Slain in the Spirit Part 1 of 2
by James Jacob Prasch
If you have had some sort of sensual experience like falling on your back due to some kind of “impartation” – a term the Bible does not use nor promote nor teach by example as a normal Christian experience; or exhibited some kind of “manifestation” – a term used only once in the Bible with regards to the gifts of the Spirit which are clearly listed (1 Cor. 12:7-11); been in an induced trance state, found yourself pinned to the floor, laughed uncontrollably, made animal noises, exhibited signs of “drunkenness in the spirit”, or other such phenomena … if you have “experienced” these things … has the urge to pass along those experiences taken on more importance than preaching the gospel? Have they begun to overshadow the Word of God and its sound doctrines and their application to your life? Have they taken on more significance than the sanctifying ethical work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Have they begun to eclipse the work of the cross in your relationship with Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to whom the Holy Spirit always points our worship and obedience? Are you now a zealous proponent of something you have not really investigated fully but only “experienced”? Examine yourself and others in your congregation to see if phenomena such as “slain in the spirit” have taken on far more importance in your life than they should. Prasch points out the nature of these ecstatic experiences and points us back to the Word. If you are caught up in these modern mystic/gnostic paths that end up leading away from the truth, please take the time to read this article carefully. Prasch brings the Word to bear on and balance back to the subject of “slain in the spirit”.
For those of you who have not taken the time to find out where the modern unbiblical strain of “slain in the spirit” came from, it has its doctrinal roots in Christian gnosticism and mystical eastern religions. In the occult world it is known as “serpent power” or “awakening your chakra” through Hindu “kundalini” yoga techniques by the laying on of hands of a guru during a “shakti-pat” initiation. In the “Christian” realm it was practiced by the Shakers (they had a number of heretical doctrines and practices and also used necromancy in summoning, conversing with and following the edicts of the “spirit” of their dead leader Mother Ann, whom they believed to be the female expression of the Godhead) in the early 1900’s. “Slain in the spirit” was later reintroduced by the Latter Rain Movement (which was found to be unbiblical in its doctrines and practices by the A/G and was put out of that denomination in 1949, yet has now been brought back into the A/G at Brownsville) and spiritist/spiritualist faith healers such as William Branham, A.A. Allen, Jack Coe, Kathryn Kuhlman, and others of the early to middle 1900’s. In our day it was brought back for yet another round through the RHEMA/Word-Faith Movement by people like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Rodney Howard-Browne as well as by Benny Hinn, and leavened into many denominations when popularized by John Wimber and the Vineyard, the Toronto “Blessing” and the Pensacola “Outpouring”.
Please do not allow this false anointing into your church. Since this is clearly not the biblical “anointing of the Holy Spirit”, it is really no “anointing” at all but rather a fleshly and/or demonic exercise in futility. The damage may not be apparent at the outset, but will become more evident as time goes by, if not to yourself, then to others. This has been demonstrated over and over again in many testimonials that we have on file as a result of running a web site dealing with these issues. We could cite (and do) many testimonies of shipwrecked lives – people who found out they were deceived and are dealing with a world of hurt while allowing the Holy Spirit to put their lives back together. If you doubt that this stuff ends in chaos and spiritual upheaval, please investigate what is happening in the Toronto “Blessing” churches in England for the “fruit”. Check out what is going on currently in Kenneth Hagin’s church. It’s awful!
Brownsville A/G is now showing the same “fruit”, namely: lack of systematic Bible teaching; a low view of Scripture; disorder; emotional upheaval in people’s lives; abusive shepherding; cultic techniques to try to continue a perceived “revival” atmosphere; pragmatic “spiritual warfare” and “intercession” teachings and practices that more closely resemble those found in witchcraft; use of icons to focus “worship”; false prophesy (documented in the cases of John Kilpatrick and Michael Brown, leaders at Brownsville); lashing out against rebuke rather than repenting of false doctrines and false prophecy; non-disclosure and/or hiding of financial resources; seeking after financial gain by making people feel guilty if they don’t give; many documented cases of lies and deception regarding published “facts” about the revival; wild interpretations of Scripture to try to prove experiences that have more to do with the occult than Christianity; the preaching of a watered-down gospel that is really no gospel at all; and so on. These are a few of the indications that the apostasy that Jesus and the apostles talked about regarding the end times is already upon us in the guise of the Third Wave counterfeit revivals.
You may have had an experience that fits into the category of the “ecstatic” and you may not have seen any immediately harmful effects from it. That does not necessarily mean it is beneficial for you. You may have had a genuine experience of God’s miraculous power sometime during your life. You need to look to God through His Word for discernment in these matters. Having been an MK and missionary practically all my life I have seen God work in many miraculous ways – sometimes using people, sometimes not using people. He has worked miraculously in my life in a number of ways through the years. The proof that any “sign and wonder” is of God is that it must be completely consistent with the “word and testimony” of Scripture.
But there is a false anointing in the world today which is not of God but of the flesh and of the devil because it is not consistent with the Word of God. If any Christian continues to run after experiences and teachings that are apart from the truth of God’s Word and outside of His will for the Christian life, that person is on a certain road to ruin. God has ordained how He wants to be worshipped – in our right minds, in an orderly fashion, and with self-control (1Cor. 14:33, 40; Col 2:5; Pr 25:28; 2 Pet. 1:5-8).
Do not make the mistake of the gnostics whom Jude addressed in the early church by:
- Taking the way of Cain – substituting a works gospel for salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone by His blood, offering sacrifices that God has not ordained, and not giving our best to God.
- Rushing for profit into balsam’s error – attempting to use sorcery to summon up Almighty God and, as luck would have it, get paid for it too!
- Claiming to be “holy” like Korah – boasting in a false anointing that is not holy at all, and suffering ultimate destruction because of rebellion against God and His true church.
We need to have mercy on those deluded by the false anointing and attempt to pull them from the fire … while taking a wide berth around their tents! It is dangerous to burn strange fire before Almighty God … to rebelliously accept and promote a false anointing that is not from YHWH!
There are few issues today that result in as much controversy, misunderstanding and division, as the question of being “slain in the Spirit”. Some maintain that the phenomena has absolutely no biblical basis. This position is mistaken. Others who promote such carnal deceptions as Toronto / Pensacola see it as some proof that God is moving. They accuse those who disagree of “Not being Spirit Baptized” or “Repressing the Spirit” or of being “cessationists” (ie, holding to the erroneous opinion that the gifts of the Spirit ended with the Apostles). In fact, many opposing such unscriptural practice are themselves Pentecostals and Charismatics. Examined biblically, the truth is somewhere other than what either camp seems to realize.
Nowhere in Scripture are “manifestations” or “impartations” associated with being slain in the Spirit. The manifestations cited in 1 Corinthians, in connection with Spiritual Gifts, bear no relation whatsoever to what we see going on in places like Pensacola. Toronto/Pensacola manifestations more closely resemble Stage Hypnotism, Eastern Religious Mysticism and demon possession, than they do anything biblical. Indeed, being “slain in the Spirit” in at least one place is connected with Jesus casting a demon out of someone following irrational behaviour. Several years prior to Toronto, a number of Vineyard pastors associated the same expressions of irrational behaviour, now common in Toronto and Pensacola, with the irrational behaviour of the demoniacs in scripture. Being slain in the Spirit was seen as evidence of “deliverance” and “exorcism” and demons coming out as in Mark 9. Now the phenomena once recognized by them as proof of the demonic, is suddenly proof of the Divine! What is the truth? What has God already said about this subject in His Word?
John on Patmos
We find the term “slain in the Spirit” in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, where the Apostle John is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” and, after the presence of Jesus overtakes him, John “falls as if slain”. This is not the first or only time such an experience is recorded in Scripture, but it is the place from where we get the term, and it reveals something about the experience. These phenomena were unusual in the Bible. For something that was rare in Scripture to become a common event in contemporary times must raise questions about the authenticity of what we are seeing today. Instead of God moving, people are being pushed over or manipulated by hypnotic suggestion, after being set up by repetitive mesmerizing music. This is no different from what happens at stage hypnotist shows. (Those who fall down all the time have personality types predisposed to hypnotic induction.) Today’s experiences are frequently accompanied by hysterics, animal imitations, drunken behaviour and slurred speech. In John’s experience in Revelation, as in Daniel’s, it was accompanied by a sense of terror at the holiness of the awesome presence of the Lord. With both John and Daniel (who saw the same prophetic eschatological visions from different aspects), the experience was so frightening that the Lord dispatched an angel to reassure them and tell them not to fear. Whenever this experience happened in scripture, it was a unique, one time event that took place for a specific reason in a specific situation. There is no biblical record of it happening multiple times. An overpowering encounter with the Lord brought a sense of terror, so it was not likely to be something people wanted to happen again. Not that the experience with the Divine itself was bad, but it was very frightening to John and Daniel. They required divine intervention to make it bearable. Today, however, we see people going back again and again to receive “another dose”. Such people are not seeking the Lord, but seeking an experience. This counterfeits the authentic biblical phenomena with a cheap thrill, reducing a bonafide encounter with the Lord to the level of popular entertainment. The unbiblical practice of getting back in the prayer line for “going down” on the floor is no different to getting in the queue for another ride on a roller coaster (except in their own imagination). The fact that their experience does not match biblical descriptions of being ‘slain in the Spirit’ does not seem to register with them. Christians who go back for more and more of these experiences are not going back for something real, but for a psychological (and in some cases possibly a demonic) counterfeit. This is only possible due to an ignorance of both post-hypnotic suggestion and an ignorance of the Book of the Lord – as well as the Lord of the Book. Even though they have had a New Birth experience at some point, they have not been properly discipled and never taught the Word of God, nor managed to acquire discernment. Seeking manifestations of the Holy Spirit instead of seeking the Spirit Himself, and chasing thrills for thrills’ sake, while foolishly misinterpreting those as a “blessing”, comes dangerously close to “the wicked and adulterous generation seeking a sign” that Jesus warned against and condemned (Luke 11:29).
Ignorance of Scripture
Yet if one questions such unscriptural practices on the basis of Scripture, they are not infrequently told that they are in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He wrote the Bible, speaking through the Prophets and Apostles. We are plainly commanded to “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) – ‘good’ meaning ‘biblically true’. A predisposition to such manipulation and suggestion is cultivated by unscriptural worship. (With no theology, there can be no doxology). The Holy Spirit is only ever worshipped in Scripture in the context of the Triunity of the Godhead. He is never prayed to directly in the Bible. But as John 14 and John 16 tell us, He always points people to Jesus.
The worship of worship
What we see today in the unbiblical lyrics of Vineyard Music, such as “The River Song”, does not lift up Jesus but an experience. It is the worship of worship, which is not worship at all, but deception. The music has a pre-hypnotic impact, setting people up for “going down”. This is why we see people, who are already Christians, running up for altar calls at such places as Pensacola, in what is then falsely termed “revival”. But when unsaved people see the ludicrous carnality, they think the place is a lunatic asylum. Tragically they are more right than they are wrong. As the experience of “going down” becomes what is sought above the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit Himself becomes denigrated. Thus we see people referring to going to Pensacola or Toronto to get “IT”, instead of going to the Lord for themselves to get “Him”. Such extreme Pentecostals and hyper-Charismatics wind up with a pneumatology (a doctrine of the Holy Spirit) which is no different in substance and practice to that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult, which sees the Holy Spirit not as a person but as an inanimate force. A force however cannot be grieved or blasphemed, only a person can.
Christian Psychiatrists and secular experts on hypnotism, who campaign against its non-clinical use in entertainment, have warned that what we see with people going down today is pure manipulation. So have some Christian leaders who have come out of it. On a national TV broadcast in Great Britain, Mark Haville, a preacher who directs National Prayer Network video ministry, showed videos of himself running around putting his hands on people and them dropping like flies, explaining how it is done from the point of view of a preacher who realized from scripture that what he was doing was wrong. There are many other fundamental differences between the genuine biblical experience of being slain in the Spirit and the majority of what goes on today.
Phenomena in history
Some will point out that it was a common phenomena in the ministry of John Wesley and George Whitefield during the Great Revivals, and in the ministry of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney. That is true. However, while the Lord may have used Charles Finney, we need to be very cautious about making him an authority for any belief or practice. Mr. Finney, for all of his good intention, effectively denied original sin and bordered on the terrible heresy of Pelagianism. Pelagianism is an ancient error, named after an apostate monk, that says we can make the initial steps towards salvation by our own efforts. Mr. Finney denied that man was born fallen with original sin and thus needed to be born again, although he did agree we all had sin and needed to repent and be saved. Our standard to authenticate something must, first and foremost, be the Bible. In the ministry of Wesley, Whitefield, and Edwards however, while people in large numbers did indeed fall down, it had no resemblance to what we see normally witness today. In their ministries it was unsaved people falling under the power of a holy and righteous God, in fear and trepidation, and repenting of their sin and being saved. It was not people who already claimed to be regenerate Christians behaving like silly maniacs. It had nothing to do with the kinds of things we generally see in our time. In the Bible and in church history, when the genuine thing happened to either believers or non-believers, it was nothing like today’s popular fiasco. Moreover, as in the Bible, the “falling down” was a unique, one time experience. It was not repeated at every meeting or continually sought. The almost addictive craving some people develop for “going down” – as if it were a verification that God’s Spirit was really at work – is the kind of compulsive behaviour His Spirit is given to set us free from.
Dangerous and foolish
The real test of God’s power in our lives as believers is the power of holy living, not silly stunts. In a large church in London, a man supposedly “Went Down in The Spirit” and split his head open. When I questioned the leader of the particular denomination about it he said that it happened because the particular area of the floor where he fell was not carpeted! We have had calls from distraught people in a Pentecostal church in England where a woman has more than once gone down on the floor, supposedly ‘slain in spirit’, and lost control of her bladder in church. More than that, she insisted that others come and join her on the floor, pontificating that they were ‘grieving the Spirit’ by refusing to do so. I can think of few things more warped than to suggest that God’s Spirit produces incontinence as a manifestation of His presence. I can only pity this unfortunate woman, but people should not be in a church like that. In a video of Bishop David Pytches at St. Andrews Chorleywood in the UK, another woman had someone fall on her smashing her eye glasses and bruising her face, yet she was in hysterics displaying the injury for the camera and insisting it was ‘of God’. Benny Hinn settled a multi-million dollar law suite out of court when he laid hands on someone and they supposedly went down under the Holy Ghost, falling on top of an elderly woman, effectively killing her as she soon died from broken hip complications. These extreme cases are becoming more common. On some videos we have from London’s Victory Church (a UK platform of Rick Godwin and Ray Macaulley) which show people falling violently, it is portrayed as hysterically laughable, despite the potential for physical injury. This is destructive to our Christian witness and testimony -particularly as millions watch such outlandish frenzy on national TV. This is not supernatural, but unnatural. It is for certain that at her funeral the bereaved family of the woman killed by the actions of Benny Hinn, and the poor victims of medical incontinence in geriatric hospitals do not see such things as “blessings”. Such dangerous, traumatic, degrading and even deadly things have no relation to any episode in the Bible where this experience is initiated by God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit does not injure, humiliate, or kill people in the name of ‘blessing’ them, or in the name of bringing Revival to His church. If there is any danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit it is by those who so dishonour Him by teaching otherwise.