Today thousands of people are routinely being “slain in the spirit” in the name of a fashionable and palpable demonstration of Holy Ghost power. Practitioners claim ample validation for this phenomenon in Scripture, church history, and experience. However, the phenomenon not only is conspicuous by its absence in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles but is generally inconsistent with a biblical worldview.
First, as aptly noted by pro-Pentecostal sources such as the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (DPCM) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), “An entire battalion of Scripture proof texts is enlisted to support the legitimacy of the phenomenon, although Scripture plainly offers no support for the phenomenon as something to be expected in the normal Christian life” (p. 790).
Furthermore, the experience of being “slain in the spirit” can be attributed to mere human manipulation. According to the DPCM, “in addition to God, the source of the experience can be a purely human response to autosuggestion, group ‘peer pressure,’ or simply a desire to experience the phenomenon” (p. 789). Cynics may write off the use of altered states of consciousness, peer pressure, expectations, and suggestive powers as mere socio-psychological manipulation, but Christians must perceive an even more significant threat—these techniques are fertile soil for satanic and spiritual deception.
Finally, the “slain in the spirit” phenomenon has more in common with occultism than with a biblical worldview. As popular “slain in the spirit” practitioner Francis MacNutt candidly confesses in his book Overcome by the Spirit, the phenomenon is externally similar to “manifestations of voodoo and other magic rites” and is “found today among different sects in the Orient as well as among primitive tribes of Africa and Latin America.” In sharp contrast, Scripture makes it clear that as Christians we must be “self-controlled and alert” (1 Peter 5:8) rather than being in an altered state of consciousness or “slain in the spirit.”
Adapted from Counterfeit Revival
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places, rev. ed. (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2001).
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
1 Peter 5:8–9