Jordan Peterson and the rise of the nones

I dragged a handful of people from SDPC to a Jordan Peterson talk last Fall, and I’m still not sure why. Here are the reasons I had in mind:

  1. My basic premise about Peterson is that he says things that are important and compelling in ways that I find personally refreshing (Note: He also says things that are false in ways that I find annoying).

  2. The other thing about him, though, is that it’s fascinating to watch other other people flock to him. (It’s not obvious to me why a sometimes dry Canadian academic suddenly should command the attention of million of people.)

Together, those two things seemed to deserve a hearing!

Here’s an article Bruce Page recommended to me about Peterson’s appeal, and I think it’s pretty insightful. The author’s second to last paragraph I think hits the nail on the head:

Peterson’s meteoric rise… proves the real “felt need” for order, meaning, and morality in a secular age. Peterson’s success is evidence that our neighbors are recognizing the malaise of our secular age and are, it seems, are willing to try living “as if” God exists and the biblical narrative is mythically true.

I think the bottom line is that we are a frog in a pot that is heating up real fast, and a lot of people are starting to feel it.

This means a lot of people feel the need for Jesus, even if they can’t say it like that yet.

Please pray for a revival in our hearts and lives and city and country!

Two Things:

Two things:

First, a note to whoever gave me the Martin Luther print: THANK YOU!! I love Luther, and he’s is my Lieblingsreformer (favorite Reformer).

Second, today marks the 74th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor/theologian/spy who was murdered for his involvement in a plot to kill Hitler, just weeks before Germany finally lost the war.

Bonhoeffer went more and more rogue in his last decade, and became more and more in love with Gospel of Jesus Christ, which he encountered most fully in the Black churches of Harlem, NY.

Here is a link to a brief memorial article about Bonhoeffer. Here’s the book that introduced me to Bonhoeffer.

Question Box: Rhetoric

Q: Can you help me define rhetoric, flattery, and justice?

A: Some thoughts on language.

My view of all speech is shaped by J.L. Austin's book How to do Things with Words. In it, Austin makes the profound insight that speech is best understood not as the communication of facts or ideas, but as action. There's an entire field of linguistic philosophy called "speech-act theory" which is based around his insight. However, it's not new. It contains the basic framework of medieval nominalism, the school Luther was trained in, which provided the framework through which he made such profound observations about the power of the Word of God.

Rhetoric: Rhetoric is the art of doing things with words. You could think of a speaker as a soccer player who has specific aims and obstacles. His job is to make his team score and prevent the other team from scoring. He may take many different routes to get there, including passing the ball back toward his own defense or goalie, or deliberately kicking the ball out of bounds. The essence of every action, however, is to use creative ways to eventually put the ball where he wants it to go.

The same is true in speech, although the rules are less clear, and the effect of your words is not nearly as obvious as whether or not you kicked the ball the way you wanted to. Rhetoric is the study & use of the rules and techniques that will help you to make the words act how you want them to. Here is what Luther said of the composer Josquin des Pres: "He is the master of the notes. They must do as he wills; as for the other composers, they have to do as the notes will."  The goal of the rhetor is to be a Josquin of words.

Flattery: Flattery is a form of cheap rhetoric. There is always more than one way of getting somewhere. If you want someone to come to an event, for example, you can tell them why you think they should come and try to make a compelling case for it, or you can appeal to their lower appetites, such as "there will be an open bar" and "gee, you're a swell guy who belongs at a great party." The latter one is flattery. It's not necessarily untrue or wrong, but it motivates from lower goals and should be avoided in most cases. BTW, the other side of the flattery coin is motivation through guilt, something preachers do too often.

Justice: Justice (in rhetoric) is when words line up with God's deepest plans for reality (truth in beauty). A just word not only achieves the aims of the speaker, but also glorifies God through nobility of expression, clarity of thought, and celebration of the good.

Westminster Revisited

The problem with reading the Westminster standards today is not only the language barrier between the 2010s US & the 1640s England, but also the centuries of reinterpretation and misinterpretation that stand between us and the Westminster divines (the authors of the standards). If you have ever picked up the WCF, the WLC, or the WSC and felt a sense of uncertainty about what exactly they were trying to get at, Letham is here to help. If you have ever believed that you perfectly understood the doctrines (and the boundaries of the doctrines) outlined in the Standards, then Letham is here to show you how wrong you are.

Read More