Is the holy laughter experience Biblical?

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By BibleAsk Team


The phenomenon known as “holy laughter” has generated significant interest and debate within certain Christian circles, characterized by spontaneous laughter and emotional manifestations attributed to the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Proponents of holy laughter emphasize exuberant worship as evidence of divine blessing. However, Bible believing Christians raise concerns about the theological legitimacy and biblical basis of this phenomenon, questioning its conformity to scriptural teachings and doctrinal principles. In evaluating the holy laughter experience from a biblical perspective, it is essential to examine relevant passages of Scripture to discern its validity and authenticity.

Understanding the Phenomenon of Holy Laughter

Holy laughter, also known as “joyful laughter” or “spiritual laughter,” is characterized by spontaneous outbursts of laughter, euphoria, and emotional release purportedly induced by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. This phenomenon is often associated with charismatic and Pentecostal worship settings, where believers seek spiritual renewal, emotional healing, and encounters with God’s presence.

Evaluating Holy Laughter from a Biblical Perspective

While proponents of holy laughter point to instances of joy and jubilation in the Bible as evidence of its legitimacy, critics raise several theological and biblical concerns regarding this phenomenon. Firstly, there is a lack of explicit biblical precedent or commandment for holy laughter as a normative practice within Christian worship. While joy and gladness are affirmed as fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the manner in which they are expressed and experienced must align with biblical principles of decency, order, and reverence in worship (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Secondly, the absence of clear scriptural guidelines or criteria for discerning genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit raises questions about the authenticity and discernment of holy laughter experiences. The Apostle Paul admonishes believers to test all things and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21), emphasizing the importance of discernment and critical evaluation in spiritual matters.

Thirdly, the potential for excesses, emotional manipulation, and counterfeit manifestations within charismatic and Pentecostal circles underscores the need for discernment and accountability in assessing the validity of holy laughter experiences. The Apostle John warns against believing every spirit but encourages testing the spirits to discern whether they are from God (1 John 4:1).

Holy laughter describes a person who laughs uncontrollably, presumably as a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit’s joy. The Bible has many examples of people being filled with the Holy Spirit but there is no mention of anyone losing their composure because they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. In fact, there is a holy, noble dignity that God bestows upon His Spirit filled children.

In Ephesians 5:4 (NKJV) Paul instructs “neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” And in Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) he says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [a]gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Therefore, if self-control is a fruit of the Spirit of God, how can uncontrollable laughter also be a fruit of His Spirit?

The idea that we lose control when we receive the Spirit is not consistent with Scripture. For “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32, NKJV). True prophets had control over their own minds and could speak or remain silent at will. Inspiration does not take away individuality and free choice. The human agent expresses in his own way and thought the truths that have been revealed to him.

The pagan prophets of Baal on mount Carmel jumped, moaned and cut themselves. By contrast, Elijah quietly knelt and prayed reverently (1 Kings 18:17-46). When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man by the sea, the man was seen later calmly “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind” (Luke 8:35, NKJV).

The Bible says the Holy Spirit comes upon God’s children, not for the purpose of giving them holy laughter but for the purpose of making them His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The Spirit is given that we might proclaim His Word to the world (Acts chapter 4). God give us the spirit of sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), that is, good sense that keeps faithful Christians from the sins of fanaticism and erratic practices. Uncontrollable emotions that are seen in the holy laughter experience are contrary to the nature of the Holy Spirit.

Biblical Precedents for Joy and Laughter

While the Bible affirms joy and laughter as expressions of faith and gratitude, it also provides examples of appropriate and inappropriate contexts for their expression. For example, the joy experienced by believers in response to God’s faithfulness, deliverance, and salvation is celebrated throughout the Psalms and prophetic literature (Psalm 100:1-2). However, there are instances where laughter is associated with mockery, scorn, and disbelief, as seen in the mockery of Isaac’s name (Genesis 21:6) or the laughter of the wicked in response to the righteous (Psalm 37:12-13).

Furthermore, biblical joy is rooted in the assurance of salvation, the presence of God’s Spirit, and the hope of eternal life rather than in transient emotions or sensational experiences. Romans 15:13 (NKJV) encapsulates the source of true joy and peace for believers: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This passage emphasizes the role of faith, hope, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in producing genuine joy and peace in the lives of believers.

Historical Perspectives on Holy Laughter

The phenomenon of holy laughter has historical precedents within various Christian traditions, including the Quakers, Shakers, and early Pentecostal movements, where manifestations of spiritual ecstasy, shaking, and laughter were reported during times of revival and spiritual awakening. While these groups have embraced holy laughter as a legitimate expression of spiritual joy and renewal, Bible believing Christians have warned against its legitimacy. Concerns about emotionalism, sensationalism, and the potential for manipulation have called for accountability and theological change within charismatic and Pentecostal circles.

Conclusion: Discerning the Authenticity of Holy Laughter

In conclusion, the phenomenon of holy laughter is characterized by spontaneous outbursts of laughter, euphoria, and emotional release purportedly induced by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. However, the Bible has many examples of people being filled with the Holy Spirit but there is no mention of anyone losing their composure because they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. The potential for excesses, emotional manipulation, and counterfeit manifestations within charismatic and Pentecostal circles call for testing the spirits, reform and accountability in promoting this experience.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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