What’s With the Way Church People Use the Word ‘Stronghold’?

I was in the library one day when I overheard a tutoring session at another table in the room.  The tutor, a man in his mid-30’s, was looking through an essay written by this 20-something college student.  He read silently for a spell, made a remark or two about needed changes, and then went back to silent reading.  Then the tutor stumbled on a word…a word that I recognized outside academia.

The word was “stronghold” and it had this tutor befuddled.

The situation was clear to me –this student had been in church and the tutor had not.  Now the tutor wasn’t dumb; he knew what the student was trying to say.  He just couldn’t figure out the use of the word “stronghold” in such a negative connotation.  Church folk these days have been throwing around this word to mean some kind of evil presence that shackles people down; much in the same way that New Testament writers use bonds and chains (and slavery) to represent temptation and sin.

Thing is, the Bible doesn’t seem to use the word “stronghold” in this way.  Perhaps the use of the word was confusing to the tutor because he knew his Bible.  David prays:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge…(2 Sa 22:2–3)

Psalms 144:2 says,

“…my rock and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues the peoples under me.”

The only remote connection to the word’s current use and Scripture is when a literal fortress tower or structure of an adversary that is demolished.  So why do we misuse the word?  And why does it matter?

Despite what’s popular, the Christian view does not present an intergalactic war of gods, Good vs. Evil.  Sure, there is evil, but there is only one God.  All other god’s are seen as a waste of space and time, meaningless and ‘vein.’  They are a figment of the imagination that diverts one’s heart from the one true God.

In fairness, the idea of using the word “stronghold” to describe…say…crippling addiction is appropriate.  There are such forces that have a “strong hold” of people.  I even believe in such as thing as ‘spiritual warfare,’ but the point of all this is that God wins.  There is no sin greater than God’s grace.  There is no evil greater than God’s goodness.  There is no fear over God’s love.

God is the true stronghold.


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