NO LAUGHING MATTER is the title of a booklet written by Stanley Jebb
and published by Day One Publications. According to Brian H. Edwards, President
of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches writing in the foreword,
it was composed by Mr Jebb following a request by the Theological Committee of
the F.I.E.C to give a paper at their Caister Conference in April 1995. It is a
critique of what has been termed 'the Toronto experience' and I endeavour in
this present document to give a response to this work.
Where does one begin?
It is like being in a garden with so many weeds in view, that I look at this
document and wonder where to commence. A context needs to be established, a
zooming back. Nevertheless, though a good look at the bigger setting out of
which this booklet has emerged would be advantageous space forbids it. Mr Jebb
is a strong advocate of the Sovereignty of God, Reformed in mindset and in
practise Cessationist (if the lack of encouragement to use prophecy is anything
to go by). Now, for the sake of a great many I will need to unpack these terms
simply, but it needs to be declared from the outset that the booklet was not
written out of a vacuum.
The publication claims to be 'a biblical and honest appraisal' of the
Toronto experience, but in reality I could not help but find it biased in the
use of Bible quotes out of context and inaccurate in assumptions based on poor
research. I will attempt in this document to explain terms which have been
condemned. In all it gives the appearance of having been written out of a
genuine concern, but, just as Peter Meney, editor of The Evangelical Times
once said of himself in a letter to me, 'I am not deceived', one must be mindful
that such belief is always held by someone who is as well as those who are not.
Would it be unfair to say that the subjective remarks made throughout betray
signs of a cessationist practise in the life of the writer? (even if a previous
advocate). A cessationist believes the 'gifts of the Spirit' [should have?]
ceased with the first apostles, and that they were then only active to give the
Church a kick start (hence the word cessation). As we shall see below
cessationist practise is sufficiently seen by the overlooking of clear reference
to the use of the 'gifts' when quoting a passage mentioning them.
The other mindset which needs addressing and which shows up as a predominant
factor in the thinking of the author of the booklet involves the extreme view of
the Sovereignty of God within the framework of Reformed thinking: that is to say
the kind that leaves little room, if any, for the biblical and clear reality of
the Self-control of God. The Reformed position is that there are those who are
part of a small group, the 'few' who are chosen by God 'out of the many' for
individual salvation; 'elect' from a position in time before the world began;
they alone receive salvation, cannot refuse it and cannot lose it; from
beginning to end it is all of God in his sovereignty(1).
(1)For the interested reader as regards
all my comments concerning Reformed Thinking I recommend my book So you think you're chosen?
More importantly for life and practise of the church there seems to be
little understanding of distinguishing features between the enemy's work
compared to that of the Spirit of God when it comes to manifestations. I aim to
give some guidelines which I trust will help to redress the balance.
However, in this booklet there are a few things said which deserve looking
at and not to be put under the carpet. In particular the mention of certain
doctrines, even though I will explain they have in themselves no real link to
QUOTED TERMS USED AGAINST THE EXPERIENCE
The words and phrases: ''Don't try to use your mind to understand this'',
''Don't pray'', ''Receive!'', ''Drink!'', ''Have some more!'' spoken against,
are understandably anathema to the mind unaware of the reasoning behind those
words. If I was overheard saying 'I need to have a ''look under the skirt'' to
tell the quality of material...' whilst in the midst of beautiful ladies, it
could be misconstrued I was advocating something crude. Whilst as an ex-car
mechanic I could have been talking about the piston of an engine. The issue here
is language according to a usage, a setting requiring different meanings to
words. The advent of the Toronto experience, but more accurately the
understandings gained out of practise of the Gifts of the Spirit over time, has
caused a number of different meanings to words. When these are then heard by
those unfamiliar with the reasoning behind those words, it is understandable
that they will be misunderstood. What is not so wise is to then publish such
misunderstandings without attempts at communication, as is the command of our
Lord when disagreements occur, or apparent wrongdoing causing offence (Matthew
18:15, Galatians 6:1 et al). If such talking had transpired, would there not
exist an appreciation of terms used, and no need for such accusations against
them? Of course, if talks had been requested and they were turned down, there
are possible problems on both sides and the only 'winner' is the accuser of the
brethren (Revelation 12:10).
Those familiar with deliverance ministry, the casting out of demons, would
understand the language of 'don't pray'. Praying, speaking, exclaiming things,
involves an outward activity which does not allow for reception. Have you ever
tried to speak to someone who, as a chatterbox, does not allow space for
anything in reply? Similarly when praying it is unwise just to make a continuous
list of demands upon God; listening is also required. This should not be equated
with passivity or blankness of mind, but receptivity and openness to receive.
Once and after something has been allowed to occur it is then to be tested. Not
forgetting that any contact with the enemy or fighting with him, were that to
occur, is covered by Jesus' words ''nothing shall by any
means hurt you'' (Luke 10:19).
Much is made in the second half of the booklet regarding the use of the
mind. Sadly, I believe at the expense of the needs of the spirit of the
individual. This is important since the intellectual, the academic and doctrine,
significant as they are, do not provide in themselves the regular comfort of the
Spirit of God to a needy soul. The spirit of man cannot live on just the
cognition of facts, but requires the breath of the spirit, for it is the
spirit who gives life and the letter which kills
(2 Corinthians 3:6). When used together there is no dryness or coldness but
growth and edification.
When Paul advocated not to be drunk with wine he did not give the exercise
of the mind as the alternative. He recommended the edification of the spirit by
going on to be filled with God's Spirit by means of "speaking
to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians
5:18-19 AV). I have often found when this is done outside of a pre-arranged
'order of service', whether alone or in a group, that whilst singing the tunes
which come to mind, it is the very words of these then sung which 'speak into'
the exact needs of the moment and thus release faith, let alone the infilling of
the Spirit, as Paul mentions. Hardly a direct activity of the mind, but a
speaking to the mind by allowing to receive by means of the Spirit's activity
'uncontrolled' by that mind. Indeed Paul's "proving all
things" and "the others judge" and
John's "test the spirits" require first of
all for the activity not just to be permitted but active. The very context
of these texts require first for the use of prophecy and associated
activity to be present: "Do not quench the Spirit",
"despise not prophecy", etc are all part of that
context. Unlike the scripture there were no such recommendations or
encouragements in the booklet. Hence the apparent cessationist practise given by
What about the words "Receive", "Drink!", "Have some more"?
These are basically in a category similar to the words of Jesus "Receive your sight" (Luke18:42); "be not afraid, only believe" (Mark 5:36 [reminiscent of
don't use your mind...]); of Ananias "Receive your sight"
(Acts 22:13); of "Rise up" (Luke 6:8), etc. The
purpose is to engender faith in the hearer and release acceptance. If such
commands of faith like "be healed" were known in practise by Mr Jebb, would
such criticism have arisen?
RODNEY HOWARD-BROWNE AND BENNY HINN
The mention of Rodney Howard-Browne early on in the booklet (pages 6 and 8)
serves to link the Toronto happenings to his teachings. In particular any
association with Word-Faith teaching. One has only to listen to Randy Clark the
Vineyard Pastor in St. Louis, Missouri and the original invited preacher to
Toronto Vineyard at the 'beginnings', to realise that this link is wholly
tenuous if at all existent. Clark's personal belief in the sovereignty of God
shows in his sermons and he is known for his distance from this Faith teaching
even if his attitude to holders of this belief received corrective attention.
Could it be that the Lord used Randy Clark for this very purpose? The writer's
heart is therefore revealed in attempting to discredit 'Toronto' by association
with no basis in fact, easily revealed by context and thorough research. Does
this not serve to show that the booklet is not exactly an 'honest appraisal'? I
could equally link the writer to the errors of Reformed thinking and extremes of
the Sovereignty of God.
Here follows a number of quotes from Randy Clark to show the veracity of the
above. He said these things at a Sunderland conference I attended at the end of
May 1995 (Session/Tape 3): "One group I theologically disagreed with and still
have some differences of opinion with . . . name it and claim it, blab it and
grab it, claim it and possess it [group] . . . the Faith Camp Movement . . . Now
you need to listen carefully to what I say - at this point - I don't want to be
misunderstood . . . I still don't agree theologically with everything the Faith
Camp teaches . . ." he then went on to say how he asked to be forgiven for his
attitude and words spoken against these fellow believers, and how he was touched
by God in a manner which transformed his ministry in a number of meetings, he
goes on "we went [on] to a [Vineyard] meeting - all heaven broke loose - John
Arnott in Toronto, heard about that meeting, and called me, 'Randy, I'd like for
you to come to Canada' I said, What for? 'Oh', he said, 'I heard about the
meeting.' I said, It may not happen again! Now, you can understand why I had a
problem about the faith Camp!" Randy Clark then explains how they started to
pray for the coming meetings in Toronto due for January 1994 and, "people said,
'Randy, what do you think's going to happen when you go to Toronto; Do you think
God's going to come? I said, I hope so." These are not exactly the words of a
believer in Word-Faith Teaching.
The reality of this tenuous link can easily be seen by the lack of knowledge
in proponents of 'the Blessing' to Rodney Howard Browne's, let alone Benny
Hinn's writings. I compliment the writings of Reachout Trust for bringing to
light deviations which need addressing. These must not be swept under the
carpet, but dealt with seriously and carefully even though it is a separate
matter. Personally, I believe in Jesus' encouragement to ask in faith (indeed
to: literal Greek "Have God's Faith" Mark 11:22),
but also aware of his practise on occasion to use the social security of his day
by reaping from the edges of fields for food, as instituted in Moses law for the
poor and the stranger (Matthew 12:1; Leviticus 19:9-10).
OTHER REVIVALS, WRITERS AND SCRIPTURE
It is always possible to quote events from one revival or another for the
purpose of one's own ends. If we are not careful we will begin to elevate these
on a par with scripture. Let us read for encouragement and to be envisioned; as
aids not unlike apocryphal books, but not for doctrine.
Even quoting writers of 'influence' I do not see as necessarily helpful:
John Calvin is quoted on page 8 (notice that it is immediately prior to the
comments on Rodney Howard-Browne's 'teaching') ''...whenever our fancies are so
fidgety, it is certain that an opening is made to blot out the remembrance of
all that we had learned before and to take in many follies, yes, and erroneous
doctrines, which serve to corrupt and perverse the purity of faith.'' I would be
interested to know what Mr Jebb thinks of Calvin's own words. He said that
the depravity of man is a result of God's creation and that God had expressly
approved what preceded from himself. Further he says 'the first man fell because
the Lord deemed it meet that he should fall'. (Calvin's Institutes III xxiii
7,8). In the light of 1 John 1:5 and James 1:16-17 I would call that a clear
defamation of God's character.
In pages 18 and 19 an argument from silence is brought into play both out of
the Old Testament and the New: passages referring to individuals incapable of
action, falling down, into a 'trance', etc, like Genesis 15:12; 1 Samuel 10; 2
Chronicles 5:13,14; Acts 9:4, 10:10; Revelation 1:17 et al. are all 'explained
away' as not having occurred in worship services or with human intervention.
Suffice to say I am sure that in the light of a lack of any mention of musical
instruments used in places of worship in the New Testament, will Mr Jebb now
recommend his church to stop all such practise?
In the section entitled The danger of deception (I wrote next to it:
The danger of incredulity) a number of authors are 'quoted'. I could not
help but tick the whole quote of Richard Owen Roberts eg. ''It must not be
supposed even for a single moment, that all that occurs in the name of revival
is automatically of God...''. In the light of the above, I think Dave Roberts
quote itself is not inaccurate ''legalism'' (the only word quoted), and in
context 'Legalism destroys, as does the preaching of God's justice to the
detriment of an equal emphasis on his grace' (The Toronto Blessing
published by Kingsway page 176). And Os Guinness's quote I found interesting:
''Reality is not to be taken for legitimacy. In a day of contentless religious
experiences, the appeal of powerful spiritual phenomena is far wider than their
legitimacy''. I would add that the fear of phenomena is far wider than its
legitimacy. It is always true that Christians should not go around 'following'
signs, but it is signs that
should be following Christians.
COMPARISONS TO HYPNOTISM AND OTHER RELIGIONS
John Arnott, senior pastor of Toronto Vineyard, mentions that about 1/3rd of
people in gatherings where 'the experience' is 'practised' do not
receive/respond to the Spirit's activity(2). This helps to
show us that the 'phenomenon' cannot be mass hysteria, or mass hypnotism, or it
would be wholly different proportions. Can it be perceived that such significant
proportions miss out in 'normal tranced gatherings' of a cult or other such
(2)John Arnott said this at a South West
London Vineyard event in Putney on the 22nd October 1994.
A friend in Sunderland told me, however often he was inebriated by (the)
Holy Spirit [Acts 2:13; Eph. 5:18: When was the last time you left a meeting
feeling inebriated by the Spirit of God?], this friend of mine said, he was
always in full control of his faculties when the need or time arose for him to
drive home. Indeed the Word tells us that ''the spirits
of the prophets are subject to the prophets'' (1 Corinthians 14:32).
Now, this is not the case for those under hypnotism, trances, mass hysteria,
In those cases some other personality than the individual can exercise
control upon that individual. Not with God. God has self-control for it is part
of the nature of true love not to impose your will upon another (Galatians
5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8). This in part is foreign to the mindset of
Reformed thinkers since in their perception God's will is always done. What
about all the sin in the world? Does God desire/will/purpose any? This is a
tangential topic however and only relevant here due to the misconceptions in
that mindset of how God works in practise.
So what can be said to help distinguish between the false from the real?
Receivers of God's touch are:
1. Always conscious.
2. Able to resist.
3. Often never touched (there is no particular need to be).
4. Can stop and go (leave) when they like or need to.
This is not the case for any hypnotism or trance where someone else has to
wake them up or tell them what has happened. This is not like mass induced
situations where ability to resist is severally diminished.
Jesus leads his sheep, he does not drive them (John 10:10-11); he requires a
partnership (Matthew11:28-30); unlike the enemy who corners, pressurises,
terrorises, etc. Is it any wonder that Jesus is knocking outside the door of
Christians lives and hearts (Revelation 3:20)? Is it any surprise that he is
unable to work miracles in the midst of many 'believers' gatherings due to
unbelief (Matthew 13:58)?
It is of note that whilst highlighting differences between the 'fruit' and
the 'phenomena' of Matthew 7:15-23, Mr Jebb does not state his support for the
practise of these spiritual activities. Jesus practised them himself, enjoined
his disciples to do so in Matthew 10 and, it must not be forgotten, he went on
to tell these apostles to teach the ongoing new disciples to observe what he had
previously taught (Matthew 28:20).
There are two extremes that need to be avoided. One is non-use of the
'gifts', non encouragement for the function of these in believers gatherings
such that God's Spirit is quenched; the other is undisciplined use of these,
such that everything is happening all the time to the detriment of order and
edification, let alone with room for discernment and explanation. The first is
the problem of the Thessalonian church to whom Paul wrote "Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesy " (1
Thessalonians 5:19-20); the other was the challenge of the Corinthian church to
whom Paul said not to loosely do everything the Spirit gives you as you use to
when led by the demons behind the idols you use to worship (1 Corinthians 12:2),
but now use these manifestations of the Spirit in an order befitting edification
of the whole body. "The spirits of the prophets are
subject to the prophets" "speak 2 or 3 and then
let the others discern" (1 Corinthians 14:12, 40, 32, 29).
If as mentioned above the Spirit of God is not permitted to be involved in
the direction of which songs are sung in a gathering, the involvement of others
receiving messages or particular words is not allowed for, or room for physical
manifestations is not given than one extreme is in vogue; If there are no
explanations 'from the front' as to what the manifestations are, let alone
appropriate action when 'fleshly' or other expression occurs, and the
encouraging practise of wise weighing up than the other extreme is evident.
This all come down to teaching and practise. Basic explanations for various
exhibitions and phrases used would be in order on the one hand during a meeting,
and the encouragement to be involved and used by the Spirit of God, not
quenching His work, on the other. A ready made pamphlet available to visitors
would be helpful explaining why people lift hands or clap (as in the Psalms),
what 'tongues' are about, etc. Let alone the misunderstood phrases mentioned
earlier. Team running of believers gatherings is the way forward as was
advocated by Paul for the basic running of churches anyway: he said to "appoint elders in every city" (Titus 1:5), at a time
when there was only one church per city. Training up of counsellors, general
instruction and the basic way meetings are run all need attention to deal with
the challenges these extremes set.
Mr Jebb ends the booklet with 'an assessment' basing 3 criterias: ''First,
there is the doctrine, the foundation or basis of the movement''; we saw above
the total lack of substance to this remark. ''second, there is the practise, the
techniques or procedures that are employed and advocated'' I have discussed how
these differ significantly from the non-Christian practises to which the
'phenomenon' has been compared. ''third, there is the fruit or end result in
people's lives'' this I now touch upon: by quoting possible experiences of
individuals having ''gone down'' and spent ''carpet time'' but 'with little
change in character or spirituality' in the lives touched, it is claimed
therefore that 'the fruit, is not uniformly good or positive'. It appears to be
forgotten that of the ten healed lepers only one returned (Luke 17:12-17). Did
that stop ten being healed, touched by the power of God. It is a serious
misunderstanding of the nature of God to suggest that his work is not his when
even a majority don't finally respond fully to his touch which met a need for a
However, irrespective of these assesments being found wanting over the
overall 'Toronto Blessing', the criticism of misuse of passages of scripture,
accepting all the manifestations as of God all the time, any manipulation and
control by leaders, let alone the doctrines alluded to above, all these, need to
be faced and dealt with.
Experience of the Holy Spirit leads to discernment, just as with the Word, 'who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern
both good and evil' (Hebrews 5:14). By reason of non use there is
mistrust with what is 'foreign', so it is therefore evident the warnings and
admonition of NO LAUGHING MATTER appear to be based on subjective
personal experience, not on biblical exegesis.
Now, if 'the Toronto experience' were a counterfeit of some kind,
and in recognition that in its nature a counterfeit will always appear very
similar to the genuine article, my question is:
Where is the real thing?