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But all things should be done decently and in order. -- 1Corinthians 14: 40 (ESV)
We must remain teachable beloved. Especially those called into leadership or ministry. I can personally attest to moments of great revelation where God showed me that a belief I had held was actually not biblical at all. It is a sobering moment. It is a humbling moment to realize that you have not arrived. That perhaps there is more God wants us to learn. That is one of the greatest mistakes preachers sometimes make. Some will always assume every Word given to them is for the sheep and never for them. At my old church I remember during a difficult season an assistant pastor would be praying every Friday night and be travailing that God was showing him that someone there needed to repent and forgive. The whole church knew God was actually talking to him. The same goes when we hold too tightly to our beliefs instead of the Bible. When we hold onto our traditions instead of the Word of God. Just because something has always been done a certain way does mean it was ever in alignment with God to begin with. That is why we search the Scriptures and do the work of a Berean. Because God is always talking to us if we are always willing to listen. Sometimes He wants to prune away the side show beliefs we have engaged in and we will not be able to see it if we have developed a blind spot.
A blind spot in Christianity is simply an area that we cannot see as wrong. It may be for very personal or even solid reasons. It could be based on decades of experience. It matters not because God cannot make us see something we are blind to. A perfect example is someone like Joseph Prince. I assume Prince is genuine about his beliefs, no matter how absurdly unbiblical they are. I believe he believes that God spoke to him and gave him this false gospel of hyper grace. I believe that he believes that everyone else has it wrong. The problem is that it is such a blind spot for him that now every preaching is centered on propping up his false belief system instead of actually hearing from the Lord. Prince is hardly alone. Enter Dr. Michael Brown.
I have admitted before that I am torn about Dr. Brown. He is a widely respected theologian. I believe he is completely sincere in what he does. Yet for every solid teaching or post he makes he then does something completely inexplicable. Like going on Benny Hinn's show for a week. Or defending the sleazy Silent Night that Hillsong put on last Christmas. Or insisting that the obviously heretical false revival of Brownsville was a real move of God. I have come to realize over the years that when it comes to the Charismaniacal side of Christianity, Dr. Michael Brown simply has a blind spot. While he is right that cessationist arguments from people like John MacArthur take things to an unbiblical extreme, he fails to grasp the scope of the problem that drives people like MacArthur off that cliff. More importantly, he does not realize the role he plays in contributing to this problem by refusing to see what is wrong. For today let us discuss a recent teaching he did on the charismatic phenomenon known as being "slain in the Spirit."
I want to note first of all that Dr. Brown opens this teaching and closes it with the notion that being slain is either falling backward, forward or to one's knees. This is simply inaccurate. Yes I am sure some outliers fall to their knees or forward but I do not even think people in charismatic churches would consider that slain. Even if they did, we are talking less than 5% of the experiences. Nearly all the time the person falls backwards. This is important because there is absolutely no instance in the Bible that supports this where one could point to instances where people fell forward or to their knees. Dr. Brown tries valiantly to surround his arguments with this false narrative but if we are being totally honest, we know that being slain means falling backward. To set the foundation for his argument, Brown quotes Jonathan Edwards:
"We ought to not limit God where He has not limited Himself." -- Jonathan Edwards
Great quote. Sounds pious. One problem. It is not Scripture. We do not base our church structure based on a man's opinion. No matter how respected that man might be. We especially do not do this when God has provided so much direction about our church services in His Word to begin with! Next Dr. Brown engages in some good old fashioned human wisdom. He uses the Edwards quote to proffer the notion that there are things that are unbiblical, which ought to be dismissed, and then there are those things that are extra-biblical. That on matters God has not directly spoken about, we need to decide by judging the fruit that results. As such he relates that many times he has prayed for people he has felt the Holy Spirit "move on him" and that the result was the person slain. That so many people experience closeness to God when slain. They are set free from bondages and even healed! Therefore he concludes that if there is good fruit, lives are changed, and the Bible does not expressly prohibit it then we must judge by the fruit. This of course is a wildly absurd argument. Now remember that I do not think Dr. Brown is conniving when he makes these arguments. I do not think he is being willfully deceptive. I just think he has a blind spot. He likes the charismatic side of his faith and thus like Prince approaches the Bible to defend hyper grace, Brown approaches it to defend Charismania.
So what is wrong with the logic employed by Brown? Well first of all it is human logic. The Bible does not teach us to judge fruit regarding things that are "extra-biblical." In fact, I actually think that on some level, the Bible covers everything. Would God leave us to our own devices beloved? Of course not. So where is slain in the spirit in the Bible? While it is not specifically mentioned as a phenomenon, the correct order of church service is and guess what? There is no slain in the spirit listed. It does not say, "One prophesies, another teaches and another falls backwards for no apparent reason." To say that because this one action is not specifically addressed means it could be allowable is actually a logical fallacy. I will use an example from this week. The wildly heretical Church by the Glades recently had a church service that employed fire baton twirlers as part of a luau church service. Now, according to Facebook comments, it was pretty popular. There was a lot of "fruit" reported too. Well the Bible does not specifically prohibit fire twirlers so are we to judge this as being an acceptable part of church service because some people who attended claimed some kind of spiritual experience? What is next? A clown service (yes this happened already)? Well, the Bible doesn't speak against clowns so let's leave it up to the individual hearts of the people who attend. Except the Bible says that our hearts are wickedly deceptive above everything else! That is the problem with "judging fruit." Yes there is a verse about judging fruit but it is widely misunderstood:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. -- Matthew 7: 15-20 (ESV)
Look closely at the context and you will discover that the people being spoken about are false prophets. This is who we are to judge according to their fruit. We can do so easily by comparing what they teach to the Word of God. That is the point. What Dr. Brown is advocating for here is to turn over our biblical plumb line for our experiential opinions. Well, people who go to Bethel Church believe that glory clouds, angel feathers, and gold dust are a regular part of experiencing God. I believe they are sincere but they are sincerely wrong. They are deceived and in fact trafficking in a different spirit which by definition must be demonic. So how exactly are we to judge the fruit? Because they stayed slain for a long time? Because they came up weeping? Because they claimed to be set free until the next prayer service when they go back up for prayer and fall down again? I remember a friend of mine went up for healing prayer from a traveling false signs and lying wonders preacher. He had a bad hip that needed surgery and the preacher prayed and then told my friend to run back and forth along the altar and so he did. Without pain. Hallelujah! Until the following year when the same guy came back and I was sitting next to my friend again and asked how his hip was. He said he had to go for surgery. I asked if I was remembering the previous year right; with him dancing all along the altar. He said I was. I asked him how long his "healing" lasted and he said about a week.
This is what happens with emotionalism. We can convince ourselves of anything. We can get ourselves all worked into a frenzy and convince ourselves it is a spiritual experience when it really is an emotional experience. You cannot "judge fruit" based upon personal, emotional experience. That is not biblical at all. This leads into the next point. The Bible tells us what a church service is supposed to be like. It is not accurate to say that slain in the spirit is not addressed because it is. Just not by name. Dr. Brown actually acknowledges the key verse when he starts this video but seems to try and swat it away like an annoying mosquito. Well sure the Bible says that there is a specific order to church but that that order also specifies that one may have a prophesy, revelation, and interpretation so it "may not be the order we are used to." Once again a fallacy in logic. Yes Paul outlines specifics regarding limitations set on the free expression of the gifts during a service, probably to prevent some of the chaos we see in Pentecostal services today. He does not however mention being slain at all. Paul is not suggesting that every church service MUST have a prophecy, a revelation etc. He is saying if there are these are the limitations. What Dr. Brown is trying to do is shoe horn in being slain as one of the manifestations of the Spirit that is acceptable in a service but anyone who has witnessed this knows full well that it is not orderly at all. It violates the key verse. The over-arching point is that the chapter the key verse resides in specifically spells out the order of a church service so to say that being slain is extra biblical is simply untrue. It just is not mentioned by name; in all likelihood because no such display was practiced back then. Just like clown jugglers were never mentioned specifically but we can probably agree they do not belong as a part of church service. You do not need to list by name every possible thing that could occur, just set the guidelines for what should occur.
I would be remiss if I did not address the other contention made by Dr. Brown and that is regarding the resulting fruit. The overall fruit is entirely fleshly and narcissistic. The act of falling out draws attention to only two people. The one falling out and the one laying on their hands in prayer over that person. It also leads to pride. The person who falls out routinely often regards themselves on a higher plane spiritually. The act of being slain becomes something to pursue in charismatic churches. Just like the act of public tongues. Those who do not have these manifestations are made to feel less than. Certainly not on purpose but that is the end result. That is the fruit. Then there is the other side. The pastor or preacher that is laying their hands on in prayer is often regarded on a higher plane spiritually as well. I remember at my old church when people went up for prayer they chose which line to stand in based on who was the person praying for the people in that line. When they tried to make it a single line and have the ushers direct the people to the next open minister many refused and waited for their person to be free. The one they felt was more spiritual. But wait a minute. It is the same Holy Spirit according to Scripture. The reality is people start to chase man and not the spirit.
I have seen itinerant preachers who had reputations for the conveyance of being slain. They would make people chase them around the sanctuary for their "blessing." Others would literally assault the person until they fell down. Pushing them down forcibly to be slain. This was of course taken to its absurd conclusion with the ministry of Todd Bentley who would punch people, kick people and claim it was the Holy Spirit commanding him to so the person could receive their healing. Now I would hope Dr. Brown would denounce such silliness but he fails to see how the local manifestation of being slain is directly responsible for Todd Bentley. When we step out of the orderly service God prescribed, we end up with holy laughter, rolling around on the floor, making animal noises, and twitching spasmodically. None of which are biblical. Ironically, the twitching was a trademark of the Brownsville false revival that Dr. Brown spoke at and defends to this day. The uncontrollable body twitching is viewed by Charismaniacs as fruit. Proof of the spirit. The thing often missed however, is that one of the actual fruits of the Spirit listed in Scripture is self control. Thus there is no way the phenomenon seen at Brownsville was a move of the Holy Spirit. It certainly appeared to have a demonic spiritual element to it, but not God.
Let me close with two points. The first is that I admit that I was slain in the spirit once. Yes, I felt God minister to me when I was out. I felt I was able to let go of some pain I had been carrying about the death of someone close to me. God will use anything to minister to us. But as I grew in the Word and saw that this act is unbiblical I was forced to self examine what happened that night. I am not too proud to admit that I was very emotional then. The resulting ministering and fruit does not change the fact that the act of being slain remained unbiblical. I know many sincere people who believe in this because they have experienced it. The problem is that raises our experience to the level of Scripture. That is the error of Bethel Church and IHOP. Once we turn over what is biblical to our own wickedly deceptive hearts that is when the church goes completely off the doctrinal rails. God can minister to me without making a spectacle of it. He does not share His glory beloved.