Take Every Thought Captive

“We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5

If thoughts can be taken captive, then the mind is more like a signal receiver than generator.

This was the common view of the mind until relatively recently, and it has very interesting and hopeful implications.

Ideas come to us. Nobody knows exactly from where or how. One of the more interesting and influential books I’ve read is Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation. This book studies the ‘eureka’ moment – the point at which a new idea enters the minds. It’s a tricky thing. You can affect the setting, and direct your mental focus to different areas, but you cannot consciously control the appearance of the new idea. It comes to you. You receive it.

This leads to several important questions about where ideas originate and how and why they come to us when they do. Even without solving that, the idea of the mind as receiver implies very useful things about how to conduct ourselves.

For one, it does away with the notion that you are your thoughts. If you are bombarded with negative thoughts, that does not mean you are bad. It would be like saying your bones are fundamentally flawed because they keep getting bombarded with rocks that fracture them.

This is empowering, but also challenging. You have the ability to filter thoughts, dismiss thoughts, entertain thoughts, and enact them. You also have the responsibility to do so.

The thought as captive analogy is really quite excellent. First, capture the thought. Don’t let it run wild in your mind. Confine it to a space you control. Interrogate it. Figure out its nature. If it’s friendly, let it in. If not, cast it out.

Usually, this process is quick and easy. When a good thought pops into mind, in your gut you immediately know it’s true. Bad thoughts tend to be trickier. They require more analysis, which is often a sign that they are bad or in the very least dangerous.

I think the common conception of the brain as a computer that generates ideas is quite flawed. Whatever is going on biologically, the mind as a receiver and thoughts as signals originating elsewhere is a powerful paradigm in practice.