Question: The “joy movement” headed by Rodney Howard-Browne is gathering momentum and creating confusion. Charismatics are afraid to question it because of the old teaching carried over from the shepherding movement about “not touching God’s anointed.” Can you not devote some space to this error in your newsletter?
Response: If the Bereans of old tested Paul by the Scriptures, then Rodney Howard- Browne must face the same test—and he fails it. We must have both doctrinal teaching and scriptural example to support a practice within the church, and there is neither for this phenomenon.
There is much about laughter in the Bible: the scornful laughter of unbelief (Gn 17:17; 18:12-15; 2 Chr:30:10; Neh:2:19; Jb 12:4; Mt 9:24, etc.); the laughter of joy (Gn 21:6; Jb 8:21; Ps:126:2; Eccl 3:4;10:19; Lk 6:21); derisive laughter by God (Ps:2:4; 37:13; 59:8; Prv 1:26) and by the godly (2 Kgs 19:21; Jb 5:22; 22:19; Ps:52:6; Is 37:22)—but nothing like this new Howard-Browne fad.
Nowhere does Scripture teach that laughter is a sign of a work of God in the heart; or of the infilling of the Holy Spirit; or that it is conducive to holy living. Nor is there any example of anyone producing laughter in others to a godly end. This is not to say that a simple believer trusting God may not receive a blessing by God’s mercy and grace at one of these meetings in spite of Howard-Browne. Generally, however, the experience is one of manipulation and misplaced expectation without edifying biblical teaching, and may lead to deeper spiritual delusion and disappointment.
As for “not touching God’s anointed,” that is a perverted interpretation of Scripture now widely used to defend charismatic leaders from the correction they desperately need. The phrase is first found when Saul was twice in David’s hands and his men urged him to kill him but David refused: “I will not put forth mine hand against...the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sm 24:10; 26:9,16; 2 Sm 1:14-16; Ps:105:15).
“Touching the Lord’s anointed” always means to harm or even to kill. David would not do that—but he did rebuke Saul, and that publicly before his own men and Saul’s army (1 Sm 24:9-15) and Saul repented (vv 16- 21). Thus, to use this phrase to guarantee church leaders immunity from criticism is fraudulent.