Jordan Peterson (the Canadian clinical psychologist whose book ’12 Rules for Life – an antidote to chaos’ has now sold over 2 million copies) has said that you “can’t break the rules … if you twist the fabric of reality it will snap back on you”. So, for example, you may get out of a tricky situation by lying but you are destroying your own integrity and mental well-being, and other people’s trust in you too.
Based on his clinical work Peterson says that he has “never known anyone get away with anything”. He knows how people break ‘the rules’, he sees the chaos and pain in their lives and he connects the two. It’s a striking challenge to the usual view that I can live as I please. “I did it my way” is our proud boast. Peterson is right in this; our actions have consequences.
But, I humbly submit, Peterson is still missing two things.
What Jordan Peterson sees as the ‘fabric of reality’ in this world is attributed by the Bible to the unchanging character of the God who made our universe. The reality at the heart of everything is a person, not disembodied rules. Hostility to his rules is a personal affront to the God who lovingly, deliberately and carefully knitted us. And so the consequences of breaking the rules are far worse than Peterson has observed in his consulting room; they include being permanently estranged from the One we were made for, disconnected at the deepest level of our being.
But, secondly, a moral universe without a God leaves out all the good news – that the God who created the rules has also stepped in to rescue us. God’s rules show us what we should be like, but his answer to our failure is not more ‘rules for life’ but Jesus – living by the rules, dying for our rule-breaking and bearing in himself the full horror of the ‘snap-back’. Jesus offers, as a free gift, solidarity with him so that our rule-breaking and chaotic life can become his responsibility, and his rule-keeping and ordered life can become his gift to us, given in love.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.