Article From Searching Together Magazine, Spring 1996
Many today are enamored with a phenomenon called “slain in the spirit,” which is sweeping through many denominations. What does the phrase “slain in the spirit” mean? Do we find evidence of such activity in the Scriptures? Do historical and modern “slain in the spirit” services produce manifestations that could be considered occultic in origin? Who is the power behind “slain in the spirit” activity? Do we have a responsibility to ascertain whether such activity is godly or ungodly?
I John 4:1 provides this command: “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Most Christians are aware that cults or New Age sects are backed by false prophets and evil spirits. However, too many Christians are unwilling to honestly assess the spirit behind their own assembly or favorite televangelist.
Australian author, Nader Mikhaiel, in his book entitled, Toronto Blessing: “Slaying in the Spirit, the Telling Wonder,” starts his evaluation by asking, “What would your response be to the account of the following New York missionary?”
During the 1800’s, cripples, paralytics and the blind were healed “as in the days of old, by laying on of hands in the name of Jesus,” under a New York missionaries ministry. Healing recipients, praising God, rushed to gather ill friends and neighbors who were also healed. Seeing the miracles, converts clamored to receive baptism and join the church…of a Mormon missionary.
Biblical theology soundly refutes the central teachings of Mormonism as blatantly cultic and unscriptural. Until one discovers that the missionary was Mormon, such testimony is apt to inspire an elated chorus of “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Thank you, Jesus!” The moral of this anecdote is: just because miracles occur, Jesus is not necessarily the power behind them.
From this anecdote we also learn that we must be careful not to call evil good or good evil. What complicates matters is the fact that the whole issue of spiritual gifts divides the body of Christ. We need to honestly evaluate the “slain in the spirit phenomenon without dogmatically jumping into our camp of choice. While some Christians refuse to believe that God works in signs and wonders today, others will accept any spiritual manna they find without discerning its origin. Religious history is rife with spiritual excesses and demonic activities that were concealed “for the good of the work.” Inordinate emotionalism, for the most part, can be gracefully accepted. As for the cases of actual demonic activity, it is common knowledge that the enemy of our souls will always attempt to thwart or counterfeit the genuine work of God. However, this does not excuse Christians from their responsibility to honestly examine controversial movements and ministries.
Both the early American frontier camp revivals and California’s famous Asuza Street meetings (circa 1908), known for “slain phenomena, provide examples of controversial movements that necessitated examination. For the moment we will focus on the associated signs, rather than the “slain” phenomenon itself. Frontier camp meetings exhibited the following problematic behavior:
* While “Slain in the Spirit,” people unconsciously stripped or exhibited lewd behavior.’
* Special patrols….discouraged lascivious activities around the camp perimeters.
* People while “slain in the Spirit” writhed barked and howled”
* Azusa Street meetings also had problems with mediums and familiar spirits controlling church meetings.
A contemporary movement, called the “Toronto Blessing,” has exhibited many of these manifestations. According to George Koch’s article, “The Force or ‘Pumped, Scooped, Charged and Slain’”, the Toronto Blessing was the product of So. African Evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne’s “laughing-revival” crusades. Koch states that “The phenomenon included infectious laughter, spasms, resting in the spirit, and a variety of noises that some describe as sounding like animals.” Koch is worried by the parallels he sees between this movement and manifestations associated with the “shaktipat” of practitioners like Swami Muktanada. Shaktipat is defined as the “art of transferring supernatural Hindu powers from one person to another.” After the swami touched a follower, that person would fall unconscious, shake uncontrollably, or laugh ecstatically.
Dr. Pat Dixon, in his book Signs of Revival, endorses the Toronto Blessing movement and associated manifestations. He states, “[Altered States of Consciousness] are…the key to understanding many Christian experiences, particularly in what is happening to many churches today…we may refer to this as a trance or hypnosis.”‘ Hypnosis, considered demonic by Christendom, has always been associated with occultists, shamans, sorcerers and others of their ilk.
In The Toronto Blessing. Slain in the Spirit. the Telling Wonder, Mikhaiel devotes more than one hundred pages to a comparison between hypnotically induced behavior and “slain” behavior. After studying the phenomena, he offers several conclusions:
* Non-Christians can receive the Toronto Blessing and remain unsaved.
* Analysis is not conducive to experiencing the manifestations.
* True prayer stops the manifestations.
* The invoking of the Blood of Jesus stops the manifestations.
* Manifestations may cause people to get out of line with Scripture.
* Manifestations “may cause people to forget about Jesus. ”
* Manifestations allow people to experience supernatural power without devotion to Jesus.
Mikhaiel also includes statistics on the study of 350 people who were “healed” at Charles S. Price’s revival in British Columbia. Following are the results of the six month follow-up study: 301 people remained sick, 39 died and 5 had become insane. Five claimed that they had remained healed. When a charismatic service leaves sham healings, death and insanity in its wake, Christians are disgraced and God is impugned!
Now that we have examined historical examples of Toronto Blessing type manifestations and other “slain” activity, let us explore the scriptural data that appears to parallel the “slain in the spirit” phenomena. Since phrases like “slain in the spirit” and “under the power” do not appear in the Bible, we must take an indirect approach.
Do we find evidence that people “fell” when prophets, apostles or Jesus of Nazareth laid hands on them? No. Matthew 19:13-15 records an incident where Jesus prayed for a group of children. Do the Scriptures say, “He laid hands on them and the children fell at his feet”? No. Jesus put his hands on the children, prayed, and went away. John chapter twenty records that Jesus breathed on his disciples, blessed them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Did they fall? Not according to the scriptural account. Do we find evidence that people ever “fell” in the presence of Jesus? Yes. However, not one incident is linked with the laying on of hands.
Is there evidence of people falling during divine visitations? Yes. Let us examine a few Scriptures that describe “falling behavior” in such situations. When Daniel fainted during an angelic encounter, the angel touched him and commanded him to rise (Dan. 8:16-18). Twice, when Ezekiel fell in the Lord’s presence, the Spirit entered the prophet and helped him stand (Ezekiel ch 2-3). When the Father commended his Son on the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples fell to the ground (Matt. 17:5-7). Jesus “. . .touched them and said,’ Arise and be not afraid.”‘
Honest exegesis demands that we do not omit those Scriptures that contain encounters where the fallen were not commanded to rise. Genesis 17 specifically records an incident where Abraham fell and apparently stayed prone as the Lord conversed with him. Revelation 1:10-19 records a riveting account where John, while “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…fell as if dead.” Jesus laid his hand on John and said, “Fear not,” but did not command him to stand. Ignoring Scripture references such as these could lead one to the false conclusion that it is improper to remain prone before the Lord!
Following are two more examples of falling behavior. Note that in both instances the people involved were hostile to the Lord. The first happened in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas betrayed the Lord to the temple guards (John 18:3-6). Also, Saul (prior to becoming the Apostle Paul) became blind and fell on the Damascus Road when confronted by Jesus for persecuting Christians (Acts 9:3-9).
Many incidents of “falling behavior” are recorded throughout the Bible, but it is not clear whether people fell “under the power” or were overcome with awe, fear or anxiety. While this sampling of scriptural “falling behavior” provides possible precedent for a “slain” phenomena, it seems like the “falling” that occurs in many Spirit-led services is not the same as that which is portrayed in the Bible.
In his book, Mikhaiel defines the phenomenon and cites several differences between scriptural “falling” and modern-day “falling.” The following is his definition of the “slain in the spirit” phenomena:
“[It] usually starts with the leader inviting people with physical, emotional, or spiritual needs forward…as the leader begins to lay hands on the individuals, some fall backwards. They are usually caught by “catchers,” who prevent them from falling directly on the floor. Some lie quietly on the floor, others jerk, twitch, laugh, weep,…roar like lions, bark…howl or cluck like chickens. Others might jump up and down, roll on the floor, and some see visions.”
* Mikhaiel contends that scriptural “falling” and modern-day “falling” are quite dissimilar.
* God (or angels), not people, caused every “spiritual” falling mentioned in the Bible.
* Modern falling usually occurs when people come to the front to be touched or pushed.
* “Catchers” are not scriptural.
* No scriptural personage was ever healed after participating in a “falling exercise.”‘”
Note also that it is highly significant that in the Scriptural occurrences of “falling” God encountered people as individuals and had special, not trivial, revelation to communicate. When God met these individuals they were not in a corporate setting and their response to the Lord was one of fear and awe, not laughter. In the few incidences where God confronted multitudes of people, and some or all fell, the purpose was often for judgment, not blessing, and their falling was caused by great fear at God’s overwhelming presence.
Mikhaiel, having researched the “slain” phenomena, feels that most of the manifestations that occur in many churches today are either faked or occultic. At the conclusion of a chapter entitled, “The Spirit Behind the Manifestations,” Mikhaiel states that “This is not the work of the Holy Spirit, but the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy.”” While Mikhaiel definitely believes that all phenomena associated with “falling behavior,” from tongues to “under the power” healings are suspect, his research is certainly worthy of serious consideration.
Watchman Nee, a Chinese evangelist, proposed similar observations during a series of lectures in 1928. Nee stated that “Man’s soul power is Satan’s working instrument” and that soul power will be used in the last-days as a substitute for God’s gospel and power. He further predicted that many last-day Christians would be deceived by Satan’s use of this counterfeit power.”
How can we discern the spirit behind such manifestations? Several tests may help our discernment: the Scripture Test, the Fruit Test, the Person Test and the Wilderness Temptation Test.
Scripture Test: We must honestly compare all such manifestations to the Scriptures. Since the phrase “slain in the Spirit” cannot be found in the Scriptures, that in itself should cause us to question the validity of the phenomenon.
We must judge spiritual leaders and their ministry by the fruits that are produced. Note that success, power, influence and wealth in themselves do not validate a minister or his ministry. Many people look at the “buds” of a spiritual leader or his ministry and pass judgment before the “fruit” has time to mature.
Remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not an impersonal power to be wielded. Simon the Sorcerer made that mistake in Acts 8. Many practitioners of “slain” activity communicate that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force that can be controlled by Christians. Such a view is unscriptural because the Holy Spirit is intelligent (1 Cor. 2:10-11), has feelings (Eph. 4:30) and has a will (1 Cor. 12:1).
Wilderness Temptation Test:
Take note of the temptations of Christ in Matthew 4!
First, Satan tempted Jesus to immediately satisfy His needs rather than wait for God’s wisdom and timing.
Second, Satan tempted Jesus to substitute His own will for God’s will and use supernatural power to bring it to pass. God is not a genie-in-a-lamp whose purpose is to grant our every wish. When we try to use Scripture or supernatural power to bend God’s Word or God’s Will to our will, it is like using magical incantations to alter reality. When you hear teachings that say “God must grant any petition you want and He has to do it NOW,” because of verses like Matthew 18:19, beware! Also, remember that Joseph wanted to escape from prison, but he did not get out until God’s purpose was fulfilled!
Third, Satan tempted Jesus to trade worship and service to God for power and possessions. This third form of temptation can come in an obvious form as in Matthew 4:8-9. Crafty being that Satan is, however, he often uses a more subtle approach.
Scripture says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Neither authority nor wealth are wrong. But if authority or wealth are your treasures, rather than worship or service to God, it is sin. Just as Satan tempted Christ with these temptations, he will tempt Christians today. When examined closely, many statements issued by those associated with “slain” or Toronto Blessing type ministries fail one or more of the above tests!
Many have failed to test the spirits and have been duped into teaching twisted doctrines of seducing spirits. Other teachers have knowingly become false prophets or sold themselves into immoral bondage. Sadly, many deceived Christians, when they discover their error, refuse to admit their mistake. Pride and ignorance hinder many Christians from testing the spirits today, especially concerning contemporary Toronto Blessing and other “slain in the spirit” movements.
Just because signs and wonders, including the “slain in the spirit” phenomenon, occur “in the church,” that does not mean that Jesus is the power behind them. There is little doubt to the discerning that many Christians today are being exposed to seducing spirits and Christianized New Age philosophies on an unprecedented scale. Whether much “slain” activity occurs because of lack of knowledge, fakery, hypnotic suggestion or evil spirits, Biblical precedent for “falling behavior” does exist. However, the genuine “slain in the Spirit” experience, as portrayed in Scripture, often differs radically from the “falling behavior” associated with past and present religious services. Christians must test the spirits and observe both the fruit of the spiritual leader and his ministry. Members of the body must always remember to seek Jesus Christ himself, not his signs or gifts. Following after people whose ministries display great supernatural power, whether they are genuine servants of God or servants of evil spirits, can lead to spiritual shipwreck.
While some Christians will refuse to test the spirits as commanded in I John 4:1, others will jump aboard the bandwagon which emphatically denies that Jesus works today, at all, in signs, wonders and spiritual gifts – especially when it comes to tongues or a prophetical word of knowledge. Both extremes are bad. We must remember that Jesus was not addressing New Age devotees when he spoke the famous words of Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.“
“If we do not preach about sin and God’s judgment on it, we cannot present Christ as Saviour from sin and the wrath of God. And if we are silent about these things, and preach a Christ who saves only from self and the sorrows of this world, we are not preaching the Christ of the Bible . . . Such preaching may soothe some, but it will help nobody; for a Christ who is not seen and sought as a Saviour from sin will not be found to save from self or from anything else”