Recovering Pentecostal - Keep the faith. Lose the legalism.

Charismatic Experiences

For most people, the terms "charismatic" and "Pentecostal" are interchangeable. Folks in the UPC tend to use "charismatic" to describe any "spirit-filled" group that doesn't qualify as "Pentecostal" by their definition. For my purposes, a charismatic is anyone who believes in modern-day tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, and other supernatural manifestations. Things really get interesting when you start talking about "other supernatural manifestations"... because a whole lot of weird stuff gets lumped under that heading. Generally, it's stuff with very marginal Biblical support. Support comes either in the form of some direct revelation ("God showed me that He wanted to do this...") or by pointing to the "fruit" of the experiences.

I plan to add more to this section as time allows...

"Slain in the Spirit"

I first learned about being "slain in the Spirit" in the early 90s during the "laughing revival." I'd go to services where folks would line up for prayer, then when the preacher would lay hands on them they'd fall down. Sometimes, the minister didn't even touch the person and they'd go down. Some ministers would just motion with their hands and an entire section of the audience would fall down.

I used to love that sort of experience. I believed in it and defended it. Below you'll find some verses that I used in the past to validate the "slain in the Spirit" experience. After each verse, I'll explain why it doesn't actually support being "slain."

"So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?' They answered Him, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He said to them, 'I am He.' And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground." (John 18:4-6)

This definitey shows that folks fell over and Jesus didn't touch them... but *who* drew back and fell to the ground? They were not believers! They were the ones who had come to arrest Jesus. It is clear that this "slain" experience didn't have any profound effect on them, since they still arrested Jesus. In Luke's account of Jesus' arrest, Jesus even performs a miracle for them (Luke 22:51), but they aren't swayed by the miracle either.

"When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last...'" (Rev 1:17)

In this verse, John is having a vision--so this isn't a blueprint for a worship service. Notice also that Jesus' reaction to John: He doesn't encourage John to lay there and "soak" the way many charismatics/Pentecostals do. In fact, Jesus tells John to write a whole bunch of stuff down...

"...then the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God." (2 Chron 5:13b-14)

This is probably the closest thing to what charismatics say is happening in services where folks are "slain." But even in this passage, the priests were not SEEKING a "slain" experience. We are left to infer that it happened (because they could not stand to minister...) but it isn't all that clear what it really looked like. It could mean that they were not able to perform their duties so they had to leave the room, or sit down...

In the account of the Transfiguration:

"When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, 'Get up, and do not be afraid.'" (Matthew 17:6-7)

Here, the Bible seems to explain what happened pretty well - they were terrified! They were not seeking this experience. Jesus does not praise them for being so open to His Spirit or encourage them to lay there... He tells them to get up. This is NOT a picture of what happens in charismatic / Pentecostal services.

Paul's Damascus Road conversion:

"As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'" (Acts 9:3-4)

Paul wasn't seeking this experience. It happened only to him, not to any of his travelling companions. It's interesting to note that while Paul mentions his conversion experience in his writings, he never encourages nor expects his readers to have the same kind of experience. If this sort of thing were a normal part of the worship experience, why didn't he cover things like the necessity of catchers and use of a modesty cloth in his epistles?

I could go on. There's the soldiers at the tomb after Jesus' resurrection... not believers, not converted, and certainly not in a worship service.

Some folks even look to instances where God put someone to sleep (Like Adam when Eve was created, or Abram when God made a covenant with him) as examples of the "slain" experience.

None of these Scriptures describe anything close to what you will see in a charismatic service. One of the things that I was taught (and, unfortunately, also taught to others) was how important it was to get in a "worshipful" attitude, to "yeild to the Spirit," to "not resist" when God started moving. More often than not, I believe that it is an emotional experience rather than a spiritual one. So much of what you see in a charistmatic / Pentecostal service is built around getting to the "experience."

It's much easier to be "slain" than to speak in tongues... and considerably less controversial. I think that is why it is so popular with ministers who want to appeal to a whole range of denominations. Being "slain" is a very passive experience. It is usually encouraged in a very charged atmosphere. The emotional rush can be addictive... in a very negative way, a way encourages folks to put themselves under the control of others...

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