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On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 3, The Logos-Trinity Ideation

The Logos-Trinity Ideation

<< Previous, Part 2 – The Serpent-Satan Synthesis

In BS1, Jordan stated:

“There’s an idea in Christianity of the image of God as a Trinity. There’s the element of the Father, there’s the element of the Son, and there’s the element of the Holy Spirit. It’s something like the spirit of tradition, human beings as the living incarnation of that tradition, and the spirit in people that makes relationship with the spirit and individuals possible…

There’s a fatherly aspect, so here’s what God as a father is like. You can enter into a covenant with it, so you can make a bargain with it…

The son-like aspect. It speaks chaos into order. It slays dragons and feeds people with the remains…

The spirit-like aspect. It’s akin to the human soul. It’s the prophetic voice. It’s the still, small voice of conscience. It’s the spoken truth…

That’s a very well-developed set of poetic metaphors. These are all…what would you say…glimpses of the transcendent ideal…

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.” We know it’s associated with the logos in this sequence of stories. We know it’s associated with the word, and with consciousness; and we know that it’s associated with whatever God is. And then I laid out the metaphorical landscape that, at least in part, describes God.”

In BS2, Jordan stated:

“What is God like? From the Christian perspective, there’s three elements. One seems to have something to do with tradition, and so that’s God the Father. That’s partly the embodiment, I would say, of the human being. That’s an ancient, ancient thing. It’s also, partly, the embodiment of the tradition of human beings, which is also a very ancient thing, and that’s the structure. As I said, it’s the structure that consciousness emerges from that enables us to grapple with the unknown as such. And then there’s the intermediary between that and Christ—that’s the Holy Spirit, the bird. That’s the spirit in a more abstracted sense. I would say that’s probably as close Christianity ever got to the notion of disembodied consciousness, something like that…

Part of the notion of Christ—and this is something that I’ve puzzled over for a long time, and I learned a lot of this from Jung—is that there’s an idea in Christianity that there’s consciousness, which, in some sense, is eternal. It stretches from the beginning of time to the end of time. It’s this abstracted notion, but it lacks a certain kind of reality because it’s not instantiated in a specific time and place in history. And so the idea of the Son, the third part of the Trinity—or one of the three parts of the Trinity—is the notion that tradition and consciousness also has to be embedded in history, in a particular time and place.”

On the Trinity

First off, I agree with Jordan’s assessment of what the Trinity represents. The father-figure motif is representative in many religions as the image of God; Jesus is portrayed as order, as discussed below; and I particularly like the description of the Holy Spirit as the still, small voice of conscience. I disagree with what he claims the Trinity is.

Holy Trinity

Jordan retroactively assigns a deep psychological meaning to the Trinity that avoids discussing why the concept evolved in the first place: a theological coping mechanism to rationalize the problem of the growing (but disputed) belief that took hold among some Christian sects about the deistic nature of Jesus juxtaposed against the core monotheistic principle of a single God.

Ehrman - Lost Christianities

On the Deification of Jesus

Beliefs in the divinity of Jesus were neither original to the tradition, nor universally accepted; even today Mormons and Unitarians reject the Trinity doctrine.

“Proto-orthodox scribes of the second and third centuries occasionally modified their texts of Scripture in order to make them coincide more closely with the christological views embraced by the party that would seal its victory at Nicaea and Chalcedon… The proto-orthodox Christology…was distinguished by the paradoxes of its pedigree: Jesus Christ was both God and man, one indivisible being, eternal yet born of the virgin Mary, an immortal who died for the sins of the world.”

~ Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture

Forged

All the Gospels were written in Greek, and it was in the Greek half of the empire where the Trinity became officially sanctioned orthodox canon—but not until the Ecumenical Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries. Pauline Christianity took hold in the Greek-speaking communities of the Roman Empire, and it was here that the notions of the divinity of Jesus arose as a result of the corruption of the Jewish title Son of God being filtered through the lens of Greek mythology.

“In the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection Christians would give Jesus both titles (Messiah and Son of God) and interpret them in ways that some Jews considered blasphemous. ‘Son of God’ in particular would come to mean that Jesus was not a mere mortal.”

~ Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus

Jordan often cites (BS1, BS2) John 1, “In the beginning was the Word,” as the logos, which, coincidentally, is also a Greek concept. Additionally, John is the outlier among the four Gospels, as it’s completely different in tone, hyping the Christology of Jesus.

“John’s narrative is more fiction than history when it is compared with the Synoptics. It is enough to look at his invented lengthy speeches, which are totally incompatible with the style and content of the preaching of Jesus preserved in the first three Gospels.”

~ Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus

Further, the Gospels show a marked tendency in their messages of declining apocalypticism (Kingdom narrative) and rising Christology, from Mark through John:

Mark 9:1 – “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Luke 17:21 – “The kingdom of God is within you.”

Here in Luke, we can see echoes of Jordan’s claim below; but,

“Unfortunately for this view, the verse is found only in Luke, a Gospel as we have seen, that went some way to tone down the apocalyptic dimensions of our earlier sources…

You can see the same tendency in the Gospel of John, the last of our canonical accounts to be written.  In this account, rather than speaking about the Kingdom that is soon to come, Jesus talks about eternal life that is available here and now for the believer. The kingdom is not future, it is available in the present for all how have faith in Jesus.”

~ Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

The logos concept is firmly planted in Greek philosophy, with a minor link to the Hebrew tradition:

“The Logos idea does find very close parallels with other biblical texts – in particular with texts that speak of the Wisdom (Greek: Sophia) of God. Sophia and Logos are related ideas; both have to do in some respect with “reason.” Sophia is reason that is internal to a person; Logos is that reason that gets expressed verbally…

Logos ties the poem {John 1} more closely to the book of Genesis than Wisdom, since in Genesis chapter one God creates the universe by speaking a word (And God said…)”

~ EhrmanBlog: John’s Logos & Jewish Wisdom

On Gnosticism

Expounding on his beliefs on the logos, Jordan said something which immediately set off my inner red flags, something that would have gotten him burned at the stake for heresy in more unenlightened times. Jordan stated in U:

“… if we each contain a spark of divinity.”

Now, it could be claimed he is speaking in the metaphorical sense; that, we are made in God’s image, or that we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

God's image

However, given that Jordan is a Jungian, and it’s well-documented that Jung had Gnostic beliefs about Christianity, a strong case can be made that he is, in fact, making a direct Gnostic claim: each person has a spark of the divine within. Indeed, he is directly parroting Jung in the above quoted segment from BS2:

“In “A Psychological Approach to the Doctrine of the Trinity”, again by tenet #1 Jung interprets the Father as the self, the source of energy within the psyche; the Son as an emergent structure of consciousness that replaces the self-alienated ego; and the Holy Spirit as a mediating structure between the ego and the self.”

While I am reluctant to cite a Catholic source due to their inherent tautological bias, this article demonstrates that others have also picked up on Jordan’s Gnostic leanings, and it makes some relevant points about the history of this type of analysis:

“What I found in all three are attempts at theologizing in a Jungian fashion. And none has done that more than Peterson, whose many Christian fans seem blithely unaware that what Peterson advocates today is merely third-rate recycled Gnostic paganism rejected by the Church in the fourth century.”

Next, Part 4 – The Deuteronomistic Paradigm >>

Video References:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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