After watching and rewatching the Strange Fire Conference it's been growing on me how amazing and deplorable it is that so many Christians can't discern the falseness of Charismatic phenomena, and I'm certainly including myself in that judgment. After much prayer I had come to reject most of the phenomena I'd encountered in my Charismatic phase, and left the whole movement after a couple of years of involvement, but I still had some doubts and reservations I shouldn't have had.
When John MacArthur at the Conference simply flatly denounced the movement as insulting to God and the Holy Spirit and in essence apologized to the Lord for anyone's ever mistaking the bizarre phenomena as coming from Him, it hit me how right he was and how we should ALL recognize that. And why don't we? Are we deceived Christians or are we Christians at all? Even that is often not clear. How many of us may even be demon-oppressed (or possessed) because of our involvement?
I had felt hopeless about ever settling the questions I had for years, a couple of decades really, having given up on being able to determine for sure whether there was anything of God in the movement or not.
Some of us originally got involved in the movement because of personal experiences of our own that we attributed to God. And some of the experiences may truly HAVE been of God. Having had such experiences we are drawn to the movement because it majors on personal experience. I know of people who feel they found the "truth" in a charismatic church, found a real relationship with God. They love the enthusiasm, the emotion, whereas their previous experience of church had been "dead" and boring.
My very first experience of a church service, being taken there by a friend after coming to belief through reading, was in a Foursquare charismatic church. I actually didn't like many things about it because my reading had led me to a reverence and adoration of God rather than the emotional enthusiasms I saw in the church, but I had no reliable way of judging at that time, being a new Christian and then for some period being around only charismatics. I'd also become involved in occultic practices during my reading period, and that was no doubt exerting a strong influence on me too despite efforts to reject it. Later, in another town, the first church I attended by my own choice was a Presbyterian church, and it took me a while to realize that it was a "liberal" church, that is, it wasn't true to the Bible. So I left there and went to another Foursquare church. Then I joined a charismatic "parachurch" organization. All that lasted for a couple of years until I finally made my way to a Reformed church which was new in town at that time. The preaching there was excellent, but I still had my reservations about the charismatic phenomena. And even now, despite the effect of the Strange Fire Conference, I may still be deceived in some ways I have yet to discover.
I am writing all this with a view to getting across something about the hold these things have on people. I have no doubt any more that the movement is satanic in its essence, yet I met many there I consider to be true Christians, and now I'm pondering how hard it is to get free of it. It must be somewhat similar to a Catholic's bondage to the RCC, or a Mormon's bondage to their "church."
TORONTO "BLESSING" OR CURSE?
I was still involved in the Charismatic movement when the "Toronto Blessing" broke out and my first take on it was that it had to be a counterfeit. Nevertheless, being surrounded by charismatics who were constantly warning against imputing satanic influence to a work of God I was kept in a state of suspended judgment about it. That constant refrain about attributing God's work to Satan has a powerful effect, it's one of the devil's most effective strategies. Few of us have enough of a grasp of the Bible to cut through that worry with certainty, and even praying for light as I did (and receiving a great deal of light in answer) didn't fully release me from my doubts.
Until the Strange Fire Conference I hadn't thought about the Toronto Blessing for years, but in the last few days I decided to learn something about it. All I remembered was that it was known as the "laughing revival." I watched a film about it at You Tube that presents it in a very positive light. Very little of the more controversial phenomena the revival is known for was shown, very little of the laughter, very little of the jerking. Instead it focused mostly on people's claims to have been emotionally healed of past "hurts," to have had bad marriages repaired, and a few claimed physical healings as well. Much of this "healing" went on during the periods when they were out cold on the floor.
How difficult it is to find fault with such nice normal people as were interviewed for this film, nice people who had such nice experiences, who testify to having had their lives changed by this "revival," and to "loving Jesus more" as well as loving people more.
After I saw it I had to sit and think and pray for a while to get my head straight about it. The main thing that became evident to me was that all the focus was on psychological or fleshly results, people "getting their lives back," now having happy marriages or happier lives; and they were all thanking God for this. But this is a far cry from the teachings of Jesus, who tells us to LOSE our lives, not gain them, who tells us to take up our cross (consider ourselves dead to this world), die to ourselves daily and so on. None of that was in evidence, nor a single word about sin and how we are sinners in need of salvation, nor anything of the gospel itself of salvation through Christ's death in our place, In short there was nothing Christian about this "revival" at all from what was shown in that film.
This topic takes me back to the idea of "soul power" which I've posted on a few times. I've always liked the "holiness" writers like Watchman Nee, which is probably one major reason I haven't been able to completely free myself from the spell of charismatica, since he and others in the Holiness camp accept the charismatic idea of the continuation of the spiritual gifts. Now that I believe he was deceived about that it helps.
However, since he does accept the gifts for today you might think more charismatics would refer to his writings for support, but I haven't found that to be the case. If they did they'd have to notice that he denounced "holy laughter" all the way back in 1933 when it was occurring in churches in China. Unlike other supernatural phenomena he considered to be possibly authentic, requiring discernment to tell the authentic from the counterfeit, "holy laughter" he considered to be nothing but counterfeit [pp. 71-4, Latent Power of the Soul], so if charismatics had taken him seriously during the Toronto Blessing they'd have to have rejected that particular manifestation for sure.
And really, again it seems to me that we all ought to see such laughter as counterfeit, just the tone of it is a violation of the Biblical revelation of the character of God, so again I'm amazed at us that we hesitate on such a point as this. The devil's manipulations are powerful, the fear of offending God by rejecting such phenomena for instance, when in reality we offend Him by accepting such things.
Nee also writes, in Latent Power of the Soul, that the devil can counterfeit all kinds of things that we'd never suspect to be counterfeits, such as "false repentance, false salvation, false regeneration, false revival, false joy ..." [p. 41]
We need all the help we can get from something like the Strange Fire Conference, to set us free from these things.
Here's a link to a page of articles exposing the errors of the Toronto Blessing:
Testimonies and Analyses of the Toronto Blessing
Interesting: I've read quite a few of those articles by now and what's particularly interesting to me is that while many of them identify the revival as the work of evil spirits they don't give up their belief in the charismatic gifts for today. This is a pretty common position these days, to see such things as merely excesses or deviations, but it seems to me now that they are the natural logical extension of belief in the gifts, or any false belief in supernatural occurrences, which gives ground to evil spirits.
Seeking God again
5 months ago