How To Combat Hedonism With Courageous Faith

The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s conversation with Dr. Peter Kreeft on how faith is a subset of existential courage. You can listen to or watch the full podcast on DailyWire+.

Podcast time: 25:59

Kierkegaard talks about this idea of being a knight of faith, and he’s classed with the Christian existentialists as a consequence of the practicalities of his view. He basically puts forward a proposition that I think is akin to the proposition that undergirds marriage, which is, you cannot find out — and this is relevant to Pascal’s wager — whether creation as such is good or evil without being all in on your bet, just like you can’t be married without saying, ‘Well, I’m shackling myself to you and I’m not going to run away no matter what, so we better get to know each other and get along because this is how it’s going to be.’ Without that, you can’t be deeply committed enough to the marriage to make it work. So it seems to me on the forefront of faith, you have to act in the world with courageous trust — not naive trust, but courageous trust — in the potential goodness of being in order to actually discover whether or not that faith is justified. And that’s partly why it’s faith; you have to put the cart before the horse. You can’t wait around.

You know, in the book of Revelation, when Christ comes back to judge everyone, he says something like, ‘If you were neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’ His harshest judgment isn’t reserved for outright, unrepentant, committed sinners, and certainly not for people who are 100% committed to the courage of their faith, but the judgment is harshest for people who play both ends against the middle and who won’t commit.

One of the things that I’ve started to toy with is the idea that faith is actually a subset, in some sense, of existential courage. I’ve talked to my listeners and viewers about the notion that if you want to pursue the good, you do that in some sense despite. So if you’re naive, you’re good because you think everything is good and everyone is good. But if you’re naive, you’re immature and you’re unwise. Then you get jolted out of that naivete by betrayal and tragedy, and then you’re tempted by cynicism. The cynicism is wiser than the ignorant naivete. But it’s not good. It’s the desert, let’s say. It’s the Exodus desert after the tyranny of naivete, and the way out of that is to evince a courageous faith. The courageous faith is something like, ‘I’m going to do good despite the evidence for tragedy and malevolence and the atrocity of history and all of that.’ And that’s part of the courage of faith: ‘I’m going to commit myself to this.’

That, in some sense, bypasses Pascal’s wager because it doesn’t even have anything to do with your own redemption. It’s a decision about how to be in the face of the catastrophe of life. You have to make a decision one way or another. You’re either going to take the Mephistophelian route and say, you know, ‘Life is so terrible that it should just come to an end and that if there is a God, he should be damned for having the presumption to make such a terrible world.’ Or you’re going to say, ‘No, despite everything, I’m going to work in all possible ways to make everything better and to tell the truth while moving forward. And I’m going to conduct my life according to those principles, and then I’m going to have the adventure that comes along with that and see what happens.’

To hear the rest of the discussion, continue by listening or watching this episode on DailyWire+

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.

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