In an interview with Dennis Prager, renowned professor Jordan Peterson responded to the question if he believes in God:
“In the same interview, Peterson also explains his oft-given answer to the oft-asked question of whether he believes in God, “I act as if God exists.” He echoes what he also said in his forthcoming conversation with Bishop Barron: The reason he answers the question that way is that he is existentially terrified of what it would mean to say “Yes.” He becomes emotional as he asks rhetorically, “Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God if they examined the way they lived? Who would dare say that? … To have the audacity to claim that means that you live it out fully. And that’s an unbearable task, in some sense.”
But what if you truly believed? “God only knows what you’d be.” He repeats it a second time: “God only knows what you’d be if you believed.” And so, he concludes, “I try to act like I believe.”
This is stunning, and at the same time, a profound statement! If you’re not familiar with Jordan Peterson, he is a bestselling author (his book 12 Rules for Life came out in 2018 and was a major hit), a clinical psychologist, and a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. But more than that, he has become a social media darling with millions of followers, literally filling stadiums to hear his debates with other noted intellectuals, and he has raised important questions about how to manage the “chaos” in our lives.
As you can surmise from the above statement, he doesn’t claim to be a “traditional” Christian, but I believe from his writings and lectures, he’s at least a theist. And, as for now, without speaking more about his beliefs and his bestselling book (I did read 12 Rules for Life last year and maybe I’ll post about that soon.), I want to focus on the above quote. He doesn’t consider himself a believer, but “I act as if God exists” because “Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God if they examined the way they lived?”
I have to admit upon first reading “I act as if God exists,” that sounds a bit hypocritical or maybe half-hearted, as if one can’t or won’t make a decision, but when I read the subsequent sentence, then I could better understand his declaration.
Did you catch it? Valiantly he is declaring two truths about so-called believers, and specifically Christianity. The first is that if we claim to believe in God, then our lives should be revolutionary, transcendent, and unlike any one’s life who claims not to believe in God! Secondly, then he reminds everyone who claims to be a believer that a comment like that must be lived out “fully.”
As I see it, those are two of the biggest challenges in the church today. First, we have many good people seeking to live the Christian life, but in all honesty, for some reason, their lives aren’t much different than their neighbors; and second, let me phrase it like this – how many of you know someone who is fully committed to Christ, without regards to the consequences, and it shows in everything they do?
I hope I’m that latter person today, and I know you do too. Let’s go today and live not “as if” God exists, but brazenly declare that he does by what we say and do!
Here’s the post I originally got this quote from:
If you’re interested, here’s the full interview with Peterson: