The so-called Toronto blessing has offered charismatic revival in the Christian church, beginning in the 1990s and continuing today. Spearheaded by Carol and John Arnott, and inspired by Randy Clark among others, a ministry evolved at the Toronto airport, which has grown and ignited enthusiasms around the world.
The leaders have promoted intimacy with the God by soaking prayer and healing by laying on of hands. Revival meetings give people space to experience the holy spirit with honesty and self-abandon.
Advocates say that they have experienced life-changing shifts through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they experienced in Toronto: healings, restored relationships, and a renewed happiness in being alive. Pastors and priests, who have attended meetings, explain that the revival brought them out of dryness, skepticism, and weariness in the spiritual life. The holy spirit, available through the Toronto moment, gave them back their motivation and joy in the gospel.
Detractors claim that this revival movement causes hysterical symptoms, such as chaotic bursts of laughter and being “slain in the Spirit” (involving sudden falls to the ground, passing out, and a stiffening of the body). None of these behaviors is genuinely caused by the holy spirit for the holy spirit is a spirit of order and gentleness not havoc and chaos. Churches need to revive sound teaching and doctrine. The Word of God replenishes the heart. The party atmosphere at Toronto — and bold claims of spiritual awakening — add up to a superficial distraction if not to a more significant danger.
In the new age movement, similar debates arise about channeling and its benefits. Some claim that to channel entities, such as the Pleiadians (spirits from the pleiades) or wise figures from the beyond, puts them in touch with a source of joy and wisdom beyond the human intelligence. Others claim that such spirits are not trustworthy and cause distractions, difficulties, or even demon-possession to those who channel them.
In my opinion, there is nothing to be afraid of in such spiritual experiences. If one is fearful of being demon-possessed or of encountering false and deceptive spirits, then it is advisable to heed one’s fear. Trust is indispensable to the spiritual life. One may stabilize one’s trust by praying for discernment and protection from God or the Holy Spirit. God knows the heart. If one is genuine in a desire for the truth and for the source of Life itself, God will provide divine protection from harmful things and guidance toward helpful opportunities.
If the Toronto blessing is valid and beneficial, its good fruits in one’s life will be lasting. If channeling is wise, then the counsel received from a channel will resonate with authenticity and authority. The opposite is also true. One may experience few benefits from such spiritual sources. If so, they are best left alone.
In the meantime, it is also good to remember that the Holy Spirit can speak with a still and small voice or move in our lives in ordinary ways. Let’s enjoy the Spirit.