Evangelical Alliance
Theological Reflection on the so called 'Toronto Blessing'

1. To what extend do you now view the Toronto Blessing as a work of God?
It is my contention that the wave of interest in what came to be known as "The Toronto Blessing" reflects a subtle but significant move away from sound doctrine. Based on the writings of its proponents, it is clear that the Bible has been neglected, distorted, and superseded by strange doctrines and novel teaching based on extra-biblical revelation. This has led to the uncritical acceptance of an existential theology compromised by worldly values. Under the guise of a supposed "move of God", a major paradigm shift has occurred away from the Biblical faith traditionally recognised and embraced by Evangelicals and into the realm of the cultic and heretical. The roots of the Toronto Blessing lie not in the Bible but deep within the 'Health and Wealth' prosperity Word of Faith movement associated with Rodney Howard-Browne and Benny Hinn.

According to Alpha magazine (July 1994), the "authorised" account of the events leading to the "Toronto Blessing" are that John Arnott, the pastor of the Toronto Vineyard church, was searching for "a fresh spiritual anointing" and so attended a meeting led by Benny Hinn, a neo-Pentecostal "Faith teacher" infamous for his claim that God revealed to him that there are nine in the Trinity. Benny Hinn's particular emphasis is upon a powerful "anointing" he is able to bestow simply by blowing on people and according to Guy Chevreau, by 1992, Arnott and Hinn had known each other for many years in Toronto and at that time Arnott had "longed for a similar kind of empowerment" as Hinn demonstrated. A year later, Arnott was also attracted to the "Holy laughter" ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne. (Chevreau, 1994:22-23)

Randy Clark, another "key figure in the Airport Vineyard Renewal" received his anointing through Rodney Howard-Browne at Kenneth Hagin's "Rhema" church. In the Alpha article (July 1994), Clark admitted having had reservations over "theological differences" with Hagin. However, he believed the Holy Spirit rebuked him saying, "how badly do you want to be touched afresh?" So Clark and Arnott, leaders of the Toronto Vineyard Fellowship went in search of spiritual blessings from men whose teachings have been criticised as heretical and cultic.

According to the Church Times (23 September 1994), the "strange things" which occurred in Toronto, "happened after a visit by Rodney Howard-Browne." Subsequently, the manifestations of hysterical laughter, growling, shaking, and falling associated with Howard-Browne and Hinn's ministry were experienced not only at the Toronto Vineyard Church, but as Vineyard leaders and lay people visited the church from around the world, they too received an anointing, and the manifestations spread to their churches as well.

If Randy Clark's blessing had its origin in the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne at Hagin's church, and John Arnott's at the hands of Benny Hinn, another of Hagin's disciples and a close friend, the origin of this phenomena must seriously be questioned.

2. How do you now regard the 'Blessing' in terms of a) renewal b) revival

2.1 Revival?
Advocates of the Toronto Blessing implied or explicitly stated at the time that they believed this to be evidence of revival. Holy Trinity Brompton and Alpha Magazine were among the foremost. For examples, see, "A Mighty wind from Toronto - The word "revival" is on everyone's lips" HTB Focus, June 12, 1994, p3; Dave Roberts, "Rumours of Revival", Alpha Magazine, July 1994, p.25: "Revival Fire" & "Revival Call", Alpha Magazine, August 1994, pp.14-17; 32-34; "Rodney Howard-Browne - the man behind global revival" & "Signs of Revival?", Alpha Magazine, December 1994, pp.5-7. Guy Chevreau also took this line in his book, The Toronto Blessing - An Experience of Renewal and Revival, (Marshall Pickering, 1994). Speaking at the Wembley meeting with Rodney Howard-Browne on 13th December 1994, Gerald Coates testified, "Describing these "Toronto" events as "revival"... He said, "This is perhaps the greatest outpouring of God in our land ever." Evangelicals Now, (February 1995, p.9) Despite such a preoccupation with revival it is important to note that the noun "revival" does not actually appear in the Bible. The verbs "revive" and "reviving" are used, in the Old Testament, to describe the action of God following his punishment, and His people's repentance (Psalm 80:18; 85:6, Isaiah 57:15; Hosea 6:2). In Psalm 19:7 it is associated with the Law of God and in many verses in Psalm 119 with meditating on the Word of God. There are no references in the New Testament. A fact we would do well to note.

2.2 Renewal?
Probably the most common interpretation is that the Toronto Blessing was evidence of "renewal". This term is, however, not without its problems in contemporary usage. The term "renewal" appears four times in the Bible, in each case in very specific ways. In Job 14:14 it relates to the day of resurrection; in Isaiah 57:10 from gaining strength from pagan worship rather than trusting in God; In Matthew 19:28 Jesus uses the word to describe what will happen when He returns to sit in judgement. The word "renewal" is used once to describe the Christian, in Titus 3:5, and there very clearly it has to do with regeneration, and "rebirth", not a subsequent event. "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." The concept of "being renewed" as a present tense experience is found in Romans 12:2, but refers not to our spirits or our bodies, but to our minds. Similarly, 2 Corinthians 4:16 describes "renewing" as a continual daily process by which we are becoming more like Christ. While our physical bodies are "decaying", or wearing out, our inner nature is being "renewed". There is no sense therefore in which the word here could be taken to refer to physical healing. Some Christians equate the word "renewal" with "receiving" the Spirit subsequent to conversion, evidenced by unintelligible sounds or "tongues". Mike Fearon for instance, refers to churches holding "receiving meetings" when the "Toronto Blessing" is apparently bestowed (Fearon, 1994: 248). To believe or teach that Christians need to pray to receive the Spirit is, however, quite fallacious. The Scriptures clearly teach that a person cannot be a Christian without the presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). The theological interpretation of Pentecost, as a unique historical event, is explained in 1 Corinthians 12:13. "For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.". Notice that Paul describes a corporate, past tense event, not something to be sought. There is no sense biblically therefore by which the Toronto Blessing can be associated with either the word 'revival' or 'renewal'.

3. To what extend do you now regard the manifestations associated with the 'Blessing' as biblical?
The Toronto Blessing became particularly notorious, at least in the secular press, for the claims made that people were 'drunk in the Spirit' and manifested the presence of the Holy Spirit through animal noises, roaring, shaking and other phenomenon.

3.1 Drunk in the Spirit?
It was repeatedly claimed by advocates that the drunken behaviour associated with the Toronto Blessing paralleled events witnessed on the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. The biblical text, however, shows that the only sign which could have given rise to this accusation was an eagerness and boldness on the part of the Apostles to publicly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. This was preached in clearly understood languages. Those who ridiculed the Apostles with the accusation that they were drunk, were hearing the Gospel and presumably rejecting it. Their criticism was the excuse of a guilty conscience and unfounded. It is significant that no biblical commentator interprets the text as teaching that the Apostles actually displayed drunken behaviour, that is, prior to the wishful eisegesis of the advocates of the Toronto Blessing. Logically, on the same basis, they must also presumably believe that the Lord Jesus spoke with slurred speech, staggered about or rolled on the floor, since He too was criticised for drunkenness. "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say "He has a demon." The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners"" (Matthew 11:18-19). Jesus' rebuke is clear, "Wisdom is proved right by her actions". Undeterred, there have been numerous, well publicised reports, of people supposedly being "intoxicated" in the Spirit, unable to walk or drive a car as a result of this so called "blessing". Mike Fearon, for example, quotes advocates as being "legless", and "merrily sozzled" and of "having a skinful of the Holy Spirit" (p.26), and the "undiluted 100 percent proof Spirit" (p.27). It is surely grievous to hear that "The Holy Spirit doesn't simply come so that people can become "pissed as newts", (p.28). Does He ever? What remains unanswered is the question as to how all this is compatible with "self control", one of the fruit of the Spirit. There is plainly a contradiction between the teaching of Scripture and these experiences.

Merely calling these experiences "altered states of consciousness", as Patrick Dixon does to justify them, will not do (Church Times, 2 June 1995, p.7) . Without self control we have no defence against the Devil. The Apostle Peter warns, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8). Indeed, Peter says if we are not self controlled and clear headed we cannot be in communion with God. "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." (1 Peter 4:7).

3.2 Laughter in the Spirit?
Joy is indeed a fruit of the Spirit, and there is no excuse for glum Christians. However, throughout the Bible, the great majority of references to laughter are associated with scorn, derision or evil. Of 40 references in the Bible, (34 in the Old Testament and 6 in the New testament), 22 of them refer to scornful laughter. Of the other 18, seven refer exclusively to Abraham and Sarah's initial disbelief and astonishment that God would give them a child in old age. Only three refer to authentic laughter in the New Testament and all three warn against laughter (Luke 6:21; 6:25 and James 4:9, where we are told specifically not to laugh!) "Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter into mourning and your joy into gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will life you up". (James 4:9-10) A number of observations can be made, based on the Scriptural record and the practice of advocates of what has been termed "Holy" laughter". These are taken from an article entitled, "Holy Laughter or Strong Delusion?" by Warren Smith, SCP Newsletter (Fall 1994, Volume 19:2, pp1-13).

There is no biblical precedent for "holy" laughter... Substituting the word joy for laughter is a non sequitur. It is inaccurate and misleading. "Holy" laughter advocates rarely, if ever, discuss the need to "test the spirits"... or the dangers of demonic deception. "Many laughter advocates condescendingly discourage and even openly intimidate sincere Christians who question the "laughing revival"...The Hunter's book "Holy Laughter" refers to sceptics as "God's frozen chosen." Mona Johnian writes, "sceptics, hesitators and procrastinators do not get anointed." She warns "that any person or church that wavered could be eliminated."... "Holy" laughter advocates blatantly disregard the biblical admonition that things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40) (Smith, 1994, 1-13)

Jo Gardner finds a similar observation in the writings of Watchman Nee, to the presence of laughter in the church in China,

They could not contain themselves and kept on laughing. What is this? Can this possibly be the fullness of the Spirit? No, this is plainly one of the works of the soul. (The Latent Power of the Soul p.71 by Watchman Nee quoted in The Churchman Vol.109, no.1, 1995)

3.3 Roaring in the Spirit?
At the peak of the controversy surrounding the Toronto Blessing, Mark Dupont, one of the prophetic leaders of the then Toronto Vineyard Fellowship, wrote specifically about the "roaring" or growling phenomenon associated with the Toronto Blessing. In a paper entitled, "1994: The Year of the Lion" published by Mantle of Praise Ministries Incorporated, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
, Dupont insisted that Amos 3:8 applies to today, and that it is the Lord God who has inspired the "roaring" phenomenon.

"The lion has roared-- who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken-- who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8)

He writes, "There have been many people who have been roaring as lions in the meetings as the Spirit of God has come on them." A cursory reading of the context (Amos 3:1-4) shows that in this, as in just about every other reference to "roaring" in the Scriptures, this was a sign of God's judgement of Israel, and their imminent punishment. Any good Bible concordance shows conclusively that references to "roar," "roaring" and "roared" found in the context of a lion have to do with the presence of evil, of destruction, and, when applied to the Lord God, refers to His impending judgement of sin, not blessing.

With the same lack of regard for Scripture, Mike Fearon asserts that "roaring people are usually intercessors involved in promoting unity" (A Breath of Fresh Air 1994: p.99). The bankruptcy of Dupont's exegetical abilities is evident when he has to quote from the fictional story, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," by C.S. Lewis, to explain the reason for this apparently new way of Divine working. Referring to something "Aslan" the lion says in the book, Dupont asserts, "This in essence is the revelation that the bride of Christ needs today...." I suspect Dupont and others caught up in the roaring phenomenon have been influenced more by Walt Disney's film "The Lion King" than with the Spirit of God. Clifford Hill comments on reports linking this "Blessing" with people making roaring animal noises.

The Sunday Telegraph reported an Anglican bishop in Toronto rolling on the floor and roaring like a lion. A Pentecostal pastor attended a church in Brighton (said to be one of the first congregations in Britain to receive the new laughter phenomenon) and reported on a three and a half hour service on 19 June... [including] constant repetition of triumphalist songs declaring "We are going to take the land, subdue the nation and present it to Christ." At one point a young man shouted "The beast is dead! The beast is dead!" which was greeted with much screaming and shouting culminating in a growing crescendo of the whole congregation growling. After this the elder leading the service told visitors not to worry about the growl as "it always happens here."(PWM Team Ministries, November 1994)

Clifford Hill points out that the prophet Jeremiah associates "roaring like a lion", with the occult spirit of Babylon, and their shouts of laughter as a sign of their impending destruction.

"Babylon will be a heap of ruins... an object of horror and scorn, a place where no one lives. Her people all roar like young lions, they growl like lion cubs. But while they are aroused, I will set out a feast for them and make them drunk, so that they shout with laughter--then sleep forever and not awake," says the LORD."I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter." (Jeremiah 51:37-40)

Ignoring this warning of judgement, Dupont equates the Toronto Blessing with what he describes as "a party the Father is throwing," an idea taken from the Parable of the Lost Son. Others have similarly compared it with a banquet. This is actually a form of "realised eschatology" where promises that relate to the future are applied to the present. The Scriptures teach that the "marriage supper of the Lamb" will be in heaven in the future, not now, on earth (Isaiah 25:6-9). Yes, there is joy and times of celebration now, but essentially the Christian calling is one of battle and toil (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:7-18; Rom 8:19-25; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:21). We look forward to the banquet with sure and certain hope (Revelation 19:7-9).

Most worrying of all, Dupont's paper is littered with biblical references to Divine judgement which he insists will fall on those who doubt or question that this movement is a work of God. It is very disturbing to find so-called Christians speaking in this way of other believers. Dupont refers to, or quotes from, an amazing array of passages to silence criticism. These include 1 Kings 13:4 (the unbelieving King got a withered arm); Judges 1:2; Judges 20:18; Proverbs 6; Isaiah 58; 2 Cor 3:6; Malachi 3:16; 2 Kings 5:26 (Gehazi's disobedience led to leprosy); 1 Kings 13:26 (the disobedient prophet was killed by a lion); Ephesians 4:30; James 4:5; John 15:2 (the branch cut off); Jeremiah 6:14; 8:14; Isaiah 42:13,16. In fact the entire paper seems to be designed to do just that-silence criticism. Dupont is at least honest when he says, with reference to the story of the prophet mauled by a lion, "This may sound like a harsh Old Testament story for Christians today, but I believe this is really a picture of God's jealousy over those that He gives revelation of Himself to." Perhaps Dupont ought to read John 10:27-30 (in relation to our security) and Revelation 22:18 (in relation to all these new extra-Biblical revelations).

3.4 The Bible and the Manifestations of Toronto
On the basis of a careful analysis of all the biblical references to drunkenness, shaking, roaring or laughter it is quite clear that, not withstanding glowing testimonies, there is no biblical basis for the manifestations associated with the Toronto Blessing. Perhaps this is why proponents have attempted to avoid such an evaluation.

For example, "Howard-Browne disparages those who try and apply a theological test to his methods.", writes Julia Duin, in Charisma, (August 1994, p.26), "You can't understand what God is doing in these meetings with an analytical mind," he says. "The only way you're going to understand what God is doing is with your heart."

While it is true that the genuine work of God affects our heart as well as our mind, it is worrying that like the "Faith Teaching" cultists, some Christians appear to downgrade the mind as the primary means of discerning truth from error. The Scriptures repeatedly warn us to "be on your guard", and to use our minds to understand God's will. (see Rom 12:1-2; Eph 4:17-24; 5:17-18; Col 1:21-22; 3:10; 1 Tim 6:3-4; 2 Tim 2:15; 4:1-4; 2 Pet 2:1-3).

Dave Roberts in The Toronto Blessing, disparages the example of the noble Bereans in Acts 17:11 who, "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" . Under the title "Explain, explain, explain", Roberts tells us that "It is vital we help our congregational Bereans and those simply shocked by the new and different and that we seek to remind people of appropriate scriptures" (1994:138). Roberts is clearly criticising those who want to justify everything from the Scriptures. But the Berean Christians are praised not pitied by Luke. They are held up as the norm, as a universal model, not a weak or narrow group of biblicists to be found in most congregations, as Roberts implies. At best the hermeneutic used by advocates of Toronto is unconvincing, at worst it is appalling. It is frankly an "Alice in Wonderland" hermeneutic - words can mean what ever they want them to because they have had an experience. Spiritual experiences have a vital place in the Christian life but must always be weighed and tested according to the Scriptures, not other extra-biblical revelations.

This is precisely what Mike Fearon does in A Breath of Fresh Air . Ironically, he quotes extensively from my own criticisms of the Toronto Movement and apparently concedes the wisdom of caution where "the church appears to be experiencing phenomena which goes beyond the parameters set down in Scripture". Fearon then, however, completely ignores such authoritative Biblical teaching by saying, "Yet if it is the Spirit himself who is transcending these barriers, what can the church do?" (1994:157). But in so reasoning, Fearon assumes to be true (on the basis of experience or extra-biblical revelation), the very point in question. Surely such "logic" sets in contradiction the work of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures which He inspired. Such reasoning destroys any basis for rational discussion on the meaning and interpretation of God's Word, for at any point where the basis for unusual phenomena is questioned, appeal can be made to "discernment" or experience to justify it. This is in reality merely a modern and more insidious incarnation of the "higher knowledge" of the 3rd century Gnostic heresy.

According to Eleanor Mumford, on her now infamous tape, the Vineyard leaders at Toronto told her "not to analyse or question this, but just receive it... or you will lose it". Precisely, because in the light of Scripture it is exposed for what it is. There we are specifically commanded to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), and refute error and uncritical thinking such as advocated here.

4. What is your assessment of the place of the 'Blessing' within churches today?
With the benefit of hindsight it is clear that the 'Toronto Blessing' was a major distraction from the evangelistic mandate and a cause of great confusion and division within Evangelical and Charismatic circles.

5. Does the 'Blessing' have a future, or was it only for a 'season'?
The question assumes too much. The Toronto Blessing was neither for a season nor has a future other than to show the perils of basing our Christian faith on experience rather than the sure Word of God.

6. What lessons can be learnt from the 'Blessing' for the future?
What are we to make of the "Toronto Blessing"? Some people say they have a greater love for God as a consequence of this "blessing". My conclusions do not nullify experiences people may have had, but they are sufficient to warn us not to accept, uncritically, every wind of doctrine blowing across the Atlantic, any more than we would from the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England! It must also be said that many of so called "testimonies" I have listened to in person or on tape or video focus on the phenomena, the "experience" and are highly subjective, speaking of a resultant "greater love" or "greater zeal" for God, something which it is impossible to assess objectively. John Richardson makes this helpful assessment.

We need to ask in conclusion not whether the Toronto Blessing might be something God is doing nor whether it is changing peoples' lives, but whether it is consistent with the biblical theology of the blessing of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. The essence of the work of the Holy Spirit will be the Holy life, and for this we do not have to pass through the Toronto Blessing. Rather we need to immerse ourselves more and more in the whole counsel of the gospel which is sufficient for our relationship with God. This is the teaching of the rest of Galatians, and I would suggest it is the consistent teaching of the whole of Scripture. And if the preaching of the whole of Scripture on the basis that Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age is not adequate to bring the Toronto Blessing to those who hear with faith, then whatever does bring the Toronto Blessing is another gospel and whatever it brings is not the blessing promised Abraham, nor a result of receiving the Holy Spirit. (From a talk given at a conference "Toronto Blessing? It's OK to ask Questions" at St Andrew's Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, 16th September 1995)

It seems very easy to spot a "Gospel minus" heresy and we love to condemn Bishops who deny fundamental Christian doctrines. It is not so easy, and I fear Evangelicals and Charismatics are not so willing, to contest teaching which in effect is a "Gospel plus" heresy, especially when uttered by those who claim "Jesus is Lord". That is what we are offered in the "Toronto Blessing", more than God has promised. The Gospel has been likened to a canoe perfectly capable of carrying us through life to heaven. But if we try and add baggage we will sink the canoe just as quickly as by punching holes in it. The effect of adding to the Gospel is the same as taking away from it. John Richardson continues.

But could it not be claimed that the Toronto Blessing is a blessing beyond the simple blessings of the gospel? Could it not be, as Michael Green has also suggested, God's way of by-passing our rationalism and reaching the parts other approaches - such as gospel preaching - haven't reached?

This is perhaps the hardest claim to answer in support of the Toronto Blessing. To deny it seems to deny either the power or the sovereignty of God. And yet, as we said at the outset, one vital function of systematic theology is to insist that, whilst God can do anything he doesn't do everything.

The blessing of which Paul speaks in Galatians 3, the blessing which may be summed up as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit even on the Gentiles, is the blessing God promised to Abraham and it is received through hearing the gospel with faith. So we must say that any blessing which goes beyond the blessing promised to Abraham, and any blessing which comes by some other means than hearing the gospel with faith, is a blessing too far because, as Paul points out in Galatians 1, it must come from "a different gospel". (From a talk given at a conference "Toronto Blessing? It's OK to ask Questions" at St Andrew's Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, 16th September 1995

It does seem most unfortunate, even embarrassing, that media reports of "a Time of Refreshment" coincided with a period of almost apocalyptic suffering in places like Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Bosnia. The Scriptures give us no warrant for believing that the evangelistic mandate and call to compassionate service has been revoked in these 'last days', replaced by egocentric and introverted ecstatic experiences of laughter, animal noises, shaking and falling to the floor.J. I. Packer, in Laid-Back Religion, makes this perceptive analysis of what he terms "Hot Tub Religion".

"Hot tub religion....attempts to harness the power of God to the priorities of self-centredness. Feelings of pleasure and comfort, springing from pleasant circumstances and soothing experiences, are prime goals these days, and much popular Christianity on both sides of the Atlantic tries to oblige us by manufacturing them for us.... Now we can see hot tub religion for what it is - Christianity corrupted by the passion for pleasure....Symptoms of hot tub religion today include...an overheated supernaturalism that seeks signs, wonders, visions, prophecies, and miracles; constant soothing syrup from electronic preachers and the liberal pulpit; anti-intellectual sentimentalism and emotional "highs" deliberately cultivated, the Christian equivalent of cannabis and coca." ( 1989: p.53,58)

The Toronto Blessing is representative of a sub-Christian movement in which the basis of faith has shifted from the historic Jesus of the cross to the present "spirit" of personal experience. This is existential Gnostic heresy. Subjective experience must never take precedence over objective fact. Faith means "I trust", not "I feel".

In this and in every generation what is at stake is the truth of the Gospel and the unity of the Body of Christ. This unity can only be maintained, not created. It is maintained as we remain faithful to the faith once received, according to the Scriptures.

Dr Francis Schaeffer wrote an emotive book shortly before his death, entitled The Great Evangelical Disaster. In it he speaks of a "watershed" dividing evangelicals. On the one side are those who hold "to a strong uncompromising view of Scripture" (1985: p.46), and those who hold what he terms a "Neo-orthodox existential theology.....The heart of neo-orthodox existential theology is that the Bible gives us a quarry out of which to have religious experience.." (p.49). The watershed, for Schaeffer, is between a theology based on "an inner feeling" and one based on "objective truth".

"It is surprising to see how clearly the liberal, neo-orthodox way of thinking is reflected in the new weakened evangelical view...By placing a radical emphasis on subjective human experience, existentialism undercuts the objective side of experience. For the existentialist it is an illusion to think that we can know anything truly....all we have is subjective experience, with no final basis for right or wrong or truth or beauty." (p.51,53)

In an article published in United Evangelical Action (Fall, 1976), Schaeffer went on to challenge Evangelicals to take a stand on this watershed issue.

"You cannot wait for others to draw the line. You must draw the line. Will it be with tears? I hope it will be with tears. I remember as a young man in the 1930's when harshness and un-love reigned, but harshness and un-love do not need to reign when the line is drawn. It can be with tears and it can be with love. But unless those who have responsibility of leadership are willing to draw the line, they cut the ground from under the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1976, p.4)

In drawing the line there are three specific things we must do.

6.1 Understand Christian Doctrine
The chief single reason for the success of the cults in general, and the Toronto Blessing in particular, is the spiritual naiveté and ignorance of the Word of God among Christians. Too many are content with a superficial knowledge of the Scriptures, the means by which God has revealed Himself. This is made worse by the prevalence of an arrogant and over confident reliance on spiritual discernment which allegedly keeps one impervious to deception. More common still is the unspoken and naive belief that only other people are deceived by cults.

We must instead give ourselves to a life-long and detailed study of Scriptures and the doctrines they contain. Theology is simply right thinking about God, something we should approach reverently and systematically. In this regard I warmly commend Bruce Milne's book Know the Truth (IVP, 1992), and the older classic work by T.C. Hammond, In Understanding be Men (IVP).

We live at a time when doctrine is seen as a dirty word and down played in favour of ecstatic religious experiences of dubious origin. This is utter foolishness and plays into the hands of cultic wolves who prowl the edges of the flock. Are you daily spending unhurried time in the Word of God? You can't be physically healthy on one meal a week, nor can you be spiritually healthy on one sermon a week. Grow up into maturity by becoming familiar with the Maker's Instructions, as one who feeds on and applies the very Word of God (Matthew 4:4).

6.2 Separate from Spiritual Error
The Apostle Paul was most emphatic when he warned the Ephesians, and Timothy, to have nothing to do with "godless myths".

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11) Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. (1 Timothy 4:7)

Advocates of the Toronto Blessing have said to me, "But you make it sound so black and white... but many Christians seem to have been helped by this movement." I agree that it is not all "black and white". My argument is that a little cancer is too much, a little adultery is still adultery, a little AIDS infection is enough to infect the whole body. The apostle Paul knew the devastating influence of just a little error.

Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? (1 Corinthians 5:6)

He defines the bread without yeast as that of "sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8) Sincerity is never enough. That is surely why Jesus warned so strongly against the subtle but pervading influence of false teaching.

Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees...Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12)

Ultimately we may disagree as to the extent of error in the roots, teaching and manifestations associated with the Toronto Blessing, but error there clearly is, and that is sufficient reason for disassociating from it, no matter how tantalising the apparent fruit.

Nor is true that we cannot speak critically of false doctrine unless we have read everything offered by particular heretics or cults. We need only become familiar with the truth of God's Word and error becomes plain. The argument that, "You cannot know it until you have tried it" is a satanic doctrine, and the very one used to subvert Eve and bring the terrible cancer of sin into the world. We must watch out for heretical teaching not just outside the Church from well defined cult organisations, but also within the Church. God has forbidden contact with those who teach error.

Spiritual exhibitionists abound, touting new revelations and the Christian media seem only too willing to play along with their charades and make a fat profit in the process. We are commanded not to give ourselves to these things but rather "to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13). Furthermore we are called upon to, Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (1 Timothy 4:15).

We cannot float through life on a permanent spiritual high, or on a wave of existential euphoria. Rather we are commanded again and again to be careful, take heed, watch out, remember. We are to be wise and sober, and at all times to,

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)

6.3 Contend For The Truth
The Lord calls upon us to earnestly contend for the faith, in the face of satanic adversaries (Jude 3). Sometimes, as happened between Paul and Peter, this may even mean coming to a point of contention with friends and associates where the truth of the gospel is at stake (Galatians 2:11).

Indeed Jesus Christ Himself had on one occasion to turn to His beloved friend and say "Get behind me, Satan" (Matthew 16:23). The true servant of Jesus Christ must be careful that his allegiance is absolute. By comparison, all human relationships are relative.

I believe the Lord is testing the Western Church at this time, for its infatuation with "health and wealth", and titillation by "signs and wonders". The extent to which this book is taken seriously, and the truth which it reveals is heeded, will be a good indication of how the wider Church will fare in these trying times. We would do well to heed the Scriptural warning.

"If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

The first principle of the universe is truth and this must be defended even at the cost of our lives. We live in a relativist culture which values tolerance and mutual respect more highly than truth. Our spiritual sentiments, and this is probably the most sentimental age in the history of the Church, would therefore lead us many times to feel that to contend for the faith of the gospel is somehow eccentric, unspiritual or undignified. Nothing could be further from the truth. God warns a few verses later in Deuteronomy not to be influenced even by friendship or personal loyalty when the truth is at stake.

Do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. (Deuteronomy 13:8)

The Apostle Paul was similarly very serious when he likened us to soldiers of the cross, describing in detail the armour we must wear in order to contend for the truth (Ephesians 6:10-20). Here Paul equates the "mighty power" of God not with signs and wonders but with the truth and righteousness, with the gospel and faith, and above all, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God... Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, (Ephesians 6:10-19

We are indeed soldiers of Christ. The world is a battleground. The struggle is between truth and error. Our only weapon is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. May God enable you to handle it more accurately as a workman who need never be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). Become a person who knows well and lives by the Word of God. Know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).

Martin Luther once said,

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
(Schaeffer, 1985:51)


David Breese Know the Marks of the Cults, Victor: Wheaton, 1986

Walter Chantry Signs of an Apostle, Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 1976

Guy Chevreau Catch the Fire, Marshall Pickering, 1994

Curtis Crenshaw Man as God-The Word of Faith Movement, Footstool, 1993

Patrick Dixon Signs of Revival, Kingsway, 1994

Robert Doyle Signs and Wonders and Evangelicals, Lancer, 1987

Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, 1994

Mike Fearon A Breath of Fresh Air, Eagle, 1994

Jo Gardner & Rachel Tingle

"Ticket to Toronto" The Churchman, vol. 109, no.1, 1995

Wayne Grudem Power & Truth, The Association of Vineyard Churches, 1993

Hank Hanegraaff Christianity in Crisis, Nelson Word, 1995

Clifford Hill And They Shall Prophesy, Marshall Pickering, 1990

Benny Hinn Good Morning Holy Spirit, Word, 1991

Michael Horton Power Religion, Scripture Press, 1992

Dave Hunt The Seduction of Christianity, Harvest House, 1987

Phillip Jensen John Wimber-Friend or Foe?, St Matthias Press: London, 1990

John MacArthur Charismatic Chaos, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1992

Gary McHale & Michael Haykin

The Toronto Blessing: A Renewal from God? Canadian Christian Publishers, 1995

Alan Morrison The Serpent and the Cross, K & M, 1994

J.I. Packer Laid-Back Religion, Inter-Varsity Press, 1989

Dave Roberts The Toronto Blessing, Kingsway. 1994

Francis Schaeffer The Great Evangelical Disaster, Kingsway, 1985

James Sire The Universe Next Door, IVP, 1988

The Toronto Blessing : A Critical Reflection
This brief critique grew out of a series of papers produced for his own congregations on this perplexing and divisive issue. In these Stephen has concentrated on the theological roots of this movement, and the biblical hermeneutic used to justify the phenomena associated with it.

In December 1994, Stephen was asked to debate with Sandy Millar and Nicky Gumbal before the Church of England Evangelical Council on the significance of the "Toronto Blessing". That same month he participated in a 24 hour Consultation on the subject under the auspices of the Evangelical Alliance. He and Rob Warner drafted the agreed statement signed by those participating. In the Spring of 1995 Stephen contributed to a video entitled "Rumours of Revival" produced by Nelson Word and in October 1995, addressed the Annual Rally of the Church Society at Westminster Central Hall on this subject. In 1997 he contributed to a video series produced by National Prayer Network exposing the errors of the Signs and Wonders Movement. A more detailed critique of the so called 'Toronto Blessing' and related manifestations is available from his web site under 'articles and papers': www.virginiawater.co.uk/christchurch