While learning about Jordan Peterson, I’ve been fascinated with the discussions he’s had with Sam Harris, one of the so-called four horsemen of the New Atheists. There’s literally hours of those discussions on YouTube. In my estimation, these are, by far, the most refreshingly mature conversations between two people who have very different views about God and ethics.
This is an addendum to my last post about Peterson’s problem with the atheist’s appeal to secular moral values. In the short video clip below, which is part of a conference Peterson and Harris did together in Dublin in 2018 (you can watch the full discussion here), Peterson is addressing Harris’s fear that he might be trying to “Jesus smuggle” in his philosophical and psychological claims for morality and ethics. I’ve heard this “smuggling” accusation many times myself in conversations with anti-theists, which is rather ironic to me.
Peterson counters by showing that Harris’s secular argument for ethics and morality is actually subconsciously appealing to or assumes an internal transcendental universal ethic. Therefore, while not overtly metaphysical, the strength of Harris’s argument is identical to the Christian ideal.
One point where Peterson makes this comparison that particularly caught my attention is that it seems the best way to act ethically would to live in truth:
“Symbolically speaking, as far as I can understand, stripped of its metaphysical context, that the purpose of positing the vision of the ideal human being…certainly what the symbol of Christ’s life represents, is that the mode of being that moves us most effectively from something approximating ‘hell’ to something approximating ‘heaven,’ so to speak….and the best way to embody that is to actually live in truth….”
Please watch the whole clip for the context, but Peterson is spot-on here. This is absolutely central to classical Christian thought. We, of course, take this embodiment further. We believe that Truth is a Person. Jesus Christ Himself is the pathway and the truth that lays out the blueprint for the best possible trajectory for human life to flourish.
6 Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life…. (John 14:6a TPT).
31 Jesus said …“When you continue to embrace all that I teach, you prove that you are my true followers. 32 For if you embrace the truth, it will release more freedom into your lives.” (John 8:31-32 TPT)
Jesus is not only the truth, He’s the logos or “word” (John 1:1, 14), which was a common Greek word in first-century Hellenistic thought that does not just mean speech or logic, but ultimately means the structuring reality of everything. I discussed the history of “logos” in ancient philosophy and religion, and how John used it in his gospel account to show that this Structuring Reality came to us in human form, in my post “Logos: the structuring Reality of everything.”
Here’s the clip. It’s well worth watching if this interests you.