The Airport Vineyard Church in Toronto, which has been well-publicized during the past year for the unusual physical manifestations that mark its services-including laughter, shaking, bouncing, and "resting in the Spirit"-has experienced spiritual refreshment but has also received criticism from Christians (CT, Oct. 24, 1994, p. 78). Despite the skepticism, the Airport Vineyard's renewal fervor has spread to many churches around the world.
In light of recent campus renewals, some leaders have compared the "Toronto Blessing" and its emphasis on the physical experience of the Holy Spirit to the pattern of confession, repentance, and service exhibited by the student revival meetings-and have found the Vineyard manifestations wanting. "What I'm hearing about the Toronto Blessing has none of the marks of the Bible," says Henry Blackaby, Southern Baptist director of prayer and spiritual awakening.
Differing opinions among scholars concerning the definition of revival also contribute to the debate. "True revival begins with an awareness of God's holiness," says Wheaton professor Timothy Beougher.
Others believe that defining revival is irrelevant. "Any outsider trying to estimate spiritual fruit of revivals always has trouble, even with 100 years of history, let alone at the moment," says John Stackhouse, professor of religion at the University of Manitoba.
What may be more pertinent is a similarity between the movements-the "dramatic lowering of inhibitions," according to Stackhouse. "Anglo-Canadians are not renowned for a demonstrative personality," he says. "For a middle-aged Anglo-Canadian to quiver, shake, and fall to the ground is pretty incredible. [Christians] now feel social permission to jump into the deep end of the pool."
Stackhouse thinks the Toronto Blessing has caught fire because "there is widespread discontent in North American Christianity. Many of us are being asked by churches to settle for life-support Christianity instead of thriving Christianity," he says. "We should be saying, 'Are we missing out on something?'"
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