The Power of Ideas
There are few things as powerful as ideas.
In the trailer to the film ‘Inception’, Dominic Cobb makes the point this way:
“What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite the rules.”
Ideas have power for good. As Cobb said, they can build cities and transform the world. But ideas also have great power for harm. They can destroy communities and damage lives. When somebody begins to believe a notion that is untrue it can have a devastating effect on them. This is why ‘Fake News’ is so prevalent. Competition for narratives and ideas are the power-plays of our times and those whose ideas become the prevailing thought pattern of culture wield the power to shape the world.
Centuries ago, the philosopher Damon of Athens said it like this:
“Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”
Songs and art are upstream and form the ideas of a culture. Laws are downstream and come to reflect the thoughts that have already taken hold.
Ideas and Spiritual Warfare
One strand of Biblical teaching that produces a wide range of reactions is spiritual warfare. Some can’t get enough of it and get very excited about ghostbusting. Others are more wary and sceptical. In the gospels we see clearly that casting demons out was both part of the ministry of Christ and part of the ministry that he passed on to his followers. This is explored in much more details in our ‘Healing and Deliverance’ course with David Devenish.
Other times when the Bible talks of spiritual warfare, it is cast in the context of the battle of ideas. For example, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul writes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh but we have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.”
Ideas can be strongholds that hold people captive. And fighting against these ideas is spiritually significant because these ideas cause great harm and lead people from God.
How to Fight the Battle of Ideas
What does it look like then for Christians to engage in this spiritual battle on the level of ideas?
Firstly, it is important to recognise this power that ideas hold. Rather than simply going along with the worldviews that are around us, be ready to think critically and Biblically and notice where those ideas do not chime well with Scripture.
Secondly, given that songs and art are culturally upstream, we can create culture through producing great music, art and media that begins to shape the way people think.
Thirdly, and most importantly, prayer. The heart of what we believe is forged in that quiet time with God when we are focussed on him and engaged with him. Prayer can be subversive to these ideas and strongholds.
Jesus taught his disciples an incredibly subversive prayer. Every line of this short prayer does battle with a different ideological stronghold of our day and in the coming weeks we will explore in more depth the power of this prayer in culture creation and in spiritual warfare.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.