Christians are also called to stand against what the Authorized Version calls spiritual wickedness (πονηρία), and the English Standard Version calls spiritual forces of evil. Again, note that we are not called to oppose people, flesh and blood, but wrong thinking, wrong believing, false religion, and false gods—ideas.
And we run into the same difficulty here, inasmuch as unbelievers are unwilling to separate their person from their thinking and behavior. It is curious, because personal growth and maturity require that we outgrow and discard old modes of thinking and behavior. People tend to think that they are quite mature because they have outgrown their old ideas of Christianity, which were acquired in their youth, and were simply wrong to begin with. Christianity itself continues to grow and unfold over time. But rather than taking their faith with them into maturity, people too often find it easier to abandon it for the platitudes of the godless science that have been drilled into them through public and higher education. And this has been going on in education over the past hundred or so years as educators have endeavored to keep on the cutting edge of popular science.
Again, we see the age-old conflict between God and Satan, or good and evil that was inaugurated in the Garden. I have said much about this issue, and all that has previously been said applies here as well. Remember that we are to stand against false belief, false religion, and false ideas, but not against the people who hold them. This is the heart of Paul’s concern here.
(from Ephesians—Recovering the Vision of a Sustainable Church In Christ, forthcoming, 2014)