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Examining the "Toronto Blessing" - Chapter 5
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The "Toronto Blessing"

A Theological Examination of the Roots, Teaching and Manifestations, and Connection Between the Faith Movement and the Vineyard Church

By Stephen Sizer


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Dupont is a Church leader and so called "prophet" of the Toronto Vineyard Fellowship, and has written specifically about the "roaring" or growling phenomenon witnessed as part of what has been termed the "Toronto Blessing". What follows is an assessment of his views as quoted in an article entitled "1994: The Year of the Lion" published by Mantle of Praise Ministries Incorporated, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

5.1 Dupont misuses Scripture.

Dupont insists that Amos 3:8 applies to today, and that it is the Lord God who is currently inspiring the "roaring" phenomenon. He writes, "There have been many people who have been roaring as lions in the meetings as the Spirit of God has come on them." A cursory reading of the context (Amos 3:1-4) shows that in this, as in just about every other reference to "roaring" in the Scriptures, this was a sign of God's judgement of Israel, and their imminent punishment. Any good Bible concordance shows conclusively that references to "roar," "roaring" and "roared" found in the context of a lion have to do with the presence of evil, of destruction, and, when applied to the Lord God, refers to His impending judgement of sin, not blessing. With the same lack of regard for Scripture, Mike Fearon asserts that "roaring people are usually intercessors involved in promoting unity" (A Breath of Fresh Air 1994: p.99)

The bankruptcy of Dupont's exegetical abilities is evident when he has to quote from the fictional story, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," by C.S. Lewis, to explain the reason for this apparently new way of Divine working. Referring to something "Aslan" the lion says in the book, Dupont asserts, "This in essence is the revelation that the bride of Christ needs today...." I suspect Dupont and others caught up in the roaring phenomenon have been influenced more by Walt Disney's film "The Lion King" than with the Spirit of God. Clifford Hill comments on reports linking this "Blessing" with people making roaring animal noises.

The Sunday Telegraph reported an Anglican bishop in Toronto rolling on the floor and roaring like a lion. A Pentecostal pastor attended a church in Brighton (said to be one of the first congregations in Britain to receive the new laughter phenomenon) and reported on a three and a half hour service on 19 June....[including] constant repetition of triumphalist songs declaring "We are going to take the land, subdue the nation and present it to Christ." At one point a young man shouted "The beast is dead! The beast is dead!" which was greeted with much screaming and shouting culminating in a growing crescendo of the whole congregation growling. After this the elder leading the service told visitors not to worry about the growl as "it always happens here." (PWM Team Ministries, November 1994)

Clifford Hill points out that the prophet Jeremiah associates "roaring like a lion", with the occult spirit of Babylon, and their shouts of laughter as a sign of their impending destruction.

    "Babylon will be a heap of ruins...an object of horror and scorn, a place where no one lives. Her people all roar like young lions, they growl like lion cubs. But while they are aroused, I will set out a feast for them and make them drunk, so that they shout with laughter--then sleep forever and not awake," says the LORD."I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter." (Jeremiah 51:37-40)

Ignoring this warning of judgement, Dupont equates the "Toronto Blessing" with what he describes as "a party the Father is throwing," an idea taken from the Parable of the Lost Son. Others have similarly compared it with a banquet. This is actually a form of "realised eschatology" where promises that relate to the future are applied to the present.

The Scriptures teach that the "marriage supper of the Lamb" will be in heaven in the future, not now, on earth (Isaiah 25:6-9). Yes, there is joy and times of celebration now, but essentially the Christian calling is one of battle and toil (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:7-18; Rom 8:19-25; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:21). We look forward to the banquet with sure and certain hope (Revelation 19:7-9).

5.2 Dupont denigrates the suffering of Christ and the Church in history

With reference to the challenge of discipleship, Dupont states,

    "...if Jesus soul was troubled by the price tag He paid to be obedient to the Father, it is for sure going to be a troubling cost you and I will have to pay. But that is what God is looking for at a time when He is going for the nations; people who are so radically in love with Him that they are willing to die for Him."

It is most inappropriate to claim that Jesus was "troubled by the price tag He paid to be obedient." It is wiser and more reverent to retain some sense of mystery about the uniqueness, and the extent of the agony the Lord suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lord was always obedient (John 14:31). Obedience did not trouble Him. I do not believe we can come remotely close to understanding what He must have felt, knowing He would shortly suffer separation from the Father for the first time in eternity, and take upon Himself the sins of the world. That is what caused Him intense suffering. There is no comparison between the cross we are called to carry, and that which Christ carried for the sake of the world.

It is also worth remembering in Hebrews we are told,

    "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

For Dupont to claim this is a "time when He is going for the nations" again suggests an ignorance of the work of God over the last 2000 years, and an exaggerated view of his own church's self importance in the fulfilment of God's purposes. Has God never before been concerned to reach the nations? Dupont also insists that "radical evangelism" associated with "miracles" is superior to mission and evangelism, and is "a sign of what is to come." This is simply "power evangelism" under another name, something which, has now been discredited. (see John Wimber, friend or foe? by Philip Jensen, St Matthias Press, 1990).

5.3 Dupont misunderstands the ministry of the Holy Spirit

Dupont suggests that Joel's prophecy relates to now in what he calls this "end time restoration", and seems to ignore the fact that Peter understood this to have come true on the Day of Pentecost, 2000 years ago. This may indeed still apply today but we have been in the "last days" for rather a long while. Furthermore, those who want to apply Joel 2:28-29 as being fulfilled now, conveniently ignore the following verses 2:30-32. Why the one and not the other? Neither Joel nor Acts indicate that we should understand their fulfilment to be associated with the kind of manifestations associated with the Toronto Blessing. In this respect Dupont also misuses Acts 1:8.

    "This move of the Spirit, in 1994, is not just a charismatic or Pentecostal experience concerning power or gifting. It is one thing to be clothed with power, it is another to be indwelt with the person of God. In the ministry times in Toronto we have been encouraging people not just to get the experience but to soak in the presence of God."

Dupont talks about being "clothed with power" as if it were an end in itself without recognising that the "power" God promised was given to enable the church to be witnesses. He insists that whereas people (at Toronto) may have had an experience of the power of God, they are now being, or need to be "indwelt" by God. This is to deny basic Biblical references which teach that the believer, from conversion, is "indwelt" by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 12:13) It is nonsense therefore to suggest that this is something to be sought or a description of what is happening now.

5.4 Dupont castigates critics of Toronto with dire warnings of punishment

Most worrying of all, Dupont's paper is littered with biblical references to Divine judgement which he insists will fall on those who doubt or question that this movement is a work of God. It is very disturbing to find so-called Christians speaking in this way of other believers. It is significant, however, that this is precisely how heretical "Word-Faith" teachers such as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Hagin criticise their opponents. Dupont refers to, or quotes from, an amazing array of passages to silence criticism. These include

  • 1 Kings 13:4 (the unbelieving King got a withered arm);
  • Judges 1:2;
  • Judges 20:18;
  • Proverbs 6;
  • Isaiah 58;
  • 2 Cor 3:6;
  • Malachi 3:16;
  • 2 Kings 5:26 (Gehazi's disobedience led to leprosy);
  • 1 Kings 13:26 (the disobedient prophet was killed by a lion);
  • Ephesians 4:30;
  • James 4:5;
  • John 15:2 (the branch cut off);
  • Jeremiah 6:14; 8:14;
  • Isaiah 42:13,16.

In fact the entire paper seems to be designed to do just that - silence criticism. Dupont is at least honest when he says, with reference to the story of the prophet mauled by a lion, "This may sound like a harsh Old Testament story for Christians today, but I believe this is really a picture of God's jealousy over those that He gives revelation of Himself to."

I think Dupont ought to read John 10:27-30 (in relation to our security) and Revelation 22:18 (in relation to all these new extra-Biblical revelations).

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