ‘12RFL’). My colleague, a former Sergeant Major in the Royal Marines, living and working in both England and Australia, is somewhat of a genius. His mind moves so quickly that sometimes people have difficulty keeping up. He possesses a voracious curiosity, is constantly striving to discover things about the world around him and to improve himself. He eagerly and enthusiastically cooperates with friends and associates so as to sharpen a collective understanding of things common to joint business and life interests. He is intensely passionate about learning. He vigorously recommended Mr. Peterson’s book. Out of a regard for my colleague, truth, and Biblical Christianity (as opposed to how the faith is in the main presented today in the Western world) so as to ‘hold up our side’, this work endeavors to compare and contrast the 12RFL with Biblical Christianity.

            I have a range of intentions (a better word would be ‘hopes’) about how this book’s message and tone are communicated to and received by the reader. Obviously I hope to provide a clear explanation of the Christian’s position vis-à-vis the ‘antidote for chaos’ prescribed in the 12RFL, first for the benefit of my colleague, and, thence, to others interested in how and where fundamental Christianity stands in relation to the teachings and observations presented in the 12RFL.

            Another intention is that my arguments align with the Holy Spirit’s admonition in 1 Peter 3 about how we should be ready to provide a defense for our faith. This advice was provided in the context of a summation on how Christians should be toward others:

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” [1 Peter 3:8]

Many people have proffered their opinions about Mr. Peterson’s work—some in appropriate ways, some in ways not so appropriate. It is my desire to present the opinions in this work with gentleness and reverence, and convey my words with a sense of brotherly, kindhearted humility. I want this work to be harmonious, sympathetic, and humble in spirit. Mr. Peterson deserves as much.            

Through Peter, the Holy Spirit then goes on to advise Christians, as they face intimidation or suffer for their righteousness, that we should …

… sanctify [that is, ‘set apart’] Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” [1 Peter 3:15, amplification added]

We note that with persecution there may come the opportunity to give a defense—that is, a reasoned, rational explanation for why we rely upon, trust in, depend on, and obey God. Of course, in these days, our defense will include—no, it must include—a rational explanation for why we are convinced that there is a God—an omnipotent, omniscient, supremely sovereign, personal God Who exists, Who communicates on a daily basis with men, and Who is the supreme and sovereign Designer and Author of the environment within which every human lives, moves, and has their Being. Throughout this work, this ‘environment’ will be referred to as ‘Reality’—the Reality that God made, His creation.

            I made the decision to write this book before reading Mr. Peterson’s 12RFL because of the overwhelming influence his work seemed to have throughout the world, and, most pointedly, among those who either call themselves Christians or are considering the claims made by Christianity. Upon deciding to embark on this apologetic work, I first read his Maps of Meaning. At the same time I also perused a multitude of YouTube videos on the web (not all of them, by any means). There is a question arising on YouTube and within Christian circles: “Is God doing something through this man? Is God doing something in the history of the West?” It is partially because of these questions (as well as my desire to honestly respond to my colleague in England) that I’ve worked to formulate this response. I sincerely hope that this response conveys a respect for Mr. Peterson’s integrity as he searches for truth and meaning.

            Mr. Peterson has produced a massive and detailed lecture series on the Bible, in which (along with the 12RFL and Maps of Meaning) he discusses and draws upon Christian elements and the many facets of thematic substrata contained in the Bible. However, there is a truth about the Bible contained within the Bible, which asserts that,  “…the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God…” The scripture means that without the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within a person, that person cannot understand what the Word is trying to communicate. The context of this assertion was Paul explaining and justifying himself to the church in Corinth, some of whose members were taking issue with Paul’s authority to teach and preach and establish the truths of the new faith that was spreading around the world, turning the world upside down. Paul told them that he did not come to them as some powerful orator, nor was he some kind of salesman, merchandising the Word of God. He communicated the truth about Jesus to them not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with demonstrations of the Spirit and the power of God. He differentiates the Spirit that infuses what he is teaching with the spirit that is in the world, which is directly and fiercely opposed to the Spirit of God. He alleges in his (second) letter to the Corinthians that he and those fellow Believers with whom he had visited Corinth had received “…not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…” It is here that he then asserts that the natural man—that is, the man who lives and moves and has his Being within the realm of the world’s wisdom, operating with the world’s spirit—will not accept or understand the things of the Spirit of God. And why? Because such things, such wisdom, appears as foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised. The natural man will not understand the truths in scripture. Oh, he may make observations, and he may identify various thematic elements and draw parallels to historical or mythological events from man’s past, but the fundamental elements of God’s revelation in the Word—the Truth—will elude him. The reasons for why things happened (and happen) will be unclear, and the natural man will never apprehend the sense of urgency to obey the Word or grasp the idea that one can (and should) have a relationship with a personal, sovereign God.

            Therefore, reader, please shape your expectations as you approach the contemplation of this book. If you have turned your back on the world and its system and its pleasures and are daily taking up your cross, whereupon you are engaged in putting your human nature to death; if you are following Him by obeying the things He says to you, then my arguments in this work will make sense. They will (hopefully) resonate with you, for, as Paul mentions in that very same chapter in his second letter to the Corinthians, “…we have the mind of Christ.

            If, on the other hand, you are still immersed in, regard highly, and operate in your daily life with the wisdom of the world (even if you name yourself a Christian); if you love the things of the world (even if you name yourself a Christian); if you order your life using the world’s zeitgeist as your measuring line (even if you name yourself a Christian); then this work may be difficult to digest … and in some areas downright offensive.             How can one know one is operating in the world? What things represent ‘the world’s mindset’? These are confusing religious term to some. Consider the Holy Spirit’s admonition, through John, writing to those who called themselves Believers.

“Do not love the world nor 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 lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” [1 John 2:15-17]

            “Oh, okay,” one might say. “I have no issues with lust, I have no issues with greed, and I’m not proud, so hey, I’m good.” But this verse (as do many others throughout the Bible) speaks of things at a deeper level.

            No (normal) man or woman can spend five minutes on the Internet today without encountering the problem of lust. The problem of lust goes beyond the sexual, however. It involves gluttony (not a popular thing to bring up even in today’s religious circles). It involves how we spend our free time. It involves how we spend and earn our money. It involves the things we thirst for, yearn for, ache for … and if we thirst for, yearn for, or ache for anything more than we thirst and yearn and ache for a relationship with God, we miss the mark—we sin. God calls that particular sin idolatry.

            The world’s system leverages a number of demonic philosophies, and one of them is focused on proliferating the desire to get things. The side effect of constantly fostering a desire for more is a sense of dissatisfaction with what one has. This can involve houses, cars, spouses, jobs, power, relationships, and all manner of material goods—almost anything touching the human condition. It involves how we think about our reputation. If we spend more of our time getting (or worrying about getting) a house, a car, a spouse, a job, or relationships with other people, or material things than we do increasing our knowledge of God, we miss the mark. God calls that idolatry.

            The pride of life involves more than just pride; it involves dependence upon man’s wisdom, seeking the approval of men, and scrambling and scraping and sacrificing one’s family, friends, or loved ones to ascend the world’s diabolical system of hierarchical dominance. It means depending upon one’s status in the world’s system for one’s peace of mind. If our peace comes from our achievements in the world’s system instead of deriving one’s peace (a peace that passes all understanding) from one’s relationship with and obedience to God, or if we hunger and work for the approval of men instead of God, if we care more about what men think of us than we care about what God thinks of us, we miss the mark. God calls that idolatry.

            So, if one finds oneself missing the mark regarding the things noted above (or in those areas your conscience speaks to you about), fully comprehending the truths in the Word will be impossible, and as well expect to find the content in this work difficult if not disturbing—and definitely offensive. If one is currently practicing open sin—that is, engaged in activities which God in His Word has indicated will result in a break in relationship with Him, do not expect to be able to understand anything in the Word; it will be a closed book to you. Today’s society may have convinced you that ‘you’re not that bad’, and you may think that those things in the Bible which most people find offensive or difficult to countenance (perhaps because they do not align with today’s cultural mores and values) are not really relevant to life. Unfortunately, as the Holy Spirit makes clear, all these lusts will pass away, but those who do the will of God will live forever.[1]

            Before setting fingers to keyboard, I purposely kept myself from viewing videos on anything having to do with the 12RFL. I wanted my first impressions of that work to emerge while I was settled with a real book in my hand, my eyes digesting print on paper. But I did view many other related videos, trying to get a sense of Mr. Peterson and what he had to say on a number of issues. I wanted to do everything I could, given my limited abilities, time frame, and access, to understand the man and his work. I wanted context.

            From my research (by viewing the YouTube videos and reading through Maps of Meaning) I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Peterson is honest, passionate, sincere, extremely intelligent, and searching to find and accurately describe things of crucial importance in the world around us. His humility shines clearly in every video. I think his combination of humility, sincerity, and integrity contributes to his popularity. He is like a ‘knight errant’ upon a quest to find truth and meaning in the world, possessing courage, a strong shield, and a sharp sword, slaying dragons and wizards, be they to the right or left, be they religious or secular, and millions of people are experiencing one of life’s more important pursuits (i.e. to find purpose and meaning in life) vicariously through him.

            Mr. Peterson obviously knows of the Ten Commandments. From my perspective, his 12RFL are not some attempt to replace or supplement them. Rather, I believe Mr. Peterson, astute observer of social conditions, is watching the denigration and deterioration of our society and, with courage and humility and intelligence, is speaking up and offering advice in the form of behavioral rules, philosophies of thought and actions he believes will make a difference, one person at a time, and perhaps slow or reverse this societal disintegration. Such effort is laudable.

            Another reason for embarking on this project was Mr. Peterson’s own injunction found in Rule 8 and in his summation:

[1] Good deal, that; should someone promise you eternal life, it might be a thought to consider the terms of the arrangement.

“ … to aim for wisdom, to distill that wisdom into words, and to speak forth those words as if they matter, with true concern and care.” [p. 361].

There is the admonition, if we are to avoid catastrophe, that each of us

“…bring forward the truth, as we see it: not the arguments that justify our ideologies, not the machinations that further our ambitions, but the stark pure facts of our existence, revealed for others to see and contemplate, so that we can find common ground and proceed together.” [p. 361]

The Christian today must wrestle here with a dichotomy. Yes, wherever there is discord and misunderstanding, we should endeavor to speak truth in love. It is for this reason, therefore, that mention must be made of the opinion held by many Christians with the mind and heart and Spirit of God in them, that America and many other nations are torn and divided primarily because of sin; because Americans and many other peoples and nations and tribes have thrown God behind their back; and therefore (like every other entity that has dispensed with Truth in the past) they will eventually find themselves not stitched back together but rent, ruined, and desolate upon the dustbin of failed empires. The only hope for any nation is to turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and obey Him.             Shall we work to advance the cause of a nation that, by its clear actions and behaviors, hates God? Whose side should we take? Pray for it we shall, but with realistic expectations, according to the will of God. And who will speak for the millions of children killed in wombs in America? Who will be their advocate? Who will speak their truth? From whence comes their justice? Should we pray for the land that upheld laws permitting such a holocaust? What does such a nation have to look forward to in that final Day of Judgment? What should such a nation expect from the hand of (a perfectly just) God, heartbroken over the deaths of millions of innocent children?

“So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” [Numbers 35:33, emphasis added]

            And what of the “the stark pure facts of our existence, revealed for others to see and contemplate, so that we can find common ground and proceed together”? Of all things, of all words, for every place and for all times, the Word of God has been and is this very thing—the Word consists of pure facts, the pure essence of existence, describing true Reality. It is revealed for all to see and to contemplate (if we have eyes to see and ears to hear), so that we might know the very Author of our Being, and that we might know ourselves, and that we might, knowing these two elementals, move forward to find common ground and proceed through life together—without killing each other.

            Another unavoidable dimension to this work is that it is most definitely somewhat of a ‘David vs. Goliath’ affair, in which this author’s Davidic resources are set in opposition to a veritable intellectual Goliath. There is no avoiding the clear fact that Mr. Peterson has, over the course of his career, studied and is far more knowledgeable about, man’s psychology (from a psychologist’s perspective) and the world’s psychological landscape than this author could ever hope to be.[1] Yet what spurs me to pick up my sling and these (hopefully smooth) stones is the same motivation that possessed David, when he stood up to Goliath. My intention (i.e. my hope) throughout this work is that the spirit of David’s defiance in the face of great odds, and his courage, inform and infuse what is written. Similar in nature to this motivation is a desire to speak truth when solutions are offered by human intellect that trespass upon or contradict those established by the Spirit of God in the Word of God.

            A still further reason to write is best reflected in the words of Francis Schaeffer, in his book, The God Who Is There, when he comments upon the importance of engaging those in the world about crucial themes—and engaging them with intelligence, rigor, respect, and love:

[1] I have heard it said that Psychology’s objective is the healing, preservation, and exaltation of our human nature. God’s objective is the death of our self-nature and the birth of the nature of the Living God inside us.

“Those standing in the stream of historic Christianity have been especially slow to understand the relationships between the various areas of thought [about which he previously expressed concern regarding the lack of absolutes and antithesis, which leads to pragmatic relativism]. When the apostle warned us to ‘keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world,’ he was not talking of some abstraction. If the Christian is to apply this injunction to himself he must understand what confronts him antagonistically in his own moment of history. Otherwise he simply becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ.

“The orthodox Christian has paid a very heavy price, both in the defense and communication of the gospel, for his failure to think and act as an educated person understanding and at war with the uniformity of our modern culture.” [The God Who Is There, p. 12, amplification added]

            There is a final dimension I hope will infuse this work. Yes, I want to approach Mr. Peterson’s work with a spirit of meekness and fear—meekness because of who I am and who God is, and because of my respect for Mr. Peterson’s intellect; and fear, because the subject matter with which we are dealing is fraught with dire and eternal consequences should we (all of us, myself and Mr. Peterson included) get it wrong. As well, one should be kind where one can. And I hope to address the 12RFL with intelligence and perspicacity. I hope I don’t misinterpret Mr. Peterson’s meanings. But as this work rolled out, moving through the text of the 12RFL and depending upon the Holy Spirit to originate a response, every so often in certain areas or upon certain topics these initial intentions would dissolve and another mien would arise, another Muse would emerge. In this sense, with this motivation, did God confront Job, and it is the attitude and Spirit He displays today with anyone who might doubt His goodness, His mercy, His compassion, His wisdom, His omnipotence, His omniscience—or even (yes, it happens) His existence as a personal, living God:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!”[1] [Job 38:2-3]

[1] Do God’s words seem harsh toward Job? Readers should note that God spoke only to Job, not to Job’s comforters, who were not speaking right things about God. It is an amazing privilege to have God speak to us directly; God disciplines those He loves, like a father the son in whom he delights.

            Just so, this Christian’s response to the 12RFL will put questions before readers, questions no philosophical system in the world but one can answer—that one system being Christianity. It is my hope throughout this work that I have as the titular author remained out of the way and permitted the Holy Spirit, in appropriate places, to put such questions that will require readers to ‘gird up their loins’, stand courageously, and truthfully respond to the Living God.

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