It has been called “the Toronto Blessing” and “the Laughing Revival” by its friends and various other things by its foes. Whatever it is called, it all began on January 20, 1994 at a church called the Toronto Airport Vineyard, pastored by John Arnott. Arnott believes that God is throwing a great party and six nights a week hundreds of people gather to become drunk in the Spirit and enjoy the festivities. The parties that God seems to be throwing would rival anything that the world has to offer, what with people laughing for hours, falling all over the floor, making strange noises, shaking, shouting, having visions and falling into trances. A mere twenty months into the “revival” Arnott penned this book billed as a firsthand account of a refreshing move of God. This “anointing”, as it is sometimes called, has spread throughout the world (Arnott claims some 5000 to 7000 churches in the UK alone are now “flowing in the Spirit’s power” p.218), as pastors and church leaders have come to Toronto to receive the blessing and take it back home. It is all highly reminiscent of the Azusa Street revivals of 1906-1913 that spread Pentecostalism in much the same fashion.
The Father’s Blessing is deeply disturbing on almost every front. Early the author repeats the tired false dichotomy between love and truth, “Being in love with Jesus is more important than having pure, perfect doctrine” (p17). As a matter of fact he reduces essential doctrine to one thing; “God is love” (p.17). With this as a foundation Arnott is ready to defend every experience of the Toronto Blessing, no matter how strange. He claims frequent and direct communication from the Lord (pp. 20,28,82,132), as well as numerous and incredible visions for himself and others (pp. 25,26,40-41,91-92,124-5,163-166,178) that often are acted out in bazaar fashion (pp.168-183).
Arnott claims to offer three proofs that this revival is of God. He begins with an attempt to show that it is scriptural, but the best he can do is conclude, “We may see some things that no chapter and verse in the Bible specifically describes. . . . What we need to watch for is God’s character, His ways” (p.61). Virtually every attempt to proof-text this phenomena results in hopeless distortions of Scripture (pp.82-83, 123, 146-147,152,154-155,166,203-204,230-233). So the revival fails the test of Scripture, what about church history? Arnott believes that we have seen all of this before in the great revivals of the past. What he does not seem to understand is that when such manifestations have been apparent they were the very things that squelched those movements of God. The final test is fruit. He believes that the lives of people are being changed, therefore this must be of God. Of course every cult could make the same claim. The bottom line is that the Laughing Revival fails the test of Scripture. Nothing even remotely similar to this ever took place, was promoted or taught in the Word. On the other hand such manifestations can be found in the occult, Eastern religions, and the mysticism of the American Indian religions.
The goal of the Laughing Revival is to “marinate” or “soak” people in the Holy Spirit (pp.40,95-98,167). When this happens their inner lives (and sometimes physical bodies) are healed. The outward result of this soaking is the manifestations that draw people all over the world to Toronto. One description given of the meetings by one who approves is, “It was like walking into a heavenly insane asylum. People were laughing uncontrollably, weeping uncontrollably, shaking uncontrollably, bounding, roaring, flopping…bodies on the floor” (p.76). People claim that they are having visions in which they played Legos with Jesus (pp.25,26) played soccer with Jesus (He even had his long robe on) (p.124), were tickled by Jesus (p.124), married Jesus (p164), danced with Jesus (p.165), thought they were an animal (p.178).
Arnott dismisses the idea that the phenomena is of the flesh or demonic (pp.136-141), instead the battle cry is “More Lord” (p72,162). What about self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit? Apparently we have been misunderstanding what self-control is. “‘What about self-control?’ Well, the Holy Spirit brings us self-control to use against sin, not against the things of God” (p.106). Self-control and attempts to analyze spiritual things is really a detriment, “As long as you set the parameters and decide what you will give into and what you will not give into, you are limiting what He can and cannot do in you. Go with intimacy and let Him come and touch you profoundly and fill you. You can analyze it and test it later” (p.119). “Do not take control, do not resist, do not analyze; just surrender to His love. You can analyze the experience later; just let it happen” (p.127, see also p.133). No Scriptural support is given, but none is needed when you have a quote from John Wimber who says, “God will offend your mind to reveal your heart” (p.182).
And the exciting thing, according to this book, is that this is just the foretaste of things to come. “There is another wave of the Spirit coming, and the people who get on board with this wave are going to love what is coming next. It will be a wave of great power. I cannot think of anything that would be more exciting than to say, ‘Let’s go to the hospital this afternoon and empty it out.’ Wouldn’t that be fantastic” (p.143)! “What we’ve had so far is only the introduction. We’ve seen visions and we’ve had prophecies, but we haven’t seen blood and fire and billows of smoke. But it’s coming” (p162).
He is right, those things are coming (Acts 2:17-19) but during the Tribulation when the Lord is raining judgment, not revival, down upon the heads of rebellious sinners. I don’t plan to be here, but Arnott can look forward to it if he wants.