Tag Archives: Chaos

Qur’an 10: Jonah

After the nightmare of Repentance, with the teacher who wrote that book attacking the concept of teachers, the familiar opening of Jonah feels like coming home:

In the Name of God, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the signs of the Wise Book.
Qur’an 10:1

Relatively little space is given to the obligatory attacks on Judaism and especially Catholicism. Instead a universal pattern of apostleship is given, where men produce elaborations upon the Book such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an. Water, the life of this world, is either the source from which the next world will be found, or is the graveyard of the unbeliever. This is shown through three biblical stories, those of Noah, Moses, and Jonah.

Intercession and Apostleship

As if to emphasize this, the rhetoric softens radically, with intercessors denied except if or when God permits them. At first glance this allow both a Jewish view of Moses, and a Catholic view of the intercessory role of Mary and the Church.

Your Lord is indeed God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and then settled on the Throne, directing the command. There is no intercessor, except after His leave. That is God, your Lord! So worship Him. Will you take then take admonition!
Qur’an 10:3

But there seems to be a parallel with the angels who speak — perhaps the only intercessors are those that elaborate on the Heavenly Book to man, if not the books such as the Torah that elaborate on the Book itself:

When Our manifest signs are recited to them, those who do not expect to encounter Us say, Bring a Lectionary other than this, or alter it. Say, I may not alter it of my own accord. I follow only what is revealed to me. Indeed, should I disobey my Lord, I fear the punishment of a tremendous day.

Say, Had God wished, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have made it known to you, for I have dwelt among you for a lifetime before it. Do you not exercise your reason?
Qur’an 10:15-16

Like some Protestants, the Qur’anic author refers to Catholic veneration of the saints as ‘worship.’ The author’s perspective, that created beings are unable to help themselves or others, means that this veneration is pointless — no intercession from a human to any creature is possible.

They worship besides God that which neither causes them any harm, nor brings them any benefit, and they say, ‘These are out intercessors with God.’ Say, ‘Will you inform God about something He does not know in the heavens or on the earth?’ Immaculate is He and far above any partners that they ascribe!
Qur’an 10:18

Indeed, the venerated may be unaware of the veneration. Given the Qur’anic author’s affection for Mary, this is striking, as it implies Mary is in a form of semi-consciousness or soul-sleep and unable to understand or know about this affection until the Last Day:

On the day when We gather them all together, We shall say to those who ascribe partners, ‘Say where you are — you and your partners!’ Then We shall set them apart from one another, and their partners will say, ‘It was not us that you worshiped. God suffices as a witness between you and us. We were indeed unaware of your worship.’ There every should will examine what it has sent in advance,d and they will be returned to God, their real master, and what they used to fabricate will forsake them.
Qur’an 10:28-30

The rhetoric hardens, limiting even the educational role of intercession. This is in keeping with the previous chapter, Repentance, but underscores the apparent rhetorical purpose of this chapter’s more gentle opening.

There is no guide, no teacher, no intercessor except for the elaborations of the Book. These elaborations, such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an, may be trustworthy, even if the humans who teach from them often are not.

Say, "is there anyone among your partners who may guide to the truth?’ Say, ‘God guides to the truth. Is He who guides to the truth worthier to be followed, or he who is not guided unless he is shown the way? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?’
Qur’an 10:35

According to Catholics, Mary is the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, and the Church is the Spouse of God the Son. But these partners do not have teaching authority — a direct assault against the Church’s magisterium.

They say, ‘God has offspring! Immaculate is He! He is the All-sufficient. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. You have no authority for this. Do you attribute to God what you do not know?
Qur’an 10:68

The Parable of Water

This is so central to this chapter I’m going to repeat it word for word: According to the Qur’anic author, the parable of the life of this world is that of water.

The parable of the life of this world is that of water which We send down from the sky. It mingles with the earth’s vegetation from which humans and cattle eat. When the earth puts on it luster and is adorned, and its inhabitants think they have power over it, Our edict comes to it, by night or day, whereat We turn it into a mown field, as if it did not flourish the day before. Thus do We elaborate the signs for a people who reflect.
Qur’an 10:24

"Life of this world" is what is purchased with the broad that "comes down," the living bread that "came down," from heaven. The "life of this world" is obtained by bread which is somehow like rain water:

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
John 6:48-51

Like water, the life of this world can be formless nothingness, as well as the life-giving source:

Every soul shall taste death, and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of the Resurrection. Whoever is delivered from the Fire and admitted to paradise has certainly succeeded. The life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion.
Qur’an 3:185

Water has a universal archetypal meaning that matches these extremes, both the maternal and the chaotic:

The domain of the unfamiliar might be considered the ultimate source of all things, since we generate all of our determinate knowledge as consequence of exploring what we do not understand. Equally, however, the process of exploration must be regarded as seminal, since nothing familiar can be generated from the unpredictable in the absence of exploratory action and conception. The domain of the known — created in the process of exploration — is the familiar world, firm ground, separated from the maternal sea of chaos.
Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning p. 94.

This world is water, chaos, and the origin point of spiritual growth. The soul can continue to God and onto dry land, or be thrown back into the water. This can be seen by central moments in the lives of three apostles involving water: Noah gathering his family into the ark, Moses crossing the Red Sea, and Jonah during the storm.

The Prophets

Three stories are used to illustrate this point: Noah, Moses, and Jonah

Noah

Noah was a non-Jew who lived among non-Jews, and

God decreed the earth to be wicked, selected Noah, and Noah led those who would follow:

And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch…

And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you…

Then the Lord said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.
Genesis 6:13-14,17-18,7:1

Noah’s mission was sent to save his own family, though the Qur’an adds a scene where he also castigates the unbelievers who are about to be drowned.

Relate to them the account of Noah when he said to this people, ‘O my people! If my stay be hard on you and my reminding you of God’s signs, I have put my trust in God alone. So conspire together, along with your partners, leaving nothing vague in your plan; they carry it out against me without giving me any respite.
Qur’an 10:71

Moses

Moses follows the same pattern, of declaring judgment, selecting Moses, and Moses being appointed a leader for those who follow:

And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows…

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;

So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.
Exodus 7,9-10,12,16,20

Yet there’s a shift here. Note that now it’s not just the family, and not even Israel’s children, but even Pharaoh repents:

We carried the Children of Israel across the sea, whereat Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, out of defiance and aggression. When overtaken by drowning, he called out, ‘I do believe that there is no god except Him in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am one of those who submit!’
Qur’an 10:91

This comes from an interpretation of Exodus in which it is Pharaoh, and not the narrator, who announces God’s glory after the drowning of the army:

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them. I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’

You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

"Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
Exodus 15:9-11

Jonah

The pattern is similar, though these three examples give us a fuller view of how God operates. Noah was a gentile sent to gentiles, Moses, a Jew sent to Jews and to the Gentiles (if Pharaoh did convert), Jonah was a Jew sent to the Gentiles:

Most people remember Jonah’s mission to Ninevah, which is at the end of the biblical book about his exploits. But before that he has an inadvertent mission to gentile sailors during a storm:

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up…

Then they said to him, "Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?" "I am a Hebrew," he replied. "I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Then they cried out to the LORD, "Please, O LORD, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."
Jonah 1:1-4,8-10,14

And in this case it is the stubborn Jonah, and not the initial disbelievers, who fall into chaos. The LORD was the true teacher of the gentiles, and Jonah’s lack of faithfulness meant he needed to convert his own heart as well:

So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
Jonah 1:15-16

Recall that, in parable, water is the life of this world. By recognizing God the sailors quieted the storm, and transformed the sea from the source of death to the source from which they would next enter dry land.

Why has there not been any town except the people of Jonah that might believe, so that its belief might benefit it? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world and We provided for them for a time.
Qur’an 10:98

An Apostle for Every Nation

As with Judaism (which instructs that God gave all men the Noahide Covenant, and only a few the Mosaic covenant) and Christianity (which holds Judaism must continue to exist until the fullness of the gentile enter), the Qur’anic author view of the diversity of religious expression as willed by God:

Mankind were but a single community; then they differed. And were it not for a prior decree of your Lord, decisions would have been made between them concerning that about which they differ.
Qur’an 10:19

All nations are given the Book — the Heavenly Scrolls — through lesser books that elaborate upon it. The Qur’anic author calls his own book the Lectionary (lit. qur’an), and sees is elaborating the Heavenly Book:

This Lectionary could not have been fabricated by anyone besides God; rather, it is a confirmation of what was before it, and an elaboration of the Book, there is no doubt in it, from the Lord of all the worlds.
Qur’an 10:37

Noah, Moses, and Noah came before, announcing God and warning of the water — the life of this world:

There is an apostle for every nation; so when their apostle comes, judgment is made between them with justice, and they are not wronged.
Qur’an 10:47

Because the work of these men (as well as Ezra and Jesus, according to the Qur’anic author) are fundamentally united — elaborating the Book — ambiguities in one elaboration can be answered by conferring with experts in other elaborations:

So if you are in doubt about what We have sent down to you, ask those who read the Book before you. The truth has certainly come to you from your Lord; so do not be among the skeptics.
Qur’an 10:94

Elaborations of the Book

The message of the tenth chapter of the Qur’an is the widespread ability of man to elaborate on the heavenly Book, and the consequences of understanding that elaboration for man’s life. Without the Book, chaos will overtake man. With the book, chaos is the raw material out of which an eternal life can be built.

Indeed, God does not wrong people in the least; rather, it is people who wrong themselves. On the day He will gather them as if they had not remained except for an hour of the day getting acquainted with one another. They are certainly losers who deny the encounter with God, and they are not guided.
Qur’an 10:44-45

A similar message is expressed by philosophical self-help authors, from Jordan Peterson to Peter Thiel. It’s fair to say that the Qur’anic author was a thinker as brilliant and religious heterodox as Peterson and Thiel. And all of them are taking seriously the question of how the meaning of the world expresses itself in our world.

God has gracefully given the Logos — the meaning of all things — to His creation. Catholics then and now teach that this Logos is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Christ’s words and deeds are elaborated by His bride, the Church, to whom He granted teaching authority. To the Qur’anic author, the logos is the Book, elaborated upon by books such as the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur’an. The chaos within the logos is Wisdom — the chaos outside of it is death.

Impressions of “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” by Jordan B. Peterson

Jordan Peterson is a professor and clinical psychologist in Canada. He’s best known for a series of Youtube videos, some of them punchy and designed to be snappy and useful:

and others ponderous and monumental:

This places him between two separate genres I have reviewed before. His new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is clearly a self-help book. It is also a biblical commentary especially the Genesis, the wisdom books, and the New Testament. The themes of grace and wisdom are central to understanding the book. Jordan Peterson belongs in the same class of thinkers as St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom.

The Old Testament

The Hebrew Bible comes from the cultural world of the old Canaanite religion — a world of sea monsters, stars joining in battles, gods building homes and old Judge River. That world seems not only improbable to a Western mind — it seems fundamentally antithetical to philosophy. Of all the western religions, only Mormonism approaches the focus on Organization and Order that pervades ancient Near Eastern thought.

Works such as The Lost World of Genesis One or The Unseen Realm are excellent Biblical commentaries because of their deep understanding of Canaanite cosmology. Yet, the price of these is accepting a non-western world view of Temples and Super-natural entities.

How to reconcile the western philosophical tradition with the near eastern Order tradition? Peterson’s solution is to read the Old Testament as a list of signs and symbols — which he calls archetypes and are related to Saint Paul’s theories of *types of Christ.

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
Romans 5:14-15

These signs, archetypes, and types refer to the use of a figure in a story to stand for a larger figure or a larger truth. Peterson’s own approach derives from Carl Jung, whose analytical psychology found archetypes in ancient stories throughout the world.

In The Weekly Standard, my friend Tanner Greer denies Peterson’s belief in “the living word of a Living God,” but also emphasizes the role of archetypes in understanding Peterson’s Christology. (I suspect he’s wrong on the one claim, and right on the second).

Thus Peterson’s lectures on Biblical stories and the large passages of Biblical exegesis in Twelve Rules for Life. Peterson does not read the Bible as the living word of a Living God, but as a series of archetypes that provide a pattern of order and structure for human life. The appeal this has to millennials who have lost faith in God but still yearn for order and belonging probably shouldn’t be surprising. Peterson’s aim is to take such myths and stories and reformat them as rituals that can be re-enacted in the modern day: the building blocks of a new moral order.
Tanner Greer, “Jordan Peterson Saves the World”

Greer, though, considers Peterson’s use of Jung’s archetypical system as “painfully limited”. Can this really be true, as the system is at least as rich as St. Paul’s?

Yes, it’s true that some elements of Peterson’s quest to totalitarian-proof the Western world are shallow. His analysis of world mythology and religious imagery is built almost entirely on the writings of Carl Jung and Mircea Eliade. This a painfully limited foundation for the task at hand. And yes, there are a hundred ways one might pick at Peterson’s civilization-revitalization project.
Tanner Greer, “Jordan Peterson Saves the World”

Peterson’s approach to the Bible is ultimately traditional, and follows other thinkers in trying to read the Hebrew Bible as revealing Truth and exhorting good works, not as a literal chronology of events. Like Peterson, the Church Father John Chrysostom read the Hebrew Bible psychologically. For instance, preaching on this passage of Cain’s murder of Abel:

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

And Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

And the LORD said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.
Genesis 4:8-15

Chrystom emphasizes that:

God neither said nor did anything like that. Instead, God came again to him, corrected him, and said: ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ When Cain said he did not know, God still did not desert him but he brought him, in spite of himself, to admit what he had done

‘I have committed a sin too great for pardon, defense, or forgiveness; if it is your will to punish my crime, I shall lie exposed to every harm because your helping hand has abandoned me.’ And what did God do then? He said ‘Not so! Whoever kills Cain shall be punished sevenfold!… For the number seven in the Scriptures means an indefinitely large number..
St. John Chrysostom, Against the Jews

Augustine, Chrysostom’s contemporary in the late Roman Empire, likewise used a symbolic reading of the Old Testament. To John Chrysostom’s psychological turn, Augustine added an explicitly allegorical layer. Taking this passage in Genesis:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2:15-17

Augustine read these gifts as symbolizing God’s works of mercy generally.

I would also say, O Lord my God, what the following Scripture minds me of; yea, I will say, and not fear. For I will say the truth, Thyself inspiring me with what Thou willedst me to deliver out of those words. But by no other inspiration than Thine, do I believe myself to speak truth, seeing Thou art the Truth, and every man a liar. He therefore that speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own; that therefore I may speak truth, I will speak of Thine. Behold, Thou hast given unto us for food every herb bearing seed which is upon all the earth; and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed. And not to us alone, but also to all the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the earth, and to all creeping things; but unto the fishes and to the great whales, hast Thou not given them. Now we said that by these fruits of the earth were signified, and figured in an allegory, the works of mercy which are provided for the necessities of this life out of the fruitful earth.
St. Augustine, Confessions

Both men surely miss something by not being aware of the Canaanite origins of the Hebrew Bible. But to accuse Peterson of failing to do still leaves him in rarefied company. Like Augustine, Peterson reads the Old Testament philosophically; and like Chrysostom, he reads it psychologically.

The New Testament

The bigger concern for many Christians is Peterson’s view of Christ.

Robert Barron, a Catholic Bishop enerally critical of anthropocentric Christology, worries of a “gnosticizing tendency” in Peterson’s work…

I have shared just a handful of wise insights from a book that is positively chockablock with them. So do I thoroughly support Jordan Peterson’s approach? Well, no, though a full explication of my objection would take us far beyond the confines of this brief article. In a word, I have the same concern about Peterson that I have about both Campbell and Jung, namely, the Gnosticizing tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically. No Christian should be surprised that the Scriptures can be profitably read through psychological and philosophical lenses, but at the same time, every Christian has to accept the fact that the God of the Bible is not simply a principle or an abstraction, but rather a living God who acts in history. As I say, to lay this out thoroughly would require at least another article or two or twelve.
Bishop Robert Barron, “The Jordan Peterson Phenomenon

Yet it is not that simple, for Saint Augustine emphasizes the philosophical dimension of the New Testament — at the expense of its historical nature. For instance, given this account of The Transfiguration:

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Matthew 17:1-8

Augustine writes:

But how didst Thou speak? In the way that the voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son? For that voice passed by and passed away, began and ended; the syllables sounded and passed away, the second after the first, the third after the second, and so forth in order, until the last after the rest, and silence after the last. Whence it is abundantly clear and plain that the motion of a creature expressed it, itself temporal, serving Thy eternal will. And these Thy words, created for a time, the outward ear reported to the intelligent soul, whose inward ear lay listening to Thy Eternal Word. But she compared these words sounding in time, with that Thy Eternal Word in silence, and said “It is different, far different. These words are far beneath me, nor are they, because they flee and pass away; but the Word of my Lord abideth above me for ever.” If then in sounding and passing words Thou saidst that heaven and earth should be made, and so madest heaven and earth, there was a corporeal creature before heaven and earth, by whose motions in time that voice might take his course in time. But there was nought corporeal before heaven and earth; or if there were, surely Thou hadst, without such a passing voice, created that, whereof to make this passing voice, by which to say, Let the heaven and the earth be made. For whatsoever that were, whereof such a voice were made, unless by Thee it were made, it could not be at all. By what Word then didst Thou speak, that a body might be made, whereby these words again might be made?
St. Augustine, Confessions

The Transfiguration is the central moment of the Hebrew experience of God, the central moment in God’s love affair with Israel. Maybe a philosophical reading strips it of wondering and meaning — frankly, I think so. But Augustine is a central figure in the Christian faith, and that is how he reads it. Even when wrong, there is worse company than Augustine.

Grace

In Christianity, “grace” can refer to either God temporarily helping man perform better works or supernaturally helping man achieve eternal salvation. Both are important, but any Christian discourse focused primarily on our old Earth, or the coming New Earth, is likely to focus on one at the expense of the other.

Even great writers, if they are not aware of the kinds of grace, can be led astray:

Peterson has critics from the Christian right, too, who seem to be disappointed that the answer to how to build a new moral order is “not them.” Charlie Clark’s [review for Mere Orthodoxy is the best of the genre. [sic] Peterson “is not the next C.S. Lewis” (which is true) and noting that, his book concludes that people can save themselves “without God’s grace.” (Also true.)
Tanner Greer, “Jordan Peterson Saves the World”

I think part of this attack is Peterson’s lack of explicit use of the word grace. But the word “grace” just signifies the meaning of God’s temporal assistance in the work of salvation. The presence of grace throughout Peterson’s works hits the reader over the head, given Peterson’s human-centered Christology:

Christ is He who

transcends death by voluntarily accepting death. Christ is He who

rejects the kingdoms of this world for the Kingdom of God. Christ is He who

speaks the truth that creates the habitable order that is good from the chaos of potential that exists prior to the materialization of reality. Christ is He who

wields potential as the sword that cleaves death. Christ is He whose

radical acceptance of the conditions of life defeats the hatred, bitterness and vengefulness that the tragedy and malevolence that taints Being otherwise produces.

Without the acceptance of death, bitterness rules, and Hell triumphs.
Jordan Peterson, “On the ark of the covenant, the cathedral, and the cross: Easter Message I

There is no denying this is the mediation of grace through human hands. Reformed theologians like Van’t Veer or William Dumbrell may deny the importance of good works, but few other Christians or Jews do. This is the meaning, of Peterson’s calls to charity, as well as the humility of accepting charity

What shall I do when I’m tired and impatient. Gratefully accept an outstretched helping hand…
What shall I do with my infant’s death? Hold my other loved ones and heal their pain.
Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

This total acknowledgement of human participation both in working Salvation and building Hell is entirely in accord with the Catholic tradition. Christians participate in the crucifixion of Christ and the construction of Hell through their sins, as they participate in the works of salvation by their co-working with Christ. As the Catholic theologian Thomas Merton writes:

For in my greatest misery He would shed, into my soul, enough light to see how miserable I was, and to admit that it was my own fault and my own work. And always I was to be punished for my sins by my sins themselves, and to realize, at least obscurely, that I was being so punished and burn in the flames of my own hell, and rot in the hell of my own corrupt will until I was forced at least, by my own intense misery, to give up my own will.
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

And immediately continues:

But now, at least, I realized where I was, and I was beginning to try to get out.

Some people may think that Providence was very funny and very cruel to allow me to choose the means I now chose to save my soul. But Providence, that is the love of God, is very wise in turning away from the self-will of men, and in having nothing to do with them, and leaving them to their own devices, as long as they are intent on governing themselves, to show them to what depths of futility and sorrow their own helplessness incapable of dragging them.
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

Wisdom

Grace, the temporary assistance of God, is a gift to allow us to see the pattern ordering the Scriptures. But to see this requires wisdom.

Wisdom comes from God, it is the gift of understanding what to do and when. Wisdom when applied to salvation is actual grace. It’s temporary because we are not always wise, but by acting wisely — by performing wise works — we can fall into a habit of wisdom, and open ourselves to a habit of grace.

Peterson frames his advice as twelve morally neutral concrete steps. Tim Lott’s article in The Guardian lists them as:

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  2. Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
  4. Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today
  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world
  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  10. Be precise in your speech
  11. Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps“, as superficially amoral as Peterson’s advice, are:

  1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  2. Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  3. 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  5. College funding for children
  6. Pay off home early
  7. Build wealth and give!

And in the Scriptures, we read political advice. And for the same reason! Wisdom is the proper ordering of knowledge. It is the antidote to mental chaos. Peterson’s career and personal advice, Ramsey’s financial advice, and Ecclesiastes’ political advice are all a part of living a well-ordered life.

Because of laziness the building decays,
And through idleness of hands the house leaks.
A feast is made for laughter,
And wine makes merry;
But money answers everything.

Do not curse the king, even in your thought;
Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
For a bird of the air may carry your voice,
And a bird in flight may tell the matter.
Ecclesiastes 10:18-20

Those who ignore the Bible’s wisdom literature — not only Proverbs and Ecclesiasties, but also Wisdom, Sirach, and Job are doubtless confused by Peterson. But those who adore Holy Wisdom are refreshed. Order is morally virtuous. Order is from the Father. Order was with God from the beginning.

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And find out knowledge and discretion…
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields,
Or the primal dust of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
When He established the clouds above,
When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
When He assigned to the sea its limit,
So that the waters would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.
Psalms 8:12,22-31

The Bible is the story of God ordering the universe out of chaos – from the waters in Genesis, to the land of Canaan, to the great purifying terrors of Ezekiel and Revelations. Part of having faith in God — that is imitating God through obedience — is doing the same in our own lives. Wisdom literature in the Bible provided an way for an individual to begin battling chaos. Jordan B. Peterson’s new book, subtitled An Antidote to Chaos, offers the same.

I read 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, written and narrated by Jordan Peterson, in the Audible edition.