In some religious settings, e.g. Pentecostal and Charismatic gatherings, there are people who experience extreme cases of body shaking and trembling. There are many illustrative live recordings of these phenomena freely available on the web. Check out my related question on Psychology.SE where I list several examples and even first-hand testimonies. Some of these examples are quite dramatic. For instance, some people cry, shake dramatically and fall to the ground as if overwhelmed by something the preacher "transmitted" onto them (like here, here, here). Others do not need a preacher around them to trigger the experience and claim that the source of the shaking is God's overwhelming presence (like here). Some people perform very strange shaking movements allegedly because a demon was being cast out of them (like here, here). Some people tremble dramatically as if being electrocuted (like here, here, here, here). Here you have examples of a child and an elderly shaking and fainting. Finally, here you have a first-hand account of a demonic deliverance recently uploaded to YouTube where the individual testifies about extreme involuntary and uncontrollable shaking. These are just a few examples I'm highlighting for illustrative purposes, but feel free to find more on the Psychology.SE question I mentioned before or by searching on your own.

Also, the reality of this phenomenon is even acknowledged by peer-reviewed papers such as this one and this one. Both papers explicitly mention shaking and trembling as a manifestation experienced by some people in certain spiritual experiences. However, neither of them provides a scientific theory that explains what is causing the shaking and trembling in the first place. In other words, they acknowledge the phenomenon, but don't provide a scientific explanation for it. In fact, my question on Psychology.SE has been open for a good while and has not received answers yet providing a scientific explanation (which is what you would expect with any kind of supernatural phenomena - if it is indeed supernatural).

So, in the face of these undeniable manifestations, I'm interested in the official position taken by Cessationists. I foresee two possible positions a Cessationist could take (both leading to tricky dilemmas that I would like to know how Cessationists address):

  1. The phenomenon has a natural explanation: if this is your position, then please provide a scientific explanation of the phenomenon, otherwise you would just be stating a speculative opinion.

  2. The phenomenon is supernaturally caused by demons: if this is the case, that would mean that demons are performing counterfeit manifestations today. But if demons are performing counterfeit manifestations today, wouldn't that mean that the Holy Spirit is producing genuine manifestations today also? Because if there are counterfeit manifestations, that means there is a "real thing" being counterfeited. But that would contradict the Cessationist assumption that "real things" ceased 2000 years ago and there is no "real thing" for today, correct? Moreover, believing that demonic possessions are for today would logically entail believing that casting out of demons is also for today, but wouldn't this be another contradiction with Cessationism?

So, how do Cessationists explain these evidently undeniable manifestations of extreme shaking and trembling in religious settings?

  • 1
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    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 1:15

1 Answer 1

  1. Cessationists do not say that demonic possession has ceased.

  2. (Some events referred to by OP are claimed to be a manifestation of demonic possession.)

  3. Cessationists say that the gifts of tongues and miracles have ceased.

  4. Cessationists do not deny that the gifts of tongues and miracles can be mimicked.

  5. Cessationists do not deny that demonic possession can be mimicked.

  6. Cessationists do not deny that exorcism of demons can be mimicked.

  7. The OP links to anecdotal evidence of what could be mimickry or deliberate misrepresentaton.

Cessationism is a Protestant doctrine that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the Apostolic Age. Reformers such as John Calvin originated this view. More recent development has tended to focus on other spiritual gifts too, owing to the advent of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement that have popularised a radical continuationism – the position that the spiritual gifts are meant for all Christians in every age.

Wikipedia - Cessationism and Continuationism

Many will say to me, in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not ... in thy name, cast out devils ? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you : depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

{Matthew 7:22,23 KJV]

  • Two things: 1) Your point 3 mentions only two examples, you are forgetting many more, even the wikipedia quote includes prophecy and uses the expression "such as" indicating that there are more gifts than those examples. 2) You enumerate several statements but I feel your answer is lacking a final conclusion in which you directly answer the OP's question, like, in short how do cessationists explain these manifestations? That they are all faking it? Then how do you explain that even children and elderly are experiencing it and that two peer-reviewed papers acknowledge the phenomenon?
    – user50422
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:45
  • 2
    @Spirit You're asking for an unreasonable certainty. It could be fake, whether conscious or not, it could be demonic, it could be medical or psychological, it could be something unknown. I'd expect most cessationists would say these alleged manifestations would have many explanations.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:37

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