“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:3-6)
We’ve been sharing a series of studies taking a deeper look at these verses in II Corinthians (you can read Part 1 & Part 2 here). They provide important insight into how we should view our inner selves, and our responsibilities in actively guarding, defending, and tending to our hearts and minds.
In particular, these studies focus on interpreting Paul’s somewhat literary or metaphorical language into something that feels tangible and actionable to us today.
One of the ideas that was brought out in the earlier studies on pulling down strongholds was this:
“When we allow our beliefs and our expectations of God to become bigger than God Himself, we limit God. We have made our God smaller. And we create an idol out of our own beliefs or ways of thinking.”
That idea segues us nicely into this study, where we’ll dig into the second big element of that keystone verse—casting down arguments, and every “high thing” that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.
What does II Cor. 10:5 mean?
It’s kind of a weird phrase in our modern vernacular, so first let’s define more clearly what it really means. The translation of “casting down” in the NKJV might come across to us in a softer way than its true meaning—which is to demolish, destroy, or utterly obliterate (most other translations beyond the KJV and NKJV use these words instead).
What exactly are we supposed to be demolishing?? Those “arguments” (G3053, logismos…where we get the word ”logic”) encompass our self-directed human reasoning, opinions, convictions, conceit, philosophy, imagination, and thought.
Some translations of the verse also include “high” or “lofty” things (also translated “pretensions” or “opinions”), which indicate something proud, arrogant, human-centered, and self-confident or self-sufficient.
Basically, this verse tells us that (sometimes unintentionally) we elevate our own thoughts or convictions above what God says—which creates a competing and adversarial relationship that can destroy us if we don’t recognize it and work to defeat it instead.
We are in a war for our minds
Those different translations really give us a much better idea of what we’re dealing with here. We are commanded to be using the spiritual weapons and protection at our disposal (Eph. 6:10-18, armor of God) to recognize and root out human thinking that sets itself up contrary to God’s word.
Sound familiar in today’s world? I loved this quote so much I had to include it verbatim, as a jumping-off point:
“There is the fortress of human reasoning, reinforced with many subtle arguments and the pretense of logic. There is the castle of passion, with flaming battlements defended by lust, pleasure, and greed. And there is the pinnacle of pride, in which the human heart sits enthroned and revels in thoughts of its own excellence and sufficiency” (from this article).
Human reasoning is a mighty fortress (one of those strongholds we talked about). But the thing is, God CREATED US with the capacity for human reasoning, and He did that with a purpose. He wants us to have free will, to use our brains.
The key phrase in unlocking our hero passage is “raises itself up against the knowledge of God” (CJB). When our (or someone else’s) opinions, logic, convictions, beliefs, or political correctness sit in opposition to what God tells us, we are in deep trouble.
One of the subtleties with human reasoning that contradicts the bible is that it’s not always coming from a place of outright malice and rebellion—just as often, it’s fueled by theoretically good intentions, the appearance of logic, or our emotional reactions on a topic (we see an example of this in the conversation of Jesus and Peter in Matt. 16:23).
In the rest of this study we’ll break down and examine—through a few different angles or lenses—these “arguments” and “lofty things” that we are to demolish, and how they can manifest in our lives:
- In our hearts and minds…reasoning with ourselves (justification, self-righteousness, putting our logic onto God, etc.)
- In our dealings with our brethren…how we treat our brethren, biblical disputes and pet doctrines that divide and distract, etc.
- In our interaction with society around us…being swayed by or caught up in worldly human reason at the cost of the spiritual truths (news, social media, politics, etc.); letting the social and cultural thinking of our time shape our own views and how we interpret the bible