Perspective on Unusual Manifestations Attributed to the Holy Spirit
by Pastor Ken Parrish

I have been in the charismatic movement for over twenty years, so I am no stranger to the unusual manifestations associated with pentecostalism/revival movements and attributed to the Holy Spirit. I have seen it all, and done much of it myself! In the late 1980's I began to question many of the extra biblical manifestations I was seeing and promoting. Up until that time, even as a Pastor, I had often believed whatever someone else said about the scriptures or their experience was true without checking to see what the Bible said for myself. Like most Christians, I assumed if a televangelist said it or did it, it must be God! And yet I always had an uneasy feeling about the things I would see, even in my own ministry. And in services (especially Minister's meetings), I always felt great pressure to perform (dance, run, fall down, etc.) for fear of being thought of as unspiritual if I didn't have the same experiences or do the same things as everybody else. Thank God, He has delivered me (and continues to deliver me) from what people (even other ministers) think. I made a decision several years ago, that the Lord could do whatever He wanted to do to me - knock me down, throw me across the room, whatever - but I was not going to be pressured into doing something in the flesh to "fit in" ever again. Since that time I've been prayed for by well known ministers such as Randy Clark, Rodney Howard-Browne, ministers from Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, associates from Kenneth Hagin's ministry, and others, and have never felt or manifested anything physically. (I have been coached as to "how to receive", and even pushed a few times!)

My concern is that people are being misled into thinking that an emotional experience is the same as being touched by God. I fear that on the basis of an emotional experience, people will think they have received something from God that they in fact did not receive, and that when reality sets in, they will become discouraged with Christianity and reject their one and only Savior!

And so the purpose of this article is to search for the truth concerning the unusual manifestations of pentecostalism/revival movements and attributed to the Holy Spirit, examining them in the light of the word of God. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, "If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Psalm 119:160a says, "The sum of thy word is truth". Therefore, to walk in the word is to walk in truth. To go beyond the word is to walk in error. We cannot go wrong by staying with the Word. Anything that agrees with the word of God is the spirit of truth. Anything that goes beyond the word, we must assume on the basis of the Word, is the spirit of error.

So what's going on? Are these unusual manifestations of God or not? To know the truth, we must look at them in the light of the word of God. God's word is truth! God has given us His word as a guideline so that we don't have to wonder what is of God and what is not. Refusing to test all things by the standard of the Word opens us up to spiritual deception. Someone might ask, "Can't the Spirit do things beyond the Word?", to which we must answer yes, He can, He's God! But a better question is "would He?", and I believe the answer is no, because I believe the Spirit will stay within the guidelines of scripture so that we won't have to wonder if something is of Him or not. God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33). We'll compare the manifestations some people have claimed to experience in church meetings with what happened in the Bible, using the scriptures they offer as proof texts to support their belief that these manifestations are produced by the Holy Spirit. We will find that these proof text scriptures typically require assumption, stretching, or misinterpretation in order to make then appear to be describing the manifestations people are claiming to have had. We will first define the manifestation, then consider the scriptures.


This is being overcome by the Spirit and laughing uncontrollably. (It should be pointed out that the fruit of the Spirit is self control. It should also be pointed out that just calling something holy does not make it holy!) The first two passages we'll consider are Gen. 17:15-17 and Gen. 18:11-15. These two passages describe Abraham and Sarah's reaction to being told they would have a son late in life. Doubting, they both laughed at what they considered ridiculous. But their laughter was the result of their circumstances, not the result of being overcome by the Holy Spirit.

The next passage is Gen. 21:1-6, when Isaac is born. This is certainly a time of great joy, and they said others would laugh with them, but there is nothing here to imply uncontrollable laughter. Neither is there anything here to indicate they were overcome by the Spirit. Their laughter seems to simply be the result of their joy in child bearing.

In Job 8:20-21, Job's friends encourage him that God would turn his trials into triumph, and in Psalm 126:1- 3, the children of Israel were filled with joy at release from captivity. But again, the cause of the laughter is not the result of being overcome by or even having an encounter with the Holy Spirit. It was clearly the result of their circumstances. Nor is there the implication their laughter was uncontrollable.

Many other scriptures speak of laughter metaphorically or as mockery, including 2 Chron. 30:10, Psalm 2:1-4, 37:13, 52:1-7, 59:8, Prov. 1:26, Ezekiel 23:32, Mat. 9:24, Mark 9:24, and Luke 8:53.

A New Testament passage sometimes used as a proof text is Acts 2:1-21. But what was it that got the attention of the multitude in this situation? "Holy laughter"? It's possible the multitude heard the wind (V.6). But most definitely they heard the believers speaking in their languages! The context shows that "tongues" is the issue in this particular situation. Though they are certainly filled with joy, there is no evidence implicit or explicit of laughter, uncontrollable or otherwise!

Therefore, we find no scriptural evidence for the phenomena of "holy laughter".

In an August 1994 Charisma magazine article entitled, "Praise the Lord and Pass the New Wine", Rodney Howard-Browne claims the Spirit of God came on people in one meeting and caused them to laugh while he was preaching on hell. "The more I told people what hell was like, the more they laughed." Does the Holy Spirit consider hell a laughing matter?

Notice, there are no examples of "holy laughter" in the ministry of Jesus, Paul, any other Apostles, or anywhere else in the New Testament, which is where the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh. Thus, we use the phrase "extra-biblical" to describe this as well as the other unusual manifestations.


The second manifestation we want to consider is staggering as though drunk. Certain ministers encourage believers to get "drunk on the Spirit", using Eph. 5:18 as a proof text to justify the invitation. The proof one is drunk is that he staggers as though intoxicated. But is that what Paul was admonishing us to do, or was he admonishing us to be under the control of/under the influence of the Holy Spirit so that we would walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord? I would suggest that he was admonishing us to walk in love, not in a drunken stupor!

The Acts 2 passage mentioned above is also used as a proof text for drunken staggering, but that requires a stretching of the meaning of the passage. Clearly, the accusation of drunkenness was the result of the babbling in other tongues heard by the multitude. Tongues is clearly the issue when the context of the passage is understood. Staggering is nowhere mentioned or implied in the passage.

Staggering and drunkenness are spoken of metaphorically in Jer. 23:9 and Rev. 17:2.

Notice, again, there is no evidence in the life or ministry of Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, or any other apostles anywhere else in the New Testament of people staggering around as though drunk. There were no services conducted for the purpose of getting drunk on the Spirit! Do I believe the Holy Spirit can fall so mightily on a person that they cannot stand upright? Yes, of course. He is God! But there is no biblical evidence that it ever happened to believers before, therefore it is not something we should expect God to do to us today!

At a meeting we attended in 1997, the speaker never spoke the Word, but spent the evening staggering around, "dispensing" the Holy Spirit (by laying on hands, pointing, blowing, or "scooping") on others so they could get drunk too. But is that the purpose of the presence or anointing of the Holy Spirit? In the Word, the signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit were to either confirm the Word that was preached or to prepare hearts to receive the Word, but the Word and the Spirit are always seen together in the New Testament, for the purpose of bringing salvation. The Holy Spirit does not act independently for entertainment purposes! I cannot imagine Jesus acting in such a manner. There is no biblical evidence that either Peter, John, or Paul ever scooped the Holy Spirit on anyone in order to see them, dance, stagger, or fall. The Holy Spirit is not a commodity to be "scooped", He is a Person, He is God! We do not control Him, He controls us!


This is being overcome by the Holy Spirit so powerfully that you fall down. (it should be noted that the term is not found in scripture). Also called resting in the spirit, this is the most common of what are believed by some to be manifestations/demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. Question: Did God ever knock down anyone who came to Him for ministry in the Bible? We continue to use the proof text scriptures used by the preachers who practice these manifestations.

In Gen. 2:21 and 15:12-21, God causes Adam and Abraham to go into a deep sleep (Heb. - tardemah); with Adam, to take a rib with which to fashion Eve; with Abraham, to establish His covenant with him. Yet those who are "slain" in today's revival meetings don't go into deep sleep. In fact, they testify of being well aware of what's going on. What was experienced by Adam and Abraham were special, unique circumstances and should not be thought of as normative for believers, as "slain in the Spirit" is.

In Gen. 17:1-3, Abraham falls on his face, not "under the anointing" but of his own free will in awe, reverence, and worship, before holy God.

Num. 24:1-4, & 16 speak of Balaam "falling down" (NASB), but the meaning here is unclear as the various translations demonstrate (NIV - falls prostrate, KJV - falls into a trance). Other translations imply the spiritual state of the man, falling away from God. Regardless, Balaam is referred to in the New Testament as false teacher, not an example for believers.

1 Sam. 19:20-24 speaks of Saul, in rebellion against God, seeking to murder David. Under the influence of the Spirit, he prophesies and falls down stripped naked. But Saul is not coming to the altar of God for ministry in this passage. He is actually in total rebellion against God. Therefore, this story cannot be an example of the modern phenomena of being "slain" claimed by believers today.

1 Kings 8:11 and 2 Chron. 5:1-14 tell us when Solomon's temple was complete, the glory cloud of God came and filled the temple so that the priests could not stand to minister in the temple. Does this mean they were knocked down or stuck to the ground, unable to get up? That's not what the text says. More likely it means they could not take their positions to minister in the temple as they normally would have because God's presence prevented them from doing so. Compare with 2 Chron. 7:1-2 and Ex. 40:34-35.

Isa. 28:13 is clearly spoken to/about a people in rebellion. Therefore, as with Saul above, this story cannot be an example of the modern phenomena of being "slain" claimed by believers today.

In Ezekiel 1:28, 3:23, 43:1-5, 44:4, it is more likely that the Prophet "falls on his face" of his own free will in awe of Holy God, for that is what the phrase means, not that he was "slain". In his case, the Spirit is not said to have knocked him down but rather to have stood him up!

In Dan. 10:7-11, it appears that Daniel was overcome by the vision he saw and fainted (v.8)! Alas, all his "catchers" ran away!

In Mat. 17:1-8, Peter, James, and John fall down on their own free will, not under "the anointing", but in fear and trembling - in awe of God. Likewise, in Mat. 28:1-4, the guards at Jesus' tomb did not fall under the anointing but fainted out of fear!

John 18:6 gives us a clear demonstration of the power and authority of Jesus Christ. When the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, He drove them to the ground with His word! But again, these were not seeking a touch from the Lord, they were seeking to arrest Him! Thus there is no comparison between this situation and the experience testified about among believers today.

Acts 9:1-5 and 26:14-15 tell us about Paul's Damascus Road experience. Clearly this is the Lord's doing. Yet Paul is not looking for an encounter with Jesus, but rather seeking to persecute the church. As with the above, not a type of a seeker being "slain".

There are three proof texts offered to us in the Revelation. The first is in chapter 1:10-17 where John, in the Spirit, sees the Lord in all His, glory, splendor, and majesty, and falls at His feet as a dead man. Clearly He is overcome with awe at what he sees and passes out. He is not "under the anointing". The last two are similar, in chapter 7:11-12 and 11:16, and speak of willful falling down prostrate in worship, not "slain in the Spirit".

The Bible tells us Jesus had the Spirit without measure. No man has walked under the type of anointing that Jesus possessed, and yet not one person who came seeking an encounter with Jesus experienced the phenomena of being "slain", with the possible exception of those who were demonized! Neither did it happen under the ministry of Peter, John, Paul, or any of the apostles. Notice that there's not a single example of someone being slain through the laying on of hands. Jesus never lined people up in a prayer line to knock them all down. Neither did he "slay" them by twirling his cloak at them, or winding up like a baseball pitcher and hurling the Holy Spirit/anointing on them as one televangelist has done.

Why then, do so many fall? I believe there are several reasons. Please do not misunderstand this part of this paper. We are not accusing anyone of doing these things deliberately. For the most part, leaders no doubt don't even realize they are doing these things, possibly because they don't understand how these things work. Never-the-less, they do happen.

1. Intimidation/coaching of the leaders

Most leaders don't understand the pressure they put on those they minister to manifest something that will validate their ministry. Neither do they understand how simple it is to deceive and control another person's mind and psychologically manipulate them without even trying! In a church in Toronto, Canada, they've been known to call those who don't manifest something "hard to receive". I.e., if you don't manifest something, you didn't get anything from God. The implication - you are spiritually inferior. But this only serves to encourage people to fake a manifestation. Some ministers spend hours telling stories and hearing testimonies of people being "slain in the spirit", thus conditioning attendees with the power of suggestion. In the prayer line you are told exactly what to do in order to "receive". We fail to understand how powerful the "power of suggestion" really is!

2. Peer pressure - it is expected of you

Everyone else is doing it. If you don't, you won't appear as spiritual as the rest. When you are in a room filled with people who are expecting something to happen to you, the peer pressure is almost impossible to resist. Unfortunately, sometimes people who are insecure (which is just about all of us to some degree!) and don't want to be left out or thought of as unspiritual will often imitate what they see happening in others. They do it for acceptance. People would be less likely to yield to this pressure if there were no catchers present! Do people really think God would knock them down and hurt them? Some justify catchers by saying they are there to keep people from getting hurt in order to avoid lawsuits, but they ultimately serve to encourage people to fall. I wonder how many would be "slain" if they knew no one was behind them to catch them?

3. People expect to, thus they are vulnerable to manipulation

Because most Christians believe whatever they are told without ever checking things out in the Word for themselves, they are easily led to expect to experience what others claim to have experienced. So when they are told what might happen to them, they expect it to and simply "go for it". People are fascinated by, hungry for, and chase after, the supernatural. They always have. They always will!

4. Self Deception

It is possible to want so much for something to be "of God" that you convince yourself that it is God and become a willing participant.

5. They are pushed

Been there.

6. Some people are controlled by a religious spirit

Some people are just phony and like to participate in all the latest religious fads. To them it's a game they play, saying, "look at me. See how spiritual I am." Catchers only serve to encourage this attitude. Or a person may have a religious spirit that causes them to do unusual things.

7. Emotionalism

Some people are overcome with emotion and respond in unusual ways. This has been the case in some pentecostal churches for years.

Because of these reasons, the psychological pressure to fall is so strong it is almost impossible not to fall if you go to one of these services.

Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship Pastor John Arnott, in The Father's Blessing, (Creation House, 1995, p.58) testifies to not being sure why he fell the first time he was "slain", as does Francis McNutt, author of Overcome By the Spirit (Chosen Books, 1990, pp. 19-20). In his book Daughter of Destiny, (Logos, 1976, p.281) Jamie Buckingham reports faking a fall for miracle healer Katherine Kuhlman so as not to make her look bad, saying he felt sorry for her.

Becky and I made the decision we would not play the game for anyone and have offended several preachers because we would not voluntarily fall down when hands were laid on us. If this were truly the Lord, we would not be able to resist! When God did knock people down (King Saul, Saul of Tarsus, the Roman soldiers) He did it without their consent or cooperation. They were driven to the ground!


Some people shake as though having a seizure or twitch like someone with Tourette's syndrome. This looks more like those Jesus delivered from demons than anything else in the Bible. Proponents of these manifestations point to verses such as Psalm 99:1, 114:7, Jeremiah 5:22, and 33:9 as proof that these manifestations are caused by the Spirit, but each of them speaks of trembling in holy fear and awe in the presence of the Lord - a response to His presence, not something He is doing to them. Similarly, the dread that came on Daniel's companions in Daniel 10:7, is a response to the Presence, not something the Spirit did to them.

Acts 4:31 is an obvious display of the Lord's power, as He shakes the house in response to the disciple's prayers. And James 2:19 speaks of how demons shudder at the very thought of God, but neither of these scriptures speak of spasmodic, seizure like shaking among people.

Other unusual manifestations include barking like a dog, roaring like a lion, crawling on all fours, and rolling around on the floor as though in labor (supposedly birthing something in intercessory prayer) which clearly look to be more demonic than anything else.

We do not believe it is appropriate to add to or take away from the Word of God. The Word says test all things, and we believe the Word alone is the standard for the test. Certainly God moves in supernatural ways. Jesus Christ really is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What He did in the days of the Bible He can and does do today. Jesus is our example and our model for living and ministering. Everything the Spirit did through Him we should expect the Spirit to do through the church, nothing less, and nothing more. The signs and wonders He and the church in the book of Acts displayed were healings, deliverance from demonic spirits, raising the dead, and various miracles and the gifts of the Spirit. However, there is not a single mention of holy laughter, slain in the spirit, drunken staggering, spasmodic jerking, or any other of the unusual manifestations of today's revival mentioned in the ministry of Jesus, the Apostles, or anywhere else in scripture.

The truth in this matter is not hard to discern. Jesus is the truth! He is the exact representation of God, the Word that became flesh, the will of God revealed, the fullness of the godhead bodily. He is the standard for truth. He is our example, the pattern Son. Our lives and ministries should be modeled after His life and ministry. We are to do the same works He did, and greater, but not different! The same Spirit that worked in Jesus is who works in us too, to produce the will of God and glorify the Son of God. Everything that happened in Jesus' ministry should happen in ours as well, and if it didn't happen in His ministry, it should not happen in our ministry either! We would do well to heed the instructions of the Apostle Paul and not go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6).

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