Confidence in Questions
Jordan B. Peterson clinical psychologist and faculty at the University of Toronto wrote Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief fifteen years ago to address the depths of why and how people believe what they believe. Grounded in neuropsychology, this book both macro and micro analysis of different topics including the known and unknown, chaos and order, images, and adversity. Coupled with the reading, I found myself listening to different lectures of his, specifically focusing in on one entitled “2017 Maps of Meaning 10: Genesis and the Buddha.” Similar content to the overview video assigned, Peterson delves into different religious figures and stories throughout history including several from the Bible. Watching and listening to the lectures resonated with me much more than engaging with the book this week and I’m grateful for his public release of so much of his content.
Beyond the specific content that Peterson offers the audience to consider, what I really found refreshing and magnetic was his ability to hold differing worldviews, concepts, and belief systems in such a way that reinforced the inherent dignity of the people that hold those beliefs. He was less concerned about right and wrong than he was about the exploration of the why behind the belief. While incredibly intelligent, he continually asked ‘what the hell is that about?’ in his lectures which made him all the more reliable to me. Perterson’s comfort level and even encouragement of asking questions and not knowing the answers felt foreign in a society that seemingly expects everyone, especially leaders, to have all of the answers. He is able to drill down on what is known by various philosophers and great thinkers both past and present and simultaneously hold the breadth of the unknown, the mysterious, with just as much validity of an appropriate answer to life’s questions.
I found many connections between Peterson and the other works for our time in the program thus far, namely:
- Augustine – the asking of the why questions
- Kahneman – which parts of our brains are engaged while we engage our beliefs and how
- Meyer – the historical and current implications of culture (especially those with rich oral traditions still at play) on cross-cultural interactions
- Busch – the connections between the visible and invisible portions of belief
- Solzhenitsyn – is western society built on a solid faith or a matter of opinion. If a solid rock, have we forgotten that?
- Miller – religious traditions and how we engage with them individually and societally
On a more person level, though, I found Peterson’s engagement with leaning into the why behind belief systems a strange sort of comfort this week. As I laid in yet another MRI tube this afternoon, I was asking the Lord many of these questions. Why do I have this cancer again? Why do I have such a rare type of cancer – one that so little is known about? Why does it not play by any rules? Why will I likely never experience the relief of remission in my lifetime? Why, in and through all of this, do I still hold fast to His goodness? Why do I believe that the Lord is working even this for my ultimate good?
While I don’t know many of these answers, I think the assurance I find can be tied to the graphic Peterson references in his lectures on the cross-references within the Bible. It is a fascinating image that points me back to an intentional creation, and thus Creator. It reminds me that each story within the Bible can be held on its own and in relationship and context with all the others. It displays the ingenuity of a God that lets nothing go to waste. So, even in this season of suffering – perhaps especially in this season – I can sit in the confidence of His faithfulness to me because my belief system is such that gives heavy emphasis of faith and trust as core components. I lean not into my own understanding and I am grateful that I do not have to.
 Peterson, “2017 Maps of Meaning 10: Genesis and the Buddha” retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XtEZvLo-Sc
11 responses to “Confidence in Questions”
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Kayli, thanks for this informative and personal post. I, like you, watched some lectures and found his style engaging and enjoyable (even when I didn’t know exactly what he was saying!) Thanks also for sharing the personal questions it led you to ask. We keep praying for your healing. Your last paragraph will preach! You reference Peterson’s lack of knowing the answer to everything – what implications do you think that has for pastors who are often looked to as the one with the answers to all the BIble questions?
Roy: I’d hope that there would be a bit of a relief for pastors and even their congregants if folks were able to embrace and encourage that the pastors were not meant to have all the answers. If anything, I find I connect most to a pastor that can walk through scripture and invite me into exploring questions with the Lord on my own.
In your experience, how do people respond if you don’t have the answers to something that they are wanting?
Kayli I am not answering for Roy, but my experience is it depends on the emotional state one is in.
Incredible connections here Kayli. Thank you for sharing from your bones, literally. Holding you in the Light friend.
Thank you Michael.
Kayli: Hi video presentations found on YouTube I think are also easier to grasp than his writings. He meanders when he writes and sometimes it’s difficult to follow him. But I got the same sense of the man and his intensity to ask, “What does it all mean?” He is not an evangelist of sorts; he is a searcher not yet in full grasp of the ultimate meaning of his life and that of Christ.
I agree, Troy. I think his searching is what makes him so engaging. It makes me ask my own set of questions and to have the freedom to keep searching regardless of where we are in our own walks with the Lord.
I listened to a few of his podcasts as well. Like Jason said, he is interesting, and quite blunt about his opinion!
Well done on your connecting the book to previous ones.
Do you envision revisiting this book at a later time, or perhaps some of his other resources?
What a compelling personal reflection. Reflecting on some of Petersen‘s thoughts, what do you think are the cultural influences that have given you the tools to shape the meaning behind what you are experiencing right now?
Kayli, I so am humbled by you sharing those very personal questions of why. It is one thing to go through a process and ask them. It is another to share that with others.
How might you contextualize your own why’s for your students as they face the anxiety of the unknown?
Kayli, thank you for this very vulnerable and insightful post. I agree with you that Peterson’s seemly endless questions gives his insights more credibility, because they are coming from someone who is open to reexamine at any moment. Did you see anything in Peterson’s book that would connect with your project?