We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10:5, 6)

This is part of Paul’s admonition to the believers in Corinth. On a personal level, our sanctification is a matter of self-discipline. We are to strive to resist the “natural” tendencies of our flesh while, by God’s grace and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we train our minds in righteousness. This is a life-long struggle, although righteousness gains ground against the demands of our fallen nature steadily and certainly.

I would suggest that this passage has relevance to the Church’s interaction with our culture. If we are dedicated to subduing our minds as just described, would this not also be our goal as we encounter the culture, either individually or corporately? That is, would we not also desire to bring the thoughts of others under the authority of Christ? Isn’t that what happens at conversion? Or, I should say, isn’t that the process that begins at conversion? The sanctification of believers is just that–the gradual subjugation of the whole man to Christ. The nature of the gospel includes the aspect of recreating. This is clearly evident when we examine the life of an individual who has been converted. We see that person’s disposition gradually remade into that which pleases God. Why would we not expect the same thing to happen on a larger scale?

Culture reflects what is in the heart. Today, generally speaking, our culture reflects the unregenerate state of a majority of the population. If the day comes when a majority of people have been converted and are progressing in their sanctification, the culture will certainly reflect that change. This is not an overnight process, but a gradual process, as I noted above. That is true for both the individual Christian and the entire church. My expectation, therefore, is that Paul’s exhortation will one day be the norm in our culture. As a culture, on a corporate level, we will be taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ.

The impediment to what I have described is, ironically, the church! The character of contemporary evangelicalism indicates that the principle in the verses above is not a prevailing perspective in the church. There are encouraging exceptions, of course, especially among Reformed churches, but most evangelical churches do not appear to be giving a great amount of attention to the notion of capturing the culture in which we live. This is where the doctrine of eschatology becomes crucial. I believe that most evangelicals are convinced we are in “the end times” and the return of Christ is just around the corner. Accompanying this viewpoint is the expectation (and ready acceptance) of defeat for the church when it comes to our encounter with our culture. If we believe God has ordained that the church would simply bear witness to Christ in this fallen world and not succeed in transforming the culture, then there will be a corresponding withdraw from the public square. We can hardly deny that this is precisely what has happened to the church over the past 50 or 60 years (and some would argue for a much longer history of the eschatology of defeat).

We have this basic and easily understood admonition from the apostle, however, to get us back on track, so to speak. The desire to see our culture transformed by the gospel is the place to begin. This is going to require the purging of the expectation of defeat from the hearts and minds of average believers, and the filling the resultant void with the expectation of triumph—here on the earth in real time.