Bible Series – Jordan Peterson

 

A Prolegomena To The Jordan Peterson Series

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Student: I’m a Seminary student going to an Evangelical Seminary and a lot of what you’ve been saying has really been resonating and has really been fascinating to listen to and I know people’s been asking you questions like, what do you believe about the resurrection, do you believe in God, are you a Christian–and all these sorts of things and you know, and I’ve been listening very closely to all of your answers, and I have friends on Facebook who follow you very closely, and some of my friends are saying, ohhhh did you hear what Peterson said this time, maybe he’s one of us now, or something like that. But, at the same time in other ways what you explain in some of the stories sounds very close to what we call theological liberalism of the 19th century which use the historical critical methods of reading and interpreting the Bible, and understanding that Jesus was more of a moral figure than as a literal historical figure which through his atonement can provide satisfaction for man. So, I thought I would put the question in more general way because it’s hard to interpret some of your words. So, where exactly do you see yourself differing from traditional Orthodox Evangelical Christianity and why would you differ there given the that you seem to understand the idea of the importance of the biblical stories in Western history?

Peterson: Okay-okay, that’s a good question.

Well, I’ll just say that I have to answer that in a general way, obviously I have to answer in a general way. I mean I think that one of the things that makes me different is that I take the idea that things are 14 billion years old seriously, and the idea of evolution seriously, as does the Catholic Church by the way. But and so, I don’t see that as an impediment to the pursuit that I’m undertaking, okay. Now, I don’t know how to bridge that gap precisely, but I’m not that worried about it, I mean you can’t bridge every gap, it’s just not possible, it would require infinite knowledge. Okay, that’s one major, because I’m coming at this from a scientific perspective, I really am trying to come at from of scientific perspective ya know. I try to make sure that what I’m talking about is commensurate with current scientific knowledge and current scientific knowledge is no doubt erring in all sorts of ways. I think our notion about exactly how evolutionary history is progressing is flawed in many many ways, and the recent discoveries in the field of epigenetics which show that you can actually transmit acquired characteristics has really put a hole, has really put a real serious stick into the spokes of the evolutionary bicycle, let’s say. But then I also think the question is miss-asked in some sense, because I gave this lecture series a specific title for a specific reason,

 

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BIBLICAL STORIES.

 

Now, I’m not claiming that my psychological analysis exhaust the significance of the biblical stories–you know that they have multitudes, let’s say layers, of meaning and some of those layers are metaphysical, and some of those are more religious. I’m trying the best I can not to wander into those domains, and I do because it’s hard to do, it’s impossible to keep yourself bounded as a discursive speaker let’s say. What I’m trying to do is the same thing that Jung tried to do essentially, it’s to take a look at these old stories and say, okay let’s look at this from the perspective of the Human Psyche and let’s see what the significance can be, and that’s not to say that’s all the significance there is. Who knows what significance there is? One thing I have learned about the biblical stories is that no matter how deep you go into them, you’re not at the bottom so that’s been very very interesting to me, and God only knows about the metaphysical substructure of reality; because human beings certainly don’t.

 

So, I don’t want to claim that what I’m doing it’s a religious interpretation, although it drifts in that direction.

 

I want to stay within the purview of my expertise, such as it is. If you look at this psychologically, here’s what you can extract as, as pragmatically, as existentially, as clinically meaningful and the rest of it, well–the rest of it has to be left in abeyance. Because, I don’t have the capacity to investigate claims that go beyond that, that does not mean that what I’m saying is that I’m reducing these stories even though the psyche is a grand thing. I’m not trying to do that it’s—not reductionistic. It’s a take on it, so people can make up their own minds metaphysically. We also have to make up our minds about how we’re going to act, which is the really crucial issue as far as I’m concerned, but because I don’t have the capacity to investigate claims that go beyond that–that does not say that what I’m doing is reducing these stories to their psychological significance.

Extract: The question & answer section:  Biblical Series XII: The Great Sacrifice: Abraham and Isaac position 158:56.

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Visitors might find insights from this audio clip from R.C.Sproul, which includes the topic of Theological Liberalism, taken from his lecture The God of the Bible vs The God of the Philosophers to be of special interest as well.

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Ο ∼  ∼  ∼ ♦  ∼  ∼  ∼ Ο

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To complete this preliminary study proceed to the bottom of our Christian Philosophy page. By clicking on the preceding link scroll down toward the bottom of the page until you find a video featuring Dr. Michael Sugrue’s explanation of the concepts of the Logos and the Mythos.

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Biblical Series I: Introduction to the Idea of God

Lecture I in my Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories series from May 16th at Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto. In this lecture, I describe what I consider to be the idea of God, which is at least partly the notion of sovereignty and power, divorced from any concrete sovereign or particular, individual person of power. I also suggest that God, as Father, is something akin to the spirit or pattern inherent in the human hierarchy of authority, which is based in turn on the dominance hierarchies characterizing animals.

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Biblical Series II: Genesis 1: Chaos & Order

Lecture II in my Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories from May 23 at Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto. In this lecture, I present Genesis 1, which presents the idea that a pre-existent cognitive structure (God the Father) uses the Logos, the Christian Word, the second Person of the Trinity, to generate habitable order out of precosmogonic chaos at the beginning of time. It is in that Image that Man and Woman are created — indicating, perhaps, that it is (1) through speech that we participate in the creation of the cosmos of experience and (2) that what true speech creates is good.

It is a predicate of Western culture that each individual partakes in some manner in the divine. This is the true significance of consciousness, which has a world-creating aspect.

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Biblical Series III: God and the Hierarchy of Authority

Although I thought I might get to Genesis II in this third lecture, and begin talking about Adam & Eve, it didn’t turn out that way. There was more to be said about the idea of God as creator (with the Word as the process underlying the act of creation). I didn’t mind, because it is very important to get God and the Creation of the Universe right before moving on  :). In this lecture, I tried to outline something like this: for anything to be, there has to be a substrate (call it a potential) from which it emerges, a structure that provides the possibility of imposing order on that substrate, and the act of ordering, itself. So the first is something like the precosmogonic chaos (implicitly feminine); the second, God the Father; the third, what the Christian West has portrayed as the Son (the Word of Truth).

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Biblical Series IV: Adam and Eve: Self-Consciousness, Evil, and Death  

ClickHere for commentary on Series IV

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Biblical Series V: Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers  

The account of Cain and Abel is remarkable for its unique combination of brevity and depth. In a few short sentences, it outlines two diametrically opposed modes of being — both responses to the emergence of self-consciousness and the knowledge of good and evil detailed in story of Adam and Eve.

Cain’s mode of being — resentful, arrogant and murderous — arises because his sacrifices are rejected by God. This means that his attempts to give up something valuable in the present to ensure prosperity in the future are insufficient. He fails, in consequence, to thrive, as he believes he should, and becomes bitter, resentful and murderous.

Abel’s mode of being is characterized, by contrast, by proper sacrifice — by the establishment of balance between present action and future benefit. This ensures his personal and social success, accruing over time. Unfortunately, it also makes him the target of Cain’s malevolence.

This great short story is relevant personally, on the level of the family, and politically, all with equal force, all simultaneously.

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Biblical Series VI: The Psychology of the Flood  

The story of Noah and the Ark is next in the Genesis sequence. This is a more elaborated tale than the initial creation account, or the story of Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel. However, it cannot be understood in its true depth without some investigation into what the motif of the flood means, psychologically, and an analysis of how that motif is informed by the order/chaos dichotomy, as well as by the idea of an involuntary voyage to the underworld or confrontation with the dragon. In consequence, this lecture concentrates almost exclusively on psychology: How is an encounter with the unknown to be understood, conceptually? How and why is that represented with themes such as the underworld voyage, the dragon fight, or the flood?

All that constitutes the theme of lecture V

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Biblical Series VII: Walking with God: Noah and the Flood (corrected)

In he next series of stories, the Biblical patriarch Abram (later: Abraham) enters into a covenant with God. The history of Israel proper begins with these stories. Abram heeds the call to adventure, journeys courageously away from his country and family into the foreign and unknown, encounters the disasters of nature and the tyranny of mankind and maintains his relationship with the God who has sent him forth.  He becomes in this manner a light in the world, and a father of nations.
How is this all to be understood? I am attempting in this lecture to determine precisely that. How are we, as modern people, to make sense of the idea of the God who reveals himself to a personality? How can we relate the details of the Abramic stories to our own lives, in the current world? In what frame of reference can these stories be seen to make sense, and to reveal their meaning?

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Background to Lecture VIII: Abrahamic Stories, with Matthieu & Jonathan Pageau  

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Biblical Series VIII: The Phenomenology of the Divine  

In the next series of stories, the Biblical patriarch Abram (later: Abraham) enters into a covenant with God. The history of Israel proper begins with these stories. Abram heeds the call to adventure, journeys courageously away from his country and family into the foreign and unknown, encounters the disasters of nature and the tyranny of mankind and maintains his relationship with the God who has sent him forth.  He becomes in this manner a light in the world, and a father of nations.
How is this all to be understood? I am attempting in this lecture to determine precisely that. How are we, as modern people, to make sense of the idea of the God who reveals himself to a personality? How can we relate the details of the Abramic stories to our own lives, in the current world? In what frame of reference can these stories be seen to make sense, and to reveal their meaning?

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Biblical Series IX: The Call to Abraham  

In this lecture, I tell the story of Abraham, who heeds the call of God to leave what was familiar behind and to journey into unknown lands. The man portrayed in the Bible as the father of nations moves forward into the world. He encounters the worst of nature (famine), society (the tyranny of Egypt) and the envy of the powerful, who desire his wife. There is nothing easy about Abraham’s life. Instead, he is portrayed both as a real man, with serious problems, and a hero, who overcomes tremendous obstacles to establish himself in the world.

His covenant with God is an Ark. His decision to aim at the highest good he can conceptualize places an aura of magic around the events of his life, despite their harshness. He’s a model for life in the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.

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Biblical Series X: Abraham: Father of Nations

The Abrahamic adventures continue with this, the tenth lecture in my 12-part initial Biblical lecture series. Abraham’s life is presented as a series of encapsulated narratives, punctuated by sacrifice, and the rekindling of his covenant with God. This seems to reflect the pattern of human life: the journey towards a goal, or destination, and the completion of a stage or epoch of life, followed by the necessity of revaluation and reconsideration of identity, prior to the next step forward. Abraham, for his part, makes the sacrifices necessary to continue to walk with God, or before God (as the terminology in this section has it). It is this decision that allows him to transcend the vicissitudes of life, and to take his role as the father of nations.

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Biblical Series XI: Sodom and Gomorrah  

Often interpreted as an injunction against homosexuality (particularly by those simultaneously claiming identity as Christians and opposed to that orientation), the stories of the angels who visit Abraham, bless him, and then rain destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah are more truly a warning against mistreatment of the stranger and impulsive, dysregulated, sybaritic conduct.

Abraham opens his heart and hearth to the stranger. The denizens of Lot’s soon-to-be lost cities threaten them with violent rape. God exacts a terrible retribution. The warning is clear.

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Biblical Series XII: The Great Sacrifice: Abraham and Isaac  

In this, the final lecture of the Summer 2017 12-part series The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories,  we encounter, first, Hagar’s banishment to the desert with Ishmael and then the demand made by God to Abraham for the sacrifice of Isaac.

To sacrifice now is to gain later: perhaps the greatest of human discoveries. What, then, should best be sacrificed? And what might be the greatest gain? There are few eternal questions more profound and difficult.

In this lecture, I read an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, now available for pre-order at Amazon. (http://amzn.to/2wkb7MY) and Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/2x1hfXF).

I am currently making arrangements to continue this series with a monthly lecture. That will start in September at a date and time yet to be announced.

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Biblical Series XIII: Jacob’s Ladder

The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories starts up after a two month hiatus with the first half of the story of Jacob, the founder of Israel (“those who wrestle with God”), the man who robs his brother of his birthright, is deceived into marrying the wrong woman, and dreams of a stairway to heaven, in the ancient Shamanic tradition.

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Biblical Series XIV: Jacob: Wrestling with God 

In this lecture, I present the second half of the story of Jacob, later Israel (he who struggles with God). After serving his time with his uncle Laban, and being deceived by him in the most karmic of manners, Jacob returns to his home country. On the way, he encounters an angel, or God Himself,  wrestles through the night with Him. Successful in his encounter, he still sustains damage to his thigh, but earns the name Israel, and becomes the father of all those who to this day wrestle with God.

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Biblical Series XV: Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors

This lecture closes the 2017, and the book of Genesis. In it, I present the story of Joseph who, as the wearer of the coat of many colors, is profoundly adaptable, courageous, adaptable, merciful and just. Even in slavery — even in prison — he comes out triumphant, because of the strength of his character and his wisdom. Betrayed by his brothers, he acts to strengthen his family; unjustly accused by the Pharaoh’s wife, he maintains his faith.

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The Death and Resurrection of Christ: A Commentary in Five Parts

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The idea of the death and resurrection has a psychological meaning, in addition to its metaphysical and religious significance. It can be thought of as part of the structure of narrative that sits at the basis of our culture. It includes elements of sacrifice (associated with delay of gratification and the discovery of the future) and psychological transformation (as movement forward in life often requires the death of something old and the birth of something new).

This five-part commentary is an attempt to explain such ideas in detail so that they can be understood, as well as “believed.” 

This video is derived from five sources:

Part 1: The Nature of Experience (from my first book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief: https://jordanbpeterson.com/maps-of-m…)

Part 2: Some Axioms of the Christian Revolutionary Story (created for this video)

Part 3: Narratives and Sacrifice (taken from Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient, in my new book, 12 Rules for Life (https://jordanbpeterson.com/12-rules-…)

Part 4: On the Ark of the Covenant, the Cathedral and the Cross: Easter Message I (from my blog at https://jordanbpeterson.com/blog/)

Part 5: The Psychological Meaning of the Death and Resurrection of Christ: Easter Message II (an extended version of an Easter article I wrote for the London Sunday Times (https://bit.ly/2GEnC7B) The idea of the death and resurrection has a psychological meaning, in addition to its metaphysical and religious significance. It can be thought of as part of the structure of narrative that sits at the basis of our culture. It includes elements of sacrifice (associated with delay of gratification and the discovery of the future) and psychological transformation (as movement forward in life often requires the death of something old and the birth of something new). This five-part commentary is an attempt to explain such ideas in detail so that they can be understood, as well as “believed.”

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