No one likes to be intimidated or pressured. I remember standing in the middle of a circle of men in a warehouse with two of my classmates from Bible college one summer day in 1986. The men had discovered that we were Christians preparing for gospel ministry (or to be “priests” as one surmised), and they wanted us to know what they thought of that. They took turns hurling insults and regaling us with tales of their sexual exploits over the weekend, waiting eagerly to see how we would respond. When we refused to react, the crowd dissipated with a murmur of disappointment. It was my first time facing any real hostility for my beliefs and it unnerved me a bit.
What Christians encounter today, however, is a hundred times more challenging. It is not merely scorn that awaits those who hold to orthodox Christian doctrine and ethics and who act according to the convictions that arise from them. A simple review of common consequences includes being shouted down, doxxed, fired from teaching positions (both college and high school), facing spurious lawsuits that seek to shut down businesses, being accused of being on the wrong side of history, being canceled from public speaking events, and being accused of hatred.
Believing that the Father poured out his wrath against sin upon the Son while he was on the cross will get you accused of promoting the idea of divine child abuse. Opposing homosexuality as a violation of God’s design brings the accusation of homophobia. Exposing the absurdity of transgenderism will get you blamed for the exponentially higher incidents of depression and suicide attempts among those who have been deceived by it. Holding the traditional view of hell will bring the wrath of those who don’t believe God expresses wrath at sin and rebellion.
The truth is that there are very few distinct Christian beliefs that are considered respectable today. Almost everything Christians have believed from the time of the apostles is offensive in some way, except, perhaps, the “nice” parts like “love your neighbor,” “love your enemy,” and “judge not.” But those require the Christian worldview to even make sense.
For some Christians, this scorn and pressure is simply not worth it. For one reason or another, they are not willing to endure the vitriol the world heaps upon those who remain true to orthodox Christianity. Perhaps they forget that we are called to suffer for Christ. Perhaps they don’t realize that to follow Christ requires taking up their cross and following in his bloody footsteps.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
Perhaps they have fallen for the lie that if they are nice enough and not say the hard truths of Christianity then the world will love them.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22–23)
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18–20)
Perhaps they believe that if they do good they will not be slandered, that is, falsely accused of awful things.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13–17)
Perhaps they are not willing to be considered a fool or evil in the sight of men for the sake of righteousness.
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:10–13)
Perhaps they shrink at the idea of having to face hostility, antagonism, and accusations of being dangerous, not realizing these were precisely how many responded to Jesus.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:3–4)
All this to say that some people deconstruct their faith and tone it down or walk away from it altogether because they love the praise of other people more than they love the praise of God.
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:42–43)
I suspect that this reason is often hidden among other, more intellectual objections. Those who will not endure difficulty for Christ don’t want to be perceived as cowardly or weak, so they hide behind intellectual arguments. But for many, I believe, the heart of the issue is just this. Like Demas, they love this present world more than the next life (2 Tim. 4:10), and so lose their souls to gain the world (Matt. 16:26).