June 12, 2018

Jordan Peterson, Jung, and Hope for the Faint-Hearted

Much of what Jordan Peterson says is very Christian friendly, but his coherence breaks down when he finds inspiration in Carl Jung, one of the most powerful creators of todays post-Christian, neo-pagan culture.

This post originally appeared on the truthXchange website. Click to read the original


In our angry, divided, and polemical society, young Christians, eager for measured peace, encourage us to accept the good things our society brings. Do we always have to see culture wars? This is a laudable desire. Nevertheless, Christians enamored of modern culture run the risk of ignoring its underlying anti-Christian ideology and diluting the unique truth of the Gospel.

Some have so adopted cultural norms that they are no longer even Christian. In my recent review of Brian McLaren’s The Great Spiritual Migration I quoted his statement that God must no longer be understood as the separate “omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent” (GSM 92) Creator and cosmic Ruler, and that Christianity must lose its monotheistic notions to embrace a “grander, inclusive [non-dualistic] God who demonstrates solidarity with all” (GSM 101)Once identifying as an evangelical, McLaren has followed our contemporary all-religions-are-one culture right out the door of Christianity: “Religions…will not survive if we believe that our religion is the only one true religion” (GSM 102). His version of Christianity is just an echo of a progressive social justice gospel. It defines itself as pure from anti-Semitism, rejection of women, racism and religious bigotry. The church should work to heal climate change by installing “solar panels” (GSM 172−3) or a “community garden” (GSM 173)—for “the common good” (GSM 168). I have solar panels on my house, but I don’t quite see it as mandatory for eternal salvation. With little exaggeration, McLaren’s “migration” could be called The Great Spiritual Apostasy.

John Seel’s book, The New Copernicans, has a creative strategy to save the evangelical church: the Millennials’ love of the culture’s intuitive, “right brain” thinking, and its affection for pagan religious mysticism will deliver us from dead, “left-brain” theology. But we must not forget that Millennials have lived in the newly-minted version of pagan thinking that invaded the West in the Sixties. Do they now hold the key to spiritual revival? Should they be given authority to redefine genuine Christianity, as Seel believes? Not if the pagan, mystical culture serves as their norm for understanding biblical wisdom.

Young evangelicals eager for a truce in the culture wars have a new hero: Jordan Peterson, a charming, brilliant and entertaining Canadian professor with a myriad of fascinating things to say. I have listened to a good many of his lectures myself and stand in admiration of his ability to lecture for hours without notes, keeping his audiences in rapt attention. But I wish to issue a warning. Peterson’s fresh view of “faith” involves admiration of (at least) one dangerous thinker—Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychologist (d. 1961).

True, everyone is made in God’s image and we can learn things from unbelievers! Nevertheless, a great ideological conflict exists between biblical truth and the anti-Christian thinking of our culture. A naïve embrace of the spiritual usefulness of Carl Jung,[1] may give you a reputation of open-mindedness and sophistication. But you may also be in danger of unwitting and deep theological compromise.

Jordan Peterson seems to be a genuine seeker after truth, with an insatiable appetite to put the world together in a coherent worldview. Much of what he says is very “Christian friendly,” but his coherence breaks down when he finds inspiration in Carl Jung, one of the most powerful creators of today’s post-Christian, neo-pagan culture. Jung has been described as “the father of Neo-Gnosticism and the New Age Movement.”[2] Jung himself stated: “The possibility of a comparison with alchemy, and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to Gnosticism, gave substance to my psychology.”[3] Gnosticism, as you may know, was the great apostasy opposed by the early Church Fathers. According to Jung, you could not call yourself a Jungian without being a Gnostic. According to the Fathers, you could not be a Gnostic and a call yourself a Christian.

Peterson attracts young Christians because he boldly and publicly states (against the politically-correct orthodoxy of the academic Left) that there is objective truth, that sex is not for hooking up, that “marriage vows are sacred,” and that children are a blessing. He holds that good and evil are real, and that the fabric of your life is woven with choices for one or the other,” as one perceptive blogger notes.

Peterson is not a theologian and appreciates the Bible for its “mythological truths” in the same way he appreciates “mythological truths” from other religions and traditions. In evaluating his understanding of mythology, he lacks the biblical criterion of the fundamental Creator/creature distinction, what we call at truthXchange Oneism or Twoism. Peterson admires the brilliant Jung because he broke with the rationalist Freud and normalized the “spiritual” for therapy in the twentieth century. Churches that immediately embraced Jung have lost whatever Christian faith they may have had. The ex-Jungian, Jeffrey Satinover, dryly comments that “in the United States, the Episcopal Church has more or less become a branch of Jungian psychology, theologically and liturgically.”[4]

Appreciation of Jung, whether past or present, fails to see a blinding reality: paganism can take the form of rationalistic atheism (Freudianism in particular) but it can also take the form of an extremely powerful occult mythology (Jungianism). This is the mistake Seel makes in The New Copernicans.[5] He believes that truth can only be mystical and is, therefore, glad for the advent of mystical paganism in Western culture, which serves as an “on-ramp” to genuine faith. As I said in my review[6]…both pagan mysticism and atheistic rationalism are pagan systems, …atheistic paganism denies God’s existence and worships the human mind; ‘spiritual’ paganism denies the Creator, but worships nature and the self as divine…This latter [pagan mythological] way is the typical way God is denied throughout the Bible, where we read: ‘For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens’” (Ps 96:5).

Naturally, Jordan Peterson, as a seeking, creative, non-Christian therapist, can only see the resurrection of Christ as symbolism and uses dreams as a way of healing. Thus he finds Jung’s uniquely creative search for mythological archetypes stunning, as a means of psychological health. Jung’s search included the use (even in his own family) of many elements of the occult and diabolical parapsychological movements current in Europe at the time. Peterson probably fails to see the radical theological implications of Jung’s commitment to the paranormal spiritism of his background and to the Gnostic myth of human divinity. This commitment forces Jung to reject the Twoist God of Scripture and the entire moral system of the Bible.

Jung preferred to worship the Gnostic god, Abraxas, half-man, half-beast, with a higher status than the Christian God or Satan. Abraxas, for Jung, is “the hermaphrodite of the earliest beginning… the lord of toads and frogs… abundance that seeketh union with emptiness.”[7] Jung goes on: “Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness in the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible.”[8] While Peterson’s goal is genuine goodness and the rejection of “obvious” malevolence, Jung’s was to “join the opposites.” This would solve the problem of guilt, not through the atoning work of God the Son on the cross but through a delusion of self-justifying Oneism.

Satinover rightfully notes about Jung’s Gnosticism that “Whatever the system, and however the different stages are purportedly marked, the ultimate aim, the innermost circle of all Gnostic systems, is a mystical vision of the union of good and evil.”[9] So the utopia our culture has been conditioned to envision, thanks in large part to Jung, is built on a pure fantasy of non-binary moral relativism that allows us free rein for our sexual instincts. Such was the way of Jung’s life, with his wife, a number of affairs and a long-term mistress. Unlike Peterson, who is often realistically conservative in his views, expressing devastating critiques of Marxism and encouraging faithfulness in marriage, Jung was an unrepentant libertine. Jeffrey Satinover says: “The moral relativism that released upon us the sexual revolution [of the Sixties] is rooted in an outlook of which [Jung] is the most brilliant contemporary expositor.”[10]

In 1997 Jung’s secular biographer, Richard Noll, recognizing the vast influence of Jung in the modern world, sought to find a figure in history whose effect would correspond to the importance of Jung. He chose the most notable example of a Christian apostate:

I have come to the conclusion that, as an individual, Jung ranks with the Roman emperor, Julian “the Apostate,” as one who significantly undermined orthodox Christianity and restored the polytheism of the Hellenistic world in Western civilization…For a variety of historical and technological factors—modern mass media being the most important—Jung has succeeded where Julian failed…[the result is that] the patriarchal monotheism of the orthodox Judeo-Christian faiths has all but collapsed, and filling the void, we find Protestants, Catholics and Jews adopting alternative, syncretistic belief systems that often belie a basis in Jungian “psychological” theories.[11]

If a non-believing biographer can see this, then we must ask if Carl Jung, who has rejected Christianity, is the one to whom evangelicals should naively turn for Christian wisdom. Jung’s endless search for truth ultimately led him into the Lie. We pray that Peterson, and those who follow him, will finally see and know the Truth.


[1] See Peter Jones, “Carl Jung’s Dream for a New Humanity,” The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Kirkdale Press, 2015), 29-41.

[2] Ed Hird, “Carl Jung, Neo-Gnosticism, & The Mbti: A report,” ARM Canada, 18 Mar 1998. Hird is a past National Chair of ARM Canada.

[3] Carl Jung & Aniela Jaffe, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, trans. Richard & Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books-Random House, 1961/1989), 205.

[4] Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 240.

[5] The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2018).

[6] Peter Jones, “The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church,” truthxchange, February 13, 2018.

[7] Carl Jung, The Gnostic Jung, ed. Robert Segal (Princeton Univ. Press, 1992), 187–8.

[8] S. A. Hoeller, The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2006).

[9] Jeffrey Satinover, The Empty Self: C. G. Jung & the Gnostic Transformation of Modern Identity (Hamewith Books, 1996), 23.

[10] Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 238.

[11] Richard Noll, The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung (New York: Random House, 1997), xv.

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