Shaky Part 3: When Doubts Come From Conflicting Commitments

shaky-p3Some people don’t want to embrace Christianity because they are committed to ideas or lifestyles they don’t want to abandon. They think, If the Bible is true, then I’m in trouble. I don’t want to change my lifestyle or behavior, so instead I’m going to try to ignore what the Bible says. If you meet someone who opposes Christianity, you might ask, “What are you afraid would happen to you if you became a Christian?” Often it isn’t about good reasons at all; it’s about not wanting to pay the cost in lifestyle, reputation, or family harmony.

“Not wanting to pay the cost” happens more often than you might think, even among atheists, who we might not expect to admit it. Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin, who admits that his unwillingness to “allow a Divine Foot in the door” led him to embrace science “in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories.”

Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy at New York University, is even more pointed: “It isn’t that I don’t believe in God and naturally hope that I’m right in my beliefs, it’s that I hope there is no God. I don’t want there to be a God. I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

You’ll run into a lot of professors like Lewontin and Nagel at secular colleges, where Christian belief is rare among faculty. This high level of unbelief, in turn, creates strong pressure for students to avoid beliefs of which their respected professors might disapprove. To paraphrase the late journalist Upton Sinclair, it is difficult to get a person to believe something when his grade depends upon his not believing it.

The Bible itself acknowledges that many will turn away simply because they are unwilling to pay the cost. In Luke 14:27–30, Jesus said,

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Some don’t count the cost. Others count it, and realize they don’t want to pay it. Either way, their reasons for walking away have less to do with intellectual consideration than with a desire to hold on to a particular lifestyle or maintain the respect of people they want to have like them.

This excerpt from Understanding the Faith: A Survey of Christian Apologetics by Jeff Myers, available in Summit’s bookstore, is part 2 in the series Shaky: Why Christians Lose Faith. The entire series can be found here: