Question: Spiritual Gifts or Demonic Rituals?

Anonymous asked:

Hi, love your blog!! So i recently had the experience of “holy laughter” during a prayer group at someone’s home. Before it happened to me i had never heard of it and they told me it was from the Holy Spirit but now after some googling i’ve learned it is apparently evil and from demons which honestly has me a bit freaked out. What’s your opinion on this? And if it is evil what do i do? Should i stop associating with those people at church who support it? Thanks 🙂

Please allow me to cut straight to the bottom of this issue:

Is it biblical? Is it edifying? What’s the motive? What’s the purpose?

I know there is tons of history, culture, and tradition behind spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues, healing, and prophetic visions, so I also know that I will offend one group of people or another. But again — what’s the bottom line here? What’s the appropriate biblical place for something like “holy laughter?” How is it being used? And why?

Even legit biblical disciplines like prayer can be abused with false motives, like competing with other Christians or praying only for health and wealth. Ascetic monks of the early church would play American Idol by praying louder and longer than everyone else. Or they’d pray in their isolated chambers but never lift a finger to help a dying stranger.

Sometimes “spiritual gifts” are just working yourself into a frenzy as if the religious experience of ecstasy somehow equates to meeting with God. While emotions play a part in worship, it’s definitely not the basis. And trying to work yourself into a fervor every week is downright exhausting. If you base your faith on how well you can shake on the floor, then you’ll hate yourself when you just don’t want to do it one day. Or you’ll go through the motions and be severely disillusioned while pretending.

Let’s take the example of speaking in tongues. I often get the feeling that when people publicly go on a tongue-rage, they’re saying, “Look at my awesome divine ability to yell holy gibberish!” If you read 1 Corinthians 14 (especially verses 18-19, 23, 27-28), you’ll see the true biblical parameters for speaking in tongues which are almost always violated. Tongues are supposed to be done away from non-believers, always with an interpreter, quietly, and it’s at the bottom of the list in significance. God’s Word is super-specific here: there’s no getting it wrong.

God is a God of order, and He knew how whacked out we could become if we over-emphasized these things. The fad of “holy laughter” has also led to animal noises and bouts of shrieking weeping. At some point, somebody needs to blow a whistle and say, “Okay man, stop being an attention whore. You’re holy, okay? We get it. Congrats bro.” If that’s harsh, I’m just saying what everyone else is already thinking.

While I’m not sure all this is demonic or evil, I’m also not entirely sure that much of it is born from a right heart. I have no idea how it could NOT distract others and break the atmosphere. I’m not sure how it connects with God, either. You’ll really have to pray about attending this church by asking: Why are they really doing this? Ask them the same thing. Be thoughtful.

It’s cool to rejoice in worship and have fun in fellowship and shout for joy, and there’s a right time to laugh too, but I think spiritual gifts do not go far enough. They’re just extras. The authentic Christian submits to the Spirit of God so He will gloriously flex the fruit of love in serving one another. Love is the priority; it is the greatest gift; it’s the bottom line. Anything else that impedes it should be tossed.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
— 1 Corinthians 13:1, 8, 13

Also Read:

– So About The Speaking of Tongues

Follow-up message:
Oh man, I can’t wait until you go to heaven! You’re going to get rocked beyond your wildest dreams haha! Matt 6:10 man!To the Anon who asked about if “holy spirit laughter” was right or not, I’ve personally experienced it myself and let me tell you, nothing but love for Jesus and others came out of it! I do agree with you Mr. Park! Love NEEDS to be the center of all things. However, God doesn’t always need to do things in the order that we see. God just wants to have fun sometimes 🙂 Be blessed!

Thanks for your message. I really appreciate your graciousness too.

You know, when we get to Heaven I’m sure we’ll be dead wrong about a lot of stuff. If it turns out that speaking in tongues, having a word of knowledge, and interpreting dreams were all gifts that I was missing out on, then I’ll be completely humbled. It’s okay if I’m wrong about that.

But I don’t want to be wrong about Jesus. These secondary issues are not worth arguing over when we already have a difficult time with the primary core.

Please understand that I’m coming from the background of a former atheist, I’m still a very skeptical Christian, and the entire subculture of “spiritual gifts” is almost like an elective: seems cool, but I don’t need it to pass. When I already struggle severely with doubt, have overcome a porn addiction, and walked away from a mess of a past, I’m about to keep it as basic as it gets.

I can hang with the most erudite scholarly theologian and I can respect the charismatic guy with visions, but in the real world, I’m sticking to the simple love of Jesus. If God loosens my tongue and I start doing holy laughter, that’s cool. But I won’t be praying for that. I’m praying to finish strong in loving Him and loving others.

— J

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13 thoughts on “Question: Spiritual Gifts or Demonic Rituals?

  1. Balanced view. I respect the Francis Chan types who are generous to both sides, even though the holy laughter antics kind of creep me out. I was raised Baptist and my wife is charismatic so I’m sympathetic to both views (which means I tick off both sides). I’m reformed minded and we currently go to a charismatic Methodist church…go figure. Some of my Baptist friends need to hear 1 Cor 14:39. Some of my charismatic friends need to hear 1 Cor 14:19.

    Serious question: Where do people ask you all of these questions? Email? Tumblr? Blog? Thanks.


    1. That’s quite a pedigree! I grew up an atheist/agnostic so pretty much every church practice was a weird mystical ritual, and sometimes still can be. But despite me not practicing some of the “spiritual gifts,” I’ve been more open to it. Hence trying for the balanced view.

      I get 99% of questions through Tumblr!


    2. That’s quite a pedigree! I grew up an atheist/agnostic so pretty much every church practice was a weird mystical ritual, and sometimes still can be. But despite me not practicing some of the “spiritual gifts,” I’ve been more open to it. Hence trying for the balanced view.

      I get 99% of questions through Tumblr!


  2. I appreciate the way you explain this J.S. Love must always be the motivation in our method of praise and Jesus must always be the one receiving praise. The Holy Spirit was sent to point people to Jesus and to give us power to witness. As a Pentecostal pastor I believe in the gifts…the manifestations of the spirit which are the nine gifts described in I Corinthians Chapter 12. Holy Laughter is not a gift of the Spirit nor is it a manifestation of the Spirit. It can be a reaction to the Spirit’s presence. But even when it is totally Spirit created it is only a reaction to a deeper work of the Holy Spirit going on inside of us. It’s really no different than tearing up because a worship song touched you (though it is obviously more demonstrative). That said there are a few people in my church whom I wish would start laughing in service. They could use a good chuckle. JE


  3. I have witnessed laughter during prayer but it’s never like the videos I have googled on youtube. The type that I’ve witnessed is nothing like that.

    I was at a retreat and some Pastors (from different denominations, baptist, pentecostal, united brethren) were praying over a woman who had suffered from years of depression and regrets. At the end of prayer she started laughing but not maniacally or hysterically but rather just wholesome joy. She was rejoicing and we all rejoiced with her, we hugged and praised God for healing her and she gave her testimony.

    I think that in this instance it was more of a sign of healing to see this woman laugh after many years of suffering and depression. I’m not an advocate for holy laughter and I think it’s a term that was clearly made up. But laughter in prayer is normal as long as there is some sort of edification.


    1. That’s a great testimony, thank you for sharing it. Some of the videos that people use as cannon fodder against “holy laughter” are the most extreme examples, which is the same as sensational news media posting up the worst moral failures of church leaders. There’s definitely a place for unadulterated joy in the body of Christ.


  4. Bam! Nailed it again, bro. The only time I’ve seen holy laughter was in a church I was visiting with my charismatic friend. He’s the real deal in his walk with God, and he made things easier for me to understand. A lady on stage started laughing while the guest preacher was preaching. I remember being annoyed because she was interrupting what he was saying. And, everyone was slain in the Spirit at the end . . . except for me. Very awkward being the only dude upright. My problem was, there was no question in my heart that my friend was (and is) closer to God than I. So, there must be some legitimacy to that stuff. I don’t get it, but, like your first comment pointed out, God it free to be God. You made the best point, though. Our motivation, and how it lines up with God’s Word, must be the deciding factors. Thanks for speaking freely, JS.


    1. Thanks for that story, and I’m sorry for the awkwardness. I just keep getting the suspicion that a lot of these “spiritual gifts” are learned behaviors and calls for attention, which are probably not demonic but also not edifying. Some of the videos from Korean churches (many of them cults) are downright horrific, and I grieve for them. It’s no wonder Apostle Paul had specific instructions about doing this sort of thing at home and especially when non-believers are not present.


      1. Don’t get me wrong. I agree with you 100%. When things are tough to figure out, the Bible has to be the first and last. No awkwardness in your post. I believe Paul knew what he was doing with what he wrote. Keep up the great work.


  5. See I struggle with this too. I don’t know about Holy laughter but the gifts of the spirit puzzle me. I was raised baptist but as I read the bible I see the gifts continuing not stopping. I guess I’m bapticostal, I feel like salvation is eternal and you can possess spiritual gifts all at the same time. But truthfully it’s not a doctrinal thing, or a gifts thing, it’s a Jesus thing. So in saying that I suppose the rest is just according to each person’s own conviction.


  6. I’m a bit of an introvert and I was also raised Catholic, so I’ve always been very, very skeptical about public displays of being spirit-filled. I always tend to assume that people are just looking for attention. My grandmother is a self-proclaimed “devout Catholic” and she is in the habit of saying corporal prayers out of sync with everyone on purpose, and singing much louder than everyone else. She’s a glory-seeker. I’ve always been careful to not be that way myself. It’s always been my purpose to be aware of my intent and where my heart lies in worship. And to be honest, I’ve always found some of those charismatic things kind of … well … hokey and creepy.

    Having said that, I really enjoy worshiping by myself–with no one around. There’s a great chapel on my college campus that is rarely used, and I like to go in there and pray and really let down my hair with Christ. I like it because I don’t feel concerned about what others are thinking. I often lift my hands (which I would NEVER do during a church service) and lay prostrate on the ground. It’s just how I feel compelled to worship. Sometimes I sit at the piano and sing. One morning, I was playing the piano and singing. Just singing whatever came to mind to God. My praise started to increase in intensity … so much to the point that what I was feeling in my heart was too intense for me to describe with words and I began to sing in a sort of nonsense language. After that, I felt a warmth and a tingling rush fill me up and emotionally I would describe myself as being full of overwhelming joy and peace. The way I saw it at the time is that I was just expressing something that was inexpressible with words, but I might consider that perhaps I was actually singing in tongues.

    During these times of personal worship I’ve also wept and laughed after having been filled with the spirit. I can say that the motive was pure because there was no one around to impress upon and I was fully reacting to the spirit. It has become something that I now accept, though I was once a skeptic (and continue to be). My first encounter with the holy spirit was in a bout of tearful laughter that I simply couldn’t control. The person I was praying next to began to laugh, too. We both had been suffering from severe, debilitating depression and it was like a balm for our souls. I don’t always laugh or speak in tongues or cry (though generally when I feel the presence of the holy spirit, I tend to tear up).

    So I do believe in this sort of thing, and I do believe it’s good so long as there isn’t some sort of ulterior motive. But as you’ve alluded to, it shouldn’t be the main aim of worship. It’s like a bonus and it isn’t a measure of how holy one is or isn’t. I don’t concentrate on “achieving” these things when I worship; if they happen, they happen. If they don’t, they don’t. I let the spirit lead me when I pray.


    1. That’s right on, and an awesome testimony. Thank you for sharing. We all worship as differently as there are unique people in the world. It’s so cool that you can worship this way. I mean cool in the best way possible: sincere, unhindered, total freedom.
      I might have been a little one-sided in my response, but I’m speaking from a place of seeing brothers and sisters hurting when they couldn’t “ramp it up” to an emotional level or “get the spiritual gift.” There are some who think they’re not saved because of it. So I’m all for the freedom to express our love to God — and I also want to be fair to the ones who do it with all their heart without the same ecstatic form of expression. For some, even singing softly is totally red-lining it.


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