April 5, 2018

VULNERABILITY IS THE WHOLE MAGILLA:

Jordan Peterson on Adam and Eve (Christopher Kaczor, April 4th, 2018, Public Discourse)

Perhaps the most important stories shaping Peterson's thought are those that are most controversial on the literal level: the first chapters of Genesis. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth in a chaotic and formless darkness. God says, "Let there be light." On Peterson's view, this truthful speech brings order out of the dark, formless chaos. Because they are made in the image of God, man and woman can also create order from chaos by the free choice of speaking and living the truth.

According to Peterson, the story of Adam and Eve contains enduring wisdom about the human condition. Why is the serpent in the garden? Chaos and order are omnipresent in human experience. Human life is unsustainable in pure chaos, but it is also stifled in pure order. The serpent represents the chaos in the otherwise orderly garden. Even if all the snakes could be banished from the garden, the snake of conflict between humans remains a possibility. And even if inter-human conflict could be eradicated, the snake within each person remains. Peterson's view of the human person is shaped by Alexander Solzhenitsyn's insight that "the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either--but right through every human heart." For this reason, Peterson notes, "A serpent, metaphorically speaking, will inevitably appear." The lesson he draws is that it is better to make one's children strong and competent than to attempt in vain to protect them from all snakes. To protect loved ones from all dangers is to make them like infants, depriving them of what could make them strong.

The serpent tempts the original parents to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, an attempt to have complete understanding. As Peterson says in his first book, Maps of Meaning, "The presumption of absolute knowledge, which is the cardinal sin of the rational spirit, is therefore prima facie equivalent to rejection of the hero--to rejection of Christ, of the Word of God, of the (divine) process that mediates between order and chaos." Peterson cites Lynne A. Isbell's The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well in which she argues that both the snake and the fruit are associated in our evolutionary past with increased vision and increased self-consciousness.

Once Adam and Eve eat the fruit, "the eyes of both [are] opened," and they become self-conscious. They realize that they are naked, unprotected, and vulnerable. They realize how they can be hurt, how they will die, and how anyone like them is also vulnerable to death and suffering. With awareness of human vulnerability, the human choice of malevolence becomes possible. 

God became Man in order to experience that human vulnerability.

Posted by at April 5, 2018 3:15 AM

  

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