DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Heart of the Matter

Written by: on February 16, 2020

**First, I apologize for my tardiness to this discussion. All five members of my family are recovering from round three of the flu. I have either been acting as a nurse or patient over the last couple of weeks, and this week got the best of me. I am happy to be back in touch with the world and am pretty sure there is nothing left out there for us to catch. Please be aware that the following is written as I emerge from the cloud of flu meds.**

Jordan Peterson, a former psychology professor at the University of Toronto, and a Canadian clinical psychologist has emerged in the last few years with some of the most controversial thoughts and ideas. He gained a large following after several YouTube interviews created polarizing responses between political conservatives and progressives.[1] His book, 12 Rules of Life is a popular recasting of his academic work, and introduces a controversial conversation on political correctness, calling its readers to what he describes as responsible, purposeful living.[2]

In contrast to his popular work, Maps of Meaning is a dense read. This book begins with a personal narrative that is very helpful in situating Peterson’s own search for meaning.[3] His description of disillusionment with the church, along with his more recent struggles of depression and anxiety helps the reader humanize this verbose academic. His story sheds light on his journey through the complexities of life.

Carl Jung had a profound impact on Peterson through his teaching that myths offer cultural patterns that make human life intelligible. For Peterson, myths are not mere stories. They are pillars that shape human existence. He refers to myths as, “the distilled essence of the stories we tell ourselves about the patterns of our behavior.” According to Peterson, these myths offer a pathway to meaning through three elements: (1) the known, (2) the unknown[4], and (3) the hero, or mediator between the two. One writer says, “Peterson sees himself as a mythical hero, a Prometheus bringing light to humanity.”[5]

This morning, my oldest son, Evan, shared with me his favorite passage of Scripture, Ecclesiastes 12:13:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Evan explained that this passage gave him much hope at the end of reading Ecclesiastes. He said, “After a book that makes life seem meaningless, these verses offer meaning and direction for a purposeful life.”[6] I thought our conversation was more than coincidental after diving into Peterson’s work as well as the controversy surrounding him. The visceral response of people who are quick to heap hate on another suffering human is astounding. For those who fear God, this seems wholly contrary to his commands, and surely his nature. I admit that it can cause me to wonder at the meaning of it all…

So, I choose to follow Evan’s map of meaning. More than simply myth and story, this meaning is found in the One who knows. After all, Ecclesiastes reminds us that “this is the heart of the matter: Fear God. Do what he tells you.”[7]  I pray that Peterson, after all of this, finds the heart of the matter as well.

 

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[1] This interview with Cathy Newman has over 19 million views. Jordan Peterson Debate on the Gender Pay Gap, Campus Protests and Postmodernism, n.d., accessed February 16, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMcjxSThD54.

[2] Jordan B. Peterson, Norman Doidge, and Ethan Van Sciver, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2018).

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

[4] Peterson’s view of gender is deeply polarizing, especially this idea that the “unknown chaos” is feminine.

[5] Jeet Heer, “Jordan Peterson’s Tired Old Myths,” The New Republic, May 21, 2018, accessed February 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/148473/jordan-petersons-tired-old-myths.

[6] It is amazing what I can learn from my teenage sons if I pause long enough to listen.

[7] Ecclesiastes 12:13, The Message

About the Author

mm

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

3 responses to “The Heart of the Matter”

  1. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Rhonda – I am so sorry to hear of the continued sickness and struggle this past week! This was excellent – I know you’ve worked hard to listen and understand where Peterson is coming from. I struggled this week with time constraints – and that did not help me wrap my mind around this tome but reading the cohort posts, I am learning more for sure. Yours helped me – thank you.

  2. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Not bad for a flu medicated mind! 🙂

    I appreciated Evan’s conclusion of the matter. All the mythology left me spinning and wondering if Peterson has any real anchor to hold to. At the end of it all, its good for a young person to pull us back to childlike simplicity as we dive into the depths of life’s meaning. Thank Evan for us.

  3. mm Sean Dean says:

    This is a really good distillation of this book and a way of processing it. Thank you.

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