THE TORONTO BLESSING?
(Also Called "Holy Laughter")
1997 Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
NOTE: This article may be reproduced only in its entirety including this notification.
It may not be reproduced for resale.
Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight (kubeia -- playing dice; implies trickery or fraud).of men, and cunning craftiness (shrewdness, unscrupulousness), whereby they lie in wait (methodeia = a method or plan) to deceive;
Little children are easily tricked. In fact, I remember how easily I was able to entertain my grandson Keith with my magic tricks. I'd make candy disappear and then pull it out from behind his ear. He thought that was great, especially when he got to eat the evidence. But, now that Keith is older, it's harder to pull it off. He's not as gullible anymore now that he's three. Oh well, I'll have to try my magic tricks on Andrew, my other grandson. He's seven months old.
Though it is all in fun when I pull these harmless little antics with my grandsons, I wanted to illustrate a point. Children can be easily deceived and if there is an evil purpose in the deception they can be easily led astray and harmed. Paul was writing to the Ephesian believers urging them not to behave like gullible children. He wanted them to be rooted in the Word of God so when some new doctrinal fraud came along, some new shortcut to spiritually came along, they would not get caught up in it.
A NEW WIND OF DOCTRINE BLOWING
Carpet Time There is a new wind of doctrine blowing up a storm in many churches across the world today. People in Anglican, Assembly of God, Baptist, Catholic, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Salvation Army, Vineyard and other churches are experiencing what is being called the Toronto blessing, laughing revivals, holy laughter, Holy Ghost Joy or the baptism of joy.
The natural question is, what are the manifestations of this experience? You may find it hard to believe but here is what I have found in my research. "Some weep uncontrollably, some laugh hysterically. Some topple over or crumble silently on the floor, while others jerk, twitch, keel drunkenly, karate-chop the air, scream, sway, double over with abdominal spasms, roar, or bark." (Christian Research Journal; Winter 95)
That's not all! There's howling, hooting like owls, crowing, mooing, oinking, and hissing. There are those who dance, squirm like snakes and hop like kangaroos. Many are so overpowered that they can't control themselves or get up off the floor for hours! They call this "doing carpet time." Let me relay the account of Jordan Roberts (Oral Roberts granddaughter). Richard Roberts, Jordan's father shared this incident -- "My little nine-year old daughter came to the first night service and Rodney (Howard-Brown) laid hands on her. She fell to the ground and laughed for an hour and 45 minutes. When we tried putting her to bed, she fell out laughing. We finally had to put her in the bathtub."
Friends, there is something desperately wrong! The London Daily Mail asked in an article, What In God's Name Is Going On? I have an answer. I believe that neither the Lord God of Heaven nor His Holy Spirit have anything to do with this. I see a "snake" in the grass. Read Matthew 17:14-18 & Mark 5:1-8. When I compare what is happening in these "laughing revival" meetings with the goings on in these verses it leaves little doubt in my mind as to the spirit behind this laughter movement and it is NOT the Holy Spirit but rather unholy spirits.
I got a call from the Christian Research Institute about a month back. They asked me to send them my research information on the occult game Magic:The Gathering. We got to talking and I asked about "holy laughter." Here's what the head of CRI says -- "Recently the laughter has taken a beastly turn. Now some people who get the Tornont Blessing are beginning to roar like animals. Such fearsome noise suggests possession by the Devil...This does not come from the Holy Spirit, this comes from the unholy spirit and it is dangerous and deadly. To the person who opens a doorway to the occult, it is a very, very, serious issue. It is extremely serious."
I agree. Witches and other occultists go into an altered state of consiousness and do the same things as those in these so called laughing revivals. I have heard eye witness accounts of a witch who mounted her "sacred" altar, flipped out, spit out curses and then began to laugh. Her followers began to howl, growl, hiss and laugh as well. You could hear it echoing through the entire valley according to witnesses .
Dabbling with this spurious doctrine opens the door to the Evil one. You must follow 1 John 4:1 -- Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. When you "try the spirits" by the Word of God, the Bible, it is obvious that they are not of God.
An Historical Perspective
Historically, great Christian leaders frowned on such pandemonium. In fact John and Charles Wesley tell of a situation where the spirit of laughter required deliverance -- "In the evening such a spirit of laughter was among us, that many were offended. But the attention of all was fixed on (one) poor (woman), whom we all knew to be dissembled: One so violently and variously torn of the devil one did I never see before. Sometimes she laughed till almost strangled, then they broke out into cursing and blaspheming then stamped and struggled with incredible strength, so that four or five could scarcely hold her: ...It is important to note that prayer in the name of Jesus Christ brought instant deliverance to those under the spirit of laughter."
Let's move to more recent times. In Argentina in the 1980's Jimmy Swaggart was holding a crusade. During that crusade "literally hundreds of people...would begin to laugh hysterically and throw themselves down on the ground. They would howl like dogs...they would roar like lions, they would make all kinds of wild sounds, and when these thing began to happen, the ushers went and physically restrained them, took them out of the coliseum to a tent outside, and they cast the Devil out of them."
Friends, the Holy Spirit is not the author of this confusion (I Cor. 14:33). The fruit of the Spirit is SELF-CONTROL (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:18-19). This movement is not of God!
Whose Behind This Laughing Revival?
Howard-Browne Some have referred to him as a Christian Rodney Dangerfield. Some refer to him as the "laughing evangelist," Rodney M. Howard-Browne calls himself a "Holy Ghost bartender" who promotes "laughing in the Spirit." This latest champion of the Charismatic movement tells a lot of jokes and rattles off one-liners before encouraging people to let the spirit flow "out of the belly" in holy laughter.
To be sure, Howard-Browne has popularized the current wave of hysteria but this so-called holy laughter is really nothing new to our 20th century. It was practiced by fringe Pentecostals such as Kathryn Kuhlman back in the 60's. Many who have sought to support it biblically have claimed it is a manifestation of Biblical joy. Nothing could be further from the truth as we will see when we look at Biblical joy later in this study. Instead of joy, it could and perhaps should be called pandemoniumism. The dictionary definition of "pandemonium" is very interesting. It reads, Wild uproar or noise. The word comes from the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. In that poem Pandmonium was the capital of Hell. Further, it is interesting that the word is based on a compound Greek work made up of pan who was the Greek Nature god and daimon (the English word is demon).
These spasms of laughter, which can last as long as an hour, are contagious. The South African-born Howard-Browne tells his audience: "Fill -- let it bubble out your belly -- Ho-ho, He-he -- Fill -- Ho-ho-ho, Ho-ha-ha." It sounds like pandamonium when thing get going. Let me change gears and move on.
Think of HELL for a moment. What comes to your mind? Luke 16:19-31 gives us a picture of the horrors of Hell. It is certainly nothing to laugh about. But...Not even the consequences of a Godless eternity are immune from his laughter. "Charisma" magazine reports: "'One night I was preaching on hell,' Howard-Browne says, 'and [laughter] just hit the whole place. The more I told people what hell was like, the more they laughed'" (August 1994, pg. 24).
Who in their right mind would laugh about Hell? Not Holy Spirit filled Christians!
SOME OTHER TEACHINGS OF RODNEY HOWARD-BROWNE
Let me ask you a question -- Should people follow a preacher who threatens to commit suicide if God does not meet his demands?
My answer is NO! God is not a terrestrial genie waiting our bidding. We are to seek HIS will not demand our will. Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. But RHB (Rodney Howard-Browne) does not hold that view. "In July of 1979...Rodney M. Howard-Browne of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, reached a crossroads in his life...while at an interdenominational prayer meeting with about eighteen young people at this time, he cried out to the Lord, 'God, either you come down here tonight and touch me, or I'm going to die and come up there and touch you.' he began shouting, frightening nearly everyone that was present. He shouted for 20 minutes..." (An article entitled "History of the Revival" by Richard M. Riss). It is clear that this is not the biblical way to approach God! King Solomon of old put it this way -- Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13
Let's consider another illustration of his teachings. RHB said, "As long as something is happening it really does not matter if it is of God, of man or the devil." If that is not enough to impeach the credibility of this spurious prophet, let me read you his words from The Coming Revival --
"But I'd rather be in a church where the devil and the flesh are manifesting than in a church where nothing is happening because people are too afraid to manifest anything. Every time there is a move of God, a few people will get excited, go overboard, and get in the flesh. Other believers will get upset, saying that couldn't be of God. Don't worry about it, either. Rejoice, because at least something is happening. ...If someone comes in the meeting, rolls around on the floor, laughs in the Holy Spirit, or does it in the flesh, at least he's not getting drunk or taking dope" (pp. 6, 8).
Wait just a minute, is that Biblical doctrine? Hardly! If you are going to worship God you must worship Him Biblically not carnally. You cannot operate in the flesh and please God (Psalm 4:4; Romans 8:8). In this Howard-Browne is weighed in the balance of Scripture and found wanting.
That brings me to Howard-Browne's "holy hysteria." He claims this laughter is a manifestation of a merry heart and cites Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... Further, he indicates that it is evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit, JOY, of Galatians 5:22.
A LOOK AT BIBLICAL JOY
RHB makes the mistake that many people make, that is, identifying Biblical joy solely with emotional gaiety, happiness and pleasure sought after by the world. That's a blunder. Turn in your Bibles to James 4:4&9. To the worldly Christian, the one who has become a friend to the world, who is seeking after and rejoicing in fleshly merriment, the Apostle James says, "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness." This is appropriate instruction for those inclined to follow this heresy. Believers must refuse to be sidetracked by a vain search for emotional euphoria in the "Toronto Blessing."
That is not to say that Christians must be austere and never crack a smile. Cheerfulness and delight are obviously something that is to be a part of the Christian life. There are many verses that indicate that this is the case.
The Wise Men rejoice when they saw the star -- Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
The joy and rejoicing foretold at the birth of John Baptist -- Luke 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
The joy of the two Mary's at the sight of Christ's empty tomb and Christ's resurrection -- Matthew 28:8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
The joy of those who witnessed the miracles done -- Acts 8:6-8 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.
To be sure there can be an emotional aspect to the joy experienced in these joyous occasions. But there was no hysterical laughter, convulsions or no lack of self control. Excitement yes!
But, there is another aspect to Christian joy -- that is the joy and rejoicing that results from steadfast confidence in God regardless of one's circumstances. When a person walks with the Lord, that person can continue to rejoice even when troubles come because he knows God is in control and that this life is not the end. Consider the words of our Lord in Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Let me make this bold statement, and then back it up with scripture -- A Christian can be joyful even when he/she is emotionally sorrowful and even when his/her spirit is heavy. Consider the proof from the Bible.
2 Corinthians 6:4a &10a But in all things approving (demonstrating) ourselves as the ministers of God... As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing...
Acts 5:40-42 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-8 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
We must not make it our chief aim in this present world to seek after the shallow, emotional frivolity this world identifies as joy, or we will be severely disappointed. Like Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2), the child of God must set his face like a flint to endure the manifold sufferings of this present life with his eyes focused on the unspeakable joy which is to come.
It is plain to see that Biblical joy is most certainly different from the world's concept of joy. Why? Because true Christian joy is directly proportional to the believers walk with the Lord. Joy in the Lord enables Christians to enjoy all that God has given. We can rejoice in family (Prov. 5:18), food (1 Tim. 4:4-5), celebrations (Deut. 16:13-15), fellowship (Phil. 4:1). And, because we share a common life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we share with them the joys and sorrows of life: Romans 12:15 says, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. This is Biblical joy. This is the joy to cultivate in you life, not the phony counterfeit offered in the so called Toronto Blessing.
Finally, there is one last point I must make. The enemy to real joy is sin. Sin in your life will rob you of joy. King David points that out in Psalms 51:8&12 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
If you do not have REAL, BIBLICAL JOY in your life, don't run out to the nearest meeting offering "holy hysteria." Examine your life. It may be that sin has robbed you of the joy you should be experiencing as a Christian.
In light of the Bible I must conclude that the Holy Spirit is not the author of the phenomenon called the Toronto blessing, laughing revivals, holy laughter, Holy Ghost Joy or the baptism of joy and the manifestations -- laughing uncontrollably & convulsively, screaming, howling, hooting like owls, crowing, mooing, oinking, roaring and hissing or "doing carpet time" ("carpet time." is when the possessed individual seem to be glued to the floor and is unable to get up). I suggest you follow Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.