Thursday, October 04, 2007

Take Every Thought Captive

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he uses intriguing language when he says “we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (10:5, NRSV). What in the world does that mean? Often we associate this with having the personal and spiritual discipline to sanctify our thoughts so as not to sin by them, as in, “I will not imagine putting my boss in a cauldron of boiling water.

But in this context Paul is referring to certain teachers who have captivated the Corinthians by their slick philosophical reasoning that runs counter to the message of the crucified Christ and which actually diminishes the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Paul uses the most elaborate military imagery in all his letters to depict the seriousness with which he takes this threat. He speaks of “the weapons of our warfare” which have “the divine power to destroy strongholds” (10:4). This latter metaphor refers to the tactics of siege warfare as practiced in the Greco-Roman world (see also Luke 19:43-44), wherein an army surrounds a city and slowly crushes it. The Message puts it this way:

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ (10:4-5).

The Christian faith has always called people to engage both their hearts and minds in the life of following Jesus. Recently it seems like the heart is getting the most attention: doctrine is out, devotion is in; learning is boring, experience is exciting. But as important as heart devotion is, we must also fortify our minds. Paul urges Timothy repeatedly, for example, to focus on “sound teaching” in the church in Ephesus, for sound teaching begets healthy Christ-followers. Indeed, the word for “sound” throughout I & II Timothy and Titus is a word associated with medicine and health. Thin theology and sloppy teaching makes for sick Christians. That is why Paul speaks of being “nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching” (I Timothy 4:6, NRSV).

On October 19-20, West Houston will host our first ever worldview conference, called “Truth and Consequences: Improving Your World and Life View.” A “worldview” is the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts in it. Think of it as the assumptions and perceptions that form your understanding of life and by which you apply your Christian faith. The reason a person’s worldview is so important is because it is the roots from which our convictions and actions spring. Beneath the cultural arguments having to do with euthanasia, abortion, and capital punishment, for instance, lie significant worldview differences and considerations. These are the kinds of things the conference speakers will address.

Many Christians cannot really articulate what they believe, or why they consider Jesus to embody truth, or how their Christian faith informs their opinions on pressing cultural and political issues. Yet Paul exhorts Christ-followers to “
not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is…” (Romans 12:2, NIV). Robust faith includes a renewed mind, taken to heart.


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