Who is Jordan Peterson?

Jordan Peterson is intelligent, educated, witty, and persuasive. He is skilled at pointing out the flaws in political viewpoints, cultural shifts, and societal movements. As a result, many people, including some evangelical Christians, are beginning to look to Jordan Peterson as a champion of their ideals. Jeff Laird and I, therefore, thought it would be a good idea to point out that Jordan Peterson is not, by any standard, an evangelical Christian. He has, in fact, presented numerous viewpoints that are incompatible with the Bible and/or a Christian worldview. Be careful and do your research before you endorse Jordan Peterson. A deep dive into what he actually believes and espouses will likely be eye-opening.

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist, author, and speaker. He is often presented by critics as an immoderate political or social conservative. In fact, some of Peterson’s views are more compatible with left-leaning politics and socially liberal attitudes. However, he takes a strong stand against extreme views. This often puts him at odds with modern cultural shifts. In addition, Peterson’s views can be misconstrued as support for an explicitly Christian worldview. Much of what Jordan Peterson says supports Romans 1:19–20, indicating that certain truths about God are evident in common human experience. However, he does not subscribe to Christian faith.

Most of Jordan Peterson’s fame comes from debates over views on free speech, “leftist” propaganda and authoritarianism, and personal responsibility. His earliest surge of renown came in response to a proposed Canadian law. The bill included transgender identity as a protected class, raising the possibility of criminal prosecution for those who did not use a person’s preferred pronouns. Peterson felt this type of law compelled speech: that it would be a legal mandate to speak in contradiction to one’s beliefs. Peterson noted that he would engage in that very speech, voluntarily, but vehemently opposed a law that could criminalize his right to choose otherwise.

Peterson often speaks about the dangers of authoritarianism, propaganda, and tribalism. He frequently critiques any attempt to legislate “equity”—in this case meaning equal outcomes—by noting the draconian measures that would be required. He has spoken against misleading claims about systemic inequality such as the “gender pay gap,” opposed subjecting minors to transgender surgeries or drugs, and warned against defining persons primarily by group identity rather than by individual traits. He has also pushed back against criticisms of traditionally “masculine” traits, distinguishing them from legitimately toxic attitudes. His harshest critics are typically those who hold exactly the views he critiques; these opponents frequently respond by casting Peterson as an extremist.

Some of Jordan Peterson’s views echo biblical concepts. His work features themes such as the inevitable struggles of real life (John 16:33), personal worth and responsibility (Galatians 3:28; Ezekiel 18:20), and legitimate differences between genders (Genesis 1:27). Peterson also stresses the importance of precision in discussing hard topics (see Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 4:6). Peterson has produced content regarding the Bible’s influence on modern ethics and politics. Yet his views are not presented from the position of a born-again believer.

Peterson’s work is often cited without full realization of his other views or the worldview behind them. While some of his stances reflect truth (Romans 1:19–20), Peterson’s religious beliefs are not fully aligned with Christian faith. His views of the Bible and Christ imply he takes an allegorical, not a literal, interpretation. Separately, some who champion Jordan Peterson as an icon of “right wing” views are disappointed to learn his stance on issues such as wealth redistribution, the legality of abortion, government-provided universal health care, and so forth. Centrist or left-leaning persons, however, may be surprised to find how much his views align with theirs.

Christians should apply cautious, reasonable skepticism to everyone and everything (1 John 4:1; 2 Corinthians 13:5). That includes noting that a person’s views on different ideas are related but not necessarily consistent. The same person might hold a correct opinion on one subject and simultaneously hold an incorrect opinion on a different subject. Some of what a person believes may be biblical, and some of it unbiblical. Biblical discernment is needed (John 7:24). We should neither vilify nor idolize any person such that his ideas escape sincere scrutiny (Proverbs 18:13, 17).

Jordan Peterson’s role in culture and politics has been interesting, but his connections to biblical faith are almost all secondary. As far as his ideas harmonize with the Bible, they have value in teaching and apologetics. Yet Peterson is not, in any sense, a “believer,” and his words should not be interpreted as endorsements or products of a Spirit-led worldview (1 Corinthians 2:14).

S. Michael Houdmann with Jeff Laird

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Who is Jordan Peterson?