Lastly, this truth is yet again true in the case of the common modern attempts to diminish or to explain away the divinity of Christ. The thing may be true or not; that I shall deal with before I end. But if the divinity is true it is certainly terribly revolutionary. That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already; but that God could have his back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents for ever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point—and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologise in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.
Chesterton, G. K. (1909). Orthodoxy. (pp. 255–257). New York: John Lane Company.
Zizek: but where I first second surprisingly maybe for you I agree with your point about judeo-christian legacy for which I am very much attacked, oh-euro-centrist and so on and so on you know I wonder if you’d agree with it I will try to condense it very much you know what’s for me the deepest, I simplify to the utmost, something unheard of and I as an atheist accept the spiritual value of it happens in Christianity. In other religions you have God up there, we fall from God and then we try to climb back through spiritual discipline whatever, training, goodness, and so on and so on. The formula of Christianity is a totally different one as we philosopher us would have put it you don’t climb to God, God you are free in a Christian sense when you discover that the distance that separates you from God is inscribed into God himself. That’s why I agree with those intelligent theologies like my favorite Gilbert Keith Chesterton who said that this, the cross, the crucifixion is something absolutely unique because in that moment of “eloi eloi lama sabachthani God/Father why have you abandoned me?” for a brief moment symbolically God Himself becomes an atheist in the sense of you know you get a gap there. And that is something so absolutely unique it means that you are not simply separated from God your separation from God is part of divinity itself.
Please forgive these out of place comments.
For some time I’ve wanted to share with you a thought about JBP that hasn’t received much consideration. I think it helps answer some of the questions that seem to follow him around, like:
Why doesn’t he just come out and say he believes in God?
When is he going to get back to the Biblical lectures?
Why do the book tours, the interviews, although remarkable in content, lack the power of the Biblical lectures? Has he lost something?
I think that those who engage in the many conversations that orbit the various components of Peterson’s philosophical universe assume incorrectly that what he has created is like a machine that anyone can tear apart and examine for consistency or credibility. They assume drama is peripheral to content, and disregard how, by comparison, the many wannabe geniuses who follow in his wake seem afflicted, inarticulate, pretentious. They discount an extraordinary gift for performance.
I’m not saying that the Petersonian vision of the world is any the less for being a performance, I’m only trying to call attention to how he himself, his character, and the acting out of his character, is at the heart of his vision. You might say he is like a great preacher, but that’s not quite right.. Preachers are orators mostly. They employ rhetorical power, they try to convince. Peterson, instead, embodies.
Chest out, shoulders back, he stands alone on stage in the great Biblical lectures and proposes that he is going to think out loud in front of the audience and try to understand something he has not understood before, or get somewhere he has not got before. The high stakes subject and the likelihood that he is going to say something stupid create enormous dramatic suspense and sympathy. His vulnerability, the risk that he willingly submits to becomes the calling card of his authenticity, and so his tears, his rage, his articulation, take on the heightened drama of the real. He becomes the hero going out into the unknown in search of the logos. He walks the line between order and chaos (a line which could also serve as a descriptor of dramatic narrative.) What I’m trying to say is that Peterson is in some fundamental way more of an aesthete than a scientist, is an artist, or to be specific, performance artist.
I compare moments of Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia to Peterson’s anecdote “The Cafe from Hell and the two performances align. Both are “acted” and both have a deep sincerity. Dramatic narrative is a re-creation or imitation of reality organized according to rules that anyone who watches television can recognize. Peterson is extremely sensitive to these rules. They set limits on the range of credible action. So when someone asks him whether he believes in God, one among the many things he feels is an intuitive understanding that once he crosses over (or disappears) into belief, he leaves behind all the nonbelievers in his audience. His refined sense of drama intuits that his place must be to remain with the nonbelievers (something like Jesus).
I’m afraid those of us who long for the good old days of the Biblical lectures are likely to be disappointed because Peterson now seems much more focused on the clarity (and safety) of writing things out. On many occasions, he has admitted that saying something wrong is his greatest fear. His ideas are still great, but unless he allows himself to be put into the same risky, nerve-racking dramatic situation of the Biblical lectures, we aren’t likely to see the same fire.
Anyway, Paul, I enjoy how you engage these issues, thank you. Being the son of a Presbyterian minister, and a late in life Christian, I find your take on Peterson particularly compelling, even if I don’t always agree.