Taking each thought captive. What does this mean?

Recently, I have wrestled a great deal with this particular verse. Paul writes to the Corinthians and says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Every thought captive? Do you, Paul, really mean every thought? In a fallen world, how is this possible?

Paul exhorts his listeners to redeem every conversation because, I believe, Paul knows full well that our minds are the key everything. Our minds inform our hearts and out of our hearts, who we are truly flows (Matt. 12:24) . We Christians (i.e., members of the kingdom of God) are, after all, only a part of this world, not of it (John 10:37-38). We are not to get lost in the trivialities of day to day life (Phil. 4:8), but rather we are to remember that we are the disciples and sons of the King, who is the redeemer of this world. He is the the process of reconciling all things together to himself through his son (Col. 1:20), yet we (myself absolutely included) struggle to reconcile our own minds. What is wrong with this picture? Why is it so difficult for us to “take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”? What does it mean to take each thought captive?

I believe it means that we should constantly remember we are in a war. This war won’t necessarily lead to physical death, but it leads to eternal death. This war is concerned with with the “knowledge of God.” It means this war of ideologies/philosophies/theologies has the implications within itself to lead towards Christ and glory, or towards our natural proclivities of our own selfish desires and towards condemnation.  Remember the immediate context in which 2 Cor. 10:5 exists? It refers to a type of warfare: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10:3, 4; emphasis added). We are in a war. In our war there weapons out to destroy. This war is evident whether it be in a dialogue with friends or acquaintances at a coffee shop, listening to a new CD (does anyone use these things anymore?!) or enjoying the latest Hollywood blockbuster. This war of eternal significance is where we Christians are called to engage the “philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world” (Col. 2:8). And our weapon? The Word of God.

The Word of God has been left for us to wage war against our enemy hoards. It is a weapon that has successfully defended the church for 2,ooo years, and according to Isaiah 40:8, God’s word will remain forever. His word (i.e., the Bible) not only sustains man’s existence, but it also fully satisfies the greatest human hunger for meaning (Matt. 4:4). It is Truth (John 17:17). It is the Christians means by which we press on towards holiness leaving our lives of sin behind (Ps. 119:11). However, for the present discussion, it is our only weapon listed in Paul’s description of armor of war (Eph. 6:10-20). Just as it would be wise to practice wielding a sword before entering a duel, it would be infinitely more wise devouring and adoring God’s word before entering into active warfare with this world. As we feed on Scripture and meditate on it daily, we will be better equipped to take every thought captive. By knowing God’s word (i.e., the Bible), we will know the Word (i.e., Jesus; John 1:1).

May we take every thought captive making Jesus the essence of our every thought. May this be every Christian’s desire: to show in all things Christ preeminent.

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