Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Speaking in Tongues (not the Talking Heads album)

Many of you who have read my blog are at least aware of my love hate relationship with the modern Charismatic movement. I have written several posts dealing with the charismatic movement in one way or another. With this is mind, it is probably not a surprise to anyone that I will be devoting a number of posts to the subject of speaking in tongues. What may be a surprise (at least it is to me) is why, with the amount of emphasis placed on speaking in tongues both in the charismatic movement at large and in my personal experience, have I not posted on this subject sooner. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, I saw it as a non-issue. I have not become a hardened cessationist who is hell bent on trashing the practice of speaking tongues. Up until recently I just did not think there was anything worth saying on the subject which brings me to my second point. I felt that there was nothing worth saying on the subject that had not already been said better by other authors and theologians. "So what has changed since then?" you may ask. Well, let me start out by being clear that I am still not in any way shape or form a cessationist. But, in the light of some recent studies inspired by my wife's own searching, I feel that there is much to be said on this subject that either has not been said or has been ignored by the church for the most part. I'm not sure at this point how I am going to break down my discussion of this topic, but here are a few of the points I will be presenting in the next few posts.

- Speaking in tongues in scripture and throughout the majority of church history was speaking in an existing languages unknown to the speaker, not the gibberish found in many churches today.

- There is no evidence that modern day glossolalia as seen in the pentecostal/charismatic churches is the same as that referred to in the Bible.

- The origins of Pentecostal glossolalia in rooted in several heretical movements including the Shakers and the Spiritualists who each had incidents of incoherent babbling that they referred to as speaking in tongues that took place almost a century before the Azusa Street Revival.

- Pentecostal glossolalia was born out of a perceived need for Christianity to compete with the spectacles of the the increasingly popular eastern religions, Spiritualism, and heretical groups such as Church of Christ, Scientists.

- The refutation of Pentecostal glossolalia does not negate the authenticity of its adherents beliefs or experiences.

- What Pentecostals term as "speaking in tongues" may still be a scripturally supported act BUT removes itself from that possibility when it is confused with true speaking in tongues (this may seem like a contradiction, but I will clarify later).

There are a number of other points I want to hit on in the next few days, but this gives a pretty good overview. Basically what i am hypothesizing at this point is an acceptance of speaking in tongues in the church today but a rejection of its Pentecostal counterfeit. I would love to hear insight from both sides of the fence and appreciate any and all constructive commentary.

Dan, 3:39 PM


First of all, i love you and miss you very much!!! I am just curious why in a lot of your blogs you seem to be bashing the same church that when we spoke a few months ago, we came to an understanding that we were all wanting unity in the church today no matter how unrealistic that is! You go from the praying in tongues thing which I would love to say that the very "fact" you made about the "tongues in scripture and throughout the MAJORITY of church history was speaking in EXISTING languages unknown to the speaker!" The very word that you wrote, MAJORITY leaves room for other possibilities in the realm of speaking in tongues!Is that "gibbersish" then?Then at the end of your 2nd to last blog about how people would be dissapointed when they found out that worship was good at a different service...that is human nature, not that I don't kind of agree with you! But you cannot change human nature and that is wanting to feel God in the most powerful way possible which is normally during worship or an excellent sermon for me and that is the way it always will be and I don't see a problem with that as long as I stay thankful that God is ALWAYS with me, right? I just don't know if your looking at the whole spectrum when you are writing some of these? I miss you though brother and love you!!! :)
Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:54 AM  
Vdry interesting...I will keep checking back and reading what you have to say on this topic. My experience with Speaking in tongues has been this:

I went to a Pentecostal Church while I was young. I (once and only once in my life) have been "slain in the spirit" and actually fell to the floor. While I was down there I remember my lips were moving and I was speaking, but have no clue what I was saying, thereby Speaking in tongues. (Not sure if it was a real language or a heavenly language.) Fast forward to present day...This has not happened since. I have prayed that this authentic touch of God would be repeated. I have been at churches where they encourage you to "speak in tongues, pray in the spirit" or to me speak gibberish as you put it. Their theory is that if you start trying God will take over and it will become authentic. I have found that to be very awkward, embarrassing, and ridiculous. In my experience, The Holy Spirit is in control of this, not me. So, there is my experience in what I call the real thing vs. the church trying to force it to happen so that we look spiritual.
Blogger Elizabeth F., at 6:21 AM  

Welcome to my blog! It's great to have you popping in for a conversation. First of all, I think that the word "bashing" is fairly loaded. I haven't pulled any cheap shots here nor have I made my argument ad hominem. I am confronting what I see as a problem in the church that has raised unnecessary division and I am attempting to do so in a civil and objective manner. I would certainly agree with you that we should all seek unity in the church but it cannot be unity for the sake of unity. Doing so would place the church on the same path as the Episcopal church. In all honesty, my discussion here is very much focused on unity just as Paul was when he dealt with the abuses of speaking in tongues in the church of Corinth (which I will be touching upon in a later post). In regards to my use of the word "Majority" I am simply acknowledging that the modern Pentecostal movement is part of church history whether I agree with it or not. I am also recognizing that heretical groups such as the montanists, the shakers, and even the gnostics are still in some way a part of church history even if they ultimately left the Body of Christ. So in answer to your question, I certainly accept that "gibberish," as you put it, is a way some people have choses to interpret and apply speaking in tongues, I am not however leaving room to say that it is actually speaking in tongues.
I'm not sure which post of mine you are referring to. i would love to respond but I will need a date and a title if you don't mind. I am also not sure what you mean by "not looking at the whole spectrum." I am certainly showing in this post that I do not agree with a relatively small part of the spectrum, but I don't think it follow that I am not looking at it.
Finally, I appreciate you coming onto my blog and sharing your perspective, whether we agree or not I think there is great benefit to us discussing our differences in love. Just a note as we begin what will hopefully be a long and fruitful discussion: Don't take anything i say personal. I will be referring to a wide variety of church bodies and movements that extend way beyond our shared communities and experiences. There will be a temptation since we do not agree on the matters being discussed to take my comments as an insult to your particular beliefs, community, or experiences. It is not. The vast majority of any directed criticism will be towards pentecostal groups at the turn of the century. I hope that helps.
Blogger Dan, at 8:10 AM  
Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for your input. I have actually heard similar testimonies from a number of people. It's an unfortunate reality in some churches that something that is supposed to be so freeing can be so forced and, in a sense, condemning. Keep stopping by, I should have my first part of this discussion up today.
Blogger Dan, at 8:15 AM  
I can certainly relate to feeling forced to speak in tongues, Liz!
Blogger Mrs. Sara, at 8:20 AM  
Wonder why and where? :-)
Blogger Elizabeth F., at 12:47 PM  

Elizabeth, I have stories that would make your hair stand on end. ;) LOL.
Blogger Mrs. Sara, at 1:27 PM  
I really appreciate your point about the modern experience of speaking in tongues being much different from what is described in the Bible. I have thought about this many times myself and it seems to me the most obvious problem with the belief that modern speaking in tongues is a continuation of what happened on the day of Pentecost in the New Testament. As a former Pentecostal (I grew up in the church) who is now an atheist, I am happy to hear another voice pointing out inconsistencies in the speaking in tongues movement.
I am a comedian based in New YOrk and I perform a solo show called "Pentecostal Wisconsin." I also have a podcast accessible from my blog in which I recount many of my early Pentecostal experiences.
Great blog. Keep up the good work.
Blogger Ryan Paulson, at 8:14 PM  
Hi Ryan,
Thanks for the kind words. It is always interesting to hear perspectives on this subject from people who have diverse experiences. I have actually run into several post-Pentecostal atheists over they ears and it seems that, in each of their stories, speaking in tongues was one of the reasons that they ultimately left the church. If you don't mind my asking, what led you from the Pentecostal church to atheism? If you don't want to answer in such an open forum you can email me at daniel.r.carter@gmail.com. Feel free to stop by and comment in the future. I should be posting several more posts on speaking in tongues in the near future.
Blogger Dan, at 9:22 PM  

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