Is Jordan Peterson’s Fear of Committing to Christ Keeping Him From Catholicism?

Is Jordan Peterson’s Fear of Committing to Christ Keeping Him From Catholicism?

“I’ve thought…I suppose it’s a form of comedy that Catholicism is as sane as people get…it’s gothic, it’s dark, it has the same aesthetic in some sense as a horror film, and I’m not being…I’m not saying something denigrating by that; it is part of its strange mystery, and all that strangeness is necessary because people would be much more insane without it than they are with it.”  (Jordan Peterson)

Kennedy Hall writes…

I imagine that most readers are at least tacitly familiar with the Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. He rose to worldwide fame in a strange way for his principled stance against the encroachment of postmodernist ideology in Canadian universities. This all happened in 2016, and he went from a locally well-known, yet globally obscure professor to an international celebrity, filling theaters, arenas, and garnering hundreds of millions of views on YouTube and network television.

What was remarkable about his meteoric rise was that he did not espouse opinions that were in any way part of the mainstream narrative. Instead, he put forth all sorts of politically incorrect ideas. Among many controversial topics, he called into question whether men and women should work together in offices; he expressed that birth control has been a net-negative for civilization; he reaffirmed the biological reality of men and women being created as such; and he routinely dismantled the futility of atheism and nihilist thinking. Needless to say, his rise to fame was a curious thing to watch, as he was somehow on the ‘inside’ of the culture, but challenged every pillar or thought that our fallen culture rests on.

Perhaps he was able to do so while still being taken seriously because he never really committed to being a Christian. For all the lectures he gave on the psychology of the Bible, or all the times he was quoted exalting the narrative of the story of Christ, he could never commit to saying that he was a believer all the way through. When asked about whether or not he believed in God, he would always skirt around the question. “I can’t commit to a yes or not because I am not certain what you mean by that,” he would say. Or, “I do not like being put in a box where you will disregard what I have to say if you can pin me down.” It was fascinating to watch him joust with interlocutors, but he surely was not putting forth an orthodox Catholic belief. And, to be fair to those who criticize him, many of his ideas are not much more than gnostic or strange heretical claims if looked at from the bosom of the Church. I am not recommending him as anyone’s theologian.

That being said, I must tell a quick story about why I have been so fascinated with him over the years. In 2015, I was still essentially a liberal. I was reading “Catholic” articles from priests and theologians that would make my blood boil today. But I was trying. Suffice it to say, I was lost in a world of secular nonsense; but I could not help but feel the prick of my baptismal grace as I tried to work through my flawed ideas. In early 2015, I went on a mission trip to Mexico City, and my life was forever changed through a series of experiences, culminating with a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I cannot fully explain what happened there, but needless to say it was a soul-shattering encounter with grace that reformed me into a wholly different man.

Soon after this, I discovered two intellectuals: Saint Augustine and Jordan Peterson. Am I conflating these two men? Of course not. Well, maybe I am a bit. You see, Augustine of Hippo was a gnostic, and you might even say he was in a cult before his conversion. This might sound harsh, but it cannot be forgotten that he was a disciple of Manes, the man who started the ideology of the Manicheans. For the uninitiated, this philosophy was a gnostic-inspired dualist cult that professed that matter was evil and spirit was good. There are a whole host of strange things that could be said about its doctrines, but suffice it to say that when this ugly belief system reemerged centuries later, it was called Albigensianism. Albigensianism was so reprehensible that an intra-European Crusade was called in order to rid the world of this madness. Saint Augustine, the Doctor of Grace, was an adherent of this failed philosophy. But, he was also a giant of intellect, and he sought ultimate truth. 

After my conversion, I picked up a copy of Augustine’s Confessions and also started to watch Jordan Peterson lectures. This was before Peterson was famous, and I listened to a series of his recorded classroom lectures from the University of Toronto. Reading Augustine and listening to Peterson was a strange moment of providence, as Peterson brought up a host of interesting questions about reality and religion; but where he failed to give the Christian answer in the truest sense, Augustine filled in the gap. It dawned on me that, unlike the other secular intellectuals who are a bit controversial, Peterson was asking real questions that he wanted real answers to, rather than simply calling into question the ideas of our age while laying his own doctrines on top.

After a while, I had been fully remade into an orthodox Catholic, thus I had little time for Peterson, as entertaining as video-montages of him destroying feminism and global warming narratives may have been. I was glad for the role of providence in putting him in my life, as this was uniquely important for me in a particular time in my life, but I had moved onto bigger and better things.

As Peterson’s fame continued to grow, various Christian groups took notice, and he spoke with Orthodox, Catholics, and Evangelicals alike. At a certain point, he made it known that he had to fully investigate the Resurrection and see if it was actually true in history, and not just a truthful story in the mythological sense. Soon after this, he fell from the limelight when he became seriously ill to the point of almost dying and requiring obscure treatments. Still to this day, he lives in a state of constant pain. 

He has since re-emerged, and for those who have followed him for some time, he seems a different man, in the way that a man changes when he has encountered God. This is not just my own personal musing but more an observation of how he now speaks about Christ, as compared to how he spoke of Him before. In that recent podcast mentioned at the beginning of this article, he says to an Orthodox friend of his in conversation:

C.S. Lewis pointed this out that the difference between Christ and the mythological gods was that there is a representation, a historical representation of Christ as well…you can debate whether or not this is genuine…there is still a historical story, an actual Person who actually lived…the problem is I probably believe that, but I don’t know, I am amazed at my own belief, and I don’t understand it…. I believe it is undeniable, the objective world and the narrative world touch, and I have seen this many times…. And the ultimate example of that is supposed to be Christ, and that seems to me oddly plausible. I still don’t know what to make of it, partly because it is too terrifying a reality to fully believe; I don’t know what would happen to you if you believed it.

It should be noted that as he spoke of the terrifying reality of Christ, he was on the cusp of weeping and had to work hard to keep his emotions together.

I do not mean to over-sensationalize a podcast into an admittance of a full coming to Christ, but I have seen this sort of thing happen to men like him before—his genuine perplexity at his own willingness to believe something he never thought he could. He wouldn’t be the first intellectual to go from a modernist academic world to the bosom of Holy Mother Church. In the past century or so, we have seen a host of intellectuals go from skepticism, gnosticism, and atheism to complete adherence to the One True Faith. G.K. Chesterton was raised a Unitarian and was a Fabian socialist in his youth. Malcolm Muggeridge was a British socialist politician who eventually found God and went around to Canadian university campuses telling them that atheism was insane and that the theory of evolution was a nonsensical belief. Marshall McLuhan—the man who coined the phrase ‘The medium is the message’—went from agnostic despair to Rome, ironically after reading Chesterton. 

When men like Peterson seem on the cusp of converting to Christ, we are quick to think of what they might offer to the Church in her efforts to convert the world. This is understandable, but perhaps we should look at this another way; let us not think of what Peterson could offer the Church, but instead what the Church could offer him—the salvation of his soul. Would God do that Jordan Peterson embraces Christ in all his glory and becomes a son of the Church that the Son of God left to Peter.    Source – Crisis Magazine

Comment: 

Will Jordan Peterson become a Catholic, some day?   He appears to be searching hard – but note that the dire external state of the Church right now is hardly attractive to a man seeking holiness and whether he realises it or not, holiness is what is drawing Jordan to Christ.  However, he’s too intelligent not to have noticed the massive gap between “theory and practice” in the lives of the increasingly secularised contemporary Catholic community across the western world. Scandalous. 

Suggestion: let’s each one of us pray for all the necessary graces for Jordan Peterson to submit to Christ, to embrace the Catholic Faith given to us by Christ Himself. Perhaps pray the Memorare to Our Lady of Perpetual Help every day for this intention, because not committing his life to Christ is a much more terrifying prospect for Jordan… 

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy clemency, hear and answer me.  Amen.   

Comments (28)

  • Lily Reply

    I think Jordan Peterson is no different from a lot of other people who know in their heart that Christ is God and that the Catholic Church is the way to salvation given to us by God. He also knows that becoming a Catholic means he has to accept teachings revealed by God which are not able to be “rationalised” – as a psychologist, he would find that hard, IMHO. That’s why, I think, he uses the word “myth” – it’s a word used by people who feel the need to have some kind of rational explanation for what they don’t understand.

    Saying that, I like Jordan Peterson and I think he’s a genuine person. He has been through the mill of suffering and I think God is using that to bring him to the faith.

    One thing he has said that I hadn’t realised, but agree with, is that men and women working together in offices is questionable. I hadn’t ever thought of that before, but since the Matt Hancock affair was exposed I’ve read a few commentaries saying that affairs are very commonplace these days, due to working long hours in close proximity etc. Sometimes, a man will see more of his colleagues than his wife and if there is an attractive female colleague in the office, that can lead to a sinful affair. So, he stands out from the majority of men in western societies, by holding such a view.

    I agree we should pray for Jordan’s conversion – I’ve already said my Memorare for him this morning. Brownie points, LOL!

    July 5, 2021 at 9:54 am
  • Josephine Reply

    I also like Jordan Peterson but in that video clip he surprises me by saying that you can debate whether or not Christ actually lived. That’s nonsense. There are secular and Jewish historical sources which speak of Jesus and his followers. It’s well established that Christ was a real historical figure, and although I suspect Jordan is simply wanting to look “intellectual” (that’s the language of the intellectual, to break off and say “you can challenge this, or debate it but…”) it’s a pity he did that. I think from the rest of the video it’s obvious that he knows fine well that Christ lived on earth, but, as I say, it’s just a pity he uses that modernist debating rhetoric. I admire the fact that he’s not been afraid to challenge a lot of PC / Woke stuff, so I hope, as he progresses in his search for Christ, that he drops that habit and just states clearly that the mythical gods are mythical figures but Christ was a real historical man who lived in the 1st century and is recorded in historical sources.

    He goes on to say that he believes Christ existed and then makes a distinction between Christ the Man and the “story” which he suggests is a “myth”. It just shows how confused people get when they try to be clever about the faith! I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense – I understand that he is searching for the truth and that is good. But the video reminds me of the account in the gospel with doubting Thomas, when Our Lord said to Thomas that he believed because he could see but blessed are those who cannot see, yet believe.

    I agree we must pray for Jordan Peterson. He has had such a lot of suffering in his life, both physical and psychological, and since he is well intentioned, I think God will use that to impart grace to him. I’d go so far as to say that I think he’s well on the road to becoming a Catholic.

    As well as the Memorare, we should invoke doubting St Thomas!

    July 5, 2021 at 10:20 am
    • Faith of Our Fathers Reply

      Josephine I agree with you on the comment of Mr Peterson saying you can Debate on whether Our Lord Jesus Christ lived even just as a Man nonsense. Am not wanting to go into Jordan Petersons Soul as that’s His domain obviously. What we all know is that the Man has come through some Terrible Life Experiences probably His deep Depression being the Worst . As for probably lots of us on Here we have been so Fortunate to actually see the Hand of God lead us through Lifes Suffering although we probably did not see that at that particular time in our lives . Although I and probably others on Here fell away from the Catholic Faith I always Believed in Jesus Christ true Man and True God . We of course know Christ said. ” Seek and Ye shall Find ” but before that He said . ” Ask and Ye shall receive ” . Am certainly no Psychologist but I feel that Jordan Peterson is Seeking to much instead of maybe just asking First to receive. But of course one has to Believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ is first Real as True God and True Man . I also Hope and Pray that the Man becomes a Catholic for is their is no doubting His Sincerity and Goodness.

      July 5, 2021 at 3:43 pm
    • Fidelis Reply

      Josephine,

      I could be wrong, but I didn’t think Jordan was saying Christ or his story was a myth, I think he was saying that some other writers think that. I think he was meaning things like the Resurrection, wondering if that was a myth, but once he gets into reading the right stuff instead of reading what others searching are writing, he’ll come to see that the Resurrection is an historical fact. Actually, plenty of Christians don’t realise that the Resurrection is an article of faith, something that we must believe, and that it is an historical fact, so I thought I would put in a link to give some of the evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Jesus – you never know, Jordan might find out about this thread and read it, LOL!
      https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/the-resurrection.html

      July 6, 2021 at 12:07 am
  • Nicky Reply

    I’m just amazed that anyone is seriously looking at the Catholic Church at this time, given the “massive gap” mentioned in he introduction between the teaching of the Church and the scandals being played out, as well as the way so-called Catholics live no differently to anyone else in the world today.

    So, good luck with that search, I say!

    July 5, 2021 at 10:26 am
  • editor Reply

    Thanks everyone for comments so far.

    I came across this clip just now and would like to add in Ben Shapiro for a remembrance in that Memorare – I have long considered Ben to be intellectually honest and spiritually open to the truths of the faith – his attentiveness during this clip from an interview with a Protestant pastor confirms my view.

    Additionally, the minister provides a model of humble and truly Christ-like straight talking about the need to be “offensive” when speaking about Our Lord. If only we could find a Catholic priest with the same conviction and courage.

    July 5, 2021 at 10:40 am
    • Margaret Mary Reply

      I agree about Ben Shapiro – he is also very genuine and the fact that he’s had several Catholics on his show and this Christian pastor, speaks well of him. I will also pray for his conversion.

      I also agree about the pastor – no diluting the gospel for him. How he puts the ecumenical priests in the Church to shame.

      July 5, 2021 at 11:52 am
    • Athanasius Reply

      Editor

      It’s been a long time since I heard a Christian speak so forthrightly to a Jew about Our Lord Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. This Protestant pastor is not afraid to speak the truth, which can’t be said for greater majority of priests who are members of the true Church.

      The only grave error in this pastor’s explanation is when he refers to the doctrine of justification, which, as we know, the Protestants take to mean that there is no need for the Catholic Sacrament of Confession. They contend that Our Lord’s death on the Cross is sufficient in itself to wipe out all the sins of the believer no matter how often he commits them and regardless of the Sacrament of penance.

      As Catholics of course we know that Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Confession, especially shown in the Gospels when He told the lepers to go show themselves to the priests (leprosy being an allusion to mortal sin in the soul). He also announced the Sacrament by saying to the ordained Apostles “whose sin you shall forgive they are forgiven, whose sins you shall retain they are retained”.

      The Fathers of the Church note that mortal sin is first a great sin of pride, rebellion against God, for which God asks the penitent for a countering act of humility by kneeling before the priest who acts in His person to confess and be forgiven. Without this Sacrament it is generally the case that a very great number of Protestants will lose their souls – their false religion having taught them to reject the very Sacrament Christ instituted as absolutely integral to His forgiveness.

      Other than that, I liked Ben Shapiro’s genuine interest in what this pastor was saying to him about the Messiah as the true hope of the Jewish nation.

      As regards Jordan Peterson, he seems to be a genuine person who, if truly sincere in his search for religious truth, will receive that special gift of grace without which he can never accept divine revelation. I hope God grants him the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the grace of the only true Christian religion, the Catholic religion, which is able to save his soul.

      July 5, 2021 at 1:49 pm
      • editor

        Athanasius,

        Many thanks for highlighting that error about justification in the pastor’s otherwise excellent commentary in the Ben Shapiro interview. It’s extremely important to correct that, and I apologise for my failure so to do… I can just hear you saying “typical – she throws a few words together and then disappears for hours on end, to leave me tidying up the mess.” SO judgemental…

        https://i.pinimg.com/originals/c7/86/09/c78609395f4081862cc932dba0feb673.jpg

        July 5, 2021 at 8:26 pm
      • Athanasius

        Editor

        Despite the scene of car carnage, which a woman was obviously responsible for, I had no such thoughts about your not mentioning the justification error of the pastor.

        I understood perfectly that you were making a specific point about Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro which didn’t really call for clarification on that one point. I just felt I should point it out anyway for the benefit of any Protestant readers. It was an aside, if you like.

        July 5, 2021 at 9:28 pm
      • editor

        Athanasius,

        I wasn’t meaning to suggest that you were digging at li’l ole me, perish the thought! See how easily a misunderstanding can occur.

        https://funnytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/1995/11/199511083.jpg

        July 5, 2021 at 11:50 pm
      • Athanasius

        Editor

        I don’t know where you find these cartoons but they crack me up every time.

        July 6, 2021 at 1:06 am
      • editor

        Athanasius,

        If the cartoons crack you up, wait till you hear what Douglas Murray says in the first couple of minutes of this short video. Amazing! He is speaking about contemporaries of his who have converted to Catholicism. But wait till you hear what “form” of Catholicism. Maybe we should add Douglas to our Memorare!

        July 6, 2021 at 9:16 am
      • Athanasius

        Editor

        Yes, it seems that Douglas Murray has been reflecting very seriously in this matter and understands much more than the stupid old git who spoke after him why intellectuals convert to the Traditional form of Catholicism rather than the modern version emptied of God. The old git was just a sophist, an apologist for hippies, who clearly failed to recognise that not so long ago the entire Catholic world was Traditional and no one thought it aloof or beyond the understanding of the most simple person. There’s nothing worse in my view than an old intellectual void of common sense, or divine wisdom, to give it its proper name.

        God bless and convert Douglas Murray, though, for he is a far more honest intellectual.

        July 6, 2021 at 3:54 pm
      • Josephine

        Athanasius,

        I agree totally. Douglas Murray is another man I’ve admired for his ability to stand up to the Woke nonsense, However, he is an openly gay man, so bringing him to Christ would be more difficult than in the case of Jordan Peterson.

        July 6, 2021 at 5:11 pm
      • Athanasius

        Josephine

        I had no idea that Douglas Murray was openly gay. Still, if he is well enough disposed to grace then all things are possible. Let’s hope and pray he gets that grace.

        July 6, 2021 at 6:02 pm
      • RCAVictor

        Editor,

        I’d say that’s an appropriate visual for the current Pontificate….

        July 5, 2021 at 10:27 pm
      • editor

        RCA Victor,

        Yes, it’s definitely an appropriate visual for the Francis Pontificate. You do make good points, one has to admit. Speaking of points reminds me of pencils (it’s my mind that’s the problem…) and speaking of pencils reminds me of Shakespeare (don’t ask…)

        https://jokojokes.com/images/jokes/pencil-jokes-my-dad-has-a-pencil-that-was-once-owned-by-shakesp.jpg

        July 5, 2021 at 11:54 pm
      • RCAVictor

        Editor,

        Speaking of old Will, some scholars think he died of tuberculosis, and offer this as evidence:

        TB or not TB,
        That is the question.
        Consumption be done about it?
        Of cough, of cough!

        July 6, 2021 at 3:32 pm
  • westminsterfly Reply

    I’m amazed at this thread – I mean truly amazed. This was exactly my feelings about Peterson a little while back. I felt that he just needed an extra nudge and the remaining scales would fall from his eyes and he’d be there. Yes, have Masses offered for him, Consecrate him to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart and pray the Rosary for him. He has a formidable mind and the Church is in need of saints, and as the article says – more importantly – he is even more in need of Christ. The fact that he openly speaks about Christ and Catholicism on public platforms – and not to ridicule them – is certainly something these days – a sign that he is crying out for some kind of help? Let’s give it to him. And besides, anyone who can trounce the extreme-leftist Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News has got my vote!

    July 5, 2021 at 10:43 am
    • Margaret Mary Reply

      Westminster Fly,

      That’s a brilliant take-down of Cathy Newman – bravo Dr Peterson!

      I, too am amazed at this thread. Jordan Peterson is a genuine seeker after Truth which is why he will find it.

      This short video is very interesting, where he speaks about a dream he had – I wonder if he knows the Bible verse “every knee shall bow” (at the name of Christ).

      July 5, 2021 at 11:49 am
    • editor Reply

      WF,

      I am very pleased to read about your positive sense about Jordan Peterson and, although I am not a Channel 4 fan, I remember that interview with Cathy Newman. He dealt with her nonsense masterfully! Love the “agreeable” comments! Priceless.

      You are very right about the fact that he speaks so openly about Christ and Catholicism in public – when we have bishops and priests watering down the Faith and twisting it to be as “inoffensive” as possible. Ironic that we have here, two non-Catholics who are not afraid to speak openly about Christ – see Ben Shapiro’s interview with a Protestant pastor in the video clip above. Both the pastor and Jordan would make terrific Catholics. We really should pray for them. AND for Ben.

      July 5, 2021 at 8:34 pm
    • Fidelis Reply

      Westminster Fly,

      I agree with you that this is an amazing thread and that Jordan Peterson just needs an extra nudge and he’ll come to the faith. If only he could meet a sound traditional Catholic who could answer his questions and make sure he is put in touch with a sound priest who will give him time and teach him properly.

      I watched that Channel 4 interview, and it was great to see him take down Cathy Newman – I bet she was glad when it was over, LOL!

      July 6, 2021 at 12:11 am
  • RCAVictor Reply

    My first impression of Mr. Peterson (I’ve come across his name before, but not his writings) is that he is torturing himself with excessive intellectualism: so-and-so thinks this, so-and-so thinks that. It’s the trap of academics whose opinions are formed by other academics, and/or who think that they have to cite arguments on all sides of an issue, resulting in confusion and lack of conviction. Can you imagine if Our Lord started citing Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in his parables?

    That said, I think he is a very honest man, almost brutally so. Josephine beat me to the punch about the historical veracity of Our Lord’s life on earth, and my comment is probably a re-hash of hers, to which I can only add that Mr. Peterson should stop worrying about what his intellectual confreres have said and practice some serious mental prayer…preferably before the Blessed Sacrament.

    July 5, 2021 at 3:57 pm
    • editor Reply

      RCA Victor,

      Absolutely insightful comment from you on this; it is PRECISELY the tortuous academic tendency to think there is a need to quote other “experts” or writers on every subject before venturing an opinion – and sounding confused in the process – which does, indeed, make the journey towards truth so difficult for them.

      “Can you imagine if Our Lord started citing Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in his parables?”

      Totally brilliant !

      July 5, 2021 at 8:40 pm
    • Fidelis Reply

      RCA Victor,

      You are so right about Jordan being “a very honest man, almost brutally so.” That is my sense, as well, just watching him on the short video clips on this thread.

      I also agree about him not worrying about other intellectuals. I forget which pope but one of the popes wrote in an encyclical about the people who struggle most with simple faith are the supposedly educated/intellectual types. I will paraphrase, but he explained this by saying that this was because they were so full of themselves, thought they knew everything and so had no need of God. So, it’s a pity that Jordan is looking to see what other intellectuals think about Our Lord. I do think that Jordan is genuinely open-minded and will come to the Church eventually.

      July 6, 2021 at 12:17 am
      • RCAVictor

        Fidelis,

        Unfortunately, two of the intellectuals he cited are (were) both occultists: CG Jung and Joseph Campbell.

        July 6, 2021 at 3:37 pm
      • Josephine

        RCA Victor,

        That is exactly Jordan’s problem – he can’t seem to understand that when you’re searching for the truth, you need to be careful who you read.

        It’s interesting that Kennedy Hall says in the article that when he read St Augustine, he was able to make progress in his understanding of the spiritual life without Peterson.

        July 6, 2021 at 5:05 pm

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