THE "TORONTO" CONTROVERSY - DISTURBING NEW FACTS FROM HISTORY


by Andrew Strom.


In this article, a Revival historian, closely aligned with the Charismatic and prophetic movements, raises the following questions: Why do the Toronto manifestations seem literally identical to many counterfeit movements which have destroyed genuine Revivals down through history? And why are they seemingly identical to the Chinese occultic 'Qigong' movement, as well as Franz Mesmer's occultic healing practice and the manifestations found throughout the "Kundalini" cults of Rajneesh, Ramakrishna, etc? Why are such manifestations found throughout the New Age movement worldwide, and yet nowhere in the Bible? If these are the days of "great deception" amongst Christians spoken of in the Bible, then shouldn't we be a little more careful about what we allow into God's church?


Over the past few years, the movement known as the "Toronto Bles-
sing" has swept through many churches worldwide, particularly  in
the Western nations. This movement has brought with it some rath-
er 'strange' spiritual manifestations, which have caused quite  a
bit  of controversy in the church. The purpose of this article is
to examine the FACTS and the historical data related to this iss-
ue, in as straight-forward a way as possible. I have been  study-
ing Revival and Reformation history now for  over  twelve  years,
and I hope that this will help me  to  provide  an  informed  and
factual perspective.

As is now well-known, the Toronto Airport Vineyard  church  (home
of the 'Toronto Blessing') was finally expelled from the interna-
tional Vineyard movement in December 1995.  This  expulsion  came
after what had apparently been twelve months of repeated warnings
given to the Toronto church by John Wimber and the Vineyard Asso-
ciation.

I have to say on a personal level, before going any further, that
having witnessed the 'Toronto' phenomena  for  myself, and having
spoken to many people who have experienced it,-  right  from  the
outset I have personally been deeply disturbed by  much  of  what
I have seen and heard.  However, it is time now to take a look at
what history has to say about such phenomena.

As many who have studied Revivals will know, it is  important  to
remember that not only have there been many genuine Revivals down
through history, but also many "counterfeit" movements as well (a
number of which have resulted in quasi-`Christian' sects that are
still with us today). Even some of the  most  powerful  true  Re-
vivals  have  eventually been infiltrated (or in some cases, "hi-
jacked"), through the devil managing to flood them with  excesses
and demonic manifestations, etc. Many of  the  great  Revivalists
came across such counterfeits on a regular basis, and wrote warn-
ings against them. As John Wesley said: "At the first, revival is
true  and  pure,  but  after a few weeks watch for counterfeits."
These false or demonic manifestations have often followed a  very
distinctive pattern. And alarmingly, I have to say that they have
often  resembled 'Toronto' very closely indeed (as we shall see).

The following is an extract  from  a  century-old  book  by  T.W.
Caskey,  in  which he recalls many of the religious happenings in
the Southern states of America in the early 1800's. This was  the
period when many huge `Camp Meetings' were held in the South, ac-
companied by unusual religious phenomena (which they called  `re-
vival'): "Some would fall prostrate and lie helpless for hours at
a time... The whole congregation by some inexplicable nervous ac-
tion would sometimes be thrown into side-splitting convulsions of
laughter and when it started, no power could check or control  it
until  it  ran  its course. At other times the nervous excitement
set the muscles to twitching and jerking at a  fearful  rate  and
finally  settle  down  to regular, straight-forward dancing. Like
the `Holy Laugh' it was simply  ungovernable  until  it  ran  its
course.  When  a man started laughing, dancing, shouting or jerk-
ing, it was impossible for him to  stop  until  exhausted  nature
broke  down  in a death-like swoon..." The same writer goes on to
tell how eventually a few preachers  began  to  question  whether
such  manifestations  really  were  the  work of the Holy Spirit.
Gradually, people began to `search the Scriptures' and `test  the
spirits'  a  lot  more  than  they  had  been,  and  these rather
`bizarre' manifestations began to die out.

Another historian has written of the great Camp Meetings  of  the
eighteenth  century  (particularly in Kentucky) that crowds would
often "go into trances, writhe on the ground and even  bark  like
dogs".  As  is well-known to many who have studied Revivals, such
excesses and counterfeit manifestations  have  often  flooded  in
particularly  towards  the  end of a true Revival, when the devil
has been trying to get in and completely destroy or discredit it.
This  is  precisely what happened with the 1904 Welsh Revival (as
you will see if you read "War on the Saints" by Jessie Penn-Lewis
and  Evan  Roberts  - a disturbing book which probably places too
much emphasis on the devil, but vividly describes  many  counter-
feit  manifestations  very  similar  to what we are seeing today.
Such counterfeits are also examined in Watchman Nee's "The Spiri-
tual Man").

A number of `Toronto' writers have implied that many old-time Re-
vivalists such as John Wesley, Charles Finney  and  Jonathan  Ed-
wards  would be quite happy with such manifestations. This is far
from the truth. I have studied the lives of these men, and all of
them  were strong "REPENTANCE" preachers who were very suspicious
of any `bizarre' goings-on. When people fell down in their  meet-
ings,  it was almost always under tremendous distress and CONVIC-
TION OF SIN. This is very different from Toronto.

The great Revivalist John Wesley, who came across  many  examples
of  counterfeit  manifestations in his years of Revival ministry,
wrote of one particular occasion: "God suffered  Satan  to  teach
them better. Both of them were suddenly seized in the same manner
as the rest, and laughed whether they would or no, almost without
ceasing.  This  they  continued for two days, a spectacle to all;
and were then, upon prayer made for them, delivered in a moment."
Charles Finney wrote, warning of the dangers of simply `yielding'
to strange impulses or impressions: "God's Spirit  leads  men  by
the  intelligence,  and  not  through  mere impressions... I have
known some cases where persons have  rendered  themselves  highly
ridiculous,  have  greatly injured their own souls, and the cause
of God, by giving themselves up to an enthusiastic and  fanatical
following of impressions."

And  Jonathan Edwards wrote, concerning the supposedly `heavenly'
trances that members of his congregation were entering into under
the  ministry  of  Samuel Buelle (a visiting preacher): "But when
the people were raised to this height, Satan took the  advantage,
and  his  interposition in many instances soon became very appar-
ent; and a great deal of caution and pains were  found  necessary
to  keep  the  people,  many of them from running wild." As Frank
Bartleman (of the 1906 `Azusa Street' Revival)  said:  "Many  are
willing  to  seek  `power'  from every battery they can lay their
hands on, in order to perform  miracles...   A  true  `Pentecost'
will  produce  a  mighty  conviction  for  sin, a turning to God.
False manifestations produce only excitement  and  wonder...  Any
work  that  exalts the Holy Ghost or the `gifts' above Jesus will
finally land up in fanaticism."  Does it  sound  like  these  men
welcomed  `bizarre'  manifestations  to you?  Certainly not! They
knew how to discern what was of God and what was not.

In mid-1995, respected international Bible teacher  Derek  Prince
put out a tape in which he made some very strong statements about
certain aspects of the Toronto movement. Like him, I  would  like
to state categorically that I believe that humans manifesting an-
imal noises or animal movements is not of God, but rather of  the
devil.  (In  fact,  he described on the tape how he had seen many
such animal manifestations during demonic  rituals  he  had  wit-
nessed in Africa).  And what about the bodily distortions and the
`jerking' that have also become associated with  today's  Toronto
movement? Is it God who desires to distort the bodies of His peo-
ple so that they look like sufferers of Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy,
Parkinson's Disease, etc? (Repetitive `jerking' is also seen reg-
ularly in many mental hospitals - ask any psychiatric  nurse).  I
have  to  ask  the  question here: Whose work does all this sound
like to you?

Alarmingly, there are also many exact  similarities  between  the
`Toronto'   experience   and  the  demonic  manifestations  found
throughout the New Age movement and also in many pagan religions.
A  number of Indian gurus, such as Bagwhan Shree Rajneesh and Ra-
makrishna, have had the power to transfer a  state  of  rapturous
bliss  to their followers merely by touching them. In the case of
Ramakrishna, these states were often  accompanied  by  uncontrol-
lable  laughter  or  weeping. Swami Baba Muktananda also had this
power, according to a former devotee, and the resulting `Kundali-
ni'  manifestations  included  uncontrollable  laughing, roaring,
barking, crying, shaking, etc. Some of his followers also  became
mute  or  unconscious,  while  many  felt themselves infused with
feelings of tremendous joy, peace and love.

All such experiences have been based on "yielding" oneself to the
power working through these gurus. Is it any coincidence that the
manifestations associated with these  demonic  `Kundalini'  cults
are  almost  identical to those of Toronto?  Could it be that the
same `spirits' are at work? When  Yan  Xin,  a  Chinese  `Qigong'
spiritual  Master,  gave  a  talk  to a crowd in San Francisco in
1991, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that many in the crowd
began  to  experience what Yan called "spontaneous movements". He
told  his  audience, "Those  who are sensitive might start having
some strong physical sensations - or start  laughing  or  crying.
Don't worry. This is quite normal." Likewise, the demonic "minis-
try" of renowned eighteenth-century occultic healer Franz Mesmer,
was  also  known  to produce many similar manifestations (falling
down, jerking, convulsions, strange grunts and cries,  hysterical
laughter, etc).

To me it seems beyond dispute that  there  has  been  a  powerful
alien  spirit  let  loose  in many churches for some considerable
time. Just because the Toronto manifestations have  been  cloaked
in  "Christian" terminology does not mean that they are from God.
The fact is that such manifestations are  found  nowhere  in  the
Bible, but rather right through the New Age movement. Surely this
fact alone should have rung alarm bells? If these are  the  `last
days'  -  the days of "great deception" and `lying signs and won-
ders', then surely we ought to be a  little  more  careful  about
what we introduce into God's church?

Many  Christians  who  have become involved with Toronto have as-
sumed that it "must be of God" because it often results in `inner
healing'  or  other  spiritual  experiences. However, such occur-
rences are certainly not proof that this movement is of  God.  In
fact,  the devil specializes in providing virtually identical ex-
periences in occult and New Age groups right  around  the  world.
And  as is well-known, "inner healing" has always been one of the
very major emphases of today's New Age movement (while it  cannot
be found in the Bible).  Such experiences are obviously something
that Satan finds it very easy to manufacture, especially when  he
is  given  the  opportunity  on such a grand scale.  As the Bible
clearly states, the devil will gladly disguise himself as an "an-
gel  of light" in order to deceive Christians (2 Cor 11:14). How-
ever, in saying all of this, I do want to make it clear also that
I  believe  that  God  has DELIBERATELY ALLOWED this deception to
sweep through at this time, to "test" His church.

One of the most obviously "New Age" aspects of Toronto  has  been
the emphasis on `switching off your mind', getting your mind "out
of the way", yielding yourself unthinkingly to the spirit that is
operating,  etc. I tell you, this exact practise is used all over
the world to open up New Age devotees to demonic influence. It is
dangerous  in  the extreme. The Bible makes it clear that demonic
spirits are well capable of masquerading as  the  "Holy  Spirit".
This  is why the apostle John wrote: "Beloved, do not believe ev-
ery spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of  God"
(1  Jn 4:1). I am afraid I cannot agree with the idea of `direct-
ing' the Holy Spirit or proclaiming "Come, Holy Spirit!"  To  me,
such unscriptural practises are bound to lead to deception sooner
or later. But the concept of just `switching off your  mind'  and
yielding to whatever spiritual impulses come upon you, surely has
to be the most deadly practise of all.

As Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote (in  conjunction  with  Welsh  Revival
leader Evan Roberts): "... these demons hover round the soul, and
make strange suggestions to the mind of something  odd,  or  out-
landish,  or  contrary to common sense or decent taste. They make
these suggestions under the profession of being the  Holy  Ghost.
They  fan the emotions, and produce a strange, fictitious exhila-
ration, which is simply their bait to get into  some  faculty  of
the  soul...  another  person  said  he  felt like rolling on the
floor, and groaning and pulling the chairs around,  but  he  dis-
tinctly perceived that the impulse to do so had something wild in
it; and a touch of self display contrary to  the  gentleness  and
sweetness of Jesus; and, as quick as he saw it was an attack of a
false spirit, he was delivered. But another man had the same  im-
pulse, and fell down groaning and roaring, beating the floor with
his hands and feet, and the demon entered into him as an angel of
light,  and  got  him  to  think that his conduct was of the Holy
Ghost, and it became a regular habit in the meetings he attended,
until  he would ruin every religious meeting he was in... The ef-
fects of being influenced by this sort of demon is manifold,  and
plainly  legible  to a well-poised mind. They cause people to run
off into things that are odd and foolish, unreasonable and  inde-
cent..."

The above authors also make the following very crucial  statement
in the same book: "The false conception of `surrender' as  yield-
ing the body to supernatural power, with the mind ceasing to act,
is the HIGHEST SUBTLETY OF THE ENEMY." Surely no-one who is read-
ing this can still be in any doubt as to what spiritual  `source'
the `Toronto' movement comes from?

It  is well-known throughout Christendom that the Bible speaks of
the `last days' as being a time of great deception and  apostasy,
and  it  is  obvious  from  the Scriptures that much of this will
arise from WITHIN THE CHURCH, so as to  deceive  the  Christians.
(See  Mt 24, etc). The Apostle Paul wrote that, "in the last days
PERILOUS TIMES WILL COME. For men shall be lovers  of  their  own
selves...  lovers  of  pleasures  more than lovers of God" (2 Tim
3:1-4). And, "the Spirit speaks  expressly  that  in  the  latter
times  some  shall depart from the faith, giving heed to SEDUCING
SPIRITS, and doctrines of devils" (1 Tim  4:1).   Surely,  as  we
have seen, we are indeed living today in such `perilous times'.

There  have  been several dreams and visions given to NZ prophets
and intercessors about the Toronto movement. In one  particularly
powerful  dream  given  to an Auckland man many months before the
term "Toronto Blessing" was even heard of here, he was shown that
there  would  be  TWO  revivals.  (This  was the same man who was
also given the open vision of the Bride of Christ described in  a
previous  article). In this dream of the "TWO REVIVALS", he found
himself in a large auditorium full of  people.  He  noticed  that
many  of  those  down  the front of the meeting were FALLING DOWN
LAUGHING AND CRYING, etc, and the words that were clearly  spoken
to  him to describe what he was seeing were: "LAODICEAN REVIVAL".
He was then seated with the `little' people  in  the  auditorium,
who  had not become really "caught up" in this falling and laugh-
ing, etc. And as he sat there, these `little' people were steadi-
ly  drawn  away from this `Laodicean' scenario, until there was a
yawning gulf between them and those who were still "partying  on"
at  the  front  of  the hall. Suddenly, thousands of young people
burst  out all around these little people, and they began to min-
ister  to  them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet
knew that this was the beginning of the true  Revival.  Glory  to
God!

It is my belief that in many ways the Toronto experience has been
the perfect deception for today's Laodicean church: It cost noth-
ing, it was "instant"  and  convenient,  it  conferred  spiritual
blessings, `touches' and experiences without any need for convic-
tion of sin, deep repentance or `taking up the cross', and  best-
of-all  it  gave a flagging, powerless church some new "signs" to
prove that `all was well' after all. The real issue that lies  at
the heart of this whole controversy is one that  revolves  around
the very character of God Himself. For it is obvious that we  are
being asked to choose between at least two "Gods" here.

On  the one hand we have Toronto's version of "God" - a being who
lives to bring `touches' and bodily sensations upon  his  people,
who loves to "party" with them - to `loosen them up' so that they
cast  off  all  restraint  and  do foolish things that they would
never normally do. Many of these touches may  appear  to  outside
observers to be `ugly' or even revolting and frightening (similar
to asylum-type mental or drug disorders, etc),  but,  hey,  let's
just  get  our  mind  out of the way, relax and enjoy it all! Who
cares  if it looks or sounds completely `demonic' (animal noises,
hysterical laughter, bizarre jerking, etc), so long as  it  feels
good and seems to heal all those past `hurts'? To me, this is the
very essence of the touchy-feely "Laodicean"  view  of  God  -  a
`God'  made  entirely  in their own image, and for their own con-
venience. Love without responsibility. Mercy  without  judgement.
A permissive, "Santa  Claus"  God  -  perfect  for  the  shallow,
pleasure-loving age in which we live.

On the other hand, there is the God of the Bible: Yes,  He  is  a
God  of  love, but also of justice and of judgement. Yes, He is a
God of mercy, but also of war and of vengeance,- waiting patient-
ly for the hour when His enemies will be delivered into His hand,
so that He can cast them forever into a living hell. Yes, He is a
God of liberty, but He is also a jealous God, who visits the sins
of the fathers onto the third and fourth generation of those  who
hate Him. Yes, He is a God of compassion, but He is also a God of
glorious majesty, might and power. And above all, He is a God  of
HOLINESS, who HATES SIN so much that He created a lake of fire in
which to imprison all who have given themselves over to  it.  And
I tell you now, He is not a God who could in any way be represen-
ted by a movement involving animal noises,  drunken  foolishness,
hyena-like laughter, or ugly epileptic-type `jerking' amongst His 
people. 

This  is  why  Toronto  was  such a good `test' for the Laodicean
church.  And frankly, it is my belief that this Laodicean revival 
has exposed today's lukewarm church for what she really  is  -  a 
sitting duck, completely prone to the most obvious deception from
the enemy - a "happiness  club",  still  desperate  for feel-good
touches and blessings after all these years.

Obviously, one aspect that has been particularly  alarming  about
the  Toronto movement has been the tendency to simply abandon the
practise of `testing' spiritual  experiences  and  new  teachings
against  the Scriptures. The Bible tells us to "test all things",
and of course there is the well-known verse:  "All  scripture  is
inspired  by  God  and  profitable for teaching, for reproof, FOR
CORRECTION, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16).  But
how  can  the Scriptures be used for `correction' if we choose to
"explain away" the need for Scriptural proof of  our  experiences
and  teachings,  etc?  If  we  don't use the Scriptures to `test'
things any more, aren't we opening  the  door  to  every  heresy,
false  doctrine  or  demonic experience in existence? (As history
clearly demonstrates). This "casting off"  of  the  authority  of
Scripture,  and  even of good, old-fashioned common sense, I have
personally found to be amongst the most disturbing aspects of the
whole `Toronto' affair.

In  saying  all  of this about Toronto, however, I do not want to
give the impression that I am opposed to every kind of  `unusual'
spiritual  occurrence.   God Himself often does unusual things in
times of Revival. But there is a certain `character'  about  them
that  stamp them as being from Him. For instance, tremendous con-
viction (which is very common in true Revivals) will often  bring
extreme  distress  over  sin (wailing, weeping, etc), `trembling'
with Godly fear, people falling face-down before God, etc. At the
same time, the awesome presence of God will often cause those who
have experienced His cleansing and forgiveness to be filled  with
indescribable  joy  and  thanksgiving to God, resulting in demon-
strative, unrestrained worship and adoration of Him.

However, I believe that it will be very important in  the  coming
Revival  for  the  leaders  to  stress that true worship involves
"GIVING OUT" to God, not expecting `touches' or blessings  "FROM"
Him all the time. True worship is an act of pure and holy `sacri-
fice' to God. This is a very important principle. It  is  usually
when  people  begin  to  seek after `touches' or experiences from
God, rather than seeking Him for His own sake,  that  counterfeit
manifestations or soulish excesses begin to enter in.

Obviously,  as  well as Godly sorrow, holy fear and great joy, we
can also expect a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit to  bring
all  of  the  `gifts' of the Spirit into everyday Christian life:
Powerful healings and miracles, deliverance, word  of  knowledge,
tongues,  interpretation, prophecy, etc. It is also probable that
there will be people genuinely "falling down under the  power  of
God"  (not that we should ever `seek' such experiences), visions,
dreams, angelic visitations, "signs  in  the  heavens",  etc.  Of
course, a large number of these things can be easily counterfeit-
ed by the devil, so it will be important to  have  godly  leaders
around,  who  will know how to step in (without being too `heavy'
about it) if things start to get out of hand. The emphasis of the
coming  Revival  will  be on purity, holiness and evangelism, not
the seeking after of `experiences'.  And  of  course,  everything
will  be  centred around Christ. But it is very important that we
do not allow the devil's counterfeits to  "scare  us  off"  every
kind of unusual spiritual occurrence, otherwise we could miss out
on what God is doing also.

As I said at the beginning, in forming my opinions about  `Toron-
to'  I have not just stood afar off, making judgements about this
movement from a distance.  Rather, I  have  personally  witnessed
these  manifestations  for  myself, as well as speaking with many
people who have seen and experienced them also. But none of  this
has  changed  my mind. In fact, every ounce of discernment within
me has been crying out right from the start that what I was  see-
ing was not of God.  I have also read much that is 'pro-Toronto',
but have found myself singularly unconvinced - particularly  when
the Scriptural and historical arguments used have been so patent-
ly  poor.  As  we have seen, history clearly shows that such man-
ifestations should be regarded as  demonic  counterfeits.  Having
studied Revival history now for many years, I simply do  not  be-
lieve that such a conclusion can be denied.

RELATED ARTICLES:
The disturbing testimony of a deacon and his wife, when Toronto flooded into their church.
"The Truth About Joel's Army" - Article by A. Strom about Joel's army of locusts that devours the land.
BOOK - "The Coming Great Reformation" by A. Strom.

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