The benefits of reading John Bunyan’s allegorical Pilgrim’s Progress is that you start to identify his characters and places in real life. When we encounter Christian on his pilgrimage to the Celestial City we encounter ourselves. When we encounter Christian’s encounters we encounter our encounters.
I already wrote about my encounters with Jordan Peterson yesterday. I’ve listened to him lecture live once and more times than can be counted on Youtube. I like him. But, as I mentioned yesterday, Peterson offers temporal salvation in morality. He knows enough to know how to survive as best as possible in this world. Take personal responsibility, work hard, and be honest. That’s a great mixture for a great life.
The problem is that it’s not enough for eternal life. It’s not enough to remove the guilt for times when we’ve been negligent, slothful, and dishonest. In reality the more honest we are the more negligent, dishonest and slothful we realize we are and have been. And the more honest we are the more we honestly realize how incapable we are of honesty.
So even before I encountered Jordan Peterson I encountered Jordan Peterson. I encountered Jordan Peterson first as Mr. Worldly Wiseman in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Having been told that salvation only comes through the way of the cross, Christian was moving towards the narrow gate when Wordly Wiseman pointed him away from Christ to the man named Legality in the village named Morality.
Why in yonder Village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman, whose name is Legality, a very judicious man (and a man of a very good name) that has skill to help men off with such Burdens as thine is, from their shoulders; yea, to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way: Ay, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their Burdens.
So Christian left the path to the narrow gate and on he went to the village of Morality. He went with the promise of having his burden lifted without the price of the cross. But as he progressed towards Mr. Legality something dreadful happened to the poor pilgrim.
But behold, when he was got now hard by the Hill, it seemed so high, and also that side of it that was next the Wayside, did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture further, lest the Hill should fall on his head; wherefore there he stood still, and he wot not what to do. Also his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in his Way. There came also flashes of fire out of the Hill, that made Christian afraid that he should be burned: Here therefore he sweat and did quake for fear. And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s counsel…
While Mr. Worldly Wiseman could promise Christian a better life if he would just do what he said, there were things that Mr. Worldly Wiseman could not do. He couldn’t remove Christians guilt for his sins. And he couldn’t give Christian the power to obey his wisdom perfectly. No matter how hard we try we fail and fail and fail. Whether it be twelve rules or ten commandments we will fail and fail again. So Christian was left on his own to muster up the strength to uphold perfectly an impossible standard and to bear the weight of his own failures. Christian was alone to fail alone. That is salvation without a cross.
Jordan Peterson might well tell men how to live in a way that is beneficial. But Jesus Christ has already lived by the perfect standard on our behalf. By faith, His obedience is counted as ours. He paid the price for our disobedience. He even gives us the power to obey. In the Village of Morality we find failure and condemnation. But under the protection of Jesus we receive life.