Theology Nerd is Back! An Open Letter to Jordan Peterson

Dear Dr. Peterson,

You don’t know me, actually that’s presumptuous, it may be that I don’t know you well enough to know

that you do know me. In either case, I have seen the influence you’ve had in the lives of people close to

me. Whether they are making their beds, trying a meat only diet, or staring at the lobster tanks in

seafood restaurants trying to determine the crustacean hierarchy, your work is clearly making a positive

impact. I’ve come to appreciate your clarity of thought on various topics and your willingness to be

“wrong” if the data doesn’t support your position. Most interestingly to me, as a Theology Nerd, is your

take on the divine, or more pointedly, your belief in God.

After listening to the two podcasts on this topic, I think I understand your position as follows (please,

feel free to correct me if I’m misrepresenting you). Your argument is that, if there is a God there are

rules (moral or otherwise) set at a standard too high to bare. If, therefore, you were to absolutely affirm

a deity you would be obligated to meet that standard, but since you know you cannot live up to his

requirements, you hesitate to “believe” in him. I hope I’m not over simplifying your thoughts.

I would like to offer two challenges: one which is potentially horrifying, and the other a great comfort.

Concerning “belief in God,” you have made a very astute observation that increasingly few in the

modern, western church are willing to admit: if God exists we have obligations to him that we cannot

fulfill. However, our inability or unwillingness to meet those obligations have no bearing on his

existence. If God is a Maximally Great Being (which he must be, by definition) then his existence is not

contingent. So, if God exists we are subject to his rules, whether or not we believe in him. To be

redundant, our belief or disbelief has no bearing on his existence. In fact, I’d argue that our sense of

“obligation” is an evidence in itself for his existence, but I’ll refer you to Alvin Plantinga’s work on the

Ontological Argument. Ultimately, if there is a God our lives must come into alignment with his

requirements, and we cannot avoid them by not believing in him.

Let’s assume there is a God and you are correct, there is a standard for living that we can’t hope to live

up to...that is a devastating prospect. How could we ingratiate ourselves to him? How do we make

ourselves acceptable? In the final analysis, we can’t. But, that isn’t the end of the story. In your lectures

on the Old Testament, it’s been there. It’s looming in the Garden of Eden and in the background from

the patriarchs through David. The answer is Jesus. You see, the only one who could fulfill the Law of

God is God himself, and the only one who could pay the price for sin and survive is God. Therefore, he

who knew no sin became sin so that all might have eternal life. Your anguish is correct. We cannot

keep God’s Law. But there is one who did, and he did it for you.

Dr. Peterson, I continue to pray for you and your influence on the world, and for your wife’s health. I

hope this finds you well.

Grace and peace,

The Theology Nerd

Steven Crawfordtheology nerd