One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 10:5:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
This verse has sustained me during a LOT of tough times. Whenever I have felt depressed or despairing, this verse has helped me to steel my mind against the lies that undoubtedly start to creep in–lies about myself, my friends, and God. So much of the way I think, feel, and see the world begins at the level of the mind. My perspective all hinges on what kinds of thoughts I dwell on, because those thoughts shape me in subtle yet profound ways. Which is why I have worked hard to fight off any thoughts that conflict with the character of God. By guarding my mind I also guard my heart, and my life.
This week, however, I noticed a completely different way of reading 2 Corinthians 10:5. Rather than interpret “thought” as an idea that originates in my brain and inhabits my personal thought life, it can also refer to a public teaching or societal set of beliefs that is outside myself, such as a secular worldview.
Why does this matter?
Have you ever noticed that the church is generally about 10 steps behind the culture? We like to say that we’re just preserving ourselves amidst secular moral decline, but in all honesty we’re usually just behind it. The reason the church often trails behind society is that many Christians refuse to engage ideas, methods or trends that are not explicitly Christian. Instead, we read Christian books and Christian magazines, listen to Christian music, and study Christian thinkers. We horde together in a Christian bubble and shelter ourselves from the outside world.
As a result of limiting ourselves to this relatively small circle of experience and thought, Christian culture does not benefit from the same range of ideas in the world. That’s why Christian contributions to the arts and the academy are so often looked down on by the rest of the world. It’s not a secular conspiracy. It’s because Christians aren’t exposing themselves to the wealth of artistic and intellectual resources out there, and our “fruits” betray us. In general, there isn’t the same depth or creativity that one finds in the mainstream.
In the face of this dilemma, 2 Corinthians 10:5 is a great reminder that we don’t need to hide from the culture. We shouldn’t feel pressure to preserve ourselves by existing in the spiritual equivalent of a padded room. Rather than hide from non-Christian ideas or trends, we are to engage them and even learn from them. If there is anything about an idea or practice that is hostile to the gospel then we can take those particular thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. We can tweak them and grow them, but we don’t have to fear them. Maybe then instead of trailing the culture, we can finally get ahead of it.
What do you think? Do you agree?