IS THE LAUGHTER PHENOMENON SCRIPTURAL?
First of all let me state very clearly that there is not one single verse in the Bible which says that when the anointing of the Holy Spirit comes upon a person that person laughs. Secondly, it is a fallacy to equate the word `Joy' with `Laughter' for the simple reason that these two words have different and distinct root words both in Hebrew as well as in Greek.
In the Old Testament "laughter" was the word "tsechoq" which when interpreted means laughter in pleasure or derision (Strong's). Joy was the word "simchah" which means blithesomeness or glee or gladness (Strong's). In the New Testament there is also a very obvious difference between the words "Joy" and "Laughter" as illustrated in James 4:9......
Be aflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness."
Laughter =gelos, laughter (as a mark of gratification)-Strong's Joy=chara, cheerfulness i.e. calm delight, gladness-Strong's Chara is the same word used for Joy as a member of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22.
As you can see from the above, Laughter belongs more to the realm of the soul or emotions whilst Joy is a AN INNER ATTRIBUTE-one of the nine members of the Fruit of the Spirit which gradually becomes part of our Godly character. More on `Joy' in a moment. For now let us examine some of the Scriptures pertaining to emotional responses in the New Testament.
SCRIPTURAL EXAMPLES OF AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE
GREEK WORD FOR `REJOICED' ( TRANSLATED JOY IN THE NIV) IS `AGALLIAO' WHICH MEANS TO EXULT AKIN TO MAKING MERRY, MAKING GLAD OR CELEBRATE- A RESPONSE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. HAS NO SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE.
THE ROOT WORD OF `REJOICING' HERE IS CHAIRO WHICH MEANS `TO BE CHEERFUL' -AGAIN A PURELY EMOTIONAL RESPONSE.
In the above two examples, there was this mention of `rejoicing' when the jailor and euthopian eunuch were saved. They could have rejoiced by laughing or crying but take note that these were purely spontaneous emotional responses and had no bearing whatsoever on their salvation or spiritual status. In contrast, Rodney Howard-Browne speaks of a SPIRITUAL LAUGHTER which is supposed to start from the flesh and then to be hooked up to the spiritual realm (supposedly to the Holy Spirit). A close look at Figure Number 2 will help you to see the differences between emotional laughter and the Spiritual Laughter advocated by Rodney Howard-Browne.
Let us now `search the Scriptures' to see if there is any evidence to support a Spiritual form of Laughter as advocated by Rodney Howard-Browne.
The word `Laughter' occurs forty times in the Bible.(4) Of the 40 times, 22 refers to Scornful Laughter. Two examples would suffice........
Seven of the remaining Scriptures on laughter are related to Abraham's and Sarah's initial disbelief and ultimate astonishment that God would give them a child in their old age. The remaining references to Laughter still have no relevance to an anointing of the Holy Spirit causing `Spiritual Laughter'. A few examples would suffice.....
Here we have a reference to the Israelites being freed from seventy years of captivity. They rejoiced at their freedom with laughter. It is purely emotional and spontaneous and has no spiritual significance. If you have been freed after ten years of imprisonment, you too would certainly rejoice with laughter.
Job Chapter 8 verses 20 and 21 are the words of one of Job's comforters who mistakenly felt that Job's misfortunes were due to his sins. If Job were perfect, he goes on to say, he would be laughing instead of being in such a pitiable state. The root word for "he fill" in verse 21 is `male' which means [to] "be full of". Later on in the book of Job you will find that God chided Job's three comforters for being in error.
I cannot see how the above verse has anything to do with Rodney Howard-Browne's spiritual laughter.
Here we have our Lord's Words. But notice that the blessing is on those who weep and not on those who laugh.
Now, here is one Scripture often used by the Laughter Movement to lend support to their spiritual move (and my comments).....
Here we have a Scripture which says God laughs. First of all we must understand that God has emotions like all of us. Secondly, if you study verses one to three above carefully, you will find that God was laughing at his enemies. Verse 5 says that God "rebuked them in anger". Do you pray for a person to receive God's `ANGER'? If this is not scriptural then praying for `Laughter' is also not scriptural.
As you can see, a study of the word `Laughter' from the Bible did not lend any support to any kind of Spiritual Laughter which is supposed to come as a form of anointing from the Holy Spirit. John Wimber himself, a proponent of the laughter movement, was quoted as having said the following......
".........John Wimber, the founder of Vineyard, a network of
600 conservative charismatic congregations around the world, cannot find precedent in the
Bible for laughter and falling to the floor." (5)
MANIFESTATIONS REPORTED IN LAUGHTER MEETINGS
1 Laughing, Crying, Shaking, Running around the building (Can you
imagine Moses running around Mount Sinai after an encounter with God), Fast dancing,
running, etc, followed by collapse (....Some of the things people did with their bodies is
amazing), Barking-howling, Trances, Drunkenness, Falling Out, Oinking (this sure sounds
strange to me!!!), Being "Hot", Fanning self or blowing, etc......
2 Hooting like Owls.
3 Walking like chickens.
4 High Pitch whine reminiscent of a lively horse!
5 Mooing and Crowing.
6 Swimming in the spirit-on the back and also breast stroke style!
Book entitled "Signs of Revival"
7 Women going through imaginary birth pangs.
8 Hopping like kangaroos.
9 Loss of Conciousness.
10 Soaring like eagles.
11 Hissing and moving like a snake.
12 Inability to speak and involuntary body spasms.
14 Vomiting in the spirit and holy head-banging.
15 Stripping (Taking off Clothes!). Book entitled "Is the
FOOT-NOTE: MY COMMENTS ARE IN ITALICS
THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION OR ATTRACTION IN A LAUGHTER MEETING APPEARS TO BE THE MANIFESTATIONS NOT JESUS CHRIST. Did you notice that there were no cases of deliverance in Rodney Howard-Browne's meetings? This is because he calls these manifestations `signs and wonders' implying that they were from God. Even though some of the manifestations could be "fleshly" in nature, the remainder are spiritually mediated and NOT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
"Unholy" Manifestations therefore, are an integral part of Rodney Howard-Browne's Spiritual movement
LAUGHTER NOT A FRUIT, GIFT OR ATTRIBUTE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT CAN BE IMPARTED
Isaiah Chapter 11 verse 2 lists some of the attributes of the Holy Spirit that can be imparted and
Laughter is not one of them.......
Laughter is also not one of the nine members of the Fruit of the Spirit....
Neither is it one of the Gifts of the Spirit.....
1 Cor 12:8-10
SINCE LAUGHTER IS NOT AN ATTRIBUTE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT CAN BE IMPARTED OR A GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, OR A [MEMBER OF THE] FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE SO-CALLED `SPIRITUAL LAUGHTER' WHICH IS PART OF THE RODNEY HOWARD-BROWNE MOVEMENT COULD NOT HAVE COME FROM GOD.
WHAT THEN IS THE SOURCE OF THIS "SPIRITUAL LAUGHTER"?
1 CHARLES AND JOHN WESLEY SPOKE OF A LAUGHTER SPIRIT WHICH REQUIRED DELIVERANCE
On Friday, May 9, 1740 Wesley expressed surprise at some who were
tormented by Satan in a very strange way. Some people were being suddenly possessed with a
Spirit of Laughter which they could not stop at will. It was very painful experience.
Wesley could not believe this strange phenomenon until one Sunday he and his brother
Charles went to the field to sing psalms. When they were about to begin singing, suddenly,
Charles burst out into a loud laughter. "I asked him", says John Wesley,
"if he was distracted; and he began to be very angry, and presently after to laugh as
loud as he could. Nor could we possibly refrain, though we were ready to tear ourselves to
pieces, but we were forced to go home without singing another line.(37) Wesley and his
brother experienced together this strange phenomenon.
Article entitled "John Wesley the Charismatic" by Robert
Aboagye-Mensah, Adwinsa Publication (GH) Ltd 1992, Pages 17 & 18.
2 THERE IS SUGGESTION OF A DEMONIC SPIRIT OF LAUGHTER IN JEREMIAH CHAPTER 51....
The King James Version (above) uses the word "DRAGONS" in verse 37. The word "Dragon" is symbolic of the Devil (Rev 12:9) and dragons here probably refer to evil spirits.
The corresponding verses above in the New International Version mention "Laughter" (verse 39) as one of the manifestations when "dragons" (or evil spirits) inhabit Babylon.
3 HANK HANEGRAAFF SAYS IT IS DEMONIC AND OCCULTIC....
"Recently the laughter has taken a beastly turn. Now some people who get the Toronto Blessing are beginning to roar like animals as well. To Hank Hanegraaff, who hosts a California radio show as "The Bible Answer Man," such fearsome noise suggests possession by the Devil-and the need for exorcism."(6)
"This does not come from the Holy Spirit, this comes from the unholy spirit and it is dangerous and deadly. To the person who opens a doorway to the occult, it is a very, very, serious issue. It is extremely serious."(7)
4 THERE ARE RECORDS OF 'UNCONTROLLABLE LAUGHTER' IN NON-CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS......
"......R, an Indian saint, daily went into a trance in which one involuntary falls down unconscious and enters a rapturous state of super-conscious bliss, complete with beautiful visions and often involving astral projections. These states could last anywhere from a few minutes to several days and were often accompanied by uncontrollable laughter or weeping..... SBM would transfer what was called "guru's grace" to his followers through physical touch. This "grace" triggered the gradual awakening of the K........ which in turn produced various physical and emotional manifestations. Manifestations included uncontrollable laughing, roaring, barking, hissing, crying, shaking, etc. Some devotees became mute or unconscious. Many felt themselves infused with feeling of great joy and peace and love. At other times the "fire " of K........ was so over-powering that they would find themselves involuntarily hyperventilating to cool themselves down......" SCP NEWSLETTER, FALL 94 (VOLUME 19:2), PAGE 4.
5 THERE ARE ALSO RECORDS OF HYSTERICAL OUTBREAKS OF LAUGHTER IN AFRICA....
OXFORD (ENGLAND): Robert Holden, psychologist and laughter specialist, tells of a bizarre epidemic that began in a rural schoolhouse in the bukoba District of Tanganyika, central Africa. A teacher's banal remark got a couple of children giggling, and pretty soon the entire classroom was chuckling. Those in adjacent classrooms heard laughter through the walls, and began to laugh, and pretty soon everyone-pupils and teachers-were laughing uncontrollably, and school was adjourned. "Remember, virtually none of them had a clue why they were laughing," Holden said in an interview, recounting a report in the Central African Journal of Medicine. "It was delirious laughter turning contagious." Then the children went home laughing and when their parents saw them, they, too, were infected. "Next day, they were all laughing so hard that nobody was able to go to school or work," Holden said. "The entire village was infected. Over a period of two weeks it spread to neighbouring villages. "Finally the Red Cross was called in because people were collapsing from exhaustion and dehydration. There have been similar incidents in Africa, but this was the longest laughter epidemic on record...." The Malay Mail, Friday, November 17th, 1995 page 76.