There is now a growing concern in our society over the current phenomenon whereby some men of God make people fall down and sometimes roll along, during church services, all in response to the pastor's shouting command: 'receive the Holy Spirit', or as a result of a simple flick of the hand to show his power. Presently, any such pastor is jokingly labelled as 'Osofo ka no bo ho' (push-him-down pastor).
Here and there, questions continue to be asked, firstly, as to whether it is a peculiar phenomenon in modern-day penteco-charismaticism; secondly, as to why people are made to fall down; and thirdly, as to whether it is a Biblical practice or not?
The phenomenon is described variously as 'slain in the spirit', 'resting in Jesus', 'overcome by the spirit' and so on. The first question whether the falling-down occurrence is peculiar only to Christianity is quickly answered by others who quote Hindu occultists, Western occultists, and African Traditional Religionists (ATR) as being those who first practised this 'power-miracle' and continue to do so. Thus Christians are said to be only imitating them! It is argued that Hindu occultism has produced avatars (grand masters) who have asserted such power, the latest one being Sathya Sai Baba born in India in 1926.
As an avatar, Sai Baba was said to have been endowed with some amazing psychic powers by which he raised the dead, turned rocks into candy and flower buds into diamond; suddenly cured cancer; and at his command, made his believers fall down.
It is to be noted that psychics do not pray in the name of Jesus: they simply command or wave the hand and people fall down. Don't you see some 'Christian' psychics around? Watch! Occultists in the Western world also brag of such 'ka-no-bo-ho' (push-him-down) power found in their grand masters, and cite for reference, the Australian doctor, F. A. Mesmer (1734-1815) who could hypnotise his clients to fall down into a trance. Hence, we have the word 'mesmerism'.
The psychics of the 'Africa Traditional Religion' (ATR) also reveal that there are certain powerful herbs which when bathed for seven days, alongside the ritual of making some incisions on the body with some special herbal black powder (mmonto) can endow a person with power virtues to command a person to fall down.
This is known in Akan as 'atrame aduro' (shout-a-person-to-fall juju), the psychic power of which is able to push down someone when the possessor shouts 'kai' or; hey', often accompanied by a heavy stomping on the ground with the right foot. A traditionalist proudly calls this phenomenon -a juju knock-out, but some people do not hesitate to call the Indian one as 'yoga', and the Western type as 'mesmerism rest'.
However, non-Christians argue that these verbal distinctions between 'yoga sleep', 'mesmerism rest', 'juju knock-out', and penteco-charismatic 'slain-in the Spirit' do not make the Christian phenomenon any more peculiar and divine than the others. To them, they are the same experience manifested under various guises, and they are all of God. But could this be true?
Most penumatological theologians argue that the actual distinction of the Christian experience lies in an answer to the question: why are people made to fall down? The reason for the 'fall-down' experience is analysed to be that it is only when a person is 'infested' with some evil spirits or is sick that the Holy Spirit may choose to 'slay' him down for the purpose of effecting deliverance or healing.
To prove this point, a Biblical quotation is cited of the young boy who was slain by the Holy Spirit of Christ before he was delivered of the evil spirit which tormented him with epileptic fits (Mark 9:25-28). The deduction here is that by some divine decree, deliverance is sometimes effected by the Holy Spirit action of 'striking down' the tormented person. Thus, slaying in the spirit, it is argued, is always for the benefit of the 'slain' and not for the purpose of showing the magical powers of the possessor just to boost up his spiritual clout, charisma or image in order to be feared. If this Christian argument is accepted, then the yardstick for measuring the Godliness of the falling down occurrences in some churches is the achievement of the objective of deliverance or healing.
At any rate, it is believed that this appears not to be what is happening in several churches. The contention here is that people are 'pushed down' only for the sake of being pushed down or just to show the pastor's powers. Over this issue too, lots of controversies hover.
Next is the question whether the Christian phenomenon of being 'slain by the spirit' is truly Biblical or not; in other words, whether it has any exact Biblical prototypes? Some say yes, others say no to the question. Those who believe that it is truly Biblical, cite several scriptural texts to beef up their contentions; but unfortunately the 'no' people who take an analytical look at those quotations point to only one instance which suggest voluntary falling down before the awesome presence of God or Jesus.
They contend for example that there are the 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 accounts where the priests consciously prostrated before the cloud-filled auditorium, and that of Daniel 8:17-18 where he (Daniel) was not 'Slain in the spirit' by the beautiful angel who came to him, but only frightfully prostrated himself as an act of reverence before the angel.
According to their argument, there is also the Matthew 6:17 story where Peter, John and James 'fell face down to the ground' before God's presence, without necessarily being struck down by God. However, the 'yes' people argue that there are very genuine Biblical examples depicting the practice of 'being slain by the spirit'. They quote what happened in the presence of Christ himself as indicated in Christ's deliverance of the boy in Mark 9:25-28, and in Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus where he was struck down from his horse, all in a trance (Acts 9:3-5).
But the 'no' people quickly resort with the argument that one can see no examples in the Apostolic times, indicating that no one was visibly struck down into unconsciousness by the Holy Spirit that filled the early apostles and disciples. For this reason, it is concluded that the concept of 'slain' in the spirit in post-Apostolic times has no Biblical basis at all. They argue that the phenomenon was restricted to Christ's ministry only; thus, modern-day pastors who believe in and practice procubentism (slain-by-the-Spirit creed) are using satanic occult spirits, or juju power in order to win souls for their churches, but not for Christ.
Furthermore, it is held by the 'no' people that there is no evidence that Christ transferred such 'ka-no-bo-ho' (let-him-fall-down) power to the early apostles, so from where is this practice? They answer that: it is from Satan. To buttress this point, they refer to hagiographical theology in the context of Middle Ages (i.e. that dealing with the lives of the saints) to explain that all the miracle-working charismatic evangelists like Anthony of Padua and Francis of Paula never engaged in 'ka-no-bo-ho' feats in churches or anywhere. But the 'yes' people (the procubentists, or the 'ka-no-bo-ho' believers) argue that the 'slain -by the Spirit' practice has been continued by several men of God up to this day.
They cite such notable evangelists as George Fox (1624-1691) founder of the Quaker Church, a man who made magistrates and others quake and fall down. Then John Wesley (1703-1791) founder of the Methodist church about whom Professor Ronald Knox of the Oxford University wrote: 'he was preaching at Bristol to people who cried as in the agonies of death, who were struck down and lay there groaning, who were released …… from the power of the devil'. It is to be noted that such power was used to cast out demons only, and not as a show of an amazing potency or power.
And also about US prophetess Maria B. Woodworth-Ether of the 1920's whose 'ka-no-bo-ho' power slew 'dozens, lying around, pale and unconscious, rigid and lifeless as though in death ….. strong men shouting till they were hoarse, then falling down in swoon. Women falling over benches and trampled underfoot ….' (Professor Grant Wacker of US Harvard University). The question is: didn't this apply only to deliverance ministry, and not a show of being slain in the spirit for nothing?
In the Ghanaian context, the question still remains tricky as to why more and more women are discriminatorily slain by the spirit than men? And why the loud pandemonium in such churches, when St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:33 expressly says that God is not an author of confusion? The issue appears to be a riddle indeed! To me, being knocked down by a pastor's flick of the hand is only a show of satanic power. What do you say?
By Apostle Kwamena Ahinful