by David Sisler

"If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck."

The picture of Dan Rather battering Richard Nixon with those words is vividly imprinted on my mind. All of President Nixon's protestations to the contrary, Mr. Rather was insisting that there was a presidential coverup and a criminal conspiracy in the affair of the Watergate Hotel burglary.

I would like to borrow that imagery: "If it looks like a revival, and it sounds like a revival, and tens of thousands of people are saying, ‘It is a revival' is it a revival?"

The world of the Christian church is currently experiencing a spiritual movement which can be traced back to the early 1980s. It is distinguished by frenzied laughter, boisterous noise, and uncontrollable behavior. It is called a revival, a renewal or a refreshing. Proponents are sincere and devout. Those inside of the movement unquestioningly declare that it is from God, for His Church as the End Times approach. Others, and include me in this category, are not convinced.

The distinguishing demonstration which first characterized this new revival were, and continue to be, uncontrollable outbursts called "Holy Laughter." Other manifestations occur, but not as frequently as compulsive, convulsive hilarity. Practitioners have been known to laugh, non- stop for hours, completely unable to desist. Laughter may be contagious, but it is not an attribute of the Holy Spirit which can be imparted or a gift of the Holy Spirit which can be received, or a fruit of the Holy Spirit which can be grown in a believer's life.

Rodney Howard-Browne, perhaps Convert Zero of The Toronto Blessing, as the movement was described initially, said, "As long as something is happening it really does not matter if it is of God, of man or of the devil."

What is happening? And does it matter from whence the source?

John Wimber, another early proponent of this revival concedes that there is no Biblical support for the various manifestations. It seems strange, therefore, that this movement is driven by derision, specifically the discounting of sound biblical doctrine. Many within the movement say that we should not analyze the revival's theology, but instead trust the experience and the "fruits" of the lives touched. Use of scripture for testing is frowned upon.

In the book of Acts, Luke described a new movement which was then afoot. When that outpouring came to the city of Berea, its citizens were excited about what they were seeing and hearing. With an analytical character touted by Luke and taunted by the proponents of the laughing revival, the Bereans "received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

It is a mistake to think that the primary emphasis of this renewal is laughter. Even though publicity has focused on the Holy Laughter, this revival is more about spiritual drunkenness, abandonment, and intoxication with "new wine."

Peter said, in the classic King James passage, "These [men] are not drunken as ye suppose." Proponents of "spiritual drunkenness" teach that Peter meant his fellow believers, newly filled with spiritual power, were drunk on the Holy Spirit. To those who were mocking the disciples Peter refuted that notion when he said, "You suppose they are drunk. These men are not drunk!" Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not effect ridiculous abandonment. Instead it is evidenced by sober living, vigilance, and lucidity.

Anyone who has ever overindulged in alcohol knows that increasing amounts of intoxicating beverages, or increasingly potent potables are required to produce the desired results. Within the context of this revival, it takes more extreme spiritual experiences to produce a "holy high." Laughter is giving way to staggering drunkenness, but it will not end here. Addicts will wander deeper into spiritual wilderness looking for that ultimate feeling. Eventually, there may be an abandonment of all that smacks of order, tradition, logic and reason.

Many entered this new movement, dissatisfied with their current church and their turbulent relationship with God. Navigation is from dynamic personalities who, to avoid close scrutiny, call themselves "prophetic ministries" rather than "prophets." Their followers call them "The Prophets" and are not discouraged from bestowing that title.

Bob Jones — no relationship to the college president from Greenville, SC — was described by one of his fellow prophets, as having an "integral role in establishing our foundations." When secret immorality was exposed in Mr. Jones' life, his confederates declared him disqualified from center stage ministry, but continued to espouse his prophecies. Central among these is Jones' declaration that God told him a sixty-six percent prophetic accuracy rate is sufficient. Indeed, God himself, would be supplying the one-third of the messages which would be in error. Prophets are like guns, God purportedly told Jones, and prophecies are like bullets. "I'm loading the guns," Jones said God said, "and I'm putting the blanks in!" Is it any wonder that the use of Scripture to examine the movement is discouraged?

A prophetic warning from the 1906 Azusa Street Revival, which gave sustenance, if not birth to the Pentecostal Movement, is being ignored today. In the last days three things will happen, the message said. There will be an overemphasis on power, rather than on righteousness. There will be an overemphasis on praise, to a God to whom they no longer pray. There will be an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, rather than on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The laughing, spiritually inebriated revival bears all the marks of that prophecy.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1/4/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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