This is the fifth and final post in this series, reviewing the conversation between Jordan Peterson (JP) and Peter Kreeft (PK): How to Combat Hedonism. The last part of their conversation flowed through several different topics.
Kreeft explains what he saw when he compared Islam to the Christianity as lived in the West:
PK: It seems to me that when I look at Christianity in Western culture, Europe and North America, I see a kind of nice spinelessness; an absence of courage.
A man can be a woman? Sure, we can ignore God’s plan for His creation. Corruption in our institutions? Romans 13 tells us to obey. Diversity, Inclusion, Equity? Rainbow flag, we are on the team. Take the Lord’s name in vain? Freedom of religion and free speech.
All spineless positions taken by spineless Christians.
PK: For all its mistakes and faults and violence and fundamentalism, at least Islam is a heroic faith.
Rainbow flags or blaspheming the Lord’s name don’t go over very well in most Muslim countries.
[Addendum]: I wrote this post several days ago, but published today. To highlight the reality of the above statement, Teams Abandon Rainbow Armbands For World Cup Matches After FIFA Threat:
In the latest World Cup Qatar 2022 controversy, FIFA has brought the hammer down on efforts of some teams and players from the West to highlight LGBT rights in the ultra-conservative Muslim host country of Qatar.
In total at least seven teams had planned to wear them during play despite the host country deeming homosexuality as illegal and against the moral teachings of Islam.
Not anymore. Game officials will issue a yellow card to any player displaying such a symbol.
It remains that in Qatar homosexual acts can be punished with severe sentences, up to and including the death penalty.
Of course, nothing in Christianity allows for this. But, somehow (and we know why) it is Christianity that is the enemy ion the (non) enlightened West.
Returning to the Peterson, Kreeft discussion (and the content of the original post):
PK: [Islam] tends to be a bit too hard – spiny without flesh, but we are flesh without a spine. I think we should exchange some of our pop-psychologists for some of their fiery mullahs – so we get a spine and they get some flesh.
Jesus had spine and flesh, but this required both the divine and human. That doesn’t fly with Muslims; therefore, they do not have the possibility of gaining flesh as they reject God in the flesh. While Christians embrace the divine and the human, they too often leave out the spine part – which comes to the next part of the conversation.
They discuss God ruling with two hands – one hand of mercy, the other of judgement (Peterson’s word, although I prefer the word “justice”).
JP: In the west, we are making the case that the cardinal moral virtue is mercy and forgiveness, and forgetting completely about the fact that another cardinal virtue is judgement.
After a discussion of several examples of the dysfunctionality when mercy and forgiveness are not balanced by judgement (justice), Kreeft offers:
PK: So, what has to be done then is to somehow combine this justice (Kreeft uses the proper word) and this mercy, this toughness and this tenderness, this patriarchal and matriarchal. And isn’t the Christian answer to that precisely the crucifixion? Here is justice and mercy united.
And it is united in God. God’s justice and God’s mercy are both on display, fully and maximally. There is no higher possibility; there is no better story. Many lessor stories have tried, none have worked. Iron Man snapped his finger and gave his life to save the universe, but he wasn’t God sacrificing Himself / His Son – yes, Iron Man did sacrifice, but not the biggest possible sacrifice.
Peterson then talks about artificial intelligence and something he understands from Elon Musk, wanting the benefits of AI to be placed in the hands of individual people and not conglomerates like google.
JP: If a huge conglomerate like google gets its hands on artificial intelligence first, this will turn them into something approximating the world most imaginably effective dictator.
Fascism turned upside down, with the corporations making the rules for the state. In any case, why wouldn’t the “individual” with the best imagination become the most imaginably effective dictator? AI communism, like the communism before, will still end up in the hands of the most corrupt.
Whether corporations or individuals, unless the ethic changes, the result will be the same:
PK: If their only notion of good and evil is human happiness, that they want above all to limit human suffering and to conquer nature then this is not going to succeed until they conquer death by genetic engineering.
And bring on death for those considered useless, a cancer to the planet, etc. There are about 200 people or families worth $10 billion. How many serfs do they really need to provide themselves with all of the luxuries of life?
They then move on to other topics:
JP: You are an admirer of non-Christian philosophers. Why do you find the non-Christian philosophers useful, and how do you view that utility in light of your explicit Christianity?
A very relevant question for me, as I am in the same boat.
PK: Christ has a human nature as well as a divine nature. His divine nature is unique; His human nature is opposite of unique. In understanding human nature, you understand one of the natures of Christ. And if Socrates or Plato or Buddha or Lao Tzu can give you profound insights into universal human nature, then as a Christian I would say that is a very Christian mission that he has accomplished.
Or Mike Portnoy or Neil Peart or Ayn Rand or Murray Rothbard…etc. I know, my list is not as distinguished as his. In any case, all men search for God, knowingly or unknowingly. They need not see or even believe the entire picture to see parts of the picture; they need not be infallible in their thoughts in order to provide valuable insights.
Peterson offers Solzhenitsyn, who said that everyone who was willing to lie to get along was a key actor in the totalitarian system. Without that willingness for everyone to lie at their own individual level of being, the totalitarian regime could not prevail.
PK, citing “a number of Russian Orthodox mystics”: If you go home this afternoon and do one deed of genuine sacrificial charity to your neighbor, the result will be that hundreds of years from now someone on the other side of the world that you never dreamed of will have enough grace to overcome his trials; and if not, not.
We know this to be true. Think of those in history that have affected you and your family, some hundreds of years ago, some thousands. Some for good, some for ill. Some in the next town, some halfway around the world.
Kreeft offers the quote from Schindler’s list: he who saves one life saves the world.
JP: Dostoyevsky says something like that too: we are not only responsible each of us for everything we do but responsible for everything that everyone else does.
Now, I know the gag reflex this causes. It used to be the same for me. But I have come to understand that such energy flows – for good or ill. There are spirits, one Holy, the others not. They work through humans, and what the humans do makes a difference…for good or ill.
PK: Well, that’s the universal spiritual gravity. Whenever you touch humanity at one point, everything trembles.
This is what I mean about spirit – not in the zeitgeist sort of way, but in the Holy Spirit and principalities and powers sort of way. The battle is Biblical. And what each one of us does matters, in ways we often cannot even understand.
PK: Since light is stronger than darkness and since good is stronger than evil, even in the most desperate human being there is always that principle working: no matter what is going to happen in the future, they can overcome it. There is always hope – while there is life there is hope.
Hope doesn’t work by magic. Yes, God works miracles. These often are worked through His saints (in the broadest, Protestant, sense of the word)!
I am responsible when anyone, anywhere
Reaches out for help,
I want my hand to be there!
- Shattered Fortress, Dream Theater (Mike Portnoy)