What am I to make of people shaking, falling, laughing during some of your events? Can the Holy Spirit be the source of these?

The Scripture is full of examples of bodily responses to the presence of God (what are referred to as manifestations), including, but not limited to, falling (Ezk 3:22-23, Dan 10:9, Rev 1:17), laughter (Psa 126:2), crying (Lk 7:38), trembling (Jeremiah 5:22), drunken behavior (Jeremiah 23:9), and shouting - (Ezra 3:13, Neh. 8:6-9,12:43, Ps 126:5). Although the Holy Spirit can be the cause of such manifestations, there is the potential for false or counterfeit manifestations which could be psychological or demonic in nature.

Following the great tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the spiritual doctors of the Church, we take discernment of spirits behind such manifestations very seriously. There are three possible sources of such manifestations: the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, or a demonic spirit. In our experience and according to the principles outlined in Scripture, the manifestation itself (crying, laughing, falling, shaking, etc) is not enough to discern the source. We need to understand what is happening with a person experiencing the manifestation. For example, crying can be caused by genuine repentance of sin or a profound experience of being loved by God. In some cases, it can also be the result of experiencing ungodly shame, fear or condemnation, which can be exacerbated by believing various lies of the enemy. The fruit and effect of the manifestation is necessary to exercising proper discernment of the manifestation (cf. Matt 7:15-20).

In order to properly discern the source of manifestation, it’s both necessary to discuss with the person experiencing it what is happening interiorly and to examine the fruit that such experiences are bearing in the person’s life (i.e. whether or not that person is growing in virtue and love from their experiences). Because of the personal nature of each manifestation and the need for discernment about each case, it is irresponsible and dangerous to outright reject entire categories of bodily manifestations. Such a broad rejection, even in the name of discernment, would be itself a failure of proper discernment. We spend a significant amount of time helping our students understand and discern manifestations in the Encounter School of Ministry.

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