What Is Being “Slain in the Spirit”? Is it biblical?

In some charismatic denominations, when a preacher places a hand on someone, often the forehead, the person falls backwards or collapses. Because Scripture does not explicitly speak about this subject (having only examples and no explicit teachings on this), Christians should exercise caution and listen to both sides of the argument.
Hope Bolinger
What Is Being “Slain in the Spirit”? Is it biblical?

Meaning of Slain in the Spirit

In some charismatic denominations, when a preacher places a hand on someone, often the forehead, the person falls backwards or collapses. Some Christians believe this is evidence of person being “overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit,” as GotQuestions.org said.

The term “slain” typically refers to the scriptural passages which assert people fall to their faces (or fall in general) as though dead when in the presence of God.

Certain denominations split over whether this has biblical roots and as to whether the manifested power of the Holy Spirit has actually caused a person to react this way. The article will present arguments from both sides of the issue.

Arguments for Being Slain in the Spirit

Denominations and Christians who believe being slain in the Spirit is an act of the Holy Spirit will often point to the following verses which show people falling to the ground, seemingly by supernatural causes:

- When the soldiers and Judas came to arrest Jesus and Jesus answered, “I am he,” (asserting his divinity) they collapsed on the ground (John 18:6).

- When John saw a vision of God in heaven, he fell as though dead (Revelation 1:17).

- Saul, when on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians fell to the ground when he heard God’s voice (Acts 9:3-4).

You can find other examples in this article. You can also find another argument for the biblical accuracy of being slain in the Spirit here.

Some other main arguments on this side would state:

- The power of God can be transferred via touch (Acts 19:12, Mark 5:30).

- Not every instance of Scripture involved someone falling on their faces. Some will argue against “being slain in the spirit” because it involves people falling backwards instead of forwards. Some people simply “fell” in Scripture, without the verse mentioning the direction.

- Some people who fell in Scripture were believers, such as the apostle John.

Arguments against Being Slain in the Spirit

Apart from the examples listed above, those who argue against being slain in the Spirit would say the term doesn’t exist anywhere in Scripture. Granted, other terms such as “Trinity” never make an appearance in the Bible either.

As mentioned above, people who do not believe being slain in the Spirit is biblical may argue the following:

- Those who fell in Scripture never fell backwards, as is usually the case with being slain in the spirit. In Scripture, it was always forwards or just falling in general (Daniel 8:17-18).

- The act is easy to fake, and many people counterfeit this experience, as stated in this article.

- The same article above suggests it may be the work of a supernatural force, but perhaps not from the Holy Spirit.

- Many of the people who fell on their faces or fell in Scripture weren’t believers. If it’s the work of the Holy Spirit inside of someone, this calls into question examples such as the soldiers falling around Jesus.

- As stated in this article, being slain in the Spirit can sometimes appear more like a theatrical display than a work of the Holy Spirit bringing glory to God.

Is it biblical? 

It’s difficult to say because Scripture does not explicitly speak about this subject. Although we can see Scripture laced with examples of people falling in the presence of God via supernatural means, we do have to take into consideration that not all of them are believers.

However, we do have to keep in mind the Christian church splits massively over whether certain gifts from the Holy Spirit still are at work today. Many churches have Christians who speak in tongues and who prophecy, while other churches believe such gifts do not exist today.

Whenever it comes to supernatural phenomena, Christians must exercise caution and always turn to Scripture. Because Scripture is silent, for the most part, on this issue (having only examples and no explicit teachings on this), I suggest Christians do the following when it comes to discerning this topic:

1. Exercise caution.

With anything supernatural, we have to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3). Whether we believe it to be biblical or not, in some instances, something beyond natural phenomena seems to be occurring. Observing a person’s actions afterward can determine if they experienced an inward change prompted by the Holy Spirit.

2. Engage with both sides of the argument.

Because this doesn’t fall into the crucial doctrines of the church (salvation, the resurrection, etc.), we should understand that different orthodox Christians and denominations split over this issue. In spite of personal convictions, we should listen to believers on the other side have to say and test it against Scripture.

3. Know counterfeit experiences for this do exist.

Because it’s easy to fake something like this, know counterfeit experiences do happen. Although this does not mean all experiences of “being slain in the Spirit” are fake, we need to be wary about any instance we encounter. Even if we believe the Holy Spirit does work in this capacity, as mentioned above, we should always exercise caution when it comes to supernatural matters.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/digitalskillet

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021)  Find out more about her here.

Originally published July 17, 2019.