Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Falling backward or forward?

There are a number of spiritual experiences people claim to have. One such experience is being "slain in the spirit." Growing up in churches that promote things like being "slain" I seen this event quite often. I never quite understood it as a child, nor did I really care that it was happening because I was, well, a child. I was used to it. Seeing people fall backward by the pushing, err, gentle touch of a person's hand was like seeing an ant crawl across dirt; it wasn't a big deal. However, as I grew older, I questioned the authenticity and purpose of falling backward in the spirit.

The questions that birthed in my mind were, "Is this real?," "Why do this?," and "Isn't this crazy?" The question I should have brooded over is, "Is this biblical?" That question didn't ever cross my mind because I was certain of this act being a vital part of Christianity. I can honestly say that I tried it. Yeah, I did. Why? Because I thought that was a key part of being a Christian. Killing bad habits and character flaws in my life? Nah, falling out was way more Christian than sanctification. That sounds silly, but I really thought I had to a) fall out often and b) speak in tongues; certainly after accomplishing those things I would be very spiritual, right? 

After falsely falling out a few times, I started to think that maybe I was doing it wrong. Could I be a barrier to sincerely experiencing this great Christian experience? What was I doing wrong? The whole thing became a step by step process to me. Once I realized that I was making it religious I thought, "Oh, I'm making too much of this. I need to clear my mind." The next time, my mind was clear, I fell out and nothing. I still didn't feel a thing. I felt a person praying over me, repeating Jesus' name over and over and after she left me, I stood up, and then proceeded to my pew to think about what happened.

I never truly experienced the "slain in the spirit" thing. Not once. I faked it a bunch of times. After trying to actually experience it, I faked fell out a few times afterward to get people to stop praying for me. I know, it sounds horrible, but that's all I knew to do. This is what happens to youth in churches that promote such things. Granted, my experience isn't analogous to every single youth in these movements, but I'm sure there are a lot like me.

So, what is by definition being slain in the spirit? Most commonly, being “slain in the Spirit” happens when a minister lays hands on someone, and that person collapses to the floor, supposedly overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit.1 Is there biblical support for this? People in the movement claim support from the following passages:

Revelation 1:17
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last,

Ezekiel 1:28
Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.  
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Daniel 8:17 
17So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, "Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end."
 18And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up.

Daniel 10:7-9 
7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

The contrasts between the biblical falling on one's face and the practice being slain in the spirit. Gotquestions?.org offers the contrasts between the two. 

1. The biblical falling down was a person's reaction to what he saw in a vision or an event beyond ordinary happenings, such as at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:6). In the unbiblical practice of being slain in the Spirit, the person responds to another’s touch or to the motion of the speaker's arm.

2. The biblical instances were few and far between, and they occurred only rarely in the lives of a few people. In the slain in the Spirit phenomenon, falling down is a repeated event and an experience that happens to many.

3. In the biblical instances, the people fall upon their face in awe at either what or whom they see. In the slain in the Spirit counterfeit, they fall backwards, either in response to the wave of the speaker's arm or as a result of a church leader's touch (or push in some cases).

I think the third contrast is the strongest contrast. The falling on one's face as dead was in reverence and awe of a holy and awesome God. We cannot stand the majesty of Jehovah God, so we fall on our face in reverence (as dead). There are few words to describe the moment of encountering God's holiness. Isaiah described his condition as undone (or ruined); "like dead" is another good way to describe a finite human being's condition when he is encountered by the holy God of all creation. finishes the answer to the question with this:

"We are not claiming that all examples of being slain in the Spirit are fakes or responses to a touch or push. Many people claim to experience an energy or a force that causes them to fall back. However, we find no biblical basis for this concept. Yes, there may be some energy or force involved, but if so, it is very likely not of God and not the result of the working of the Holy Spirit.

It is unfortunate that people look to such bizarre counterfeits that produce no spiritual fruit, rather than pursuing the practical fruit which the Spirit gives us for the purpose of glorifying Christ with our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Being filled with the Spirit is not evidenced by such counterfeits, but by a life that overflows with the Word of God in such a way that it spills over in praise, thanksgiving, and obedience to God."

I agree completely. I noticed (growing up in such churches) that the very people that were participating in the "spiritual" events during the service, would afterward go out to eat at a restaurant and verbally pound people, and show absolutely no change in character (no spiritual fruit was apparent). Being slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, etc., is not an indication of one's sanctification, nor are those practices a measuring rod for closeness to God. I'm reminded of what speaker Damon Thompson once said, "I would rather be a pastor of a congregation seeking sanctification than a pastor of a congregation that speaks in tongues, yet has no sign of spiritual fruit." The Christian continues in repentance and seeks godliness. 

A great sign and wonder is what the Holy Spirit does in our heart/character; changing us, regenerating our heart, chiseling our character taking away our greatest flaws. The Holy Spirit helps us to persevere to the end, which is how the Christian overcomes struggles in his/her life. Our life should not be devoted to seeking signs and wonders, rather our life should be devoted to following God and His will. Do I seek signs and wonders? No I do not. How is my Christian life? Well, I grow to love God more and more everyday. I'm continually amazed by Him and I believe I always will be amazed by Him.

Are signs and wonders for the church today? Well, that's another blogpost for another time. However, I won't leave you empty handed. Below, I'll list fair and balanced resources for you to look into. Until next time, grace and peace to you. 

Further study.

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