Laughing Our Brains Out?
God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33)
Copyright © 1995 by Phillip R. Johnson. All rights reserved.
ast year while editing a book that dealt with the so-called "Toronto Blessing," I made a pilgrimage
to the Anaheim Vineyard to see the laughter and other
phenomena firsthand. The Anaheim Vineyard is the church
John Wimber pastors, and it is the original Vineyard
congregation. Since the book I was editing was completely
critical of the laughter, I wanted to be sure in my own
mind that the criticisms were not exaggerated or unfair in
any way. Three friends accompanied me on my visitLance,
Doug, and Matt.
In a moment I'm going to call down the Holy Spirit. Things like you've never seen will begin to happen. People will laugh. Some will shake and quiver. Others may make strange animal noises. Don't be alarmed by anything you see; it's just the Holy Spirit working in His own special way. We don't put limits on how God can and cannot work. He may even surprise us with something new tonight. So no matter what you see happen, don't be alarmed.A woman from the church staff led in prayer and said, "Holy Spirit, we give You permission to be who You want to be in our midst. We refuse to critique with our minds the work that You want to do in our hearts. We refuse to subject Your work to our little doctrinal tests."
When the signal was given for "ministry time" to begin, people flooded to the front to be prayed for by the ministry team. The rest of the service was entirely chaotic.
___________________________________________________ | | | cha o tic (ka o' tik) adj. 1. marked by great | | disorder or confusion. 2. characterized by | | noise, confusion, and tumult. 3. frenzied, | | disorganized. | |___________________________________________________|Among the things we witnessed were these:
Lance, Matt, Doug, and I spent the entire trip back home (about 90 minutes) comparing impressions. All of us were shocked and appalled. One thing we all had noticed was that the entire evening had a decidedly anti-intellectual thrust to it.
I don't mean that bookish types were not made to feel welcome. By "anti-intellectual," I mean that the phenomena, the dancing girls, the music, the prayer, and every aspect of the evening was meant to play to the emotions and downplay the intellect. Even the sermon was a full-scale assault on the idea that our minds can be of any use whatsoever in discerning truth.
"Park your doctrine at the door, and get into the feeling of this," seemed to be what every voice we heard was trying to tell us. "The Lord cannot do what He wants in your life if you insist on analyzing it with your mind. Truth is not important, experience is. Holiness is a feeling."
But doesn't this anti-intellectual, anti-doctrinal attitude actually work against true sanctification? After all, here's how Jesus prayed for His people: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."
Paul wrote, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).
In other words, the objective truth of God's Wordand sound doctrine based on the Word, knowable only with the mindcannot hinder what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our midst. On the contrary, biblical truth is the very instrument He uses to accomplish our sanctification!
But what we heard at the Anaheim Vineyard actually portrayed God as irrational, anti-intellectual, against doctrine, and not the least bit concerned for objective truth. This is at the very heart of the error that makes the "Toronto Blessing" so destructive to true holiness.
What I'm suggesting is that the problem with the "Toronto Blessing" is not simply that Scripture is silent about many of the bizarre phenomena that are touted. That is certainly a serious problem, but the real truth is far worse: The whole movement is epistemologically antithetical to Scripture. So-called "drunkenness in the Spirit" is actually the polar opposite of the biblical means of sanctification. By encouraging people to tune out intellectually and let their emotions run wild, this movement is rather plainly in conflict with the Word of God. On this matter Scripture speaks with absolute clarity: "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor. 14:33).
Yet what I witnessed during my visit to the Vineyard was absolute bedlam. (Indeed, this has been true every time I have visited an evening service at the Vineyard, though there seems to be a much more quiet atmosphere on Sunday mornings.)
Read the context of 1 Corinthians 14:33especially verse 23: "If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?" (NASB).
But isn't what we're seeing today in the "Toronto Blessing" far worse than the scenario Paul was condemning? Why are so many so eager to defend this movement?
Sadly, as the church continues her slide into doctrinal ignorance and biblical illiteracy, we may actually be approaching a time of spiritual languor that rivals those dark days before the Protestant Reformation. How can anyone who loves the Word of God believe that this signals true revival?
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