My comments here recently concerning the so-called “holy laughter” or “Toronto Blessing” generated feedback — which I always appreciate receiving. Following are five responses and an additional comment.
#1 — “I am a firm believer in the power of the Holy Spirit, in his real presence among us, even to the point of making us laugh out loud. However, I am also a firm believer in the presence of evil, of counterfeits and frauds. Your article concerned me in this distinction. My understanding is that the Toronto Blessing, holy laughter, and most experiences related to it have been discredited by the large body of orthodox Christianity, even by many in the loosely-called Charismatic community. Perhaps you should give your readers the chance to research further such a movement and make their own decisions.”
#2 — “Thank you for responding sensitively to this issue.The so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ is true. I have experienced it first-hand — an overwhelming sense of God’s love for me. Such experience was liberating. Although I have not experienced the uncontrollable laughter as some have, I know of credible individuals who have.”
#3 — “I read your piece on ‘Holy Laughter.’ We have distributed three books on the subject through our small press distribution business. I’m intrigued by the fact that all three of these books are written by charismatic authors in opposition to the ‘Toronto Blessing’ and that my local Assembly of God and Foursquare pastor friends tend to dismiss this thing out of hand. If you’ll send me an address, I’d be happy to send you copies of a couple of the books.”
#4 — “You continue to amaze me. It is so refreshing to see an objective, biblical response to such sensitive arenas. Are you sure you are only 52 years old [in 1996]?”
#5 — “I have never been overwhelmed with holy laughter, but I have been present when others have been. Some of it is absolutely genuine. Some of it seems fake. However, the ratio is no higher than in my own Sunday morning service. Many ‘fake it’ every Sunday morning, they just don’t ‘fake it’ through loud laughter. Usually they ‘fake it’ through silence and non-participation. How quick we humans are to condemn more quickly and harshly something that doesn’t fit any of our religious boxes. If being in the presence of someone ‘faking it’ nulifies our worship, then I would guess that almost every Sunday morning worship time in America is a waste of time. Isn’t it wonderful that God just looks straight at our heart?”
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I agree with these respondents that God does not expect us to drown our brains when we are baptized — Paul urges us to be discerning, not gullible, and John warns us to test the spirits. I certainly expect my readers to do their own thinking. Surely it is also biblical counsel that we be slow to judge others.
Jesus makes plain that the worship God loves is “in spirit” (and/or Spirit) and “in truth.” Both terms require worship that is genuine and not faked. I repeat my original warning that the flesh seemingly tries to copy and mass-market every genuine experience of God’s touch — and the “Toronto blessing” is not exempt from that danger.