Jordan B. Peterson’s talks on The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories have tamed a wild thought that has been taunting me on and off for decades.
One day while I was vacuuming, two unconnected snippets of scripture merged in my mind to form a question.
The question: Does Jesus see His Father using parables?
Instantly I began thinking of history, all the times, all the places, all the people, and all the stories that were told and retold, remembered or forgotten. I wondered if God were using history itself as a perpetual parable for humanity, and in that moment two of my favorite thought streams merged into one. The first stream is the way God interacts with the many people in the many places that are beyond the boundaries of the biblical narrative. I often think of God’s dealing with people who are neither Jew nor Christian. It seems obvious to me that He is always interacting directly with every people group, even if they are unaware of His character or deny His existence. It seems just as obvious that He has always interacted with all people, in all places, at all times.
The second thought stream is the marvelous selectivity of the scripture. It originated as I considered John’s claim that if everything Jesus did were written down, the world could not contain the books that would be written. Whether or not John uses hyperbole, he made me appreciate that the Bible is a masterpiece of editing. Whenever I think of about the millennia of human existence and activity, I am still amazed that fewer than 800,000 words are needed to tell us everything we need to know to have a deep and meaningful relationship with the Almighty Creator of the Universe. If you compare the length of the Bible to the endless volumes of commentaries on the Bible, you will see what I mean. God’s editing skills are truly supernatural:-)
The Lord alone knows how many hours I have expended over the years considering all histories of all peoples as God’s ever-growing collection of parables. I have long been convinced that God uses the stories each people group preserves to give them truth and moral lessons. That is the essence of a parable. The day that wild, elusive, taunting thought sprang to life, my perspective of history transformed forever.
Then just four years ago, the power of myth joined my on again off again contemplation of history and parable. I considered creation myths with enough care to write about it in Grammas’ Guide, but subsequent liver surgery distracted me from the series I had envisioned. Now at last, thanks to Jordan Peterson’s examination of the biblical narrative through a psychological lens, I am once again seeking to understand the mingling flow of history, parable, and myth that makes up so much of our knowledge of the world that was, that is, and is to come.
Jordan Peterson’s 12 part series on the biblical narratives is fascinating and inspiring. As I listened to him compare Bible stories with the stories of other cultures, my two little thought streams suddenly hit the current of a mental Amazon. I can’t remember experiencing this level of excitement about the Bible since I first discovered apologetics nearly forty years ago. It seems to me that Peterson is building a foundation for a stronger line of evidence than any of those we currently have in our apologetic toolbox.
If someone is genuinely seeking the truth and honestly asks the question whether or not there is a God, then the cosmological argument is sufficient evidence for the existence of God, the manuscript evidence is sufficient evidence for the reliability of scripture, and the historical evidence is sufficient for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that is one very big IF. We can easily live our lives without studying cosmology, archaeology, or history, and understanding any of those three lines of evidence requires intentional investigation. Sadly, far too many of our species choose to follow our natural proclivity to dismiss without investigation anything that challenges our biases.
BUT (and it’s one very big but) we can’t escape psychology! Of course few of us will do formal work or research in the field, but day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute we all encounter the subject psychologists study: the human mind and behavior. The problems in our minds and in our relationships bombard us constantly. Far too many people are far too consumed with the issues of daily living to ever even fleetingly wonder if there is a substantial case to be made for the existence of God, the reliability of scripture, and/or the resurrection of Christ. But, with rare exceptions, people want solutions to their problems.
Jordan Peterson taught me that understanding the psychological significance of Bible stories will prepare me to share the good news of the kingdom just the way that Jesus did.