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.

‘The Toronto Controversy’ copyright (c) Andrew Strom, 1996. (Please feel free to photocopy).
This article can be found at- www.streetrevival.com

Posted in Articles by Andrew on April 21st, 2010 at 4:56 am.

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