The following is an excerpt from our new book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement: Its History and Error.
The practice of “spirit slaying” has been a part of the Pentecostal movement since its inception. It is also called “falling under the power,” “carpet time,” “Holy Spirit glue,” “soaking in the anointing,” and other things. It was experienced at Azusa Street. It was experienced under the ministry of Maria Woodworth-Etter and Aimee Semple McPherson. It was experienced in the Church of God of Prophecy from its inception. It was experienced in 1948 at the Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and in Kenneth Hagin’s meetings and in John Wimber “Signs and Wonders Conferences.” It was experienced in the “Toronto Blessing” and the “Brownsville Revival” in Pensacola. It is experienced under the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn. It is a very common practice in Charismatic circles. I witnessed “spirit slaying” at New Orleans ’87, at Indianapolis ’90, and at St. Louis 2000. These influential conferences had a combined attendance of about 65,000.
Consider the Celebration Jesus 2000 conference at St. Louis, Missouri, for example. The “spirit slaying” phenomenon was practiced in the evening meetings as well as in many of the morning and afternoon sessions, and hundreds of people experienced it.
At the end of the evening meeting on Friday night, for instance, Assemblies of God evangelist Steve Hill (who led the famous charismatic revival in the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida) invited the people to come forward in a broadly worded invitation that was a mixture of receiving Christ, renewing your relationship with Christ, dedicating yourself to Christ, doing business with God, etc. He mentioned the gospel and the blood of Christ, but he did not clearly explain the gospel and he did not plainly contrast the true gospel with the Rome’s false sacramental gospel even though at least half of those in attendance were Roman Catholics. In such an ecumenical environment, the preacher must make the gospel exceedingly plain or his listeners will merely re-interpret his words in terms of the teaching of their false Christianity.
Hundreds of people came forward to have hands laid on them and many of them “fell under the power” and lay on the concrete floor of the convention center, some of them for a half hour and more. As Hills and John Kilpatrick (at the time he was the pastor of Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola) laid hands on people, they yelled “fire!” fire!” Some of those lying on the floor rolled around, some shook, some laughed almost hysterically, some wept, some smiled blissfully, while some appeared to be unconscious.
The Saturday morning session led by John and Carol Arnott from Toronto, Canada, is another illustration of the focus on “spirit slaying.” Arnott spoke for a few minutes then invited pastors to come forward if they “felt they would die if they did not soon receive a touch from God.” He told them to say to God, “Why not me and why not now; I take it in the name of Jesus.” About 40 or 50 went forward, and John Arnott and his wife laid hands on them. Most of them fell on the floor. One continued standing but he started shaking almost violently and remained like that for a long time until Carol Arnott laid hands on him and he fell to the floor. After laying hands on the pastors and while most of them were still on the floor, Arnott continued delivering his message to the crowd in his quiet manner; but as he was speaking his wife roamed around laying hands on people and “ministering” to those who were on the floor. It was very confusing, to say the least. Some people were laughing hysterically. Some were rolling around. Others were weeping or moaning very loudly. Carol Arnott was talking and yelling. All the while, John was rambling on about how the Holy Spirit was preparing to send the greatest revival in history. From time to time, he would pause in the midst of speaking and would shout, “FIRE! FIRE ON HER! FIRE ON HIM! FIRE LORD!” then he would continue speaking to the crowd calmly as if nothing had happened.
Arnott made light of those who criticize the spirit slaying experience and who warn about the danger of receiving false spirits. He said that just as a father would not give a stone to a son who asks for bread, God would not give a false spirit to those who seek the Holy Spirit. This thinking completely ignores repeated Scripture warnings. The problem is that the “god of this world” is the devil and he masquerades as an angel of light. Consider 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” and 2 Cor. 11:3-4, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” Was the church at Corinth asking for a stone? Arnott claims that the spirit slaying is “90% bad stuff going out and good stuff coming in”; 10% is prophetic, and about 1% is foreign that has to be dealt with by those in charge. He said that he used to believe that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman who would never force people to do things and would never treat people harshly, but he no longer believes that. He claimed that the reason God wants His people to submit themselves to being slain by the spirit is to surrender their pride and fear.
All of this is a great confusion and error. There is absolutely nothing like the charismatic “spirit slaying” in the New Testament Scriptures.
New Testament examples
The following are all of the examples in the New Testament of people falling down:
* Believers sometimes fell down before Christ to worship Him (Mt. 2:11; 18:26; Lk. 17:16; Jn. 11:32). Paul described unbelievers who would fall down and worship God in the churches (1 Cor. 14:25). In these instances the term “fall down” is used to describe worship. See also Ps. 72:11; Is. 44:19; 46:6; Dan. 3:5; Mt. 4:9; Rev. 4:10; 5:8, 14; 19:4.
* The disciples fell down on their faces and were afraid when they heard the voice of God on the Mt. of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:6).
* The men who took Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane went backward and fell down when he spoke the words, “I am he” (Jn. 18:6).
* Ananias fell down dead when he was stricken of God for his sin (Acts 5:5).
* Saul fell to the ground when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4).
* John fell at the glorified Christ’s feet “as dead” in Rev. 1:17.
How are these examples different from Charismatic “spirit slaying”?
The instances of falling down in the New Testament have no similarity with the “spirit slaying” phenomenon that is part and parcel with the Charismatic movement.
First of all, in the New Testament there was no laying on of hands preceding the falling. In fact, there was no human instrumentality whatsoever in any of the instances of falling in the Bible.
Second, there was no “Holy Spirit glue” which kept someone from rising.
Third, there was no laughter associated with the falling.
Fourth, there was no atmosphere created to encourage falling. There was no teaching about falling. There were no people queuing up in lines waiting to fall. There were no repetitive choruses preparing people for mystical experiences. There was no one yelling “Fire!” and “More, Lord!” or any such thing.
Friends, I refuse to participate in or support any alleged “revival” that includes “Spirit slaying” or any other manifestation that is so patently contrary to what we see in the New Testament Scriptures. Charismatic leaders say, “Don’t worry about the manifestations.” That is unscriptural and extremely dangerous advice. We are instructed to prove ALL things (1 Thess. 5:21). Charismatic leaders say, “Just open up and don’t be so uptight; lighten up and let God do what He pleases.” We want God to be in absolute control of our lives and churches, but it is folly and rebellion to ignore the fact that God’s Word warns repeatedly of false spirits and false teachers. The apostle Peter did not counsel us to open up and lighten up. Instead, he warned: “BE SOBER, BE VIGILANT; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). To be vigilant is to be alert, on guard, on the outlook for enemies and deception. This is the very opposite of the “spirit slaying” experience whereby the Christian allegedly “goes out under the power.” To be sober and vigilant means I will not submit myself to an experience whereby my consciousness and vigilance are violated.
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