In Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson delivers the follow-up to his 2018 best-seller, ’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.’ And liking most of what Peterson has to say though I sincerely do, there are points of concern which bear mentioning.
But first let us talk about the good in this book. Ecclesiastes 7:16 comes readily to mind.
“Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?”
That admonition of wise old King Solomon pretty well sums up this book, Peterson’s personal anecdotes and musings on psychology, philosophy, and religion considered in sum.
And we do need to hear that, particularly if we read 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos and came away realizing we needed badly to make our beds in all the symbolic, metaphorical, emotional, intellectual, and relational senses of that phrase.
Yet I cannot help feeling concerned for the author, genuinely and without affectation. And I cannot help worrying about his audience of many desperate, drifting young men especially who – if they are straight, white men living in the ruins of Western Civilization – have been told that they are the villains of the world’s story. They are the oppressors. They are what’s wrong with the world.
A Form of Godliness
There is a form of godliness in Peterson’s ample references to Biblical stories. Yet does he affirm their power fully and truly when he treats them as only psychologically useful? I am not convinced they have staying power – personally or culturally – if we refuse to believe they are literally true, pre-eminent, necessary, and essential.
What prevents us from going down the same path pre-Nazi Germany went down in its insistence academically and theologically on a merely “historical Jesus”? Backing up a few decades on the number line and having another go at it, why are we not going to end up in the same place?
But that is just it. We cannot. And insofar as we cannot have it any other way, perhaps this book and its attendant enthusiasm – sympathizing with that hungry reception though I do given the circumstances – bears remembrance of another saying of King Solomon.
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
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