Chris Pratt, Jordan Peterson and the Dangers of Christian Optimism
Recently a video from the 2018 MTV Awards went viral.
This video is of actor Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurrassic World fame, giving an acceptance speech after he won the Generation Award.
You can watch the video below.
In his speech, Pratt outlined 9 Rules For Living as he spoke to a room full of young people. In these 9 Rules, he used a lot of religious language.
Here are a few of the things he said.
Number 2 - You have a soul – be careful with it.
Number 4 - When giving dog medicine, hide it in a piece of hamburger. The dog will never know.
Number 5 - Doesn’t matter what it is — earn it. A good deed, reaching out to someone in need. Be of service — it feels good and it’s good for your soul.
Number 6 - God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.
Number 8 - Learn to pray – it’s easy and it’s so good for your soul.
Number 9 - Nobody is perfect – people are going to tell you 'you’re perfect just the way you are' — you’re not! You are imperfect — you always will be — but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you’re willing to accept that, you will have grace, and grace is a gift. And like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it! Don’t take it for granted.
Pratt ingeniously includes rule number 4, which is exactly what he does in this speech - he uses his platform to share his belief's about God.
Instantly, the online stratosphere lit up with praise for Pratt.
Christians instinctively began praising Pratt for his bravery via Twitter and Facebook. Christian magazine RELEVANT wrote about Pratt's speech as if he preached a sermon at the award ceremony.
It is true that standing up in Hollywood and speaking about God, about the soul, about grace and referring to this all being paid for with someone else's blood (obviously referring to Christ) is a bold and courageous thing to do - especially in the current American political climate where being religious is often associated with being Republican.
Almost as though on cue, Christians have quickly lined up to declare, "Chris Pratt is a Christian!"
"Chris Pratt, more like CHRIST Pratt, amirite?"
This is not an uncommon trend within the Christian world.
In Canada, this has happened recently with the famed Jordan B Peterson, a famous professor from the University of Toronto who has risen in fame because of his vocal opposition to gender politics and his opinions on social issues. Peterson has spoken at length about the importance of men in society, and how the rise of feminism has led to a harmful damaging effect on the development of young men. You can see an example of Peterson's deep concern and thoughtfulness on the issue in this interview.
Peterson also has an extensive series on the Bible and the psychological significance of biblical stories and teachings.
This, again, has led to many Christians, in their almost mindless optimism, praising Peterson and joyfully proclaiming, "Jordan Peterson is a Christian!"
"Jordan Peterson, more like Jordan is a son of PETER, amirite???"
However, before we all quickly declare new allies within the ranks of Hollywood and Academia, we must take pause. It appears that Christians are often far too quick to be optimistic about the religious beliefs of celebrities, and far too quick to make large declarations about the true nature of their favourite celebrity's faith.
Instead of presenting Pratt and Peterson with honorary Master's of Divinity degree's, let us remind ourselves of something about TRUE faith.
True faith is not simply a declaration of belief. A person is not PROVEN A Christian because they stand on A stage AND talk about God, your soul, that God loves you and speak about grace.
Look at how James defines true faith in James 2:14-17.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
According to James, true faith is demonstrated in HOW YOU LIVE.
If we want to know if Chris Pratt or Jordan Peterson are truly among the ranks of believers, we need to look at lot closer than just at what they say on stage or in radio interviews. It is impossible to know if someone has truly been awaked by Christ and raised to life with Him in His death and resurrection purely by what they say.
James puts the metaphorical nail in the coffin with what he says next.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"
If declaring the truth about God, simply stating theological facts and believing them, is enough to make you a Christian - then by that logic Satan and his demons are saved.
THE DANGER OF christian optimism
So, what is the danger with getting on Facebook and Twitter and hopefully declaring that Pratt and Peterson (or any one of our favourite celebrities) are Christian based off what they say in interviews?
The problem is that it ultimately harms the Gospel. When we base our confidence in someone's faith based simply off their profession, we make a dangerous mistake.
By doing this, we unintentionally proclaim to others that simple declaration of the basic Sunday school tenants of Christian faith (God loves you, Jesus died on the Cross) are enough to signify saving faith.
By posting that article on social media and saying, "Look! Pratt and Peterson are Christians!", what we are actually doing is telling the non-believer that all they need to do is SAY the right words about Jesus and they can be Christian. We are telling people, "Faith without works IS ENOUGH. Just believe, that's enough for true saving faith." This is not what the Bible teaches about true faith. James makes that clear - faith is DEAD without proof, without a life of obedience and transformation.
Remember the harrowing words of Christ Himself, from Matt. 7:21-23.
“'Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"
Who is it that Jesus recognizes as a true believer? Those who not only believe and claim Him as Lord, but those whose works verify their faith and who DO the will of God.
The idea that Pratt or Peterson's words verify that they are believers is an entirely unbiblical thought, and it is detrimental to Christian evangelism.
True saving faith is demonstrated by a transformed Spirit-filled life that is being made holy and into the image of Christ (1 Pet. 1:13-25; Rom. 12:1-2; Gal. 5:16-26).
Yes, it took bravery for Pratt to say what he said. It takes courage to stand up in a Liberal culture where talking about God aligns you with homophobia, bigotry and close-mindedness.
Yes, it takes bravery for Peterson to stand up and be a resounding voice against the tyranny of our culture, and to push back against the idea that we can correct one injustice by perpetrating another.
These things take bravery. It takes courage.
But it doesn't take saving faith. That is another thing altogether.
EDIT: This article is not a commentary on IF Pratt or Peterson are Christians.