Summer 1994 Edition - Part One
IS IT REVIVAL ?
Revival is breaking out at last - so they say. Whether or not you agree, depends on your belief system and gullibility. For example, the much-vaunted Hinkle event on the 9th of June passed without notice for some. For John Hinkle, however, there was ample confirmation that the spiritual veil that blinds people to the gospel has been ripped apart, as promised.
How could he tell? Clearly not by the dramatic descent of "the glory" as he had predicted, but by an outbreak of what he calls "a new spirit and presence" filling many churches that have contacted him. In a letter to his supporters at TBN, (Trinity Broadcasting Network, USA - Paul and Jan Crouch) Hinkle says that "the world has received a new baptism of love". What he describes may be wishful thinking, or it may be true. If the latter, then it gives great cause for concern. (See my front-page article, Spring issue of Mainstream.)
Taken in isolation, the Hinkle event could be dismissed as yet another fiasco on the fringes of the Pentecostal fraternity. However, there are now clear signs that an outpouring of spiritual power IS taking place!
I want to share with you another so-called prophecy, again promoted by TBN and coming from Kim Clement, a guest on the show. Paul Crouch and his son, Matthew, said they were "nearly lifted out of their chairs" by the power and anointing upon this word. This is an indication that powerful forces are at work, and it is not wise to dismiss entirely what is being said.
Although I rarely pay any heed to these kinds of "prophecies", and certainly do not endorse them, I do file them away in a drawer in my mind, because - in accumulation - these words have an ongoing demonic logic. They reveal part of the plan that satan has for this world and its inhabitants. Through the fog of lies, false promises and triumphalistic fantasies, there emerges a core of intent. This example extends and adds to the theme:
At this present time in history, we know that a powerful spiritual delusion will come upon all unguarded minds and souls. We also know that these days are "as the days of Noah" when not only were men and women living in open sin, reviling the word of the Lord, and oblivious to the coming wrath - but also there was an interaction with spiritual powers hinted at in verse 4 of Genesis Chapter 6: "And there were giants (HEB = Nephilim) on the earth in those days, and also afterwards, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men."
In addition, there is the possibility of being seduced by "another spirit" who is not the Holy Spirit of God, (2 Cor 11:4), and of accepting its teachings. (1Tim 4:1)
Are we seeing the activity of "seducing spirits" right now? I believe we are!
Satan wants to counterfeit all that belongs to God. He has his 'holy' spirit, his 'anointings', and his 'gifts'. He is promoting the idea of a "Second Pentecost" that will sweep the world into his new ecumenical religion. Notice in the "prophecy" above that it is a "brand-new" anointing that is promised. Whatever that means, it cannot mean the Holy Spirit. He is no stranger to believers.
When we realise that apparitions of "Mary" around the world are also promising these things, our suspicions intensify. For, she has promised:
(Quotes taken from Marian Update, Spring 1994, Pittsburgh Centre for Peace. From apparitions in Switzerland, Italy, Kentucky, Arizona, and the Ukraine, 1987-1994.)
So, when she later urges her followers to "allow the Spirit to work in you, open your hearts that he may fill you - if you say yes to him, he will fill you with his Spirit and will do great things through you."; we have to wonder just WHAT spirit they will receive!
There are now people who make it their ministry to persuade Christians to contact spiritual powers. Techniques such as inner healing, visualisation, meditation, ecstatic prayer and trances-states all lead to demonic experiences for the unwary.
Other Ministers present the Holy Spirit Himself as a spirit-guide, and encourage Christians to encounter him as a presence that manifests itself tangibly or audibly. People are hungry for signs and wonders, for spiritual experiences, for goose-bump feelings. There is a spirit who will give them all this and more, if they open themselves to him.
But what else is on the menu? Does satan intend to play games with Christians, introducing supernatural counterfeits, but then failing to press home his advantage? Hardly!
This is a preparation stage. When people have come to accept bogus, unbiblical supernatural signs and wonders as "from God", when the process of indoctrination is over, then the real work can begin - that of filling these hungry people with spiritual forces that will empower them to "bring in the kingdom"!
RODNEY HOWARD-BROWNE: THE LAUGHING REVIVAL
When I reported in the latest News Update tape (June 1994) that Rodney Howard-Browne was a man to watch out for, little did I know that his influence had already reached this country. But it had to happen sooner or later.
TBN, ever quick to jump on a bandwagon, said in their October 1993 newsletter that, "Many churches are beginning to explode with REVIVAL. God is sending missionaries from other lands to America, including Reinhard Bonnke from Germany and Rodney Howard-Browne from Sth Africa. Thanks to these and many others, a fresh wave of revival and a new joy of the Lord is sweeping the land".
Unfortunately, he is right! What Rodney Howard-Browne's interviewer describes as the "missing link" in the Church today, happiness, is being poured out powerfully on whole congregations so that they yell, scream, howl and bang their heads on the wail in uncontrollable emotional displays.
The "revival" sparked off by Browne's preaching is spreading like wildfire. There are reports from Argentina, Canada, and New England that massive crowds are gathering at meetings where "holy laughter" and other manifestations break out.
Now, London too is caught in the spell. At a recent meeting organised for Oasis and held at The Stable, High Barnet (led by Hugo and Sharon Anson), participants were encouraged to let go and receive whatever manifestation occurred, having been assured by the leaders that it was "of God". The source was the same - Rodney Howard Browne and his supporters. English Christians have been travelling to the States to get themselves "anointed for revival" and are coming back with a spiritual power that, when released, causes pandemonium to break out in meetings.
In Argentina, people become "so drunk with the spirit that they cannot drive home" and during the long services (some last six hours), it is common-place for people to fail over, laugh or weep. Beginning in Buenos Aires, the phenomenon has spread to "hundreds of pentecostal and charismatic churches throughout Argentina" (Renewal Magazine, April 1994) The Pastor who began it all, Claudio Freidzon, initially travelled to the States after reading a book by Benny Hinn. There he met with the author. On his return, the congregation noticed a change, and the manifestations began to occur.
In Toronto, Christians of all denominations are flocking to a small charismatic church, Airport Vineyard Fellowship, where "revival" has broken out. God is "seen, felt and experienced" said one participant. On a typical evening, people can be found lying or rolling on the floor, many of them laughing uncontrollably. Up to a thousand people gather for the nightly meetings. The revival began after a Vineyard Pastor from St. Louis, friend to the Toronto Pastor, attended meetings led by Rodney Howard-Browne. The Airport Vineyard Pastor himself, John Arnott, had already begun a "quest for a fresh spiritual anointing" after witnessing the Argentine revival and attending Benny Hinn's meetings in 1993. (Charisma, June 94)
In New England, Pastor Mona Johnian is convinced her church, the Christian Teaching and Worship Centre of Boston, has entered a period of "supernatural revival". She and her husband attended meetings led by Rodney Howard-Browne in November 1993, and since then signs and wonders have been occurring in the church, including "holy laughter".
In July, Rodney Howard-Browne is due to lead a major conference in Louisville, Kentucky. He will host the fourth "Signs and Wonders Campmeeting". Last year, ten thousand people attended this meeting. Browne's influence will gather momentum through such meetings.
In the UK, "revival" is breaking out all over! Hysterical laughter, rolling on the floor and other manifestations are occurring in many charismatic churches around the country. Even the national newspapers are picking up on it. With publicity from national media, there is sure to be a snowball effect. Spiritually hungry people, whether saved or not, are bound to flock to these meetings. Somehow, we have to be ready to meet this challenge!
A couple of testimonies already received give a flavour of what is going on:
A few distinguishing features of the new move emerge from this letter. Before looking at them in more detail, here is another testimony from a reader:
shows the poverty of theology behind the new move. In order to receive
these manifestations, people have to let go of doctrine, clear their minds
of biblical objections, and simply "let it happen".
[To remind you of the differences between godly and demonic manifestation, I have reprinted below the relevant section from the Spring issue of "Mainstream".] HOW TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!
The Word of God: Nothing of God contradicts scripture. If man or angel comes preaching what is not strictly according to the Bible, you can know it is counterfeit. Let the Word of God be final judge of every experience, not your feelings, hopes, wishes or desires.
Beware of physical sensations: We know and hear God in the inward parts, in the spirit. By contrast, demonic experiences take place outwardly, forcefully manipulating the body, mind or emotions. God's love is not a goose-bump feeling that leaves our character unchanged. Nor does God's love always soothe and comfort. Often the love of God, working in co-operation with our minds, will humble us in order to help us grow. Demonic "love" however is nothing more than an enjoyable sensation.
Compulsion is of the Devil: God does not compel - He draws, woos and entreats, but never overpowers us with irresistible force. God seeks our co-operation, whereas demons seeks to control us. Any spiritual experience that is compulsive, that urges haste, that denies us the use of our reasoning faculties but insists on instant obedience, is of the devil.
A passive mind or body is open to deception: God provided us with our intellectual powers, and he makes his appeal to our reason. God's guidance never requires us to empty our minds. Satan, however, commands us to surrender our minds and bodies so that they become inactive. Then demons can implant suggestions or manipulate our bodies at will. Visions, voices and all kinds of supernatural occurrences happen to people while they are in a passive state.
Test the Spirits: Any spiritual manifestation must be tested, to see if it is of God. Demons are very subtle, however, and the test should be completely unambiguous. If any feeling or sensation begins to occur, it should be challenged in this sort of way: "if this is not of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of every Principality and Power, and if this is not in accordance with the Covenant in His Blood, then I reject it in His name and command it to flee from me".
Learn to be humble: Demonic manifestations appeal to the flesh - they are sensational, and awe-inspiring. They minister to our pride - promising us fame or runaway success. They also appeal greatly to our innermost longings and desires, those things we keep hidden from others and even from God. So, if you have such weak areas (and who doesn't?), offer them up to God. Let your Heavenly Father heal you and humble you in these areas until you recognise the danger of gratifying self. Refuse to be drawn along by your own feelings; learn to humble your flesh and refer everything back to God.
Spiritual Armour: We have been given spiritual armour (Eph 6:13) - let's use it! When under pressure to receive false spirits or to give in to powerful sensations, we must fight back, using the shield of faith in Christ, and wielding the sword of the Word of God. Use the Name of Jesus to rebuke overpowering sensations that threaten your spiritual stability. "The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." (Prov 18:10)
At the outset, in examining this phenomenon and its implications doctrinally, I want to make it plain that my intention is not to criticise or condemn anyone involved.
I am just sad that many are being deceived and have little interest in testing the spirits, as God commanded. If what I say can warn them of danger, and cause others to search the scriptures to "see if these things be of God" then I have fulfilled my commission from God.
Secondly, I want to quash right away the thought that I - and others like me - object to every spiritual manifestation simply because we are "against the Spirit". I am myself a charismatic believer. I do recognise that the Holy Spirit can work in mysterious ways. I do believe He can move powerfully and dramatically in a person's life. I even believe that laughter CAN be a gift of the Spirit on occasion, for I have witnessed it in others and experienced it myself (once!) But that laughter was not uncontrollable, disruptive or selfish. In my own case, I was alone, had not been prayed for by anyone, and was not "overpowered" by the Spirit.
I have recently watched a two-hour video of Browne and his wife, taped from American TV. They appeared on "The Good Life" (Channel 22, Florida) interviewed by Bob & Molly D'Andrea. Howard-Browne is a South African, and there he worked with Ray McCauley in the Rhema Word-of-Faith network. In 1987, he moved to the States. Since then, he has spread his message of revival widely.
Browne's wife, Andronica, told of her own experience with "holy laughter" and related phenomena. At first, she said, she was offended by the disruption going on the services. When she heard her husband say to others, "I command you to laugh!" she would cringe.
While she was in control of herself and guarded, nothing happened to her. Eventually, though, when visiting another church not their own, she let down her guard. "Because I LET GO", she says, "I felt a bubbling come up from my belly. I started to analyse it, but I heard the Lord say "Don't think, just let me do it"". So she shut off her head, she says, and let it come over her. She stepped into "another dimension" and ceased to be conscious of other people, and no longer cared what they thought. Now, when people refuse to give in to the laughter, she finds it very funny, and laughs all the louder because of them.
It is important to know that those who are new to the experience always go through this initial stage of scepticism. It is only when they "let go", blank out the objections and give in to physical sensations that the barriers to their subconscious breaks down. But this is the very hallmark of demonic interference! (See panel). There is nothing God-given that requires us to abandon all reason and blank off the critical faculties of our minds.
But where in the Bible is laughter associated with reverence towards God, with service, with humility - or with any kind of ministry? On the contrary, of the few references to laughter in the Bible, almost ALL are negative ones. Laughter is arrogant and scornful - the very opposite of humility.
Laughter in the Bible is nearly always derisory. The very word in Hebrew means "to deride, scorn, mock". When Sarah laughed [WITHIN HERSELF] in response to God's promise that she would bear a child in her old age, God rebuked her. (Gen 18)
Surely, Christian worship and ministry ought to be conducted in an orderly and reverent manner? Having said that, people will criticise us for being so tight-laced and staid that we never let God do anything with us. Not so! Speaking for myself, I have attended many loud, boisterous and joyful meetings, when people "let their hair down", but none of them was disorderly. There was no loss of control. The Holy Spirit, when He is allowed to take charge of our worship, will sometimes lead us to be exuberant, (Psalm 47:1) but He will never possess our bodies, causing unreasonable and uncontrollable physical reactions to occur.
Another point that needs to be made about Christian worship is that, in the Holy Spirit, we are drawn together and bonded in love and unity. True worship moves us all together, as one body. The sort of manifestations that are now occurring are causing disruption, not unity. The very private reactions of numbers of people who, like Adonica, "enter another dimension" where they are no longer aware of others, do not bond believers together, but drives them apart. Love is cast aside in a purely selfish desire to enjoy physical sensations.
In South Africa, Browne says, one man started ripping off his clothes, oblivious to everyone around him. Loud shouting, laughing, immobility and other occurrences do not help the Body to concentrate on the Lord or the preaching of the Word. There is disruption.
Almost every evangelistic revival was criticised because people wept loudly, cried out for mercy, or even fell to the ground in awe before a holy God. But these people were responding to the Word of God - they were under conviction. The current new move is different. It is rare to hear the Word preached, and (as explained in the letter above) a few scriptures pulled out of context is all that is needed to "start them off".
There is much talk of "Christian joy" as if that justifies the raucous laughter heard at these meetings. But joy comes as a result of active belief in the Word of God, or as a response to God's grace. It always has a basis in rational circumstances. Rom 15:13: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
People today are after cheap thrills, and easy emotional satisfaction. They have been taught that the world owes them a living, and that God is there to serve them. Thus, their concept of Christian joy is the same as the world's idea of happiness - shallow feelings of elation with no regard to others; a self-indulgent "happy-trip" with no price to pay.
But in the Word of God, joy is more often associated with suffering than anything else. Joy is born out of endurance. It is an interior peace of mind that rests on the knowledge that God's love is dependable. Very seldom will it erupt into an outward show of emotion - though it can! Yes, a touch from God can bring an outflowing of joy, with laughter. But that comes from a deep acquaintance with God, and through trusting Him in all circumstances. 2 Cor 8:2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 1Thes 1:6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
Their problem is, Browne thinks, they won't surrender to the power that is available. It is all to do with YIELDING, he says. We must not interfere with what is going on, but let the Spirit move as he will. His wife adds to this thought by saying that many times a tangible presence comes upon the meeting and the physical body then has to give way. Those who resist it, have NO CHOICE but to give in.
Clips are shown, on the video, of meetings in which men and women are struck dumb, roasted as if on a fire, paralysed, made incoherent or stuck to the floor, unable to move even if they try. The TV host's wife, Molly, testifies that she has been struck dumb on various occasions. At times, she says, she can think, but cannot open her mouth and at other times she cannot even think - her mind is a blank. What a fertile breeding ground for satan's delusions!
The ministry, such as it is, on this video is very shallow. It consists of scriptures about the Holy Spirit plus laying on of hands, with commands such as "I release God" and "I loose the anointing". A baptismal ceremony is shown where line after line of people stand in the water, hands raised, waiting for Browne to give the command. As he says "not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit, says the Lord" they all tumble backwards into the water!
Browne's idea of evangelism seems to consist largely of zapping people with "the anointing" until they give in. He proudly says that he lines up on the stage a row of hippies with their mohican haircuts and earrings, and then goes down the line laying hands on them and making them fall over, again and again, until they "accept the Lord".
Browne is fond of comparing these manifestations to a state of "spiritual drunkenness". He justifies the excesses by scriptures such as Eph 5:18. Which says: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit". To say that this describes a lack of control, slurred speech and being unable to walk home (as is the experience of some under the power of "revival") is to ignore the verses that follow it. They read:
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
There is no hint of lack of control or irreverence here!
Another of Browne's favourite scriptures is 2 Cor 5:13 "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause". This, he says, proves that Paul was beside himself, or raving, like the people in his meetings.
But, when they accused Jesus of being "beside himself" did they mean he was mumbling incoherently, crawling on the ground and making a public spectacle of himself? No, rather that His preaching and open ministry of healing was a cause of great astonishment to human minds.
The Greek word for "beside yourself" (existemi) actually carries the meaning of "astonishment" or "amazement". It is used in this scripture:
How can these scriptures in any way justify the sort of ludicrous physical manifestations that are seen at Howard-Browne's meeting? Things such as gibbering, muttering, bodily paralysis and rolling on the floor?
Another result was "a new zeal for evangelism". This sounds good, until we realise it means a zeal to draw other people into the "anointing". The power is being passed on from one person to another rather like a spiritual version of AIDS. It has to be caught, passed on through contacts. The UK manifestations did not start spontaneously - English folk travelled out to America to "get it". Does this sound like a move of the Holy Spirit?
If people are being so profoundly touched and used of God, as the leaders claim, surely their activities ought to "have a proof text". If not, just where do we draw the line? As well as that, what happened to the inward witness of the Spirit? Some speak of having received the inner "alarm-bell warning" from the Lord about these manifestations. Others had to overcome profound unease and scepticism, before giving in. Does this indicate that what is taking place is neutral, as Gerald Coates claims?
After examining the scriptures on this subject, I had to come to the conclusion that such manifestations were, biblically speaking, works of the flesh - if not of the Devil. Drunken-type behaviour, partying in the Spirit and lack of self-control (such as raucous, unrestrained laughter or shouting) are of the flesh, not the Spirit.