Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Holy Laughter Or Demon Inspired Nonsense?

  • Discussion:
          -The central focus of the Word of Faith Movement is health and prosperity. This loosely affiliated, diverse group upholds doctrine that ranges anywhere from bizarre to outright heretical. The Founding Father of the Word of Faith Movement is usually regarded as Kenneth E. Hagin, who was heavily influenced by E. W. Kenyon in the development of his theology. One of several problematic teachings prevalent in the Word of Faith Movement is the notion of holy laughter.

         These episodes of uncontrollable laughter are believed by proponents to be the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. These wildly emotional experiences are attributed to supernatural intervention. They are associated with what British newspapers have called the Toronto Blessing. This note from an online encyclopedia provides further background as to the mysterious nature of such phenomena:

          "The Toronto Blessing, also known as "the Father's Blessing" or "the renewal," began in the storefront facility of the Toronto Airport Vineyard Fellowship in January 1994, when participants in revival services manifested intense physical responses to prayer—crying, twitching, shaking, uncontrollable laughter, and falling to the floor in a trancelike state that lasted for hours. Word spread quickly through the Vineyard Fellowship, and the meeting place soon teemed with visitors. By mid-1994, people flocked in from across North America and Britain. Soon the crowds became more diverse as Australians, Europeans, Malaysians, Africans, and others found their way to the congregation's new, commodious quarters in a converted warehouse close to the Toronto airport. The revival's characteristic physical manifestations, folksy music, and dance spread beyond the Vineyard into congregations of many denominations whose pastors hoped for increased fervor in their ministries, especially in Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand."

          Margaret M. Poloma provides sociological background as to the nature of "revival" behind the Toronto Blessing:

          "The "Toronto Blessing" is the latest phase of the pentecostal/charismatic (p/c) movement, an approach to Christianity that began early in the century and now is said to account for one out of four Christians worldwide (Barrett 1982; Cox 1995). Beginning with the Welsh Revival (1903-1904), escalating with the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1913), and rekindled through the Latter Rain Movement (1948), the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the "Third Wave" (1980s) and now the "Toronto Blessing" (1994)1, the p/c movement (although seemingly waxing and waning but always continuing to draw new followers) may be characterized as a social movement struggling against the forces of institutionalization. From its Azusa Street days to the present time in Western countries (the developing nations have different stories to tell) the pressing need for institutional norms, structures, and resources have quickly controlled charismatic fires."

          What are we to make of all these random, ecstatic bouts of laughter that have been taking place among neo-Pentecostals? Advocates of holy laughter assert that the Christian church is going through a great revival. On the contrary, Scripture nowhere describes as a consequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit believers making incoherent animal sounds. That is decidedly unbiblical. Reason has been substituted with subjective feelings. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul declared self-control to be a characteristic of the Spirit:

          "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

          In the context of properly administrating spiritual gifts, Paul said that God is not a God of disorder but peace:

          "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33)

          Solomon stated that sorrow has value in that it can lead to reflection on our part and a change of perspective. It is in that state of heart we consider our ways:

          "Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4)

          The so-called holy laughter experiences that we hear of nowadays are uncontrollable to those who partake in them. Such occurrences are very much disruptive. It therefore does not make any sense to consider God as their source. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Word of God (John 17:17). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Both are accomplished through an objective standard. Unintelligible expressions do not get us anywhere. Laughter is not even a fundamental theme of Scripture.

          The New Testament contains warnings against false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Peter 2:1-3). It also contains warnings against false signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). That is why we have been instructed to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-4). The idea of holy laughter revolves around a counterfeit revival. Similar incidents of disorderly laughing spells can also be found in the Kundalini Yoga, Subud, and qigong exercises.

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