YouTube, the online video sharing platform with over a billion users, can be an overwhelming place to navigate. With more than 300 hours of video uploaded per minute, it includes everything from the adorable to the audacious, to the awful and beyond. Among the millions of video-creators sharing regularly is a psychology professor from Toronto, Ont. Jordan Peterson’s stances on political correctness, among other things have made him a controversial figure. His lectures on the psychological significance of the Bible (the first with 1.9 million views) made a Christian Reformed pastor in California begin to wonder if God was doing something through Peterson, “engaging a population that the church has had for the most part had zero traction with.”
Last November Paul Vander Klay began commenting on Peterson’s biblical lectures through his own YouTube channel. He’s gained a following, engaged diverse people in gospel conversations, and attracted questioners to a Meetup group. Last week he got to talk to Peterson himself.
“How could God be using a guy whose connection with Christianity is ambiguous to be sparking what could become a revival among a highly church-resistant group? Yeah, that's my big question,” said Vander Klay. “If I can figure some of it out, can I also have a part in what could be an important movement of God?”
Vander Klay recorded and shared the April 3 video chat where the discussion included Peterson’s appeal, C.S. Lewis, and the resurrection of Jesus. A subscriber of Vander Klay’s YouTube channel, with whom the pastor had conversed a few times, arranged for the video call—the 30-minute time slot was a perk that Peterson used to give supporters, and the follower offered it instead to Vander Klay.
Vander Klay said he was very happy to have had a conversation with Peterson. He said a lot of Christians who listen to Peterson will “click into refutation mode” when they hear him say things like “the sovereignty of the individual should be the supreme moral value,” but that isn’t necessarily a helpful reaction. “I'd rather dig deeper to try to see what he actually means by it,” Vander Klay said. “He's got a lot of ideas that are similar to a lot of Christian theological anthropology like what we would call ‘the image of God.’ His ideas are close to these but not always a perfect match, and the language he uses for them are his own.”
In January Vander Klay proposed a Meetup group (a web platform that helps users create in-person groups from online connections) for Jordan Peterson enthusiasts in Sacramento, Calif. That’s where he pastors Living Stones CRC. The group, which the pastor says includes Christians, atheists, and people from other faiths, has connected three times.
“As a pastor it is my calling to respond to seekers and skeptics and believers in a serious way when they reach out to me,” Vander Klay said. “I'll follow this as long as I'm interested in it or it's fruitful ministry. As long as they keep coming, I'll keep talking.”