Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

“I Can See, Sir, That You Have a Dazzling Intellect.” From Princess Bride

Written by: on November 18, 2022

To adequately engage with Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief,[1] far more time and even more space is necessary than is possible in this brief post.  Peterson is the popular Canadian Psychology Professor from Toronto, who uses philosophical reasoning to explain “how humans generate ‘meaning.’” [2] Peterson’s manner of communicating his theories in the 500 pages would dazzle the mind of the Philosophy of Ethics professor. I found Peterson to be a man on a quest to find the multitude of questions that haunt him and could help others resolve their own unanswered questions about life. This search included:

  • Reasonable answers about God, or myth as he refers to it.
  • Explanation of profound evil of humans toward one another
  • Economic and other social injustices [3]
  • The acquisition of meaning
  • The role of culture, community, in the development of meaning how individuals respond to various situations.
  • How individuals come to share the same moral set of rules.
  • The emergence of a hero type.
  • Finally, is his discussion of Jesus

Peterson’s explanation of the mythological was interesting but I found it to be void of an aspect of grace. That being said he did challenge my thinking in regard to culture, family, home, and how that translating into the church community.

Culture is worked into the very fiber of our identity within our families, the practices, rituals, values and relationships. It is within these relationships that our beliefs are formed and tested. Those beliefs are the means in which a person navigates the disorder and chaos observed in the world. This is especially true of unspeakable evil and injustice, out of which the self-sacrificial behavior of the hero may emerge.[4] This type of resilient individual models the necessary self-reflection and moral determination that is needed for the society to regain order and maintain it. For the replication of a peaceful culture to transcend one generation, individuals need to interact with admirable leaders that embody the qualities and values worthy of respect.[5] Leadership needs to be approachable, authentic, honest, and accomplished in the aspects worthy of honor (Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 4:8).[6] Young people who do not have relationship with individuals that model these characteristics struggle with their self-worth, identity, and are easily confused.[7]

It is at this point that I return to a previous theme of home, in terms of Peterson’s logic of meaning, purpose, and navigating life. Peterson refers to a “place to act,” [8] in which an individual learns the meaning and value of their actions within community. Home is the first social construct that provides the foundational base from which all meaning is derived. A child from birth is acquiring meaning in everything from language, manners, expectations of social interactions, family values, and occupational aspirations. The strength, security, and clarity of the home environment determine the moral priorities through which an individual filters “the methods and theories of science” [9] they encounter. Nearly every day I hear one or more of my Dad’s numerous mini lectures, on what is right, honorable, or wrong. Today, I do not always agree with those lessons, but they are the orientational point [10] from which my analysis begins.  

According to Bouma-Prediger and Walsh, the home is where one learns the ultimate meaning and value of one’s actions.[11] It is our introduction to “the arts…in ritual, drama, literature, and mythology.”[12] The home is the primary source that informs our values, morality, and meaning. If one is fortunate enough to be born into a family of relatively low dysfunctionality, that individual was “shaped” positively by the “consequence(s) of” loving and supportive “social interaction.”[13]

If in fact, the moral fiber of the culture and meaning are woven together in the home, without which there is chaos that spills over into every element of society.[14] Could the current deterioration of the family unit from abuse, the over-valuing of commodities,[15] among other factors, be contributing to the confusion of identity within the family, church, and individuals?  

The final tidbit I gleaned from Peterson was his thoughts on narrative. He claims that narrative, story, or parable, are all the means by which we learn and retain the intrinsic meaning of “objects,” “myths,” that “accurately captures the nature of (life’s) rare experiences.” [16] If the local church is to be God’s expression of home. And home is where learning is assimilated experientially through story,[17] interaction with worthy models, and meaningful rituals. It seems to me, that the local congregations maybe missing this humanities side. There is often a focus on intellectual explanations, while biblical, they are difficult to replicate with sincere conviction that is congruous with individual character.

Have we lost the mystical vision of God? In so doing, have we diminished his omnipotence? Have we damaged our credibility in the larger community, because we have attempted to explain the mystical scientifically?

[1] Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (New York: Routledge, 1999).

[2] Robinson J. Robinson, “The Intellectual We Deserve,” March 14, 2018, 2, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/03/the-intellectual-we-deserveM.

[3] Peterson, Maps of Meaning, xii.

[4] Ibid, xx.

[5] Ibid, xiii.

[6] Brené Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts (New York: Random House, 2018).

[7] Michele Borba Ed.D., Esteem Builders: A K-8 Self-Esteem Curriculum For Improving Student Achievement, Behavior and School Climate, Second (Torrence, CA: Jalmar Press, 2003).

[8] Peterson, Maps of Meaning, 9.

[9] Ibid., 1.

[10] Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh, Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Pub, 2008).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Peterson, Maps of Meaning, 1.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, xi.

[15] Jason Paul Clark, “Evangelism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship” (Faculty Publications – Portland Seminary, 2018), https:// digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/gfes/132.

[16] Peterson, Maps of Meaning, 2.

[17] Bouma-Prediger and Walsh, Beyond Homelessness.

About the Author


Denise Johnson

Special Education teacher K-12, School Counselor K-12, Overseas field worker in Poland,

7 responses to ““I Can See, Sir, That You Have a Dazzling Intellect.” From Princess Bride”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Denise, great post! I really like how you unpacked the implications of Peterson’s work on family, both family of origin and the church as a family. There is so much familial language around the church in the New Testament that doesn’t seem to fit so much of American culture. You wrote: “the local congregations maybe missing this humanities side.” Can you say more about that? And, more importantly, what would you recommend for local congregations to find what they are missing here?

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Denise: I really enjoyed reading your thoughts this week and agree that we could spend the whole semester discussing this one book. I’m interested to know how you experienced the home and family system in Poland as compared to here in the US. Do you think the global church missing this component or just those within certain cultural contexts?

  3. mm Eric Basye says:

    You post some great questions in this blog. I love the tie into the church. I also appreciated the note about him, seeming to not understand the concept of grace. I like a lot of what he says, and he speaks with a level of confidence, one could almost say, arrogance. Thinking about your comment, being void of grace, that would make his outlook quite miserable. Listening to one of his podcasts right now, he is blasting the Canadian government. He speaks with absolutes. Obviously, he is very intelligent and has some great concepts, but again, void of grace. Very interesting.

  4. mm Andy Hale says:

    You have made some fascinating connections between making meaning and home. Of course, there are some powerful biblical examples of what you have expressed. The first that comes to mind is “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”

    At the same time, you have an alternative story in Abram leaving Ur. Forsaking all of his father’s “gods,” culture, tradition, and family, Abram left on a 700-mile journey, never to return home. His story raises all kinds of questions about the sins of calling from God, rightness, and abandoning the culture of home for something new.

  5. Elmarie Parker says:

    Denise, thank you for your thoughtful post and engagement with Peterson’s book. I really appreciated the way you made use of his insights in conversation with your NPO work on home and the church’s role in this. It seems to me that a lot of your reflection on the role of home leans into the stability (Great Father) side of Peterson’s work. I’m curious how you see home also preparing people to lean into the chaos/life producing (Great Mother) side of Peterson’s work? And what is the dynamic within home that can fulfill the ‘Divine Son’ dimension?

  6. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Peterson is a man on a quest, like you mention. He does not yet have all the answers he is looking for, but he is searching strenuously. He is not yet an evangelist about his conclusions on life, but he is a searcher on the path for learning about the ultimate realities of this world. Good post with lots of insights.

  7. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Denise, I appreciate your interaction with this person of “dizzying intellect.”
    You raise a great question at the conclusion of your blog…”Have we lost the mystical vision of God? In so doing, have we diminished his omnipotence?” As you compare and contrast our readings through our doctorate, in what ways have we been invited to ponder the mystical God?

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