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Slain in the Spirit

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Being "slain in the Spirit" is a term used within charismatic Christianity. It describes a religious behaviour in which an individual falls to the floor.[1] This usually happens during an event they perceive as a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, often associated with the practice of laying on of hands.

Description

Being slain in the spirit is a practice where on occasions of public prayer ministry when the laying on of hands is practiced, church members or attendees may come forward to the front of the church to receive a special work of the Holy Spirit from the Pastor, service leader or a team of ministers.[2] Often a significant amount of time is spent singing and praying during the church service before this point. Attendees are then prayed over and touched by the service leader or leaders. They perceive the Spirit of God upon them, and they fall, usually onto their backs.[3] In most cases, their fall is broken by deacons, catchers, ushers or orderlies behind them to prevent injury. Beliefs associated with this phenomenon include divine healing, receiving visions, and hearing God speak.

As Thomas Csordas says: "In Charismatic ritual life, resting in the Spirit can serve the purposes of demonstrating divine power; of exhibiting the faith of those who are "open" to such power; of allowing a person to be close to, "touched by," or "spoken to" by God (sometimes via embodied imagery); of preparing a person to receive and exercise a spiritual gift; or of healing."[4]

History

Being slain in the Spirit was extremely common in early American (late eighteenth-century) Methodism, particularly at camp meetings and love feasts. Other names for the phenomenon are "falling over", "falling under the Spirit's power", "falling before the Lord" or "resting in the Spirit".

Biblical data

Whether voluntary or involuntary, "falling before the Lord" as a human response to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is seen by many charismatics as a phenomenon that is in harmony with the Scriptures. In the Bible, falling while in the presence of God was at times also accompanied by manifestations of trembling, physical weakness and deep sleep.

Instances of voluntarily falling before the Lord to worship or pray may be found in Genesis 17:3 and Joshua 5:14. References to voluntarily falling as the result of feeling overwhelmed by a divine presence are found in Numbers 22:31, Judges 13:20, Ezekiel 1:28, Ezekiel 3:23, Ezekiel 43:3, Ezekiel 44:4, Daniel 8:17 and Matthew 17:6. However, these verses seem to imply falling forward in humility, and it would seem there are no verses to imply falling upon being touched by someone. But there is one passage in the Bible where people "fall to the ground" just by hearing the words "I am He". That is when Judas has betrayed Jesus and the soldiers come to get Jesus. This is what it says in John 18:4-6; (4) 'Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them "Whom are you seeking?" (5) They answered Him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them "I am He." And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. (6) Now when He said to them "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.' (NKJV)

Instances of involuntarily falling before the Lord as the result of feeling overwhelmed by a divine presence are found in 1 Kings 8:10-11, Daniel 8:27, Daniel 10:8-11 (possibly implied), Acts 9:3-4 (also Acts 26:14) and Revelation 1:17.

Both voluntary and involuntary falling before the Lord can also occur as the result of a power encounter—a person feels that the power of God is overtaking the power of a demonic force that has sought to control or oppress him or her. References to falling in the context of power encounters are found in Mark 3:11, Mark 9:20 and Luke 8:28

Criticism

Some Christians argue that the practice is neither described nor prescribed in the Bible, and that it is, at best, a psychological phenomenon or, at worst, of satanic origin.[5] David Pawson points out [6] that the closest Biblical reference is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, which has a quite different connotation. Proponents of the practice consider that it cannot be satanic as it occurs in services centered around Satan's enemy, Jesus Christ.

Sociology of religion

Other sources of the phenomenon can be autosuggestion, peer pressure, or a desire to experience what others have experienced.[7]

Perhaps the most obvious sociological category is the "possession trance." [8] A similar state that could be described as religious ecstasy may occur in the rituals and dances of other religious and cultural traditions; for example Kundalini awakening.

References in culture

The 1967 film Holy Ghost People by Peter Adair documented an Appalachian Pentecostal church service in which several people are slain in the spirit.

In 2005, psychological illusionist Derren Brown performed a stunt, where he would gather a group of atheists, with the purpose of "converting" them. He would eventually ask the group to stand up and would cause them to fall back on their seats, by using intricate suggestive wording and gestures.

Further reading

God Struck Me Dead, Voices of Ex-Slaves by Clifton H. Johnson ISBN 0-8298-0945-7 - describes similar experiences in the accounts of nineteenth century African American spirituality.

See also

Notes

  1. P H Alexander in Stanley M Burgess and Eduard M van der Maas The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements s.v. “slain in the Spirit”
  2. Dr John F MacArthur Jr Charismatic Chaos: Signs and Wonders; Speaking in Tongues; Health, Wealth and Prosperity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993) 91
  3. Thomas J. Csordas The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997) 235
  4. Thomas J. Csordas The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997) 247
  5. Dr John F MacArthur Jr Charismatic Chaos: Signs and Wonders; Speaking in Tongues; Health, Wealth and Prosperity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993) 91
  6. Is the Blessing Biblical?, 1996, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 034066147X
  7. P H Alexander in Stanley M Burgess and Eduard M van der Maas New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements s.v. “slain in the Spirit”
  8. P H Alexander in Stanley M Burgess and Eduard M van der Maas New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements s.v. “slain in the Spirit”

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