Is Dr. Jordan Peterson a Christian?

Yes. Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘Christian’ as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ”. It is the belief in the teachings not the historicalness, the resurrection, or the miracles that makes one a Christian. Dr. Jordan Peterson often quotes Jesus, exhibits a reverence for the teachings of Jesus, and said, “The underlying mythological and archetypal ideas in Christianity are really good ideas that people should follow.” So, he obviously believes in the teachings of Jesus and is therefore a Christian.

That being said there are types of Christian that do require certain beliefs that he probably doesn’t hold. Catholicism for example would consider him a heretic, but all protestant denominations are considered heretics by Catholics anyway. Methodist churches also require professing belief through a creed that probably wouldn’t be compatible with what I gather Dr. Jordan Peterson believes. There are Christian denominations that are more flexible and inclusive that indeed are compatible with what he appears to believe.

Quick Comparison between Proto/Symbolic Christianity and Mainstream Christianity

At this point you’re probably wondering what this has in common with mainstream Christianity. Well quite a lot actually:

1) The existence of the God of Abraham,

2) The existence of the Trinity,

3) Taking the Bible seriously,

4) Accepting Jesus as Messiah,

5) Appreciative in the Messianic mission in part was to be the sacrifice for humanity’s sins,

6) Understanding of why Jesus’ teachings are sound guidance to ethical behavior,

7) Jesus being the Son of God (as are we all),

8) Everyone being children of God (part of Society),

9) Humanity being in the image of God (2 ways actually),

10) Realization of that we’re all capable of great good but also horrific evil.

There’s more but I’m going to call that the top 10 and leave it at that.


And the major schisms:

1) The personification of God in the Bible is a literary device,

2) God’s only consciousness is our collective consciousness (Society),

3) Miracles are the result of the laws of physics not in exception to them,

4) The actual (in reality) resurrection of Christ not necessary (in complete disagreement with Paul),

5) Spirit not a disembodied persona but merely the impact of one’s life on society,

6) Belief in Scriptural (OT) heaven and hell not Catholicism constructed heaven and hell, 7) Recognition of Bible being a construct of the Catholic Church,

8) Gospel of John written with a political agenda as priority,

9) Recognition that “Paul” hijacked Christianity,

10) Almost all prophesies have been fulfilled such that there’s nothing to be waiting on like a 2nd coming or “rapture” (LOL).

Again, I could go on but I’m calling it top 10 and stopping it there.

I’ll be going over a lot of these in detail in the future. I just wanted to give a bit of an overview of the similarities and differences.

Why Symtheism?

In my experience, that’s to say this is just my opinion, people have a psychological need for fulfillment in service, fellowship, and worship (admiration (or awe) + gratitude) as well as a need for a solid approach to ethical behavior.

Theism supplies all this but does require an ability to not reconcile belief to reality. For those that can do this I think it’s the best way for them to proceed.

Atheism doesn’t supply anything as it’s merely a lack of belief therefore the individual is left to cobble together a personal system that in my observation typically ends up leaving out worship in part or in whole and a shallow approach to ethical behavior such as rational egoism (LOL, people can rationalize anything, Hitler was rational) or altruism (LOL, just ignore human nature and self-interest), etc..

Syntheism is an attempt to supply awe to the individual atheist with some kind of back to nature “spirituality” (new age crap).

Symtheism supplies all that theism does with the added “benefit” of being able to reconcile belief to reality. There is plenty of wondrous mystery and awe inspiring power with regard to the laws of physics to motivate as much admiration and gratitude as anything imaginable. The approach to ethics is solidly founded on morality based on hundreds of thousands of generations of experimental data which is as objective as it gets with respect to morality. As Dr. Jordan Peterson might say behavior that is ethical is that behavior that works for me, my family, my community, my nation, and humanity for today, tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade and next century. This is what Stefan Molyneux might call universally preferred behaviors (UPBs). The Judeo/Christian tradition starts with UPBs experimentally derived over thousands of generations, condenses them into an admittedly overly rigid Law, which moral principles are extracted from forming a flexible yet solid approach to ethical behavior for people immersed in western culture. Also worth noting is that one can engage in mainstream Christianity as a Proto-Christian or Symbolic Christian; obviously not a Catholic or denomination that requires some oath or creed, but the more progressive and inclusive denominations that came out of the Restoration movement such as Disciples of Christ (of which I’m a member) or a nondenominational church are certainly options for the Proto or Symbolic Christian.

Proto-Christianity or Symbolic Christianity

What I’m calling Proto-Christianity is the teachings of the person commonly known as Jesus in the West or contemporarily as Yeshua. There’s sufficient evidence to regard Jesus as an historical figure that founded a ministry based on Judaism and was crucified in substantial concordance with Scriptural prophesies to also be regarded as the Messiah. There’s no compelling evidence of a resurrection nor is there any compelling requirement for the Messiah to resurrect. The actually teachings of Jesus can be somewhat unclear given the lack of real time documentation and subsequent persecution of both Jews and Christians shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. Also, there’s the problem of the Proto-Orthodox-Christian dissent purging that coalesced Christian thought around one orthodoxy at the detriment to all other perspectives. Fortunately, some early Christian writings survived; I recommend reading the extra biblical Gospels for additional perspectives into the teachings of Jesus.

As a practical matter I consider the parables the most well-founded teachings of Jesus interpreted as they would have been at the time not in the subsequently developed second coming perspective. For example, the parable of the talents is often interpreted in a second coming framework to mean something to the effect of when Jesus returns individuals will be judged on how well they used their talents to expand Christianity; Interpreted straightforwardly however it means something more like not allowing economic forces to rule the economy will bring you nothing but ruin.

The next level of confidence would be the sayings or sermons of Jesus that are substantially duplicated in multiple gospels. As an example in the negative, what seems to be most every Christians’ favorite verse John 3:16 is not well duplicated, in fact I would have to say if Jesus said anything like that the “Him” would be more like “Him that sent me” rather than referring to himself. Realize here we’re talking about all the gospels not just the four in the Bible.

I plan on going through each parable and major sayings/sermons in future posts. After that’s done I’ll return to examining open questions left in this Symtheistic line of analysis, or at least I hope so.

To date I’ve been leaning in the direction of Jesus being an historical person that additional myths and legends were attached to his story over time with shall we say less than inspired motives. That he was perhaps a genius that saw the potential in The Law and Scriptures to bring about a transformation in the approach to ethical behavior and balance between individualism and collectivism. In which case Proto-Christianity that focuses on Jesus’ teachings would be the appropriate path.

Alternatively, the appearance of historicity may just be the result of being closer to the editing phase of the fictional story. That the greatest story ever told is indeed entirely fictional just as Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Noah; but that the editing phase was somewhat recorded unlike those much older stories from Genesis. In which case a Symbolic Christianity would be the more appropriate for Symtheism. Symbolic Christianity would accept the resurrection as a symbolic representation of renewal while realizing it is of course fictional.

Obviously, this is all still an idea in formation, but I’ve been a practicing Christian for the last 20 years with much of this view in place. Hearing Dr. Jordan Peterson speak on Greek Mythology of all things really snapped together a lot of seemingly disparate ideas. Talk about realizing you’ve completely missed the point of something for decades; that was a red pill moment. I’ve always prided myself with the ability to make assessments without much bias whether it be climate, gun control, or ancient aliens (LOL); intellectual honesty is very important to me and all the facts matter (at least to me). The realization that I had completely dismissed Greek Mythology without really giving any thought to any sort of underlying message really threw me for a loop. How could I have been so biased! Anyways, further listening to Dr. Jordan Peterson renewed my interest in religion and appreciation for the Judaeo/Christian tradition. I think we’re in the very early stages of a truly modern religion; one not based on superstition or literal interpretations of these truly ancient stories but one informed by science while preserving the underlying truths embedded in the traditions. I believe Dr. Jordan Peterson’s works will be regarded as the preliminaries of this 21st century religion.

Jesus and Ethics

Whether Jesus is historical or fictional is only relevant with respect to whether a Symbolic Christianity or Proto-Christianity is the more appropriate for Symtheism. The greatest story ever told has several transitional purposes with respect to humanity’s progress. One of the major transitions Jesus ushered in is the change in approach to ethical behavior. This component of Jesus’ purpose starts with the beginnings of morality itself. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of man’s transition from animal to human. Adam and Eve aren’t individuals, they are characters representing the 250,000 or so generations in that transition period. Eve decides to eat from the tree of knowledge of right and wrong. This is technically correct by the way, it was the sexual selection by females that has made humanity what it is. So anyway, they eat from the tree of knowledge of right and wrong (or awareness) and immediately get dressed (cover their nakedness). This confused me for some time, knowledge of right and wrong is arguably objective morals but getting dressed is hardly a high moral principle. Then I read “Universally Preferred Behaviors” by Stefan Molyneux and it made sense, getting dressed is after all a universally preferred behavior. People developed or experimentally derived objective (at least as objective as it gets) morality over thousands of generations in the form of universally preferred behaviors (UPBs). UPB’s are flexible and can change over time but it can also be difficult to distinguish fads from UPBs thus with only UPBs to guide ethical behavior humanity was prone to shall we say missing the mark. Then humanity develops writing so we get “Moses” condensing and writing down the important UPB’s into The Law “from God”. Now the guide to ethical behavior is stable, but that means it’s also rigid and unable to adapt to changing or new situations, it’s written in proverbial stone. As Captain Pickard once said “There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute.” So humanity goes through multiple iterations of failure with this approach to ethical behavior all the while prophets are saying there will come a time when things are done differently. So then we finally get “Jesus” who extracts the moral principles from The Law. So now we have an approach to ethical behavior that is both stable and flexible. The principals don’t change but they can be applied to new and changing situations. It’s an excellent system and one I wish humanity had followed but alas good ole Paul comes along with The New Law “from Jesus” and takes us a step backwards, but that’s a tale for another day.

Obviously, the entirety of Jesus’ teachings couldn’t be covered in a few lines but I would like to mention probably his most famous directive: Love thy neighbor as yourself. The word love in this context is an action not an emotion. Thus, it could be taken as treat others as you would want to be treated; but also as generously interpret what others say as much as you would want what you say to be generously interpreted. What I’m getting at is that while the principle is the same as it was two millennia ago, the application is flexible enough to be a sound guide to ethical behavior today.

Symtheism Basics

I’m defining Symtheism as the scientifically and scripturally informed understanding of God and religion. The prefix “Sym-“ meaning together (as in rational and religious) but also as short for symbolic (as in symbolic representations) and the root theism for belief in God. However, it’s not really a belief like theism nor a lack of belief like atheism. Beliefs or lack thereof are irrelevant, objective truth albeit tentative at best is the goal of the Symtheism.

We need to understand that there can be objective truth in fiction. A good example of this is “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. Everybody knows pigs can’t talk and that no actual farm anywhere was ever taken over by the animals, but there’s truths about communism in general and the USSR in particular embedded in the story. The personification of the animals in “Animal Farm” is a literary device employed by Orwell to convey truths through a narrative. The book of Genesis in the Bible is also fiction that employs literary devices in order to convey truths through a narrative about human nature and our relationship with God. The personification of God in the Bible is a literary device whether intentional or unconscious. To the authors of these stories God is some magic supernatural black box of which they have a low resolution understanding or conceptualization. If one reads the Bible with literary devices in mind it becomes abundantly clear that God is 1) that which created and governs the physical universe, 2) that which watches and judges, and 3) that which determines a particular future from all potential futures. We have a much higher resolution understanding or conceptualization of these components. That which created and governs the physical universe is the laws of physics which corresponds to Elohim, God the Father, and The Body of God. That which watches and judges is society which corresponds to The Son of God and The Mind of God. That which determines a particular future from all potential futures is the interaction between the Father, the Son, and the physical universe including individuals which corresponds to The Holy Ghost and The Spirit of God. Together this Trinity is God and YHWH.

Probably the best illustration of this in the Bible is the book of Job. The main message of Job is that one should thank God for everything, blame God for nothing, and realize bad things happen through no fault or sin of your own in other words bad things happening to you is not God punishing you for your sins. This would make absolutely no sense if God were making conscious decisions about every event in the universe. For example, if a plane crashes we don’t blame gravity or figure the people on the plane had it coming; no, we look for design flaws, operational errors, security failures, or other root causes and it is absolutely understood that we wouldn’t be technically wrong to thank gravity for everything because without gravity none of this exists. Gravity is undoubtedly “good” and yet people suffer because it exists. This is exactly the attitude the Bible says we should have with regard to God.

I’m using the term laws of physics somewhat colloquially rather than in its technical definition; the laws of physics don’t actually exist technically speaking. They are descriptions of the behavior of matter and energy under particular conditions which are determined by universal constants that may or may not be universal and may or may not be constant. I’m using the term in the broader sense like Hawking’s did when he said [paraphrasing]: “God didn’t create the universe, the laws of physics did.” Which if one simply applies the transitive property (if A=B and B=C then A=C) then if the laws of physics is what created the universe and what created the universe is God then the laws of physics are God. Additionally, considering the laws of physics are in a sense supernatural as in controlling nature rather than in magical sense, Hawking’s statement translates to ‘The ancient conceptualization of the supernatural didn’t create the universe, the modern conceptualization of the supernatural did’. True, but considering how much we still don’t know it’s hardly much of a difference in the grand scheme of things on a universal scale. There’s still plenty of wondrous mystery with respect to God.

This might come across as arrogant like we have it all figured out, that God is not as incomprehensible as he should be, and we’re relying too much on our own intelligence. I couldn’t disagree more. This is not like the Satan story line of becoming arrogant and believing that we no longer need God or have become God. Quite the opposite; this is about worshiping God, that is to say having a reverential admiration for and immense gratitude to God for this miraculous existence we’re immersed in. Also, this is about taking the Bible seriously because although they had a low resolution technical understanding of God, due to generations of accumulated knowledge they had a high resolution understanding of human nature and the relationship between us and God. To them God was far beyond technical understanding, i.e. supernatural in a magical sense. We now know what they didn’t in a technical sense and there’s no reason to keep pushing God out of the somewhat understood and into the realm of the supernatural in the magical sense. The God of Abraham “exists” and is as deserving of worship as anything imaginable.

I recommend Dr. Jordan Peterson’s Biblical series for more truth embedded symbolically in Biblical stories:

Although, the JBP has a more transcendental conceptualization of God than I; he’s extracted many objective truths in Biblical stories in an engaging manner. I’ll be going through some additional objective truths in these stories in future posts that he doesn’t since his focus is primarily from a psychological perspective. For example a main lesson in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is the concept of it being better to allow X guilty to go unpunished than to punish Y innocents, where X is much greater than Y; an ethos that is still embedded in our justice system today.

Welcome to Symtheism

This blog intends to expose the false dichotomy between faith based theism and reason based atheism while proposing the alternative of reason based theism (Symbolic Theism) generally or more specifically an objective approach to Christianity with no leaps of faith required. Fundamentally atheism gets the right answers to the wrong questions. Science now confirms truths within the Bible that answer the right questions such as: What is God? What is my relationship to God? Where do morals come from? What is the best approach to ethical behavior? And of course many many more. An intellectually honest examination informed by physics, evolutionary psychology, literature, and religion leads to Proto-Christianity or Symbolic Christianity as the most rational and defendable philosophy for westerners.

After many thousands of hours studying engineering, biology, and religion the eventual conclusion on this philosophy was intended to be for my own benefit alone; then I read an interview with Stephen Hawking in which he says [paraphrasing]: “God didn’t create the universe, the Laws of Physics did”, I literally laughed out loud but then realized how tragic it was that neither he nor most other people got the joke. Hopefully, after the first few posts the joke will be obvious to anyone who decides to take this particular red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

This no leaps of faith required Christianity will hopefully assist those that wish to be Christians but struggle with taking things on faith. This group is the reason I’m writing this. I want them to know that they can be a Christian without betraying their reason and rationality. Sure, there are differences between this and modern Christian denominations but there are differences between all modern denominations anyway, that’s why there are denominations. Early Christianity was incredibly diverse in thought and there’s nothing written in stone that requires one to believe in X, Y, and Z to be a “real” Christian. If you’re one of this group welcome to the wonderland where the rational and religious coexist in harmony.

I’ve perceived somewhat of a split in the atheist community between the more post-modernist types and the enlightenment values types. I believe Proto-Christianity and Symbolic Christianity compliments the enlightenment values well and may be more palatable to this sector of the populace than the mainstream faithful Christianity commonly encountered. While I have no illusions of reaching the post-modernists, the enlightenment values atheists that thoughtfully consider this philosophy will hopefully at least gain an appreciation of Christianity if not its modern manifestations then at least what it could be and arguably was in some groups prior to Paul’s influence.

For those that are Christians by faith, I don’t recommend reading any further; be thankful that you can proceed on faith. I only ask that if you’re a fundamentalist please 1) stop insisting on strictly literal interpretations of Scripture being the only “true” interpretation, 2) prioritize Jesus’ teachings over Paul’s, and 3) judge not.

Recommended Reading/Viewing:

The Bible


Early Christian Writings


Dr. Jordan Peterson’s Biblical Series


Stefan Molyneux’s  “Universally Preferable Behaviour”


Animal Farm”