Sunday, July 8, 2018

Jordan Peterson Tackles Cain and Abel

From Life Site:
In his safe space tilling the land near home, Cain does not develop self-reliance or skill in violent means of protection. "Abel is, by all appearances, dancing his way through life," writes Peterson. "Worse of all, he's genuinely a good person. Everyone knows it. He deserves his good fortune. All the more reason to envy and hate him." Cain's envy intensifies.

"In the course of time, Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions" (Genesis 4:4). Some modern readers might dismiss the idea of sacrifice as a superstitious practice of primitive savages, but Peterson offers a radically different interpretation. Our own suffering is undeniable, so what can we do about it? "If you want to make things better in the future," writes Peterson, "then you make sacrifices in the present." Human beings project their existence into the future, and so can work now to make their futures better. "It's our knowledge of the possibility of tragedy and suffering in the future that motivates us to sacrifice in the present, so that we can reduce the unnecessary anxiety, uncertainty, and pain that awaits us." Far from exhibiting primitive superstition, "the sacrifices that people were making to God were the dramatic precursors to the psychological idea of sacrifice that we all hold as civilized people in the modern world."

To sacrifice is human, and to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good is to act with human wisdom. "Modern people have by no means stopped making sacrifices to God, regardless of what they think," writes Peterson. "Our very belief that hard work and discipline will bring success is a precise but abstracted and refined restatement of the idea that God will shower his grace on the individual who makes the right offering."

"And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard" (Genesis 4:5). Like Augustine in the City of God, Peterson notes that it is unspecified why God prefers Abel's sacrifice. This nondisclosure in the story universalizes the message. We often do not know the reason why our sacrifices fail. We can set ort minds to achieve some end, strive mightily in employing all available means at great cost, and come out with nothing but ashes. (Read more.)

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