on the so called 'Toronto Blessing'
1. To what extend do you
now view the Toronto Blessing as a work of God?
It is my contention that the wave of interest in
what came to be known as "The Toronto Blessing" reflects a subtle but
significant move away from sound doctrine. Based on the writings of its proponents,
it is clear that the Bible has been neglected, distorted, and superseded by strange
doctrines and novel teaching based on extra-biblical revelation. This has led
to the uncritical acceptance of an existential theology compromised by worldly
values. Under the guise of a supposed "move of God", a major paradigm
shift has occurred away from the Biblical faith traditionally recognised and embraced
by Evangelicals and into the realm of the cultic and heretical. The
roots of the Toronto Blessing lie not in the Bible but deep within the 'Health
and Wealth' prosperity Word of Faith movement associated with Rodney Howard-Browne
and Benny Hinn.
According to Alpha magazine (July 1994), the "authorised" account
of the events leading to the "Toronto Blessing" are that John Arnott,
the pastor of the Toronto Vineyard church, was searching for "a fresh spiritual
anointing" and so attended a meeting led by Benny Hinn, a neo-Pentecostal
"Faith teacher" infamous for his claim that God revealed to him that
there are nine in the Trinity. Benny Hinn's particular emphasis is upon a powerful
"anointing" he is able to bestow simply by blowing on people and according
to Guy Chevreau, by 1992, Arnott and Hinn had known each other for many years
in Toronto and at that time Arnott had "longed for a similar kind of empowerment"
as Hinn demonstrated. A year later, Arnott was also attracted to the "Holy
laughter" ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne. (Chevreau, 1994:22-23)
Randy Clark, another "key figure in the Airport Vineyard Renewal" received
his anointing through Rodney Howard-Browne at Kenneth Hagin's "Rhema"
church. In the Alpha article (July 1994), Clark admitted having had reservations
over "theological differences" with Hagin. However, he believed the
Holy Spirit rebuked him saying, "how badly do you want to be touched afresh?"
So Clark and Arnott, leaders of the Toronto Vineyard Fellowship went in search
of spiritual blessings from men whose teachings have been criticised as heretical
According to the Church Times (23 September 1994), the "strange things"
which occurred in Toronto, "happened after a visit by Rodney Howard-Browne."
Subsequently, the manifestations of hysterical laughter, growling, shaking, and
falling associated with Howard-Browne and Hinn's ministry were experienced not
only at the Toronto Vineyard Church, but as Vineyard leaders and lay people visited
the church from around the world, they too received an anointing, and the manifestations
spread to their churches as well.
If Randy Clark's blessing had its origin in the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne
at Hagin's church, and John Arnott's at the hands of Benny Hinn, another of Hagin's
disciples and a close friend, the origin of this phenomena must seriously be questioned.
2. How do you now regard the 'Blessing' in terms of a)
renewal b) revival
Advocates of the Toronto Blessing implied or explicitly stated at the time
that they believed this to be evidence of revival. Holy Trinity Brompton and Alpha
Magazine were among the foremost. For examples, see, "A Mighty wind from
Toronto - The word "revival" is on everyone's lips" HTB Focus,
June 12, 1994, p3; Dave Roberts, "Rumours of Revival", Alpha Magazine,
July 1994, p.25: "Revival Fire" & "Revival Call", Alpha
Magazine, August 1994, pp.14-17; 32-34; "Rodney Howard-Browne - the man
behind global revival" & "Signs of Revival?", Alpha Magazine,
December 1994, pp.5-7. Guy Chevreau also took this line in his book, The Toronto
Blessing - An Experience of Renewal and Revival, (Marshall Pickering, 1994).
Speaking at the Wembley meeting with Rodney Howard-Browne on 13th December 1994,
Gerald Coates testified, "Describing these "Toronto" events
as "revival"... He said, "This is perhaps the greatest outpouring
of God in our land ever." Evangelicals Now, (February 1995, p.9)
Despite such a preoccupation with revival it is important to note that the noun
"revival" does not actually appear in the Bible. The verbs "revive"
and "reviving" are used, in the Old Testament, to describe the action
of God following his punishment, and His people's repentance (Psalm 80:18; 85:6,
Isaiah 57:15; Hosea 6:2). In Psalm 19:7 it is associated with the Law of God and
in many verses in Psalm 119 with meditating on the Word of God. There are no references
in the New Testament. A fact we would do well to note.
Probably the most common interpretation is that the Toronto Blessing was evidence
of "renewal". This term is, however, not without its problems in contemporary
usage. The term "renewal" appears four times in the Bible, in each case
in very specific ways. In Job 14:14 it relates to the day of resurrection; in
Isaiah 57:10 from gaining strength from pagan worship rather than trusting in
God; In Matthew 19:28 Jesus uses the word to describe what will happen when He
returns to sit in judgement. The word "renewal" is used once to describe
the Christian, in Titus 3:5, and there very clearly it has to do with regeneration,
and "rebirth", not a subsequent event. "He saved us, not because
of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through
the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." The concept of
"being renewed" as a present tense experience is found in Romans 12:2,
but refers not to our spirits or our bodies, but to our minds. Similarly, 2 Corinthians
4:16 describes "renewing" as a continual daily process by which we are
becoming more like Christ. While our physical bodies are "decaying",
or wearing out, our inner nature is being "renewed". There is no sense
therefore in which the word here could be taken to refer to physical healing.
Some Christians equate the word "renewal" with "receiving"
the Spirit subsequent to conversion, evidenced by unintelligible sounds or "tongues".
Mike Fearon for instance, refers to churches holding "receiving meetings"
when the "Toronto Blessing" is apparently bestowed (Fearon, 1994: 248).
To believe or teach that Christians need to pray to receive the Spirit is, however,
quite fallacious. The Scriptures clearly teach that a person cannot be a Christian
without the presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). The theological interpretation
of Pentecost, as a unique historical event, is explained in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
"For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or
Greeks, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.".
Notice that Paul describes a corporate, past tense event, not something to be
sought. There is no sense biblically therefore by which the Toronto Blessing can
be associated with either the word 'revival' or 'renewal'.
3. To what extend do you now regard the manifestations
associated with the 'Blessing' as biblical?
The Toronto Blessing became particularly notorious, at least in the secular
press, for the claims made that people were 'drunk in the Spirit' and manifested
the presence of the Holy Spirit through animal noises, roaring, shaking and other
3.1 Drunk in the Spirit?
It was repeatedly claimed by advocates that the drunken behaviour associated
with the Toronto Blessing paralleled events witnessed on the Day of Pentecost
recorded in Acts 2. The biblical text, however, shows that the only sign which
could have given rise to this accusation was an eagerness and boldness on the
part of the Apostles to publicly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. This was
preached in clearly understood languages. Those who ridiculed the Apostles with
the accusation that they were drunk, were hearing the Gospel and presumably rejecting
it. Their criticism was the excuse of a guilty conscience and unfounded. It is
significant that no biblical commentator interprets the text as teaching that
the Apostles actually displayed drunken behaviour, that is, prior to the wishful
eisegesis of the advocates of the Toronto Blessing. Logically, on the same basis,
they must also presumably believe that the Lord Jesus spoke with slurred speech,
staggered about or rolled on the floor, since He too was criticised for drunkenness.
"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say "He has
a demon." The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Here
is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners""
(Matthew 11:18-19). Jesus' rebuke is clear, "Wisdom is proved right
by her actions". Undeterred, there have been numerous, well publicised
reports, of people supposedly being "intoxicated" in the Spirit, unable
to walk or drive a car as a result of this so called "blessing". Mike
Fearon, for example, quotes advocates as being "legless", and "merrily
sozzled" and of "having a skinful of the Holy Spirit" (p.26), and
the "undiluted 100 percent proof Spirit" (p.27). It is surely grievous
to hear that "The Holy Spirit doesn't simply come so that people can become
"pissed as newts", (p.28). Does He ever? What remains unanswered is
the question as to how all this is compatible with "self control", one
of the fruit of the Spirit. There is plainly a contradiction between the teaching
of Scripture and these experiences.
Merely calling these experiences "altered states of consciousness",
as Patrick Dixon does to justify them, will not do (Church Times, 2 June
1995, p.7) . Without self control we have no defence against the Devil. The Apostle
Peter warns, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls
around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8).
Indeed, Peter says if we are not self controlled and clear headed we cannot be
in communion with God. "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded
and self-controlled so that you can pray." (1 Peter 4:7).
3.2 Laughter in the Spirit?
Joy is indeed a fruit of the Spirit, and there is no excuse for glum Christians.
However, throughout the Bible, the great majority of references to laughter are
associated with scorn, derision or evil. Of 40 references in the Bible, (34 in
the Old Testament and 6 in the New testament), 22 of them refer to scornful laughter.
Of the other 18, seven refer exclusively to Abraham and Sarah's initial disbelief
and astonishment that God would give them a child in old age. Only three refer
to authentic laughter in the New Testament and all three warn against laughter
(Luke 6:21; 6:25 and James 4:9, where we are told specifically not to laugh!)
"Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter into mourning and your joy
into gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will life you up".
(James 4:9-10) A number of observations can be made, based on the Scriptural record
and the practice of advocates of what has been termed "Holy" laughter".
These are taken from an article entitled, "Holy Laughter or Strong Delusion?"
by Warren Smith, SCP Newsletter (Fall 1994, Volume 19:2, pp1-13).
There is no biblical precedent for "holy" laughter... Substituting
the word joy for laughter is a non sequitur. It is inaccurate and misleading.
"Holy" laughter advocates rarely, if ever, discuss the need to "test
the spirits"... or the dangers of demonic deception. "Many laughter
advocates condescendingly discourage and even openly intimidate sincere Christians
who question the "laughing revival"...The Hunter's book "Holy Laughter"
refers to sceptics as "God's frozen chosen." Mona Johnian writes, "sceptics,
hesitators and procrastinators do not get anointed." She warns "that
any person or church that wavered could be eliminated."... "Holy"
laughter advocates blatantly disregard the biblical admonition that things be
done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40) (Smith, 1994, 1-13)
Jo Gardner finds a similar observation in the writings of Watchman Nee, to the
presence of laughter in the church in China,
They could not contain themselves and kept on laughing. What is this? Can this
possibly be the fullness of the Spirit? No, this is plainly one of the works of
the soul. (The Latent Power of the Soul p.71 by Watchman Nee quoted in The
Churchman Vol.109, no.1, 1995)
3.3 Roaring in the Spirit?
At the peak of the controversy surrounding the Toronto Blessing, Mark Dupont,
one of the prophetic leaders of the then Toronto Vineyard Fellowship, wrote specifically
about the "roaring" or growling phenomenon associated with the Toronto
Blessing. In a paper entitled, "1994: The Year of the Lion" published
by Mantle of Praise Ministries Incorporated, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada,
Dupont insisted that Amos 3:8 applies to today, and
that it is the Lord God who has inspired the "roaring" phenomenon.
"The lion has roared-- who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken-- who
can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8)
He writes, "There have been many people who have been roaring as lions
in the meetings as the Spirit of God has come on them." A cursory reading
of the context (Amos 3:1-4) shows that in this, as in just about every other reference
to "roaring" in the Scriptures, this was a sign of God's judgement of
Israel, and their imminent punishment. Any good Bible concordance shows conclusively
that references to "roar," "roaring" and "roared"
found in the context of a lion have to do with the presence of evil, of destruction,
and, when applied to the Lord God, refers to His impending judgement of sin, not
With the same lack of regard for Scripture, Mike Fearon asserts that "roaring
people are usually intercessors involved in promoting unity" (A Breath
of Fresh Air 1994: p.99). The bankruptcy of Dupont's exegetical abilities
is evident when he has to quote from the fictional story, "The Lion, the
Witch and the Wardrobe," by C.S. Lewis, to explain the reason for this apparently
new way of Divine working. Referring to something "Aslan" the lion says
in the book, Dupont asserts, "This in essence is the revelation that the
bride of Christ needs today...." I suspect Dupont and others caught up
in the roaring phenomenon have been influenced more by Walt Disney's film "The
Lion King" than with the Spirit of God. Clifford Hill comments on reports
linking this "Blessing" with people making roaring animal noises.
The Sunday Telegraph reported an Anglican bishop in Toronto rolling on the
floor and roaring like a lion. A Pentecostal pastor attended a church in Brighton
(said to be one of the first congregations in Britain to receive the new laughter
phenomenon) and reported on a three and a half hour service on 19 June... [including]
constant repetition of triumphalist songs declaring "We are going to take
the land, subdue the nation and present it to Christ." At one point a young
man shouted "The beast is dead! The beast is dead!" which was greeted
with much screaming and shouting culminating in a growing crescendo of the whole
congregation growling. After this the elder leading the service told visitors
not to worry about the growl as "it always happens here."(PWM Team
Ministries, November 1994)
Clifford Hill points out that the prophet Jeremiah associates "roaring like
a lion", with the occult spirit of Babylon, and their shouts of laughter
as a sign of their impending destruction.
"Babylon will be a heap of ruins... an object of horror and scorn, a place
where no one lives. Her people all roar like young lions, they growl like lion
cubs. But while they are aroused, I will set out a feast for them and make them
drunk, so that they shout with laughter--then sleep forever and not awake,"
says the LORD."I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter."
Ignoring this warning of judgement, Dupont equates the Toronto Blessing with what
he describes as "a party the Father is throwing," an idea taken
from the Parable of the Lost Son. Others have similarly compared it with a banquet.
This is actually a form of "realised eschatology" where promises that
relate to the future are applied to the present. The Scriptures teach that the
"marriage supper of the Lamb" will be in heaven in the future, not now,
on earth (Isaiah 25:6-9). Yes, there is joy and times of celebration now, but
essentially the Christian calling is one of battle and toil (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians
4:7-18; Rom 8:19-25; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter
2:21). We look forward to the banquet with sure and certain hope (Revelation 19:7-9).
Most worrying of all, Dupont's paper is littered with biblical references to Divine
judgement which he insists will fall on those who doubt or question that this
movement is a work of God. It is very disturbing to find so-called Christians
speaking in this way of other believers. Dupont refers to, or quotes from, an
amazing array of passages to silence criticism. These include 1 Kings 13:4 (the
unbelieving King got a withered arm); Judges 1:2; Judges 20:18; Proverbs 6; Isaiah
58; 2 Cor 3:6; Malachi 3:16; 2 Kings 5:26 (Gehazi's disobedience led to leprosy);
1 Kings 13:26 (the disobedient prophet was killed by a lion); Ephesians 4:30;
James 4:5; John 15:2 (the branch cut off); Jeremiah 6:14; 8:14; Isaiah 42:13,16.
In fact the entire paper seems to be designed to do just that-silence criticism.
Dupont is at least honest when he says, with reference to the story of the prophet
mauled by a lion, "This may sound like a harsh Old Testament story for Christians
today, but I believe this is really a picture of God's jealousy over those that
He gives revelation of Himself to." Perhaps Dupont ought to read John 10:27-30
(in relation to our security) and Revelation 22:18 (in relation to all these new
3.4 The Bible and the Manifestations of Toronto
On the basis of a careful analysis of all the biblical references to drunkenness,
shaking, roaring or laughter it is quite clear that, not withstanding glowing
testimonies, there is no biblical basis for the manifestations associated with
the Toronto Blessing. Perhaps this is why proponents have attempted to avoid such
For example, "Howard-Browne disparages those who try and apply a theological
test to his methods.", writes Julia Duin, in Charisma, (August
1994, p.26), "You can't understand what God is doing in these meetings
with an analytical mind," he says. "The only way you're going to understand
what God is doing is with your heart."
While it is true that the genuine work of God affects our heart as well as
our mind, it is worrying that like the "Faith Teaching" cultists, some
Christians appear to downgrade the mind as the primary means of discerning truth
from error. The Scriptures repeatedly warn us to "be on your guard",
and to use our minds to understand God's will. (see Rom 12:1-2; Eph 4:17-24; 5:17-18;
Col 1:21-22; 3:10; 1 Tim 6:3-4; 2 Tim 2:15; 4:1-4; 2 Pet 2:1-3).
Dave Roberts in The Toronto Blessing, disparages the example of the noble
Bereans in Acts 17:11 who, "examined the Scriptures every day to see if
what Paul said was true" . Under the title "Explain, explain, explain",
Roberts tells us that "It is vital we help our congregational Bereans
and those simply shocked by the new and different and that we seek to remind people
of appropriate scriptures" (1994:138). Roberts is clearly criticising
those who want to justify everything from the Scriptures. But the Berean Christians
are praised not pitied by Luke. They are held up as the norm, as a universal model,
not a weak or narrow group of biblicists to be found in most congregations, as
Roberts implies. At best the hermeneutic used by advocates of Toronto is unconvincing,
at worst it is appalling. It is frankly an "Alice in Wonderland" hermeneutic
- words can mean what ever they want them to because they have had an experience.
Spiritual experiences have a vital place in the Christian life but must always
be weighed and tested according to the Scriptures, not other extra-biblical revelations.
This is precisely what Mike Fearon does in A Breath of Fresh Air . Ironically,
he quotes extensively from my own criticisms of the Toronto Movement and apparently
concedes the wisdom of caution where "the church appears to be experiencing
phenomena which goes beyond the parameters set down in Scripture". Fearon
then, however, completely ignores such authoritative Biblical teaching by saying,
"Yet if it is the Spirit himself who is transcending these barriers, what
can the church do?" (1994:157). But in so reasoning, Fearon assumes
to be true (on the basis of experience or extra-biblical revelation), the very
point in question. Surely such "logic" sets in contradiction the work
of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures which He inspired. Such reasoning destroys
any basis for rational discussion on the meaning and interpretation of God's Word,
for at any point where the basis for unusual phenomena is questioned, appeal can
be made to "discernment" or experience to justify it. This is in reality
merely a modern and more insidious incarnation of the "higher knowledge"
of the 3rd century Gnostic heresy.
According to Eleanor Mumford, on her now infamous tape, the Vineyard leaders at
Toronto told her "not to analyse or question this, but just receive it...
or you will lose it". Precisely, because in the light of Scripture it
is exposed for what it is. There we are specifically commanded to test the spirits
(1 John 4:1), and refute error and uncritical thinking such as advocated here.
4. What is your assessment of the place of the 'Blessing'
within churches today?
With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the 'Toronto Blessing' was
a major distraction from the evangelistic mandate and a cause of great confusion
and division within Evangelical and Charismatic circles.
5. Does the 'Blessing' have a future, or was it only for a 'season'?
The question assumes too much. The Toronto Blessing was neither for
a season nor has a future other than to show the perils of basing our Christian
faith on experience rather than the sure Word of God.
6. What lessons can be learnt
from the 'Blessing' for the future?
What are we to make of the "Toronto Blessing"?
Some people say they have a greater love for God as a consequence of this "blessing".
My conclusions do not nullify experiences people may have had, but they are sufficient
to warn us not to accept, uncritically, every wind of doctrine blowing across
the Atlantic, any more than we would from the Doctrine Commission of the Church
of England! It must also be said that many of so called "testimonies"
I have listened to in person or on tape or video focus on the phenomena, the "experience"
and are highly subjective, speaking of a resultant "greater love" or
"greater zeal" for God, something which it is impossible to assess objectively.
John Richardson makes this helpful assessment.
We need to ask in conclusion not whether the Toronto
Blessing might be something God is doing nor whether it is changing peoples' lives,
but whether it is consistent with the biblical theology of the blessing of God
and the work of the Holy Spirit. The essence of the work of the Holy Spirit will
be the Holy life, and for this we do not have to pass through the Toronto Blessing.
Rather we need to immerse ourselves more and more in the whole counsel of the
gospel which is sufficient for our relationship with God. This is the teaching
of the rest of Galatians, and I would suggest it is the consistent teaching of
the whole of Scripture. And if the preaching of the whole of Scripture on the
basis that Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil
age is not adequate to bring the Toronto Blessing to those who hear with faith,
then whatever does bring the Toronto Blessing is another gospel and whatever it
brings is not the blessing promised Abraham, nor a result of receiving the Holy
Spirit. (From a talk given at a conference "Toronto Blessing? It's OK
to ask Questions" at St Andrew's Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, 16th September
It seems very easy to spot a "Gospel minus"
heresy and we love to condemn Bishops who deny fundamental Christian doctrines.
It is not so easy, and I fear Evangelicals and Charismatics are not so willing,
to contest teaching which in effect is a "Gospel plus" heresy, especially
when uttered by those who claim "Jesus is Lord". That is what we are
offered in the "Toronto Blessing", more than God has promised. The Gospel
has been likened to a canoe perfectly capable of carrying us through life to heaven.
But if we try and add baggage we will sink the canoe just as quickly as by punching
holes in it. The effect of adding to the Gospel is the same as taking away from
it. John Richardson continues.
But could it not be claimed that the Toronto Blessing
is a blessing beyond the simple blessings of the gospel? Could it not be, as Michael
Green has also suggested, God's way of by-passing our rationalism and reaching
the parts other approaches - such as gospel preaching - haven't reached?
This is perhaps the hardest claim to answer
in support of the Toronto Blessing. To deny it seems to deny either the power
or the sovereignty of God. And yet, as we said at the outset, one vital function
of systematic theology is to insist that, whilst God can do anything he doesn't
The blessing of which Paul speaks in Galatians
3, the blessing which may be summed up as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit even
on the Gentiles, is the blessing God promised to Abraham and it is received through
hearing the gospel with faith. So we must say that any blessing which goes beyond
the blessing promised to Abraham, and any blessing which comes by some other means
than hearing the gospel with faith, is a blessing too far because, as Paul points
out in Galatians 1, it must come from "a different gospel". (From
a talk given at a conference "Toronto Blessing? It's OK to ask Questions"
at St Andrew's Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, 16th September 1995
It does seem most unfortunate, even embarrassing, that
media reports of "a Time of Refreshment" coincided with a period of
almost apocalyptic suffering in places like Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Bosnia.
The Scriptures give us no warrant for believing that the evangelistic mandate
and call to compassionate service has been revoked in these 'last days', replaced
by egocentric and introverted ecstatic experiences of laughter, animal noises,
shaking and falling to the floor.J. I. Packer, in Laid-Back
Religion, makes this perceptive analysis of what he terms "Hot Tub Religion".
"Hot tub religion....attempts to harness the
power of God to the priorities of self-centredness. Feelings of pleasure and comfort,
springing from pleasant circumstances and soothing experiences, are prime goals
these days, and much popular Christianity on both sides of the Atlantic tries
to oblige us by manufacturing them for us.... Now we can see hot tub religion
for what it is - Christianity corrupted by the passion for pleasure....Symptoms
of hot tub religion today include...an overheated supernaturalism that seeks signs,
wonders, visions, prophecies, and miracles; constant soothing syrup from electronic
preachers and the liberal pulpit; anti-intellectual sentimentalism and emotional
"highs" deliberately cultivated, the Christian equivalent of cannabis
and coca." ( 1989: p.53,58)
The Toronto Blessing is representative of a sub-Christian
movement in which the basis of faith has shifted from the historic Jesus of the
cross to the present "spirit" of personal experience. This is existential
Gnostic heresy. Subjective experience must never take precedence over objective
fact. Faith means "I trust", not "I feel".
In this and in every generation what is at stake is
the truth of the Gospel and the unity of the Body of Christ. This unity can only
be maintained, not created. It is maintained as we remain faithful to the faith
once received, according to the Scriptures.
Dr Francis Schaeffer wrote an emotive book shortly before
his death, entitled The Great Evangelical Disaster. In it he speaks of
a "watershed" dividing evangelicals. On the one side are those who hold
"to a strong uncompromising view of Scripture" (1985: p.46),
and those who hold what he terms a "Neo-orthodox existential theology.....The
heart of neo-orthodox existential theology is that the Bible gives us a quarry
out of which to have religious experience.." (p.49). The watershed, for
Schaeffer, is between a theology based on "an inner feeling" and one
based on "objective truth".
"It is surprising to see how clearly the liberal,
neo-orthodox way of thinking is reflected in the new weakened evangelical view...By
placing a radical emphasis on subjective human experience, existentialism undercuts
the objective side of experience. For the existentialist it is an illusion to
think that we can know anything truly....all we have is subjective experience,
with no final basis for right or wrong or truth or beauty." (p.51,53)
In an article published in United Evangelical Action
(Fall, 1976), Schaeffer went on to challenge Evangelicals to take a stand on this
"You cannot wait for others to draw the line.
You must draw the line. Will it be with tears? I hope it will be with tears. I
remember as a young man in the 1930's when harshness and un-love reigned, but
harshness and un-love do not need to reign when the line is drawn. It can be with
tears and it can be with love. But unless those who have responsibility of leadership
are willing to draw the line, they cut the ground from under the Church of our
Lord Jesus Christ." (1976, p.4)
In drawing the line there are three specific things
we must do.
6.1 Understand Christian Doctrine
The chief single reason for the success of the cults in general, and the Toronto
Blessing in particular, is the spiritual naiveté and ignorance of the Word
of God among Christians. Too many are content with a superficial knowledge of
the Scriptures, the means by which God has revealed Himself. This is made worse
by the prevalence of an arrogant and over confident reliance on spiritual discernment
which allegedly keeps one impervious to deception. More common still is the unspoken
and naive belief that only other people are deceived by cults.
We must instead give ourselves to a life-long and detailed study of Scriptures
and the doctrines they contain. Theology is simply right thinking about God, something
we should approach reverently and systematically. In this regard I warmly commend
Bruce Milne's book Know the Truth (IVP, 1992), and the older classic work
by T.C. Hammond, In Understanding be Men (IVP).
We live at a time when doctrine is seen as a dirty word and down played in favour
of ecstatic religious experiences of dubious origin. This is utter foolishness
and plays into the hands of cultic wolves who prowl the edges of the flock. Are
you daily spending unhurried time in the Word of God? You can't be physically
healthy on one meal a week, nor can you be spiritually healthy on one sermon a
week. Grow up into maturity by becoming familiar with the Maker's Instructions,
as one who feeds on and applies the very Word of God (Matthew 4:4).
6.2 Separate from Spiritual
The Apostle Paul was most emphatic when he warned
the Ephesians, and Timothy, to have nothing to do with "godless myths".
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness,
but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11) Have nothing to do with godless
myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy
Advocates of the Toronto Blessing have said to me,
"But you make it sound so black and white... but many Christians seem
to have been helped by this movement." I agree that it is not all "black
and white". My argument is that a little cancer is too much, a little adultery
is still adultery, a little AIDS infection is enough to infect the whole body.
The apostle Paul knew the devastating influence of just a little error.
Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?
(1 Corinthians 5:6)
He defines the bread without yeast as that of "sincerity and truth"
(1 Corinthians 5:8) Sincerity is never enough. That is surely why Jesus warned
so strongly against the subtle but pervading influence of false teaching.
Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast
of the Pharisees and Sadducees...Then they understood that he was not telling
them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the
Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12)
Ultimately we may disagree as to the extent of error in the roots, teaching and
manifestations associated with the Toronto Blessing, but error there clearly is,
and that is sufficient reason for disassociating from it, no matter how tantalising
the apparent fruit.
Nor is true that we cannot speak critically of false doctrine unless we have read
everything offered by particular heretics or cults. We need only become familiar
with the truth of God's Word and error becomes plain. The argument that, "You
cannot know it until you have tried it" is a satanic doctrine, and the
very one used to subvert Eve and bring the terrible cancer of sin into the world.
We must watch out for heretical teaching not just outside the Church from well
defined cult organisations, but also within the Church. God has forbidden contact
with those who teach error.
Spiritual exhibitionists abound, touting new revelations and the Christian media
seem only too willing to play along with their charades and make a fat profit
in the process. We are commanded not to give ourselves to these things but rather
"to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching"
(1 Timothy 4:13). Furthermore we are called upon to, Be diligent in these matters;
give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (1 Timothy
We cannot float through life on a permanent spiritual high, or on a wave of existential
euphoria. Rather we are commanded again and again to be careful, take heed, watch
out, remember. We are to be wise and sober, and at all times to,
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring
lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
6.3 Contend For The Truth
The Lord calls upon us to earnestly contend for the faith, in the face of
satanic adversaries (Jude 3). Sometimes, as happened between Paul and Peter, this
may even mean coming to a point of contention with friends and associates where
the truth of the gospel is at stake (Galatians 2:11).
Indeed Jesus Christ Himself had on one occasion to turn to His beloved friend
and say "Get behind me, Satan" (Matthew 16:23). The true servant of
Jesus Christ must be careful that his allegiance is absolute. By comparison, all
human relationships are relative.
I believe the Lord is testing the Western Church at this time, for its infatuation
with "health and wealth", and titillation by "signs and wonders".
The extent to which this book is taken seriously, and the truth which it reveals
is heeded, will be a good indication of how the wider Church will fare in these
trying times. We would do well to heed the Scriptural warning.
"If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces
to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has
spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you
have not known) "and let us worship them," You must not listen to the
words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out
whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy
The first principle of the universe is truth and this must be defended even at
the cost of our lives. We live in a relativist culture which values tolerance
and mutual respect more highly than truth. Our spiritual sentiments, and this
is probably the most sentimental age in the history of the Church, would therefore
lead us many times to feel that to contend for the faith of the gospel is somehow
eccentric, unspiritual or undignified. Nothing could be further from the truth.
God warns a few verses later in Deuteronomy not to be influenced even by friendship
or personal loyalty when the truth is at stake.
Do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or
shield him. (Deuteronomy 13:8)
The Apostle Paul was similarly very serious when he likened us to soldiers of
the cross, describing in detail the armour we must wear in order to contend for
the truth (Ephesians 6:10-20). Here Paul equates the "mighty power"
of God not with signs and wonders but with the truth and righteousness, with the
gospel and faith, and above all, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word
of God... Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given
me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, (Ephesians
We are indeed soldiers of Christ. The world is a battleground.
The struggle is between truth and error. Our only weapon is the sword of the Spirit,
the Word of God. May God enable you to handle it more accurately as a workman
who need never be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). Become a person who knows well and
lives by the Word of God. Know the truth and the truth will set you free (John
Martin Luther once said,
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion
of the truth except precisely that little point which the world and the devil
are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may
be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier
is proved and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides, is mere flight and
disgrace if he flinches at that point." (Schaeffer, 1985:51)
David Breese Know the Marks of the Cults,
Victor: Wheaton, 1986
Walter Chantry Signs of an Apostle, Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 1976
Guy Chevreau Catch the Fire, Marshall Pickering, 1994
Curtis Crenshaw Man as God-The Word of Faith Movement, Footstool, 1993
Patrick Dixon Signs of Revival, Kingsway, 1994
Robert Doyle Signs and Wonders and Evangelicals, Lancer, 1987
Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, 1994
Mike Fearon A Breath of Fresh Air, Eagle, 1994
Jo Gardner & Rachel Tingle
"Ticket to Toronto" The Churchman, vol. 109, no.1, 1995
Wayne Grudem Power & Truth, The Association of Vineyard Churches, 1993
Hank Hanegraaff Christianity in Crisis, Nelson Word, 1995
Clifford Hill And They Shall Prophesy, Marshall Pickering, 1990
Benny Hinn Good Morning Holy Spirit, Word, 1991
Michael Horton Power Religion, Scripture Press, 1992
Dave Hunt The Seduction of Christianity, Harvest House, 1987
Phillip Jensen John Wimber-Friend or Foe?, St Matthias Press: London, 1990
John MacArthur Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1992
Gary McHale & Michael Haykin
The Toronto Blessing: A Renewal from God? Canadian Christian Publishers, 1995
Alan Morrison The Serpent and the Cross, K & M, 1994
J.I. Packer Laid-Back Religion, Inter-Varsity Press, 1989
Dave Roberts The Toronto Blessing, Kingsway. 1994
Francis Schaeffer The Great Evangelical Disaster, Kingsway, 1985
James Sire The Universe Next Door, IVP, 1988
The Toronto Blessing : A Critical
This brief critique grew out of a series of papers produced
for his own congregations on this perplexing and divisive issue. In these Stephen
has concentrated on the theological roots of this movement, and the biblical
hermeneutic used to justify the phenomena associated with it.
In December 1994, Stephen was asked to debate with
Sandy Millar and Nicky Gumbal before the Church of England Evangelical Council
on the significance of the "Toronto Blessing". That same month he
participated in a 24 hour Consultation on the subject under the auspices of
the Evangelical Alliance. He and Rob Warner drafted the agreed statement signed
by those participating. In the Spring of 1995 Stephen contributed to a video
entitled "Rumours of Revival" produced by Nelson Word and in October
1995, addressed the Annual Rally of the Church Society at Westminster Central
Hall on this subject. In 1997 he contributed to a video series produced by National
Prayer Network exposing the errors of the Signs and Wonders Movement. A
more detailed critique of the so called 'Toronto Blessing' and related manifestations
is available from his web site under 'articles and papers': www.virginiawater.co.uk/christchurch