You Shall Not Pass! The Supernatural Power of Two Handed Warfare

What two of my all-time favorite films taught me about world-shaping leadership


These were the men who came to David while he was banished from the presence of Saul. They were among the warriors who helped him in battle. They were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed. Warriors who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. -1 Chronicles 12


Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black model two-handed swordplay (The Princess Bride: MGM Home Entertainment)

One of my all-time favorite comedic movie scenes occurs in The Princess Bride in a duel between two expert swordsmen—Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black (movie clip below). Unbeknownst to each other, both duelists have spent their lives mastering swordplay not only with their right-hand, but also with their left.

As the duel builds to its hilarious conclusion, it quickly becomes apparent that expertise in single-handed swordplay is inadequate preparation for facing a true master. Without striving to become a two-handed warrior there is little hope of achieving one’s life mission—whether that mission is piracy, true love, or revenge.

Similarly, expertise in faith and culture rarely go hand-in-hand. Leaders adept at culture making—whether in Hollywood or the Ivy League—are rarely trained in the disciplines of faith building; whereas leaders with strengths in faith building—whether in a local congregation or an international relief agency—are rarely trained in the art of culture making.

Gandalf employs two-handed warfare against a Balrog (The Fellowship of the Ring: New Line Home Entertainment)

It is my firm belief that this dichotomy not only creates glaring blind spots in our leadership, it also robs us of a vibrant conversation with other leaders from whom we have the most to learn. For leaders interested in effecting broad societal transformation, this dichotomy is even more devastating. Like Inigo Montoya, or King David’s army (above), the ability to fight with either hand is often a matter of life and death.

In another of my all-time favorite films (The Fellowship of the Ring) Gandalf prevailed over the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dum not merely through mastery of the sword, but by taking two-handed warfare to a whole new level with his staff. Up until this moment one might question whether or not having a wizard along on their journey was really necessary. After all, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legalas were every bit as skilled with their weapons as Gandalf was with his. However, by taking up his staff with his other hand Gandalf unleashes a supernatural power beyond anything his companions ever dreamed.

I suspect that anyone taking up the mantle of twenty-first century culture making will contend against far greater forces than Balrogs. My dream is that Two Handed Warriors might help train at least a few culture-making Gandalfs who can unleash supernatural power for good.

Two Handed Warriors is therefore intended as an ongoing conversation among filmmakers, educators, and spiritual leaders who aspire to become modern-day Gandalfs, and Inigo Montoyas: intellectuals, artists, and innovators devoted to gaining expertise in BOTH faith building and culture making. Men and women who “understand the times” and therefore know that redefining faith and culture one story at a time is our best hope for accomplishing our respective missions.

Growing up in a warrior’s household, King David’s son discovered that swordsmen attain mastery only where sparks fly: “As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another”(2). My dream is that in helping one another master the art of two-handed swordplay we will not only foster transformational films, schools, and congregations; we will also forge lifelong friendships.   En garde!

Podcast from Gary’s Geneva College Address on becoming a Two Handed Warrior

Ever wonder what casting a vision for two-handed warfare might sound like when addressing college students? Here’s one attempt from Geneva College (Pennsylvania.)

I couldn’t include the slides, but I have included the movie clip from THE PRINCESS BRIDE below. Be sure to watch the clip before you listen to the podcast (online or by download.) It will make a lot more sense.


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William Goldman, Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, et al. The Princess Bride (Hollywood, Calif: MGM Home Entertainment, 2001).
1 Princess Buttercup’s lover, also know as, “Westley”; aka, “The Dread Pirate Roberts.” (Not Johnny Cash.)
2 Proverbs 27:17

13 Replies to “You Shall Not Pass! The Supernatural Power of Two Handed Warfare”

  1. Peter,

    I am virtually certain you and Simon are right on this one. The day before my mitral valve surgery, Sue and I were walking through the UofM Landscape Arboretum. I was terrified of facing open heart surgery and lamenting of the fact to God, when he stopped me short with six words, " I am trying to help you." It took my breath away. It also proved to be true. The entire trajectory of my inner and outer life changed during my season of recovery. So much so, in fact, that I barely recognize the man who was at the Arboretum that day. While God had called me to be a two handed warrior nearly a decade earlier, I don't think I actually entered into that calling until that years. So, yes, I think you're right, and I think there is much more to it than we've even begun to consider.



  2. "So… maybe to become a true two handed warrior you first have to pass through death into order to experience resurrection power."

    Enjoyed the posting and there is much more to dig into here……but I was particularly intrigued by this part of the conversation in the quote above.

    It calls to mind a Richard Rohr book I read awhile back that had a pretty big impact on my own life. It was called, "Wild Man's Journey" and in it, Rohr argues that (unlike John Eldredge in "Wild at Heart") a man must realize that he "doesn't have what it takes" in order to truly start finding the power of God's kingdom.

    That power is in the paradox of the kingdom where "he who loses his life" will surely find it.

    I think becoming a kingdom warrior in which one's swords are directed by the hand of God requires some kind of "death" experience — whether literal or figurative — where we come up short.

    I need to think about this some more and would love some additional thoughts…….

    Thanks Gary and Simon.

    Peter Kapsner

  3. Simon,

    Wow! I NEVER saw that! But you know what? It kinda fits. (As does Aragorn, who I also thought about using.) After all, the Apostle Paul is a great example of two handed warrior, and he developed a tremendous theology of power released through suffering. If fact, he even uses two handed warrior imagery in one of his discourses of power through suffering (2Corinthians 6:7).

    So… maybe to become a true two handed warrior you first have to pass through death into order to experience resurrection power.

    Thank you for pointing it out! I must give this more thought.

    Grace and great mercy,


  4. Gary,

    I find it intriguing that Gandalf and Inigo Montoya both lost the battles depicted in the images in this post. Additionally, each of them was either killed or mortally wounded before coming back to life (either literally or figuratively) before completing their quest.

    What might this say about the journey of a two-handed warrior (or how much analysis is too much)?

    – Simon

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