One of the many things I struggle with regarding the Pentecostal/Charismatic church, is the practice of being ‘slain in the spirit.’
I can remember the first time I attended the Pentecostal church I foolishly ended up being involved with for many years. Whilst singing a range of hypnotic and repetitious songs, we were all called up to the front of the church, to the ‘altar’. The Pastor wanted to go around and pray for everyone personally and lay his hands on us. I’d never seen anything quite like it so I was a bit nervous. Up the front of that church there was no personal space. Someone was standing directly in front of me, almost leaning up against me and I was uncomfortable. I kept telling my husband I didn’t like it, but he wanted to stay and see what happened.
As the Pastor went around and touched everyone he’d give them a little push and most would fall backwards on the ground. The lady standing in front of me crumbled as soon as the Pastor went near her and she fell backwards onto me. It was like a freak show. I was surrounded by people falling to the ground, speaking in jibberish, some laughing or crying hysterically, and others making noises like a siren or a chicken. It was awful. Noticing my discomfort, several people assured me it was the power of the spirit slaying everyone backwards so they fell to the ground, or causing the behaviour more suited to an asylum. At a later stage, one of the men at church I really respected told me of his experiences at the Toronto Outpouring which he had attended years earlier. He said that if he hadn’t experienced it himself, he’d never have believed it. I asked him whether he could see any Biblical precedence for what he and others have experienced and continue experiencing on a weekly basis at church, and he said that it was the experience itself that validified it. That in itself is alarming.
One of my friends at church seemed to be slain in the spirit every single week so I asked her about her experiences. What should be obvious at this stage is that I found it to be ungodly. I could see no example of it in the Scriptures as being a blessing of God, and I believed it was fleshly. My friend quite shocked me at her explanation of why she fell backwards week after week. She said that she let herself fall backwards as she liked how it made her feel! Now that pushed me over the edge. That confirmed exactly how fleshly and humanistic it was. As for the others that fell backwards involuntarily, now that’s a whole different story.
The Bible does have some Biblical examples of falling backwards under God’s Spirit but they’re not quite what the Charismatics think. Falling backwards is a sign of God’s judgement, NOT His blessing. Let’s look at some of the Scriptures.
1 Samuel 4:18 ‘As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.’
John 18: 6 ‘When Jesus2 said to them, “I am he,”they drew back and fell to the ground’. These were unbelievers. When the stood back up they were still unbelievers and still there to arrest Christ.
Isaiah 28:13 And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Interestingly enough, in the Bible, when someone falls during worship, or when they are touched by God, they fall FORWARD or bow in submission to God.
Ezekiel 1:28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.’
Philippians 2:10-11 ‘so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
Daniel 4:8-11 ‘So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground. And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.”
There are many other examples of people in the Bible falling, but not one of them has fallen because the Lord wants them to lie on their back feeling good — not one. Each and every time it is either because of judgement, or falling forward in humble submission and absolute reverence. In the many years I spent in the charismatic movement, not once did I see anyone lie on their face in submission or humility. It was always about getting the blessing and feeling good. How humanistic and vain! I pray that if you are one of those people that believes that being slain in the spirit is from God, that you have a good long hard read of the Scriptures and readjust your attitude. It’s not about us, it never is. It should always be about bringing glory to God. We are blessed enough simply to have breath in our lungs, a heart that beats, and the miracle of salvation.