Published on September 14, 2012 by Mary Wimberley  

Although various strongholds can hamper Christian thinking, philosopher C. Stephen Evans encouraged a Samford University audience Thursday to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ."

Strongholds are not just physical, but can be ideas of the mind, said Dr. Evans, university professor of philosophy and humanities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

"Our culture wants us to believe that we can be morally good without God, that we can banish God from our moral lives without harm to our moral thinking or our moral efforts," said Evans. "Our culture wants us to believe that we can banish God from our social and political lives, that human law requires no higher standard of justice or right."

He based his remarks on a passage from II Corinthians, in which the Apostle Paul says that although Christians live in the world, they do not fight in the way the world fights or employ worldly means to do so.

To Paul, thoughts can be potentially dangerous enemies, or "strongholds," that must be disarmed by making thoughts obedient to Christ, said Evans.

"All of us are called to develop our minds in Christian ways, to recognize that ideas matter, that ideas can be dangerous and powerful, and to make sure that our ideas are in fact obedient to Christ," said Evans.

When one makes the grand story of the Bible the frame of their lives, they will naturally see the connections between their lives and the Gospel, he said.  In return, things will become clear and intelligible, and it will be possible to prioritize.  "We gain perspective on what is important and relative."

 "We Christians do know something about the power of ideas," Evans said. "We know the danger that is present in the kind of thinking that leaves God out of our lives. We also know the power of the gospel to undermind such thinking, to enrich our lives and energize our culture. 

"Our calling is to follow the example of Paul; not to make space in our lives for the Bible, but to find the places God has for us within the Biblical story."

Evans told of the conversion of the famous literature professor and writer C.S. Lewis, who used his intellect and scholarly insight to overcome ideological strongholds that were barriers to his faith.

Coincidentally, earlier this week Evans learned that his book, Natural Signs and Knowledge of God, had won first prize in the C.S. Lewis Book Prize competition for the best philosophy of religion or philosophical book for a general audience published in the last five years.  The $15,000 prize is funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

Evans' talk to the convocation audience in Reid Chapel was one of three presentations he made as this year's Holley-Hull lecturer. Sponsored by the Samford religion department, the annual Howard L. and Martha H. Holley Lectures: New Testament Voices for a Contemporary World, honor university professor and retired Samford provost Dr. William E. Hull. The lectureship was established by Dr. and Mrs. Holley's children, Dr. Warren Holley and Nancy Holley Capacik, both of whom attended the Thursday lecture.

In other talks this week, Evans spoke on topics related to the 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, about whom he has written extensively and is considered a leading authority.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.