From the Q&A from the 1996 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, The Pastor and His Study. Iain Murray was the featured speaker, and the biography was of Martin Luther. I highly recommend the audio from the conference.
Q: We’d love some more follow-up from you on your personal view of the Toronto Blessing.
Piper: My approach toward the third wave, even though now the Vineyard has disassociated itself from Toronto, has been what I have called all the way along a critical openness. That is, I don’t rule out in principle that God is in the signs and wonders movement, or any other particular manifestation. There’s nothing biblical that I can see that would hinder God from using healing, or prophetic utterances properly understood, or tongues, or laughter or falling down to manifest outwardly something that’s happening inwardly. But, having said that, once you say what Iain Murray said, which I agree with, and what Edwards would say, is that these outward things prove nothing, and are therefore in a very low level of significance as far as what the Holy Spirit is really about in the world, namely holiness and salvation. Once you say that it seems like you pull the plug for a lot of people because you are not manifesting the proper enthusiasm for what is viewed to be such a great blessing.
The reason I’m soft on this is because not only do I not see a biblical condemnation of it, but I assess movements doctrinally on the one hand and then what is being produced as far as holiness goes on the other hand. And I simply know of too many people whose lives have been profoundly helped for good by lying on the ground for 45 minutes in a kind of laughter or peace. I never have, I went over to the Apache Plaza here when the Toronto Blessing came to town, willing to expose myself to everything under the sun, just about, and had about five high-powered guys around me, praying like crazy, I’m sure, some of them wishing, “goodness I wish this guy would go down, because if he went down, then it would be all right.” And a whole bunch of my staff went down, and some of you in this room were on the floor, and attribute right now a sweet fellowship with the Lord that is continuing and an enrichment of your own ministry because of what God did spiritually at that moment, and I enjoyed that 25 minutes of prayer that they did over me, and I felt great peace, but I didn’t get dizzy, and I really, really was not saying, “I’m not going down under any cost.” I frankly, wanted to try it. What is this “carpet time” that they do, you know? So I’m very – excessively – open, some would say.
My son Abraham is 16, and he read me in yesterday’s Tribune, and I said, “is this dealing with the Toronto thing?” He was reading to me out of the newspaper, he said “there’s not anything religious to it at all.” It was a psychological study on laughter movements in history. Zero religion. It talked about this laughter movement in Indonesia or something that lasted for 6 months. It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. It was a little girl, started laughing, and there were these laughing fits that lasted in this community for 6 months. And it had no religious connection at all. So I just really find it hard to get excited about falling down or laughing. I get excited about the Lordship of Christ, and taking risks for Jesus, and bringing people to Christ, and exalting the sovereignty of God.
And so the other thing besides holiness in people’s lives which I’ve seen come of this, is preaching and the exultation of the word. And I find it not very high. I’ve heard stories, “you know the preaching was good.” But the thing that thrills people is the external manifestations. I’ve watched it happen. And so the word does seem to drift more into the background and the effort it takes to produce a good message from the book, the external word, is minimized. and so those would be my concerns open and yet critically open.
And so I don’t really make anybody happy, you know the cessationists – I got invited to wales a few years ago, to speak at the place where Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke often, and when they found out I had these kinds of attitudes, they withdrew the invitation. It’s been real painful to have those experiences happen, and on the other side the people that prophesied over me over at Apache, saying, “The Lord’s hand is upon me to do this and that,” and I’m sure my lack of full bore engagement in the Pentecostal side is leaving them thinking I must be hardhearted or something. And so I just kind of walk my own way and nobody knows quite whether they can trust me or not, I think.
Iain Murray: I do think the brethren in Wales were confused, because this is really, this is more or less virtually Dr. Lloyd-Jones own position, I think they were really confused on it.
Piper: That’s somewhat comforting. Even the criticism I got from Iain, when I spoke on Lloyd-Jones here that I had not been completely just to him, was a grief to me because for the news to go out from this conference that Martyn Lloyd-Jones is anything other than almost a god, little “g,” would make me very sad, because I don’t have many heroes in the world, especially not many in this century, and for me to have my reputation go to Wales and elsewhere that I am mainly critical of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is sad.