Is holy laughter in the Bible?

slain in the spirit

Question:

“what do you think of the spirit of laughter? Is holy laughter in the Bible? Is it Biblical?”

Answer:

I propose that to think of the “spirit of laughter” as a beneficial and Godly thing you need to have a few other spirits in you, the kinds that come from a bottle (and if you are thinking “Whaaat? Genie from a bottle? Those are real? You may be need to stop drinking too.) I started out my walk with Christ being very open to the fringe elements of Christianity, including, not limited to a movement called the “Toronto Blessing.” I would watch sermons by Pastor John Arnott and Rodney Howard-Browne, some of the most prominent figures in this movement. Eventually the emptiness in my heart that came as a result of this senseless emotionalism led me to delve deeper into Scripture and I began taking a serious look at the phenomenon of “Holy Laughter” and other charismatic manifestations.

MY ENCOUNTER WITH THIS MOVEMENT

My phone rang a few times before I picked up. I hit the large green anwer button and said, “hello?” The sound of psychotic laughter filled my iphone. It lasted for about ten seconds, until the breathless voice of my friend finally came through in short syllables punctuated by more laughter. I could barely make out the words, but hear something about a pastor from another state who was visiting and so my friend wanted to have a house prayer. More laughing ensued and while my buddy was catching his breath, he said they started to pray with this pastor (another bout of ten second laughter) and he taught them about joy. Eventually I hung up, realizing the most prominent part of the conversation was full blown laughter. I went my friends house that evening and upon entering was greeted with more sounds of giddy laughter. It sounded as if someone had told the world’s funniest joke, again and again.

There was about fifteen people there, many of whom were children of conservative Slavic people (which to me was strange, especially that a few were wearing dresses and headscarves, something practiced by only the more conservative sections of the Russian church). Yet even they were there, eyes with disbelief, talking to this pastor, who turns out was also a “prophet.”Unfortunately I have since forgotten his name, though his jolly and seemingly calm character still remains in my memory. Some of the laughing died down and he began to explain how the power of God works. Bringing up his most solid example of biblical exegesis and careful hermeneutics, he said “the Holy Spirit is like a power outlet, when you plug in, things happen.” Strangely, this even satisfied my usually doubtful mind, probably because I had seen so much charismania on TV, and believed it. He also taught a few things on prayer and prophecy.

Throughout the evening the few friends who has spent the day with him would start laughing uncontrollably as they laid back on the couch and tried to swallow back tears from the strong torrents of emotion (or emotionalism). They would also utter a few phrases in “tongues” as they giggled and truly “lol’d.” As the evening concluded this pastor asked us if we wanted to pray and to receive prophecies, and being the crazy kids we were, we readily agreed. We jumped into the prayer and started yelling in tongues as if it was a screaming contest, though eventually this pastor calmed us down and told us he was going to prophecy. He had us sit on a chair and would spend a few minutes “prophesying” to us who we are (similar to a fortune teller saying “I see you do this and that”) and following up with some predictions for the future. He got to me and proceeded to describe my character, scoring an uncanny amount of hits, rather than misses. He saw I was a leader, that I preached, and that I liked to hug people, especially side hugs to my church brothers. He then proceeded to give me details of my future, including saying that I would be elevated in official church ministry within a year. Most of these were vague, but that one specific thing I remember as I had just been elected as the youth minister, so I was thinking “senior pastor in a year?” It’s now been a few years and this failed, among some other prophecies to my friends (although I’m still hoping, because my brother was promised to be a millionaire, and that would be pretty awesome because he owes me). To my knowledge, the fallout of his visit left nothing good in anyone that was there. We debated and discussed it for days after, had some fights and division, but eventually it fizzled out and nothing good was accomplished.

ANALYSIS OF HOLY LAUGHTER

When it comes to analyzing this movement there is a lot of information and a lot that has already been said by both sides, and books have published that go over this with much detail (such as Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff and Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur). Instead of a very lengthy article below is a short analysis of the movement, with a primary emphasis on the distinctive things present and absent from the movement of Holy Laughter revival.

TWO THINGS MISSING FROM THE MOVEMENT

1. Scriptural basis

There is no Scriptural support that the church has been called to engage in uncontrollable laughter, jerking, shaking, roaring like a lion, or any other ecstatic (hyper-emotional) activity. While there are passages in the Scripture that speak of joy, none refer to joy as uncontrollable laughter. Laughter in the Bible is also mentioned as a sign of mockery (Psalm 59:8; Psalm 80:6; Proverbs 1:26) not only sign of joy. And in fact just because someone may be laughing doesn’t mean they are joyful at all (Proverbs 14:13). There are a few vague Scriptures used to prove holy laughter as normal, the main one is when Abraham and Sarah laughed at Gods promise of a child. However, the main point of the passage is missed, that they laughed out of disbelief at Gods promise, not because of a spiritual experience. I understand that not all things practiced in church are mandated in the Bible, for example, choirs or Sunday school; however, these are understood to be merely culturally appropriate ways for some churches to accomplish goals that are derived (worked out) from Biblical principles (such a singing to God and teaching of children). Holy laughter on the other hand is touted as a special spiritual experience that occurs when we communicate with God, however, this “truth” is nowhere taught in Scripture.

2. The Gospel

There is also a very big vacuum when it comes to preaching the simple Gospel. While I listened to everything possible for a period of two years I don’t remember hearing the proclamation of the true Gospel. The message of 1 Cor 2:2 is lost and the Gospel really means the good things we can have if we believe hard enough I have heard that word used often, and I have heard the sermons that use the word “cross” or “blood” but almost never in reference to sin. In fact there is a disconnection from sin and cross; namely sin is when you don’t listen to your leaders or don’t let the Spirit move in crazy ways, and the cross is how we get super powers to chase demons and do miracles.. However, if you sin, you only need to try again and let the Spirit move, instead of trusting upon Christ’s substitutionary atonement for your sin by his death. It was only when I stumbled upon John Piper and heard a completely different thing that the Gospel hit me, and I understood how different it is.

TWO THINGS PRESENT IN THE MOVEMENT

1. Lack of control

There is an uncanny and even creepy lack of bodily control exhibited by people who are involved in holy laughter. I have seen many videos and a few up close examples, and in most of these, especially the many more severe cases (which are considered to be the most spiritual) we see the subject being unable to control themselves. This is a stronger lack of control than someone under the influence of narcotics or alcohol. In fact many people even appear to be possessed for lengthy periods of time, and flail around their bodies to the point of physical harm. Conversely the Scriptures require that a man of God be “sober” (1 Peter 4:7, 5:8). Someone who is sober has the ability to judge his actions. Furthermore, the Holy Scriptures also compel us to be self-controlled, we are urged continually and many times to have a mind that I ready for action and a body that is under control (1 Pet 1:18, Prov 25:28, 2 Tim 1:17, Titus 1:8). In fact one sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed doing a work in you is self control (Gal 5:23, 2 Tim 1:7). This is not possible when one is on the floor laughing and cannot even string two words together before unraveling at the seams.

2. Lack of Biblical Discernment

There is a very heavy emphasis on personal prophecy in this movement, and simultaneously a very strong downplaying on the Holy Spirit inspired Scripture. It’s quite common to hear the leaders say “God told me _____” to prove a new doctrine or idea instead of going into Scripture and reading what God really wrote. The largest component of many that sermons I have listened to, is personal revelation, often taking the form of this “I was in the shower praying and God showed me heaven.” This is followed by a thirty minute story about a shining Jesus with a sword giving the charismatic’s more power and glory on the earth (this was indeed a real sermon). Any new idea or prophecy is not tested but treated as the living Word of God, any story is believed without questioning (for example the pastor who preached about how he never puts gas in his car but drives it on faith). And when the hyper-charismatic friends I have are confronted with Scripture, the plain, unambiguous, and solid passages are explained away so that Bill Johnson, Benny Hinn, or whoever would not be disqualified. These are people who rush to validate Todd Bentley (as did I to my shame) and even when he begins to preach about his weird “angelic” friends, and even when he begins to kick people to heal them, and even when he commits adultery and divorces his wife, they still claim he is a true man of God. There is no discernment among those who are in this movement.

CONCLUSION

There is nothing beneficial or edifying for the church in this movement. Conversely, there is plenty of dangerous practices and ideas. Whether its demonic or simply hysterical is up in the air. In my opinion it may be both.  It ignores diligent study of God’s Word in favor of ecstatic speech that is claimed to be directly from God. It claims as its evidence, not the immovable Scripture, but the stories and tall tales of men with wild imaginations. Think about it for a second, why in the world would God give miracles to authenticate the crazy heretical preacher who never tells people about salvation through faith in Christ? Why are faithful pastors never given the gift of holy laughter or other crazy “miracles”? The person who spends his whole life, preaching and teaching about salvation from sin by faith alone in Christ alone, never being disqualified by adultery, doesn’t get magical laughter and miracles as proof of his message from God?? But the one that has no idea who Jesus is or what he did, but instead talks about gold dust, meditation, and divination gets miracles? Yea, and pigs fly too.

3 responses

  1. I just wanted to not scold you or try and make you look bad in front of people because that is not what Jesus came to do. So I would just like to comment on your Holy laughter blog. As much as your blogs seem very interesting and full of theological points and debates, the only thing you accomplish with messages such as these are dissensions. Instead of saying that such and such a person are “false” or practicing the “false”gospel, I pray that you find it in your heart to rather pray for them than speak words that claim them “might as well say it” demon possessed.I am planning on going to Iris ministries where a woman of God has planted not only hundreds and hundreds of little churches but thousands, with many people receiving Christ, many healed, and also raised from the dead. She has received many a prophetic words from the Toronto church as well as Redding Bethel Church, which have come to pass and caused remarkable revival in her life and her church. Once again, Jesus did not come to condemn but to bring life. Bring life with your words please.

    • You are well meaning, I understand that, for I was naively well intentioned too. However, you build your whole point on some very dangerous presuppositions.

      I was very involved in the thirdwave/Elijahslist movement. Often when someone critiques something, the defendant of the group/movement/idea will respond by asking them to try it first before “knocking it.” I am not an outsider who is “judging” before testing, I am specifically someone who spent two years trying it, reading it, learning it, attending conferences about it. It is a false movement that obscures the Gospel of Jesus from salvation by grace and faith, into salvation by attaining some kind of special emotional “intimacy” or “signs/miracles.”

      1. “the only thing you accomplish with messages such as these are dissensions.” You imply that anyone who unites is by definition Godly and good, and anyone who divides is unholy and bad. That is true in a church that shares the same Gospel, however, not all division is bad, in fact Jesus specifically said the Word of God divides truth and untruth. Jesus specifically said he came to bring a sword and divide people with it. Paul specifically says in 1 Cor 11:19 “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” When there are two very separate gospels, division very normal as it separates the truth from the untruth. You seem to act like all division is “unholy,” however, would you extend a hand of Christian unity to semi-Christian cults? Mormons? Jehovah’s witnesses? No, clearly the bible calls us to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2Tim 2:15).

      2. “Instead of saying that such and such a person are “false” or practicing the “false” gospel, I pray that you find it in your heart to rather pray for them than speak words that claim them “might as well say it” demon possessed.“ Again you make it seem like any judgment of someone is not spiritual and that the only spiritual way to respond is to pray for someone. This sounds very humble and philanthropic, however, that is not the way the Scripture commands us to respond to false teachings. Jesus said: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard;” (Mark 13:22-23). He doesn’t say please be nice to them, pray for them, accept their miracles and be friendly, instead be on guard and oppose them. Whether or not this applies to Heidi we haven’t yet concluded, however, your premise of not declaring anyone false but just praying nicely for false prophets is still very dangerous. What if noone declared Joseph Smith false? He did have miracles, tongues, and prophesies to prove his holiness. According to your premise, we shouldn’t have divided Smith and Mormonism as false, but just prayed for them and maybe welcomed them and mixed Mormonism and its teaching into the Christian Church.

      3. “ [Heidi Baker] has planted not only hundreds and hundreds of little churches but thousands, with many people receiving Christ, many healed, and also raised from the dead.” Heidi is an interesting woman, she has made some very crazy statements and associates with very kooky people. I am thankful for her work with orphans and her philanthropy. It is definitely a good things she is doing. However, to say her works justify her words is very naive. Again you presuppose that works, miracles, or sincerity proves one is right, instead of faithfully preaching the Word of God. Do not Mormons also have orphanages? Tons of them, but they still teach the bible wrong. Buddhists, who teach Jesus was a good teacher but not saviour, also have orphanages. I am thankful for the service towards humanity from all of these groups, but no amount of good works will even cause me to say they teach the truth. As far as all of her claims to miracles, first they are poorly documented. However, miracles don’t prove anything either way as Jesus himself said false prophets and false christs would come and do miracles to deceive Christians. If someone uses miracle as the central tenet of their faith and teaching, that is actually already a huge warning sign. As far as all those churches planted, we don’t know them or their validity, if Heidi teaches them more about signs and warnings that about sin and atonement by the Cross through faith alone, then these people may have went from one false teaching to another. Mormons also plant tons of churches and claim thousands of salvations, but this is nothing as they simply transfer people from one false faith to another.

      4. “Once again, Jesus did not come to condemn but to bring life. Bring life with your words please.”
      The Gospel, Grace, and Cross of Christ do bring life; those that believe upon Jesus for the forgiveness of sins do find life. Any teaching that obscures these and replaces them with emotional experiences, “signs and wonders,” feelings or encounters of the “supernatural” obscure this life. There is a video in which Heidi purportedly heals a Muslim woman and as Heidi is leaving the Muslim woman is glorifying Islam and the Koran. This is not the work of the Gospel. The gospel is about us receiving forgiveness from our sins, not healings to our bodies, thought that can happen, if it’s God’s will, it’s has never been the center of the Gospel like the Toronto or Third Wave movement makes.

      I know this doesn’t make sense yet, and you will want to argue that its only cold doctrine and etc. I did that too before I was shaken by the simplicity of the Gospel.

  2. In the past I have questioned holy laughter in my mind, but never really voiced out or sought any answers until a recent discussion with some Christian colleagues. I have always felt that the Lord moves in mysterious ways especially after reading the many strange and sometimes seemingly unneccesary miracles that have taken place in the bible.

    These include the woman with the issue of blood touching Jesus’ garment, the incident where God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them, Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt, Gideon’s fleece, the donkey talking etc. These seem not necessarily important or the only way the Lord needs to work, right?

    There seem to be more logical or appropriate miracle replacements for the above e.g. Jesus could have realised the woman touched his garment and given her the healing anyway, Paul could have prayed for the sick from wherever he was, Lot’s wife could have just been punished later or fallen ill, Gideon could have just asked God for an answer without laying out fleece like a fortune teller, a messenger could have taken the place of the donkey. God DOES seem to work in mysterious unexplainable ways.

    Recently I read 1 Samuel 10:5,6,7 (to Saul) :
    5 After that you shall come to Gib′eath-elo′him, where there is a garrison of the Philistines; and there, as you come to the city, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 Now when these signs meet you, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

    Could the Spirit of the Lord as mentioned in 1 Samuel have caused holy laughter among other things? It is unclear, but is it totally impossible? “whatever your hand finds you to do” is translated in another version as “do whatever God leads you to do.”

    I may be wrong about this. I have always believed that the Lord doesn’t do weird twisted things. Roaring like a lion? In 1 Peter 5:8 it says: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Can that then be from the Lord? I personally don’t think so.

    I believe we must always remember that the most important thing – after loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – is sharing the gospel; seeing as we love our neighbour as ourselves. With this in mind, you and I ought to be busy with the great commission and leave the rest to the Lord for Him to reveal to us in due time. Agree? :D

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