Resurrecting the Resurrection in Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris

4 thoughts on “Resurrecting the Resurrection in Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris”

  1. Great read! It’s interesting to me that Harris has spoken extensively about the illusory nature of the “self,” yet can’t find it within himself to concede ground on this point. I enjoy his work for the most part, but he seems to avoid reconciling some glaring holes like this one. Once we depart from a literal concept of the “self” the meaning of the terms “literal” and “metaphorical” become blurred themselves. He is switching back and forth between lenses without acknowledgment.

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    1. Thanks Gideon!

      Yes, Harris knows a lot about the nature of the “self,” and I really like the work he has done on this and spirituality in general, but he can’t seem to make the connection between the East and West, and that the same ideas of the “self” may have been expressed in the West’s mythologies as well. I agree with Harris that we need to graduate from literal interpretations of these things, which can be dangerous intellectually and socially, but we can’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I think it would help if Harris tried to articulate how the true nature of the “self” may have been couched in these mythologies, the real psychological truths in the rubble of the religious institutions as he’s said in the past, and where these understandings went off the rails, rather than trying to simply abolish the whole thing as it seems he wants to do. I don’t think we’re going to get rid of Christianity any time soon, so I think it’s a non-starter for Harris to think, as he seems to think at times, that it or Islam or any other of the major religions will just go away. A better approach, I think, is deeper understanding, better interpretations of the myths, knowing how they arose, and to what truths they may point, and direct experience of that truth, which is where I appreciate approaches such as Peterson, taking off from the work of Joseph Campbell and many others. Yes, literalism won’t do, I agree, but there is still much meaning to be found in these mythologies.

      You are right that the meaning of literal and metaphorical can also be blurred when we look deeper into the nature of these things. It’s not as if these things simply become wispy, unreal, conceptual, abstract versions of their “literal” meanings, but in many ways they become even more real, more universal, more physical, more penetrating, more meaningful than they ever could before. As Peterson has said, they can become even more real than real, or “hyper-real.”


  2. Interesting post as always, Bryce. I especially like the last paragraph on the Self, but I would disagree with your reason for dismissing the notion of a literal resurrection. As you know many Christians would say that the whole of the Christian faith stands or falls with one’s belief in a literal resurrection. I myself wouldn’t go that far, and in fact I don’t think it really matters whether the resurrection was a literal one or not. Some Christian scholars would find my stance indefensible, and so be it, but unless we wish to wrongly project limits onto God’s potential, then we should at least not discount the POSSIBILITY of a literal resurrection. You, I, or anyone else is perfectly free to accept or dismiss it as true — it’s a topic that the brightest theologians of the last 2000 years have debated and continue to debate with no signs of slowing down — but to argue against it because it is contrary to our experience of reality is to miss the point of the Christian message, which is to do exactly what you said — to shatter out understanding of reality.


    1. Great thoughts, Walt. As Gideon noted, words like “literal” become problematic at some level. Does “not literal” mean not real or actual? No. I think resurrection is very real, perhaps the most Real thing there is, but not in the way we usually think. We’ve interpreted the words of scripture in their most basic plain sense, but this is not how they were intended. It’s not that resurrection is false or untrue, it is that our traditional interpretation of it is incorrect, in my view. It’s actually far greater than we could ever imagine, and even my words fall far short of approaching its reality.


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