Sun Zi's Art of War and the Bible

What has Sun Zi's Art of War has to do with the believers or the Bible?
As believers, we are in a war. A war against the devils to reach out to the people that know not Jesus Christ as Savior and God yet. It is not about fighting the devils because we have already won through Jesus. (see Christian Warfare and the Devil's Strategies)

Since it is a war, we need to learn about warfare.  Why not we just learn from the Bible and need not bother with writings of man? Yes, that is true. That is why I write Christian Warfare and the Devil's Strategies first. But reading the great writing of man enables me to compare and learn more about the Bible and in this case, warfare. It can be a bridge to lead a discussion of Sun Zi's Art of War to the Bible. It helps me to be a better believer and to reach out to others.

The Essence of Sun Zi's Art of War.
For details on Sun Zi's Art of War and its application to business and management, please see Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute and the subsequent posts. The essences are:
  1. Know the 5 key factors and the 7 assessment measures. Make an assessment of one readiness. Plan and develop oneself to be ready at all times. See point 5 to base measurements on real data.
  2. Know your enemy and know yourself then victory is without danger. (Sun Zi 3:6,10:5a 知彼知己,胜乃不殆;) and
  3. Knowing Heaven and Earth ensure victory is complete 10:5b 知天知地,胜乃可全.  Knowing Heaven means knowing the seasonal trends of the time and Knowing Earth means understanding the characteristics of the terrain. Riding the trends of time and terrain and of personalities will amplify your efforts multifold to ensure victory. Such trends or tendencies also apply to people. Sun Zi teaches us the quick temper can be irritated so that he made mistake, and even the good men can be slandered so that he is busy in protecting his reputation rather than fighting the war.
  4. Best Warfare is Victory without a war. That is achieved by building yourself up to such that no one dares to take you on. (Sun Zi 3:1 是故百战百胜,非善之善也;不战而屈人之兵,善之善者也。)
  5. Warfare is mainly Deception ( Sun Zi 1:6 兵者,诡道也。7:3 故兵以诈立,以利动,以分和为变者也。5v5 凡战者,以正合,以奇胜) Deception is about creating surprises - doing what the enemy does not expect so that he is caught without any defense.
  6. Preparation and Planning from real data. Collect intelligence (Sun Zi 13) of the true intentions of people and be not fooled by the external behavior and events designed to deceive us.
  7. Be wise, agile, flexible, watchful, in Mastering the Variation and exploiting the Advantages.  There is no one rule for all situations. (Sun Zi 8)
Teaching of Jesus
In the earlier post on Christian Warfare and the Devil's Strategies, Jesus tells that the devil is the liar and killer. Devil's basic method is deception. Sun Zi also gave us a long list of deceptive methods. In Luke 14:31-32 (Count the Costs), Jesus tell us to plan on real data (not on wishes) and decide accordingly. Jesus did not teach us not to plan but just 'not to worry' as quite a few believers are confused (Mat 6:34). We are to be wise as the serpent and harmless as doves as we are being sent into the midst of wolves (Mat 10:16).

Learning from Sun Zi
  1. The five factors are The Way of God (Bible), the Will of God, the Theater of Operations (our family, office, social space), the capability of our leaders (or maturity), and discipline of laws. The measurements are for us to know and increase the value. We must know the Bible in greater depth, to grow in maturity and capability in Christ, to know the will of God for the present time and the positioning in the places of our operations, to be sure that we adhere to the disciplines for development (e.g. quiet time, services etc), the strength of our community, the training for our community, and the encouragements and rewards.
  2. Best is to Win without a War.
    How can we do that? That is by walking in the light, abiding in Christ, yielding to the Holy Spirit! This is basic of Christian relationship - staying close to Jesus. With Jesus close to us, the devil will keep his distance from us.
  3. Know the Enemy and Know Oneself.
    The enemy is a liar and uses deception. I should put on the armor of truth (See 
    Victorious Life - The Armor of God). Read the Bible well and know our identity, inheritance, authority, etc in Christ. We learn to doubt the devil's doubt and overcome the deception with truth and faith in God. (May want to read Bible Study 1 John Chapter 5 Identity & Overcoming Power)
  4. Propensities of the Situations and Our Personalities.
    The devil understands our personalities and our propensities and will make use of the various situations to attack or tempt us. Many famous men of God committed sins when they were successful. Elijah at his height of success in defeating the false prophets of Baals ran for his life and hid in a cave when he heard the queen was going after him. The devil will exploit our propensities to get us to sin willingly and then accuse and condemn us. Consider how to a cat to eat pepper. Cats like to clean itself. So just spray pepper on its fur and it will happily lick up the pepper to clean itself.
  5. Deception - Overcome it with Truth, Honesty, Communication, and Transparency.
    Deception is afraid of light and openness. Devil is good at sowing misunderstanding, gossiping lies about your loved ones and friends. Communicate honestly, openly and transparently are means to resolve the misunderstanding.
  6. Preparation and Planning.
    Face up to the realities of life. Call a sin a sin and not to give excuses. Bring the issues to God to get wisdom to solve them. Use the brain, the creativity that God has given us. Plan well and execute well. Apply the wisdom of the following rule 5 below. 
    1. Planning begins with seeking the Lord first. Asking for guidance and adopting His values and thinking. It is God first then plan and not we plan first and ask God to endorse our plan. (Prov 3:5-6) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths
  7. Be Wise - Apply the Right things to the Right Situations. Be flexible, agile and watchful.
    Don't put God into a mold and expect God to work in the same way as before. Jesus healed in many diverse ways. Be able to see the working of God in your situation. Enrich our lives with the Knowledge of the Bible, God, and others who the Holy Spirit may have a large reservoir of knowledge to remind us from. Holy Spirit can give us fresh words John 16:13-15 to give us the right word for the situation. 
What is Missing in Sun Zi?
There is a strategy that is missed out in Sun Zi's Art of War. Sun Zi did mention to take good care of your men and to pursue the interests of the people and country and not yourself. Sun Zi is not able to know the overcoming power of love. A great way to overcome deception of the devil over people is for us to use love so that the people can see the light - the light of the gospel of Christ. Love is not easy but love is the 'more than conqueror' power - converting the enemy(not the devil, the people who are against us because of deception) into friends. See The Meaning of "More than Conquerors".

Lim Liat (c) updated 30 May 2013, updated 11 Apr 2018 on Propensities.


HJ said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I have worked in campus ministry for 17 years and have been thinking about Art of War and how it relates to the battle "not against flesh and blood...etc" (Ephesians)--for our own spiritual well-being but also in our efforts to call others to follow Jesus. All day today I have been wondering if Art of War has useful applications for Christians as we work to win people from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. You have given me some good things to think about.

As insightful as Art of War is in strategies for winning battles, you are right--love is missing. I am still reading Art of War but I think perhaps also missing are the many paradoxes found in Scripture--weakness is strength, foolish shaming the wise, complete joy through embracing suffering, etc. Maybe that fits in the deception section....hmmm. Only problem with that is these strategies are not meant to be deceptive foils....

I want to find a good book which explores Art of War and scripture side by side. Do you know of one?


Lim Liat said...

Your comment triggered a reflection. Maybe deception is not the same as lie. We need to check the intention of the heart of the doer and the perception of the viewer. The doer has no intention to deceive - it is not a lie but just doing the truthful thing. It was the viewer who deceived himself out of his own experience or character.

The death of Jesus on the cross appeared to the world and to the devil as a defeat. The master of deception of was defeated by deception! Devil thought all he needed to do was to kill Jesus, by deceiving the people to kill Him. Earlier attempts failed but he thought he finally got it through Judas and the religious leaders. But the truth was that Jesus' death paid for our sins and freed us instead. His death enabled Jesus to go into hell and bruised the devil's head, conquered death and be resurrected to live forever more, giving new life to all who receive Him.

Love may appear weak but is actually very strong. Love takes down defenses voluntarily, reaches out to the heart and then transforms the heart, converting enemy into friend. That is indeed a good kind of deception!

The teaching of i-ching and Dao De Jing shows that Yin - softness, yielding, follow-after, could be stronger than the Yang of mere hardness and forcefulness. See my posts in Chinese Classics and the Bible (http://christianity-rediscovered.blogspot.com/2011/01/chinese-classics-bible-table-of-content.html)

Sorry that I can't a book that talk about Arts of war and Bible side by side. Let me know if you find one. For details in Art of War please see my posts in http://mind-value.blogspot.com/2010/12/sun-zi-art-of-war-sun-tzu-in-one-minute.html. I look at Chinese classics with Biblical biased point of view.

YHWH Will Uplift said...

Praise God! I have found a new friend! I was always wondering if there were others out there who loved the Art of War and were able to connect it to the Bible.

From my own personal studies I have found that God teaches us about the divide and conquer principle when he separates the heavens from the earth (Genesis 1:1); light from the darkness (v. 4); the evening from the morning (v. 5); waters from the waters (v. 6); the greater light in the day from the lesser light and the stars in the night (vv. 14-19); and the Sabbath day from the other days (2:1-3. Cf. The Art of War 1:15; 6:20-24; 11:8, 15, 49). We are also shown this same principle when God tells the serpent that a seed from the woman will bruise his head (Genesis 3:15). The ancients knew this well: "Cut off the head of the serpent and its body will fall". Or as God stated in the Bible: "[...] smite the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered [...]" (Zechariah 13:7. Cf. Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27). Now while I can list more examples I believe a blog is much needed in comparing The Art of War with the Bible. I think what would be most helpful is to show how God implemented The Art of War Himself and how men in the Bible implemented it.

Marsha said...

I appreciate the fact that you are letting the Bible inform your interpretation of The Art of War. We are having dealings with an individual who has it backwards and is allowing The Art of War inform his interpretation of Scripture.

This is what happens when you get it backwards:

When you get it turned around the wrong way you fall into several traps.

You begin to justify using deception and lies. You begin taking parts of Scripture that are descriptive in nature and looking at them as being prescriptive. For instance, passages that deal with Old Testament wars where lies and deception are used by Israelites, are interpreted as meaning that if it was okay for them to use deception, then it’s okay for us to do it too.

You begin to become paranoid that everyone is the enemy. You walk into a room and assess how you might kill each person if you needed too.

You begin mentally profiling people to learn their weaknesses and how you can exploit them.

This person has caused much grief for our family, through his use of The Art of War as his guide to life over and above the Bible.

YHWH Will Uplift said...

@Marsha Yes sister it is very imoortant to use the Bible to interpret The Art of War but, not the other way around: doing so as you said will corrupt the pure teachings of the Bible.

Signet business data said...

Wow! I'm really excited right now. I believe God told me to read the Art of War. I tried but found it difficult to reconcile with what is true and good, so became confused. Also it wasn't an easy read, but I haven't seemed to shake it so will try again. Maybe it was just to teach me how the world via the devil fights in order to recognize what I'm dealing with. Also, to know what NOT to do and become. God has taught me in order to assess a situation, person or anything there are three considerations: the nature and origin of a thing, the behavior over time, and the motivation of its heart or fundamental reason why.. Additionally, I'm coming to understand the significance of developing and maintaining a God conciousness rather than self-conciousness as our identity in Christ is the image we conform to rather than the influencer's or world's mold. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind with Gods word to the point that as He is, so are we in this world; this identity is demonstrated in provision of a power beyond our own supplied when needed in work, crises, evangelism, ability etc where we are turned into another man! Now the dominion God established in Genesis 1:26 manifests to the degree of our revelation and realization as a son of God. In addition to this I'm exploring the power and lifestyle of covenants and the associated benefits, responsibilities, outcomes, types, altars, spirits, sacrifices or costs, generational prevalence and how believers of Christ have suffered much failure and destruction because of our lack of knowledge of covenants and how they work. Moreover, how WE give the enemy power to do much damage to believers by evil covenants that we or our bloodline form ignorantly or knowingly in rebellion. Finally, yes, it is important when looking at wordly influences that we view the influence through the lense of Gods word and not view Gods word through the lense of the influence.