Myth #2: “Spiritual = Eccentric and Strange”

This post is part of my Myth-Busting blog series


Many Christians believe the myth that the word spiritual indicates something or someone a little strange. And depending on how much exposure people have had to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, they might associate the words Spirit-filled with people who claim to be inspired by the Spirit to bark like dogs, scream, or roll around on the floor. Such people exist—I’ve seen them!


In popular culture, “spiritual” usually indicates some sort of mystical experience or spooky encounter. If you meditate regularly, believe in ghosts, or feel you have an unusual connection to nature, you might be considered spiritual. It also seems to help if you like crystals and butterflies.

Whether inside the church or outside the church, it seems that spiritual sometimes just means “strange.”

Eccentric Prophets

Some people try to justify their conclusion that it is spiritual to act strange by pointing to the eccentric behavior of prophets in the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah walked around naked (Isaiah 20:1–4)—some scholars say, wearing only an undergarment—and Ezekiel lay on his side for 430 days (Ezekiel 4:4–6).

Some also point to Saul, who “changed into a different person” when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6, 10).

These examples, however, don’t prove that one should expect to act strangely if one is to be truly spiritual. First of all, Saul might have just “changed into a different person” in the sense that “God changed Saul’s heart” before he prophesied (v. 9).

The Frantic Prophets of Baal

Furthermore, when you read about the prophets in the Old Testament, you don’t get the sense that the prophets were usually ecstatic and acting strangely. To illustrate the point, when Elijah had his standoff at Mount Carmel, it was the prophets of Baal who “danced around the altar they had made,” shouted, slashed themselves with swords, and engaged in “frantic prophesying,” while they endeavored to get Baal to send fire on their sacrifice (1 Kings 18:26–29).

By contrast, when Elijah called on God to send fire on his sacrifice, he merely “stepped forward and prayed” (v. 36).

Strange or out-of-the-ordinary things might happen when people experience the Spirit—like speaking in tongues, dreams, or visions (Joel 2:28)—but such experiences are not the primary indicator of spirituality. And that’s no myth.

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*This is an edited excerpt from, Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Andrew K. Gabriel, © 2019 by Emanate Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Read Chapter 1 or Order Simply Spirit-Filled

Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D., is the author of Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit as well as three academic books, including The Lord is the Spirit. He is a theology professor at Horizon College and Seminary and serves on the Theological Study Commission for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter.

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4 thoughts on “Myth #2: “Spiritual = Eccentric and Strange”

  1. Good article….in the Bible God chose who He was going to give a vision or dream…they didnt seek for them….they walked with the Lord…today people sit in a contemplative position waiting for the Lord to give them a new revelation or vision….if we want to hear the Lord speak audibly, we can read the Bible out loud.

  2. Thank you, Andrew! There are those who will joyfully leap and dance before the Lord with all their might and those who will harshly despise them for it (2 Sam6:20-23) but the primary sign of the Spirit-filled life is walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:25)!