Many congregations are attracted by the act of falling backwards when Pastors lay hands on them to pray. Generally these falls fail to bring-forth any results either. Is this act Biblical?


There is obviously no mention in the Bible of what is sometimes called “slaying in the Spirit” in Charismatic churches. As far as I know, this tradition was unheard of before the 20th century Charismatic revivals. We should remember, however, that just because a particular thing is not mentioned in the Bible does not, by itself, make it wrong. One could argue that driving in a car to church is “unbiblical” because it is not mentioned in the Bible. As far as I know, other than the Amish, no Christian group is prepared to call driving to church sinful. The scripture obviously could not mention every possible thing which is good to do or which is unwise or even sinful to do. Whether a particular practice is “biblical” (defined as mentioned in the Bible as an authorized practice) or not is not the ultimate decider of whether a particular practice is a good idea to be done in the Christian church. Instead, there are two questions which we must ask about any church practice.

1. If we participate in this practice, might it violate a biblical teaching, even if it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. For example, to use an exaggerated example, the Bible never actually says that a Christian should not take heroin, but we can infer from admonitions in the Bible that taking this mind-altering drug is not a good idea for a Christian. A number of biblical passages can be used to prove that, even though this is not specifically mentioned, it is wrong to do heroin.

2. If a practice is not consistent with a biblical principle (as opposed to a biblical commandment in point 1. above) then we should not take part in such a practice. For example, the Bible says fairly little about how the leadership of a church should be organized, but we know by biblical principle that the leader must be the servant of all. Therefore, by this principle, leadership which does not emphasize serving those who are led is not godly leadership.

Let me deal with this particular practice. From my study of the scripture, it is fairly clear that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were always and only passed on by the laying on of hands of the apostles. Acts 8, and the story of Phillip in Samaria strongly implies this. Hebrews 2:4 tells us that the purpose of the miraculous gifts in the primitive church was to testify to the inspired message. Now that we have the completed New Testament, it is not clear that there is any reason for such miracles. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 can be used to imply this (but should not be used as a proof text). Besides, we know from church history that by the end of the first century, the miraculous gifts had all but disappeared from the churches, probably because of the two reasons mentioned above.

If I am correct, then those who practice the “slaying in the Spirit” are almost certainly deceived about the pastor doing a miracle in this tradition. This is not a miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, but an emotionally-charged ritual, which gives some who participate a feeling that they have had some sort of miraculous effect, but which is not a genuine one. You imply that this act generally has no long term effect. I agree, but would prefer to be cautious because, I obviously do not know about all examples.

I cannot absolutely prove that the “miraculous” slaying in the spirit is bogus, so I want to be cautious here. It is not my place to judge what God might do, but from the little exposure I have had to this kind of activity, I am extremely skeptical that this is a legitimate act of God.

In summary, this practice is, technically, not biblical, but the fact that a particular practice is not mentioned in the Bible does not, in and of itself, prove that it is a wrong thing to do. However, based on biblical teaching about the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, I am extremely skeptical that these are legitimate acts of God and a Christian ought to distance his or herself from this practice. We definitely should not bring it into the church.

John Oakes


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