I was asked to respond to these 10 questions regrading Tongues, here’s my swing at them:
- Why do different charismatic groups have different vowels and accents of glossolalia?
Some think that think there is one universal angel language and that everyone speaking it should be able to be reproduced, tested and confirmed in some scientific way. To me this position isn’t arrived at from some biblical conclusion from what I can see. To me this is an objection that reflects an overly-rationalistic and materialistic worldview of the universe. There are those who absolutely reject a spiritual world. Everything that falls in a ‘spiritual world’ category then gets the treatment of scientific inquiry. It’s the test-tube posture. If the truth of Christianity can only be determined by expunging anything spiritual or numinous, than I think you end up with a very thin bible. This line of argumentation is used by atheists and materialists a lot. I think I have done a fair job refuting those arguments in my series: The Gospel of John for Seekers, Skeptics and Saints.
There’s approximately 6909 living languages. About 6% of them have more than a million speakers each, and collectively account for 94% of the world population. We know there are many, many more no longer spoken or extinct languages. I think there is some room in that data for the possibilities that tongue speakers might be speaking something from somewhere, but I can’t prove it, but I think it’s not an irrational conclusion.
Is judging the ‘sound’ of some language really an objective position? I hear African clicks and clucks of some tribes and think it sounds funny to my western ears but that’s not a rational way to determine some language is legitimate or not. This whole line of argumentation feels like a sever overstretch to me.
- Why did glossolalia exist before the birth of Christianity?
This argument could be used against the resurrection, the idea of virgin birth, the legitimacy of holy books, priest’s, communion, sacrifice, temples on and on. Atheists use such arguments to try to build a case that Judaism and Christianity stole their ideas and doctrines from pagans. Again, I have done painstaking work in my last series on John to refute those arguments. Christ, the creator of the world casts a long shadow, one that has touched all of humanity, and the evidence is seen by their own witness. I think the similarities reflect an apologetic for the truth in Scripture instead of invalidating it.
I also think that basing one’s belief on something being true, because it is supernatural alone is not supported in the Old and New Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 13:1-4: “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.
Matthew 24:23-26: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”
1 John 4:1-3: Test the Spirits: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
These passages confirm that miracles, signs and wonders are part of the universe. Their presence is real but their source is to be tested against scripture, conscience and the gift of Discerning of Spirits. A discussion I cover in my current series in the sermon Discerning of Spirits, Tongues, & Interpretation: Ghost Stories #13
- Why did Jesus forbid prayer with babbling/long repetitions if he was going to give it as a special gift?
I think Paul settled this issue and confirmed the teaching of Jesus regarding prayer of the mind or prayer of the Spirit (read 1 Corinthians 14) when he addressed the confusion and abuse of the gift of tongues. He set in place guidelines for bringing order not an end to the use of tongues in the public service.
The idea that more prayer, longer prayer, more prayer meetings, more words etc, etc, etc, is a problem in Pentecostal/Charismatic and non-charismatic churches. Such thinking undermines relationship and props up prayer as a power to bend the will of another through repetition, length or sincerity. All these ideas about prayer are rooted in pagan ideas and practices of prayer as we see in the prayer battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. It’s hard not to see similar characteristics at work in many church prayer meetings, sermons or theology. Jesus refuted these ideas, Paul refuted them and all believers should renew their minds according to scripture regarding the place and power of prayer and the errors often accompanying it. Such errors don’t refute the necessity or value of prayer but shows that we often slip into error in our thinking and practice, Pentecostal/Charismatic or not.
1 Kings 18:24-29: “You prophets of Baal, pray to your god, and I will pray to the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to his wood is the true God.” All the people agreed that this was a good idea. 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “There are many of you, so you go first. Choose a bull and prepare it. Pray to your god, but don’t start the fire.” 26 So they took the bull that was given to them and prepared it. They prayed to Baal from morning until noon, shouting “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound, and no one answered. They danced around the altar they had built. 27 At noon Elijah began to make fun of them. “Pray louder!” he said. “If Baal really is a god, maybe he is thinking, or busy, or traveling! Maybe he is sleeping so you will have to wake him!” 28 The prophets prayed louder, cutting themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed, which was the way they worshiped. 29 The afternoon passed, and the prophets continued to act like this until it was time for the evening sacrifice. But no voice was heard; Baal did not answer, and no one paid attention.”
- Why do non Christian religions include glossolalia as part of their worship?
-Pagans have ecstatic communications.
Most of this question was answered above, but I will add a little to my last point here.
I think the Bible does a great job of building a healthy and helpful theology of prayer, prophecy and the practice of gifts of the Spirit. Scripture in the Old and the New don’t shy away of the reality of the supernatural in other religions, in fact, there are often stories of confrontations and power encounters between the parties. Moses vs Jannes and Jambres 2 Timothy 3:8 & Exodus 7:8-13, Paul vs Elymas the magician in Acts 13:4-12. These encounters among others, reveal that the supernatural world is real and powers are at work, some deceptive, acting even as angels of light. Such a reality doesn’t invalidate the truth of miracles, signs and wonders but it demands we be students of scripture, live in biblically ordered accountability and protection and practice the gifts inline with apostolic teaching and example, which includes challenging and refuting them with lives based on the truth and practicing the authentic.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15: “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.“
- If interpretation is the main purpose, why do we almost never see interpreted glossolalia?
I can’t speak for others but being familiar with the Assembles of God and other charismatic churches where I attended or served, has shown me that many churches seek to practice the biblical matters of order in practicing the gifts. Presenting abuses and excesses does not’ invalidate the reality but confirms why there is instruction in the scriptures about what, how and why there are gifts.
- If modern tongues are the same as those in Acts, why is there no verifiable xenoglossy?
I think the Acts 2 story shows a miracle of hearing not speaking:
Acts 2:5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
As I have said in my recent sermon: ‘Surprised By The Spirit’ http://www.jacobswellspokane.com/?p=866, there is a profound difference between looking for ‘prescriptions’ vs seeing ‘descriptions’ of the work of the Spirit in Acts. This is another example of someone trying to wrench prescriptions from narratives. As I laid out the sermon referenced, Acts liberates us from rigid formulas, and shows healthy biblical formation, in matters of pneumatology.
- If glossolalia is a real language, why are different interpretations given for the same phrase?
These are matters revolving around the misunderstanding of “interpretation” vs “translation.” The Gift of Tongues requires translation which is different than a rigid understanding of ‘interpretation’. Can someone speak a few sentences in one language and get a translation that is less than a few sentences? Yes, it’s a basic linguistic reality. Again, these lines of argument, seem to be reaching for straws. They are built on illogical assumptions that are often refuted by mere natural understanding. Why does God choose to use a tongue and interpretation instead of just prophecy? I don’t know, but He has. Why does God incorporate prayer into His eternal plans? I don’t know, but He does. How does fasting make any rational sense? I don’t know, but He calls for it in relationship to seeking Him and prayer. Anointing with Oil? Seems like a needless activity to include with praying for the sick, but…it’s there. Such practices are in scripture and the rational mind often stumbles over them.
- Why can people be trained to speak in tongues, apart from supernatural intervention?
This is the abuse and excess argument, I addressed it above. In my opinion and I have had this done to me in my early Christian walk, such actions and practices are error, are irresponsible and reflect someone trying to make stuff happen.
- If glossolalia is an essential part of Christian prayer, why didn’t Jesus mention it at all?
There’s a lot of New Testament theology that is not in the teachings of Jesus during His earthly ministry, he confirmed that and explained that the Holy Spirit would teach the Apostles more.
John 16:12-15: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
- Why is Christian glossolalia almost unheard of before 1901 Topeka Kansas?
There is a continued witness throughout church history regarding the gifts. I have presented historical examples and books on Sunday that trace these historical references and practices in the 1st through 4th century. Read the reports from the medieval monks and christian mystics, the revival reports of George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles G. Finney during the 1st and 2nd great awakenings, the journals of George Fox and the Quakers, on and on it goes. Whatever judgment one makes about these reports, revivals and signs and wonders, it seems to me to witness to the reality that the Holy Ghost didn’t stop His work after the Apostles and didn’t start it again in Kansas.
Why did the truth of the reformation explode during the 1500’s? Were these cardinal truths unknown before Luther and the other reformers? No, but reformation, revival and outpourings seems to be connected more with people seeking God, studying the scriptures and the Sovereign acts and timings of God’s plan and purposes. The Spirit has always had a torch lit, but at times it seems to have burned low and at other times high. I think this is more connected to the condition of man then some theological discontinuances of God.