Spiritual Warfare Basis: Five Principles: Terrain

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 6, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Therefore measure in terms of five things: use these assessments to make comparisons, and thus find out what the conditions are. The five things are the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership, and discipline.” ~Sun-Tzu, Chapter 1.

Last week, I taught you about weather: the elements and the seasons that we cannot control in our lives. This week, we will discuss about terrain, the battlefield itself. Sun-Tzu devotes two chapters to this topic. There are six major configurations of physical “terrain” and nine types of social/political terrains. The six major configurations are: accessible, suspended, stalemated, constricted, precipitous, and expansive. The nine social/political types are: dispersive, light, contentious, traversable, focal, heavy, entrapping, encircled, and fatal. It would be worth the time to examine each and every one of these 15 configurations and types of terrain. Each of these types has to do with maneuvering armies and proximity to armies/other nations. I am not going to delve into each one of these, but will rather point out two of each of these configurations and types that stand out.

Of the configuration types, suspended and stalemated terrains are ones we tend to find ourselves in often. Let’s look at each one.

Suspended terrain is where it is easy to get in but it is not so easy to get out. Such terrains could include traversing along canyons or even mountain passes (though that also qualifies as precipitous). It would include marshes or could include forests. Like last week, think of Russia in winter. It was easy for Napoleon and Hitler to get in, but very difficult for them to get out. And both lost. Armies just trying to get from point A to point B will readily go around suspended terrain before going through it, because it would not take much for said army to be ambushed with little means of escape. Those that do will cross it because there is a goal or a target that can only be reached by going through said territory. And some of the best tactics include deceiving the enemy into entering the terrain. A Biblical example of this is the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. When it opened, it was easy for Egypt to get in, but it was not so easy for them to get out.

But there are times where it is advantageous to enter suspended terrain. The enemy doesn’t like going in there either, unless they control it. If they don’t control it, they won’t enter unless there is a need for them to enter it. Look at Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Frodo and Sam, with the aid of Gollum, escape the Emun Muil, a labyrinth of rocks, only to enter the marshes just north of the Black Gate of Mordor. They are able to pass through undetected because the Orcs don’t even bother watching it. They’d rather go around for miles, and that left it open. But getting through required a guide.

Are we travelling through suspended terrain, where it feels like we got into the mess but can’t get out? Often such terrains are traps because the enemy possesses them. Before you enter, scout it out. Find out if you can get out. Get your orders. Remember that Jesus is our General. He knows the landscape. Only enter such terrains under orders.

Stalemated terrain is ground where neither you nor your opponent has a real advantage to holding such a position. Does owning that hill or that field actually make a difference in the overall scheme? Understanding stalemated terrain is very similar to knowing how to pick and choose battles. There is some terrain that is not worth fighting for. There are some hills that are not worth owning, because they do not help you in the overall scheme. Many of us waste time and energy fighting battles that won’t help us. And be careful, because the enemy will entice us to come out and conquer territory they really could care less if you own or not. They will plant forces on that hill, but forces they consider expendable. And here is where it gets tricky. Often these hills they want us to pursue are accessed through suspended terrain. It’s easy to get in and conquer the hill, but once you have it, can you get out? When you choose to fight, is that territory, is that target worth fighting for? Does it help you? And if you take it, does it impact the enemy’s overall goals? How often do we waste time fighting useless battles while the enemy moves on while we are distracted?

Now, let’s look at a couple of the nine types of terrain: contentious and fatal.

In contentious terrain, the principle is simple: whoever owns it has the advantage. This is akin to high ground. In The Hobbit, the Lonely Mountain is contentious terrain. When the dwarves had it, they had the advantage. When Smaug had it, he had the advantage. And then five armies advanced to claim it. It was a key strategic place to control, not just for the wealth that lay inside.

Sun-Tzu tells us not to attack when dealing with Contentious terrain. Why? If you have control, you don’t need to attack. You can defend and the terrain itself will aid you. But if your enemy has it, do not attack there. You need to draw your enemy off and get him to fight elsewhere. We see this from Gettysburg. The Union has the high ground at Cemetery Ridge which General Joshua Chamberland called the best natural defensive position he had ever seen. The Confederates kept charging and charging and charging. The Union, despite being heavily outnumbered and out-armed (at one point they all but ran out of bullets), held their ground because they used the terrain itself to defend them. General Lee could not win at Cemetery Ridge. His best option would have been to retreat, attack Washington DC, and pull the Union off the high ground.

What is the contentious terrain that we have? This is no better seen than in the battle of worldviews. We stand on the Bible as the ultimate authority. That is our high ground. Our enemy wants us to defend our position without the Bible. That’s pulling us off the high ground. You can stand on the high ground you are defending. But remember that the enemy’s high ground is their worldview. Without addressing that issue, any other battle we fight may ultimately end in defeat. You can’t address abortion properly without getting to its root: the devaluing of life by removing the identity of human nature as made in God’s image.

The final terrain we’ll explore here is fatal terrain. It is also known as “death ground.” This is where we are pinned to a place of no retreat and the only option is fight with everything they have or perish. The Normandy Invasion was a battle of death ground. The Allied soldiers had no choice but to push through the hell of Omaha Beach. They had no place to retreat, no fall back plan. It was all or none.

God loves to put us on death ground, because that is where our real skills and abilities are put forth. That is also where we learn and understand that we cannot do it on our own strength. We have to depend on God’s strength. The Israelites faced death ground countless times, and time and time again God delivered them. The only time he didn’t was when they were in judgment. Do you feel like you are on death ground, where you believe you are trapped with no escape? That’s when you need to grip your sword, hold on, and fight with everything you have. This is where you pull out your war cry and pull no stops. Rak Chazak!

So that is a sampling of what kind of terrain we deal with. I hardly gave this topic justice but I do hope it helps you think about your priorities in what battles you choose to fight and to understand what kind of ground you are fighting on or fighting for. Too many times, we walk into terrain we are not supposed to or we avoid the terrain we need to conquer. To know which territories we need to attack, we need to understand the mind and the goals of our General, Jesus Christ. He is the true leader and that is what the next key principle is leadership. Stay tuned for that next week.