• Home
  • Resources
  • Articles
  • Cultural and Theological Stockholm Syndrome
  • Cultural and Theological Stockholm Syndrome

    Stockholm Syndrome can be defined as the “psychological response wherein a captive begins to identify closely with his or her captors, as well as with their agenda and demands.”[1] Much of the compromise we observe in orthodoxy are a result of what I call cultural and theological Stockholm Syndrome. Contemporary unbelieving culture is our captor. It tells us day in and day out: “Deny your cross, indulge yourself, follow me!” Modern Oneism takes on both spiritual and secular dress to disguise its true allegiance and uses mockery and ostracism to manipulate vulnerable Christians. Finally, Christians buckle, tired of being labeled intolerant, bigoted and closeminded. They are dismissed because they refuse to attempt a definitive explanation of true mystery, yet are smeared as arrogant when they speak with clarity God’s answers to the fundamental questions our culture raises.

    Social media has increased the brainwashing efficiency that brings Christians to their knees before the new (really quite old) gods of our time. A simple # plus a “slanderous label” succeeds in humiliating them not only in their own small social group but in the eyes of thousands of people both locally and around the globe. Within minutes, they are under a lasting cloud of public scorn.

    Theologically, Christians are told that the Bible is unreliable, outdated, and morally backward. “Christian” scholars denying the complete truthfulness of Scripture concerning, for example, the historicity of Adam. Popular Christian speakers question the reality of hell; the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation; or the very doctrine of the atonement won for them by Christ’s death or the righteousness won for them by his perfect life. 

    Putting up with these constant criticisms is hard work and for some, overwhelming. What is needed, we will be told, is “balance,” the embrace of positions that blur the differences between biblical teaching and social acceptability. In this way, Christians can believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but in numerous ways act and think in the same ways as non-Christians. Christians should see “peace” on issues related to the culture wars, and sometimes that looks like standing against historic Christianity, and with non-Christians, on matters of ethical and social significance. 

    With each small compromise we drift further from biblical reasoning, and ultimately faithfulness. But as D. A. Carson notes, spiritual and worldview drifts are never toward growth and biblical fidelity. He says,

    People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. [2]

    James reminds us that “friendship with the world is enmity toward God” (Js. 4:4). Commentating on this verse, biblical scholar Douglas Moo comments,

    God will brook no rival, and when believers behave in a way characteristic of the world, they demonstrate that, at that point, their allegiance is to the world rather than to God. By drawing out the ultimate consequences of worldly behaviour in this way, James seeks to prick the consciences of his readers and to stimulate their repentance.[3]

    James’ language of infidelity should shock us and grab our attention. Again, Moo is instructive:

    The striking and forceful application of the Old Testament imagery of God as the spouse of his people is the key to understanding this verse. It explains the seriousness of any flirtation with the world by bringing to mind the jealousy of the Lord, which demands a total, unreserved, unwavering allegiance from the people with whom he has joined himself.[4]

    Cultural and theological Stockholm syndrome is, in biblical terms, “friendship with the world” (Js. 4:4). We must remain vigilant to remain faithful to our redeeming, ransoming, and returning king. Like King David, we must express our love and loyalty for God in the celebration, joy, and privilege of receiving and obeying his word (see Psalm 119), regardless of how “out-of-step” this makes us with our culture of self-absorption. If you are beginning to lose the will to resist, ask the Lord to awaken you from your slumbers and rescue you from the grip of your seductive captor.

    [1] Entry on “Stockholm syndrome,” found at

    [2] D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, vol. 2 (Wheaton: Crossway, 1999), 23

    [3] Douglas J. Moo, James. TNTC (Downers Grove, IVP, 2015), 183.

    [4] Ibid.