Archive for the 'Tongues' Category

Tongues and the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Image result for free clipart fire public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is an important doctrine of leading Pentecostal denominations that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. You will encounter it in the Assemblies of God (USA), which is now called the Australian Christian Churches in Australia, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (5.6.3), the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa (Confession of Faith), Elim Pentecostal Church (UK), and other Pentecostal denominations.

The Australian Christian Churches statement is (4.13 The Baptism in the Holy Spirit):

We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the bestowing of the believer with power to be an effective witness for Christ. This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the new birth; is received by faith, and is accompanied by the manifestation of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance, as the initial evidence (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4; 8:15-19; 11:14-17; 19:1-7).

A. Promotion of tongues and Holy Spirit baptism

A Pentecostal believer and advocate online wrote of ‘those who have actually received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as depicted in Scriptures’ and he placed himself in that category.[1]

I have not reached that conclusion in my study of Scripture, so I responded as follows:[2]

I expect that there could be people on this forum (and I’m one of them) who would not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. Your view is thus encouraging at least two types of Christians: Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal, but the Pentecostals have the superior biblical experience of the Holy Spirit.

I have addressed some of these issues in my articles:

clip_image002 Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image002[1] Baptism of the Holy Spirit: When does it happen?

His reply to this was:

There is no doubt that there are people here who do not believe that speaking in tongues and see initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. I for one used to be one of those, even though I experienced the contrary. It took me years and studying this to arrive at my current point of view. If you read Acts and all the events of the baptism of the Holy Spirit you will note that all but one of them mention that the receivers spoke in tongues. The one that doesn’t explicitly state that does state that, “when they saw they had received the Holy Spirit”, implies that there was and outward sign. As tongues of fire was only ever recounted in Acts 2:4, we must assume that the outward sign was the speaking in tongues. I’ll leave it up to you to do the reading.[3]

This is a fairly standard response from Pentecostals. My rejoinder was:[4]

I have presented my evidence to refute your view of tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit in, Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The evidence from Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19:2-7 demonstrates the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit in the early church (with tongues) was fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. The Pentecostal requirement of everyone since Acts 2:4 to speak in tongues as initial physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not consistent with what the Scriptures teach.

According to Acts 8:14-24 in Samaria, when the believers received the Holy Spirit, Simon the sorcerer ‘saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money’ (Acts 8:18). This states he ‘saw’ something that accompanied the receipt of the Spirit. One can infer that it may have been tongues that he heard, but there is no definitive statement that says such in this context.

B. Is tongues the initial physical evidence taught in 1 Corinthians?

Image result for free clipart fire public domainFor me, the definitive moment in my understanding of the interpretation of these sometimes difficult verses came when I studied the Greek language of I Cor. 12:29-30 which uses the Greek negative me, thus requiring that a negative answer be given to the question, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ which is confirmed by the NASB translation: ‘All do not speak with tongues, do they?’

Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, I Cor. 12:30 confirms that tongues cannot be the initial physical evidence for all believers, since tongues is not given to all. One may argue that in 1 Cor 12-14, the gifts were being discussed and that tongues required the accompanying gift of interpretation (see 1 Cor 14:5, 9-13). The issue still remains: ‘Do all speak in tongues?’ The Greek expects a ‘no’ answer (1 Cor 12:29-30).

Believers in the Christian assembly must strive to edify the other believers (1 Cor 14:3-5). If one speaks in tongues and there is no interpretation, people ‘will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’ (1 Cor 14:11).

C. Tongues not a reasonable requirement

Therefore, it is not reasonable to expect that all people should speak in tongues as the initial physical evidence of a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic church leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state: ‘Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit’ (Mallone 1983:90).

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones was no novice in seeking the baptism with the Holy Spirit or dealing with Pentecostal-charismatics. He wrote: ‘If the suggestion is made that all who have the baptism of the Spirit must speak in tongues and this is repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues. But the question then arises as to what they are doing…. But all I am concerned about at the moment is that we should never forget the power of suggestion’. In the same exposition, Prove All Things, he also wrote that ‘it is possible for a man to be baptized with the Holy Spirit without ever speaking in tongues, and, indeed, without having some of these other gifts’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:101, 146).

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image004(photo of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, courtesy Wikipedia)

One of the greatest biblical expositors of the 20th century who had a profound knowledge of the Word was the late D Martyn Lloyd-Jones.[5] In 2016, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of his home-call (he died on 1 March 1981). Lloyd-Jones had a very different view to you of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. See, ‘Lloyd-Jones on Baptism with the Holy Spirit‘.

It was Lloyd-Jones who stated,

The evidence of the history of the church, establishes the fact that the baptism with the Spirit is not always accompanied by particular gifts…. There are people today who say that the baptism with the Spirit is always accompanied by certain particular gifts. It seems to me that the answer of the Scripture is that that is not the case, that you may have a baptism with the Spirit, and a mighty baptism with the Spirit at that, with none of the gifts of tongues, miracles, or various other gifts. No one can dispute the baptism with the Spirit in the case of men like the brothers Wesley and Whitefield and many others, but none of these things happened in connection with them (Lloyd-Jones1985:53).

So am I to cast out Lloyd-Jones’ biblical teaching in favour of your Pentecostal view? Lloyd Jones provides considerable biblical evidence to support his view in Lloyd-Jones (1985).

The Pentecostal with whom I was discussing this theology online was resistant to Lloyd-Jones views, saying:

I don’t agree with Lloyd-Jones conclusions so you can do with him whatever you want. I gave you my perspective in the previous post. You see I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date. This is not a new issue within Pentecostalism. There are indeed two sides to the fence but in Canada and in the U.S. the two major Pentecostal denominations accept and believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism/infilling of the Holy Spirit. To me, that’s enough to know that it is a consensus opinion, and as it is what I see evidence in the scripture I can only concur.[6]

You wouldn’t expect me to let him get away with this misrepresentation, would you? He misrepresented the meaning of ‘consensus opinion’. So, here goes with a refutation, brief though it will be:

E. The Pentecostal consensus opinion

It is NOT a consensus opinion.[7] It is a Pentecostal opinion supported by the Pentecostal denominations such as, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), Assemblies of God (A/G), Apostolic Faith Mission South Africa, Elim churches, etc.

There are major Christian denominations around the world that do not accept that view. These include Baptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Reformed, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anabaptists (e.g. Mennonites), etc. When you can use ‘consensus opinion’ for 2 denominations, you have redefined consensus. There is NO consensus opinion among the major denominations around the world to make tongues the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

F. Don’t use authors who are ‘way out of date’

Image result for tongues of fire public domainSo this fellow will ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. So do you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant, you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, whose ministry is ‘out of date’ from your perspective. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Luke 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any assembly/church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ – today and down through church history. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have gone before. Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this man’s view!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with this fellow’s ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘. Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’, short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. This really is pathetic that he wants to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His own ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.

Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). This poster excluded them and their influence!

I found his response to be incoherent and making many assumptions that need far more biblical justification than he gave.[8]

G. Conclusion

I found it nigh impossible to have a logical conversation with a Pentecostal, tongues-speaking individual online because of:

# His insistence on a Pentecostal interpretation. It seemed as though he had been indoctrinated into this view. Lloyd-Jones states that when a doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues is ‘repeated and repeated, it is not surprising that people begin to speak in tongues’ and he likened this to ‘the power of suggestion’ (Lloyd-Jones 1985:201).

# He refused to listen to the teaching of people from Christian history. He lives in the here and now and wants nothing to do with Christian authors who are ‘way out of date’. He has no concept of God’s gift of teachers to the church in the past and present.

# I could not have a rational conversation with this person who refused to deal with some of the issues I presented to him. He engaged in several red herring fallacies and then went into his own spin, ignoring my emphases. This is typical of a person who reverts to using a red herring.

# He made ‘consensus opinion’ of tongues as the physical evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit sound like he was referring to all churches but he confirmed he was only dealing with Pentecostal denominations. As I pointed out, it is not a consensus theology that applies across most denominations.

H. Works consulted

Lloyd-Jones, D M 1985. Prove All Things: The Sovereign Work of the Holy Spirit. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

Mallone, G. 1983. Those Controversial Gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

I.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic Church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, StanJ#111, 23 January 2016. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-4 (Accessed 24 April 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#113.

[3] Ibid., StanJ#122.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#126.

[5] I included this information at ibid., OzSpen#114.

[6] Ibid., StanJ#123.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#127.

[8] See his response at ibid., StanJ#129 & #130.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 January 2017.

Gift of tongues is gibberish?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

File:Baptist-Church.jpg

Baptist Church (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

How would you respond to somebody who called the New Testament spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’ and ‘foolish’?

Baptists and speaking in tongues

A fellow asked in a Baptist directory online, ‘I know that there is considerable diversity within the Baptist movement, but I’m not sure whether this extends to multiple positions on glossolalia [speaking in tongues]’.[1]

I responded:[2]

Near where I live in the outer suburbs of Brisbane Qld, at Burpengary, there is a Baptist Church called ‘Access Church‘, that is as full-on Pentecostal-charismatic as many such churches I’ve visited.

This topic of Baptists and tongue speaking had been addressed previously (in 2012) in the Baptist directory on this forum, in the thread, ‘What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues?

However, to pick up this theme (only briefly), here are some biblical basics:

a. First Corinthians 14:2, 4 refers to tongues for personal edification and not requiring interpretation — therefore it is not for use in the church. This seems to be what Paul is referring to when he says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (I Cor. 14:18). In the church, he prefers intelligibility: “I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19).

b. First Corinthians 14:14-18 contrasts speaking and singing “with the spirit” (tongues on the basis of v. 14) and praying with the mind. Therefore, throughout I Cor. 12-14, there seems to be an interchange of tongues (spiritual language or ecstatic utterance) as a language spoken to God for personal edification and tongues requiring interpretation for the edification of the church.

Therefore, my conclusion is that I Cor. 12:28, 30 are referring to both kinds of tongues, which are not given to all believers. Why? It is because ‘one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills’ (I Cor. 12:11 NASB). First Corinthians 12:14 emphasises: ‘For the body is not one member, but many’. Therefore, I do not find it surprising that tongues is restricted to some believers by the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state quite a few years ago: “Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit” (Mallone 1983:90).[3]

How would you expect a sceptical Baptist about the gift of tongues to respond to the information provided above?

The gibberish encounter

One person replied:

Most of us believe it is a true gift from God. But we do not believe gibbering away is speaking in tongues we believe it is when you start speaking a real language go Earth in order to minister to others. So speaking gibberish here at a church in the middle of the United States is not speaking in tongues. So many of us believe it is a real gift from God just one that is very misused here in the US.[4]

How does one reply to such a negative assessment, even though there is some truth in what this female said? I replied:[5]

(a) Why the negative assessment?

Why are you speaking pejoratively – calling it ‘gibbering’ and ‘gibberish’ – when God speaks of the genuine gift of tongues that is for the purpose of

  • speaking to God (1 Cor 14:2);
  • for personal edification (1 Cor 14:4);
  • revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching when it is accompanied with interpretation when the church gathers (1 Cor 14:6, 12-13)?

So the Scriptures teach that there are two purposes for tongues for the believer when not in a church gathering: speaking to God and personal edification. Sadly much of this personal gift of tongues (without interpretation) makes its way into the public gathering of the church. My understanding is that this is in error, based on 1 Corinthians 14.

However, when in the midst of other people there must be the gift of interpretation of tongues for there to be a communication of revelation, knowledge, prophecy and teaching.

There are extremes and errors in many dimensions of theology. That does not nullify the genuine. What applies to theology such as soteriology (doctrine of salvation) also applies to glossolalia. Extremes and error do not negate the authentic.

Why tongues and not in English?

A fellow took me on with some provocative and legitimate questions:

OK. Why must you speak in tongues to speak to God? Is speaking in tongues more efficacious than speaking to God in English?

How does tongues personally edify you?
Also, when you speak in tongues for “personal edification”, who interprets that for you?…

The way it is practiced today is gibbering and gibberish. I would go further and say that it’s foolish.[6]

This does raise some important points about an unknown language and edification; there are times when tongues’ speaking sounds like human ‘gibberish’ and foolishness. But does disorder negate the orderly?
Some out-of-order practices

Here is some of my reply:[7]

Let me make it very clear. I never said and I do not support how you put it by asking why I ‘MUST … speak in tongues’. Nobody MUST speak in tongues. Of all of the gifts, the Scriptures state, ‘earnestly desire’ spiritual gifts. I desire God’s best for me – and I’ll thank him for the gifts He gives me.

How does tongues personally edify you?

God has stated that the gift of tongues does edify personally and that has been my experience. I take him at his word and that is how it happens. It enhances my relationship with the Lord for which I’m grateful.
If you read the Scriptures I gave carefully, esp. 1 Cor 14:2, 4, you would not ask this second question about the need to interpret for personal edification. The Scriptures do not state that interpretation is necessary for personal edification. I agree with what the Scriptures state.

It might sound like ‘gibbering and gibberish’ and ‘foolish’ to you, but by the kinds of comments you have made in this response to me, you seem to want to denigrate the gift of tongues. I have never experienced the gift of tongues as gibberish for personal edification but as one of God’s special gifts for my relationship with God. If God gives the gift of tongues in the church gathering, tongues must be accompanied by the gift of interpretation. That’s Bible.

I encourage you not to disparage the spiritual gifts that God has taught us about: ‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy’ (I Cor 14:1 ESV).
May God encourage all of us to ‘earnestly desire’ the spiritual gifts. These are gifts of the Spirit of the Trinitarian Lord God almighty.

Further penetrating questions

Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870 Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870 Question by pranav - Question Join facebook page Art & Photography By Pranav Waghmare http://www.facebook.com/pages/Art-Photography-By-Pranav-Waghmare/139068996153870

This person who has been challenging me said, ‘I disparage the unbiblical use of those gifts’ and he said that I left unanswered three questions:

1. Are tongues more efficacious than English?

2. How does tongues edify you?

3. How are you edified by a language you don’t understand?

I join with you in offering a biblical correction for the unbiblical use of the gifts (incl. tongues) that can be evident in some churches.[8]

Answers to those questions

Let’s turn to the Scripture so answer this fellow’s legitimate questions:

1. Are tongues more efficacious than English?

A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is not helpful without an explanation of the nature of the gift of tongues and the issue that Paul was attempting to correct:

(a)  Ch 14:11-13 tells us some of the problem Paul was trying to correct. There were tongues without interpretation at Corinth in the church gathering and this was not on. One would be a ‘foreigner’ in such an atmosphere without interpretation. So Paul’s message to the 21st century Pentecostal, charismatic, and other churches allowing expression of these gifts, would be the same as for Corinth: ‘One who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13 ESV).

(b) ‘If I pray in a tongue my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful’ (14:14). So tongues are more efficacious when I’m praying with my spirit to God. God gives a place to the spirit of the human being in communication with God.

2. How does tongues edify you?

Paul tells us things that are critical when speaking about tongues:

(a) The tongues’ speaker ‘speaks not to men but to God’ (14:2). So tongues is a means of communing with God by the Holy Spirit. We know from 14:13-14, 28 that those who speak in tongues are ‘communing with God by the Spirit…. Paul understands the phenomenon basically to be prayer and praise’ (Gordon Fee’s language 1987:656).

(b) My experience in God’s prayer and praise language in the spirit/Spirit is just that. It’s a special way of communing with God that I’ve never experienced while praying in my Aussie English.

(c) So tongues edifies me in by my spirit communing with the Spirit of God in a language He has given me. I would never want to crush that understanding through Enlightenment thinking.

3. How are you edified by a language you don’t understand?

That is partly answered by #2, but there is additional communication in 1 Cor 12-14. It is important not to minimise and underestimate what Paul states in 14:5, ‘Now I want you all to speak in tongues’, but even more to prophecy’. The first half of that sentence is often diminished, ignored, minimised or excised by some Christians.
The one who speaks in tongues ‘utters mysteries in the Spirit’ (14:2 ESV). That is not possible in English. These ‘mysteries’ spoken by the Holy Spirit could mean what is stated in 1 Cor 13:2, but my experience is that the gift of tongues for personal edification (thus not needing interpretation) involves an encounter with the Spirit of God that is outside my rational understanding as a speaker. It would be the same for the hearer, so there is no place for the gift of tongues in a public gathering without a God-given gift of interpretation.

How is it possible for language given by the Holy Spirit (tongues) and not understood in English to be edifying for the speaker, to be self-edifying? This is not egotistic, self-centred spiritual elitism. My experience is that this is through prayer and praise with the gift of glossolalia (tongues) as I Cor 14:14-15 indicates.
However, 1 Cor 14:14-15 tells us how we can be edified by a language we cannot understand through the gift of tongues:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also (ESV).

The Spirit of God, through the Scriptures, here tells us that there is a way to be spiritually edified without using the cortex of the brain – through the gift of tongues where the spirit prays and the mind is not playing a pivotal part – thus being ‘unfruitful’.

So the Scripture exhorts us to use both – pray and sing with the spirit/Spirit through the gift of tongues and pray and sing with the mind. Paul taught us that there are favourable things that can happen in private devotions through the gift of tongues without interpretation, but his concern in the Corinthian church (and by application to the contemporary church) is that there should be no gift of tongues in a public, group church gathering without the gift of interpretation (see 14:5, 13, 27).

First Corinthians and the contemporary church

By application, Paul’s message to the contemporary church is, ‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (14:5) but in the public gathering, ‘one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret’ (14:13).

But what do I find when I visit many services of Pentecostal-charismatic churches or charismatic churches in other denominations? I hear group tongues allegedly associated with ‘singing in the Spirit’, ‘speaking in tongues’ and no interpretation. This is totally out of order and is contrary to Paul’s instruction ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 1 4:40). Many Pentecostal-charismatics are violating the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14. My experience is that this is often because there is too little biblical teaching on the gifts of the Spirit in these churches.

Many people absorb the atmosphere by osmosis and are not exposed to biblical correction concerning the gifts of the Spirit.

See these samples of Pentecostal-charismatic issues:

Congreso Nacional Juvenil3.jpg

Pentecostalism (Wikipedia)

Works consulted

Fee, G D 1987. The first epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), F F Bruce (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Mallone, G. 1983, Those controversial gifts. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘What is the Baptist view on Speaking/Praying in Tongues?’ ’Colfax #1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #24, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/.

[3] I have provided more details at OzSpen #151 at: http://www.christianforums.com/t1133006-16/ (accessed 24 February 2014).

[4] Vella Vista #18, ibid., available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-2/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen #26, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/ (Accessed 24 February 2014).

[6] Ibid., South Bound #28, http://www.christianforums.com/t7800642-3/.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[8] Ibid., South Bound #30.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Charismatic chaos in a Brisbane house church

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

#

By Spencer D Gear

openclipart

I never thought that I would ever get to the point of saying, ‘I am ashamed to be identified with that church’. But I am embarrassed and ashamed over what I witnessed in a house church in the home of Jack and Joan (not their real names) in a northern Brisbane suburb on Sunday, 3 November 2013. This is how it unfolded.

The house church meeting/gathering starts with a barbecue lunch (all people bring their own meat to barbecue and a salad to share) and my first visit was on Sunday, 20 October 2013. The church meets on a 2-weekly basis. I was recommended to this church by a person who attends a house church in a southern Brisbane suburb. There were a couple of issues in that first meeting that I wanted to raise in the group on 3 November, but I wasn’t able to raise it in the group meeting for reasons I shall now explain.

The issues I wanted to raise were:

(1) Does this group have a statement of faith in order to stop false doctrine from being perpetrated in the group?

(2) In the meeting of 20 October, some people were speaking in tongues out loud for all to hear, but there were no interpretations. This is forbidden in 1 Corinthians 14 and I was a ‘foreigner’ to that group (1 Cor 14:11).

(3) There seemed to be a strong emphasis on tongues. What is this group’s view of the spiritual gifts of tongues and interpretation? Do some believe one has to speak in tongues as evidence of salvation?

For the barbecue lunch, I was sitting at the kitchen table and engaged in conversation with Ken (not his real name). He was an older man (my guess would be that he could be aged about 70 and had been a Christian for about 40 years, based on his testimony. Ken has had a long association with the charismatic movement, especially a couple of smallish Pentecostal-charismatic denominations. I told him that I wanted to raise some matters that emerged from the meeting two weeks ago. He said it was OK to raise them with him as we sat at the table.

As we were talking, a group of people (perhaps about 10) was forming in the lounge room and there was some singing of songs accompanied by guitar and piano. Some louder shouts were beginning to come from that room.

Statement of faith

I told Ken that I wanted to ask if the group had a statement of faith. He said that other charismatic churches with which he had had association had statements of faith but they didn’t have much impact.

I said that a statement of faith was a guide to prevent false doctrine from infiltrating the group from, say, the Mormons wanting us to become gods, JWs who didn’t believe in the deity of Christ, tongues as a requirement for those who are saved (which is a doctrine of the Revival Centres in Australia). He was not aware of one for this house church. He said that he used to accept such a view but not now, since the Holy Spirit had changed the openness with which he ministers and has experiences in the group. He is overcome by the Holy Spirit at times and has all kinds of emotional/spiritual experiences. He would not expect that Jack would accept the need to have a statement of faith.

#

Speaking in tongues without interpretation: You are foreigners

I then spoke to Ken about the amount of speaking in tongues in the group 2 weeks’ ago. It seemed to be an overemphasis to me. One person shared that when she spoke in tongues she used three different languages.

I then turned in my Bible to 1 Corinthians 14:9-12,

So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church (ESV, emphasis added).

#

I emphasised 1 Cor 14:11 that when there is tongues without interpretation, this is the result: ‘If I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’. I said that I was a foreigner to what was said in tongues 2 weeks’ ago as I heard the tongues without interpretation and this was not edifying for me. The Scripture says that tongues without interpretation makes many people into foreigners in a group where that happens.

At this point Ken asked if I was a fundamentalist. My response was that I was an evangelical charismatic. On further reflection after the meeting, I concluded that I should have asked him: What do you mean by fundamentalist? I sensed that he had some pejorative understanding. The fundamentalists at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries were those who accepted the fundamentals of the faith regarding the nature of God, Scripture, Christ, salvation, etc. See the article, ‘What is fundamentalism?’ for an understanding of why the original fundamentalists came to be called fundamentalists. This article states, ‘Fundamentalism … is a movement within the church that holds to the essentials of the Christian faith. In modern times the word fundamentalist is often used in a derogatory sense’.

Ken admitted that he knew what I was driving at, but he didn’t agree with my view on I Cor 14:9-12 in which tongues needed interpretation if it was in a group setting. He said that tongues were also a prayer language. I agreed, but said that that needed to be practised in private where nobody else could hear and no interpretation was needed. This is part of my understanding of 1 Corinthians 14:14-19,

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue (ESV).

I said that tongues as practised at home when ‘my spirit prays’, ‘I will pray with my spirit’, and ‘I will sing praise with my spirit’, should be something done in private. However, if it is in public, an interpretation is necessary. I emphasised that if tongues is in a group with 2 or more, interpretation is needed. Otherwise the people would be ‘foreigners’ as they didn’t understand the foreign language and could not be edified. That’s what 1 Corinthians 14:11 teaches.

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Enter an antagonist

In the midst of this conversation, Ken and I were joined by Jack and a younger man in his 20s whom I’ll call Wally (not his real name). Wally became a listener to this conversation and did not participate. So I continued the discussion that Ken and I were having that tongues without interpretation in a group is making people foreigners in the group – foreigners who do not understand the language, the gift of tongues.

Jack’s immediate response was, ‘That’s your interpretation’. I said that I was using grammatical, historical and cultural principles of hermeneutics to reach that conclusion. This is the common method of interpreting any document. I was a foreigner 2 weeks ago because I did not understand what was being said (on the basis of 1 Cor 14:11). He replied: ‘That’s how you felt’. I said it had nothing to do with how I felt. What happened to me was exactly as the Scripture stated: I will be a foreigner to the speaker and that’s exactly what I was. I was a foreigner and it was out of order and ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40). By this time Jack was raising his voice at me and I was probably raising mine in return. I had to do this to overcome the noise that was coming from the other room – screaming, slapping sounds, and barking by the people who were supposedly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t sound too holy to me. I could see two people on the floor crawling on their knees, shouting, banging the floor, and barking.

At this point Ken interjected: ‘You probably don’t like what’s going on next door’ (in the adjoining lounge room). I agreed.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

‘That’s your interpretation’ as a logical fallacy

I thought about this later. What was Jack doing when he would not listen to the plain meaning of what 1 Cor 14:11 was saying in that ‘If I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me’? Jack did not want to deal with the content of this Scripture so he diverted attention by accusing me: ‘That’s your interpretation’.

This is what I should have said (afterthought is often helpful as we consider our experiences): ‘Jack, you have just committed a red herring logical fallacy by diverting attention away from the content of 1 Corinthians 14:11 to another topic – your topic. The issue is that the listener is a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker is a foreigner to the listener if, in a public meeting (which this house church was), tongues is not accompanied by interpretation. By calling attention to my hermeneutics (interpretation), he was diverting attention away from the real issue – the plain meaning of 1 Cor 14:11. I wanted to discuss the failure for the listener to be edified and being treated as a foreigner when the gift of tongues was not accompanied by the gift of interpretation.

What is a red herring logical fallacy? The Nizkor Project explains that ‘a red herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic’.

In this circumstance, Jack tried to divert attention away from tongues without interpretation to accuse me: ‘That’s your interpretation’. What should have been done was to look at what 1 Cor 14:11 was saying and what it meant. What does the text really say? And by application, were the leaders of this house church (Jack and Joan) acting contrary to Scripture by allowing tongues to be spoken for all to hear, but without interpretation? Why were they not correcting what was going on?

At the point Ken said, ‘You probably don’t like what is happening in the other room’, I agreed. It was a shocking loud level of shouting. What were the neighbours thinking was going on? I was disgusted and embarrassed.

Jack jumped in and said that in the 1970s he was living in a town on Queensland’s Darling Downs, Toowoomba being the largest City and commercial centre of this region. He was not living in Toowoomba:

clip_image002

Map of Queensland (Darling Downs, W of Brisbane, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

He said that he was associated with the charismatic renewal in that town and an Assemblies of God minister in Toowoomba, Aeron Morgan (he pronounced his name Aaron), opposed it and Ken was taking the opportunity to oppose Aeron Morgan in the 3 November conversation I had with him. I told him that I was a personal friend of Aeron Morgan (who is now in the Lord’s presence, having died a few months earlier). I was on the faculty of the Commonwealth Bible College (Assemblies of God of Australia) when it was located at Katoomba NSW, 1977-1980 and Aeron Morgan was principal.

I didn’t say this to Ken (I should have), but I expect the reason why Aeron would have opposed the charismatic chaos of the charismatic movement of the 1970s on the Darling Downs (if it has any resemblance to what I saw on 3 November 2013 in northern Brisbane) was because Aeron was a Pentecostal minister and Bible teacher who knew the Scriptures. He knew that much of what was happening in charismatic meetings was contrary to the instructions of 1 Corinthians 12-14 and other passages, so he would have spoken out against it because it was unbiblical. For a biblical understanding of the gifts of the Spirit, see Aeron Morgan’s book, The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations (2005).

For the Christian Witness Ministries’ memorial tribute to Aeron Morgan after his death, see ‘Home call of Aeron Morgan 1934-2013’.

This is why Aeron would have spoken against what was happening in some charismatic meetings in the 1970s and elsewhere. He wrote:

I am disturbed and distressed by the trends away from the Scriptural position and the more existential climate now apparent on the neo-Pentecostal Church scene. I make an effort to speak to this as a serious concern….

There is observed an increasing readiness to accept all manner of strange teachings and questionable manifestations as being of God, the naïve and mindless validating of all kinds of weird and abnormal phenomena, without the applying of any Biblical test to them. This is most serious and needs addressing urgently (Morgan 2005:39, 45).

AeronMorganHC1

Aeron Morgan (courtesy Christian Witness Ministries)

Aeron wrote of ‘the abnormal conduct of misguided Charismatics’, which is a gentle and mild way to describe the chaotic behaviour that I encountered in that charismatic house church in Brisbane (Morgan 2005:172). He wrote:

It appears that in recent times something of this dubious conduct has taken place where people have witnessed in the meetings certain behaviour with others which has been claimed to be the work of the Holy Spirit, and consequently they in turn have given themselves to ‘manifesting’ in a like manner. It has not been a work of the Holy Spirit, but the result of psychological manipulation, autosuggestion, and in some instances what appears to have been certain hypnotic influence. This is very serious, for it reveals two things:

(a) How easily many people are accepting teachings and practices on the strength of what they are told or witness, without any discernment.

(b) It shows up the serious lack of discernment and judgment of these things by those leaders who profess to be “full of the Holy Ghost”. It can only be described as gross irresponsibility on the part of those who ought to know better. Their failure cannot be excused. It must be condemned. Such persons are not fitted for the role of leadership. Leaders in Christ’s Church are to be “Watchmen”, considering as a divine obligation the spiritual welfare of His people before any personal interest (Morgan 2005:177-178).

Aeron Morgan has rightly pointed out the extremism of the alleged ‘Toronto Blessing’. He drew my attention to an article in Charisma News that reported on the 10th annual ‘Catch the Fire’ conference at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, formerly known as the Toronto Airport Vineyard where the supposed outpouring of the Holy Spirit was ‘marked by unusual physical manifestations among believers’ (Charisma’s language). The report noted that at this 10th anniversary meeting,

“The Toronto Blessing” is a phrase coined by British journalists to describe what movement insiders say is an incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit marked by unusual physical manifestations among believers. It began in Toronto and quickly spread. TACF senior pastor John Arnott told Charisma that the Catch the Fire conference in 1994 was “catalytic in spreading the fire of God around the world.”

Ministry leaders from all corners of the earth came to that first October conference. “They were shocked by the intensity of what happened to them,” Arnott said. “It launched them into a whole new dimension of ministry.”

Those who came to Catch the Fire 10 Years On hoping to witness or share in similarly shocking experiences weren’t disappointed. Attendees and speakers alike participated enthusiastically in the partylike atmosphere. Countless individuals could be seen jerking spastically, laughing, shaking, weaving drunkenly or falling backward into the arms of catchers (Sommer 2013, emphasis added).[1]

See an example of the ‘Crazy dog man’ behaviour of the Toronto Blessing on YouTube.

With the kind of party-like, unbiblical behaviour happening in the lounge room (which I could see) of that house church on 3 November 2013, I chose to shake Ken’s hand and leave the house. He was not open to reasoning biblically from the Scriptures to address the unbiblical manifestations that were happening in that church.

I sent the first draft of this article to a friend in the USA who was a Pentecostal minister and missionary in a mainline Pentecostal denomination for 18 years. He is no longer with that denomination but continues his Pentecostal manifestations (tongues) in his prayer life. Of my article, he wrote:

I also visited the Toronto church where the so-called ‘Toronto blessing” was going on.

What you described sounds a bit like the events at the Toronto Blessing. I didn’t have a problem with them because, in my opinion, they were not representative of a “normal” church service. In fact, they called it “renewal” by which they meant a renewal of the joy of the “first love” of salvation. (As I understood their meaning.) Some people were acting very strangely but my thoughts were that people come as they are with the baggage they are carrying and God meets them there.

I find this to be an excuse to allow all kinds of disorderly, chaotic happenings in charismatic meetings, but all in the name of ‘renewal’ and ‘blessing’. He did not mention a word about the order of 1 Corinthians 14 and the need that ‘all things should be done decently and in order’ (ESV), or as the New Living Translation puts is, ‘But be sure that everything is done properly and in order’ (I Cor 14:40 NLT), or, ‘ But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’ (NIV).

In his commentary on 1 Cor 14:40, Pentecostal minister (Assemblies of God, USA) and Greek exegete, Dr Gordon Fee, states that the last clause in verse 40

summarizes the argument of vv. 26-33: ‘Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.’ The word ‘fitting’ [euschemenws] argues again for propriety in the assembly (cf. 11:13); the word ‘orderly’ [taxin] echoes its opposite, ‘disorder,’ from v. 33, and along with that verse strongly implies that the assembly in Corinth was in disarray. The implication of the argument throughout has been that speaking in tongues is the guilty party. With these words, therefore, the argument is brought to a fitting conclusion (Fee 1987:713).

Reflections

As I reflected on what happened on 3 November 2013, these thoughts came to mind:

  1. I am grieved to have been in the presence of a church that resisted biblical order and testing of the charismata (gifts of the Spirit) in action.
  2. I saw and heard the horrific, strange spirit of the alleged Toronto Blessing and the Pensacola Revival, with the screaming, barking and banging of the hands as a supposed Holy Spirit manifestation. In my estimation, it was another spirit in action.
  3. I was seeing an unholy spirit manifesting chaotic behaviour in contrast to the order required from the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14.
  4. It was interesting that Wally, in his 20s, chose to stay and listen to the conversation among Jack, Ken and Spencer, rather than joining in the group chaos in the next room. Why? His language was that he was raised on these kinds of manifestations in the charismatic mainline denominational church he attends and found our conversation more interesting. His church has a strong charismatic influence. What he heard in the next room was nothing strange to him.
  5. I was thinking of what the neighbours would have been thinking with all the noise happening in that house. If this happens every two weeks, couldn’t the neighbours become concerned enough to phone the authorities about the noisy behaviour coming from that house.
  6. There was no way that I could get through to Jack about the unbiblical disorder he was promoting in that house church. The manifestations in that place were contrary to the biblical order required.
  7. Jack seems to be a dominant person in that group. He would not listen as I attempted to expound the Scriptures in a calm manner.
  8. No wonder John MacArthur’s updated Charismatic Chaos book (1993 Zondervan) is now titled, Strange Fire (2013 Thomas Nelson) and MacArthur’s organisation conducted a ‘Strange fire’ conference in the USA. What I heard on 3 November was strange fire from a source that was not holy. For a counter view to John MacArthur’s cessationist ‘strange fire’ promotion, see Roger E Olson, ‘Strange fire fundamentalists and the Holy Spirit’.
  9. I have decided that I will never ever be a part of that kind of church again. It has made me very wary of associating with charismatics – until I know the nature of biblical order/disorder that they practice when the church comes together. Unless they require biblical order in charismatic manifestations from 1 Cor 12-14, I’m not interested in participating.
  10. Jack and Ken do not have their roots firmly down into the practice of biblical Christianity when it comes to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Testing the spirits and practising manifestations according to the biblical limits do not seem to be on their agenda. ‘Anything goes’ is how I describe what happened in that house church on 3 November 2013. I highly recommend Aeron Morgan’s book, The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations (2005).
  11. I have questions about whether these charismatics could find it difficult to know the differences between their experiences of the Spirit and the Mormon’s burning in the bosom to convince the LDS people of the truth of Mormonism. On what grounds could the charismatics be correct in their existential experience and the LDS experience wrong? Consider the LDS teaching which states:
  12. 9:7 ‘Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.9:8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.9:9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me’ (Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-9, emphasis added).

  13. I will not commit the logical fallacy of generalising what happened on 3 November 2013 to all or many charismatic groups. This would be committing the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization. It is ‘also known as: Fallacy of Insufficient Statistics, Fallacy of Insufficient Sample, Leaping to A Conclusion, Hasty Induction’. It is explained: ‘This fallacy is committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough…. Since Hasty Generalization is committed when the sample (the observed instances) is too small, it is important to have samples that are large enough when making a generalization. The most reliable way to do this is to take as large a sample as is practical. There are no fixed numbers as to what counts as being large enough’ (The Nizkor Project). To know that there are people within the Pentecostal/charismatic movement that oppose unbiblical manifestations is an encouragement to keep looking for openness to the spiritual gifts where biblical order is maintained. The ministry of the late Aeron Morgan is one such example. Christian Witness Ministries[2]also is supportive of the charismatic gifts in contemporary church gatherings, but within the boundaries set out in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
  14. Aeron Morgan wrote that ‘in the face of increasing activity of false teachers, the proliferation of false teachings, and the “fever” with many for more spectacular and sensational charismatic signs’, we need to be aware of ‘the warnings of Christ Jesus our Lord himself, and of the apostles, as to what will be in these last days’. His exhortation and prayer were: ‘May God preserve us from the false, and grant us a great and genuine move of the Holy Spirit that will be undeniably from above. In our desire to see God at work let us beware [of] the readiness to accept anything that just “appears” to be authentic. Let us apply the tests as outlined [in his book], and be sure that what we approve is truly of the Lord and in accordance with His Word’ (Morgan 2005:255, 257).
  15. I remain convinced that a house church is the best environment in which the genuine charismatic gifts (1 Cor 12-14) can function. In my region, I have not been able to find such a house church.
  16. To expose some of the controversial issues of John MacArthur’s labelling the charismatic phenomena as ‘strange fire’, see the articles:

John F. MacArthur Jr..JPG

John F MacArthur Jr (courtesy Wikipedia)

blue-coil-smChristianity Today article, ‘Understanding the charismatic movement’ (October 18, 2013).

blue-coil-smJohn MacArthur vs. Mark Driscoll: Megachurch pastors clash over charismatic theology’ (Religion News Service, October 18, 2013).

blue-coil-smA Final Appeal to Pastor John MacArthur on the Eve of His ‘Strange Fire’ Conference’ (Charisma News, October 15, 2013).

blue-coil-smTom Schreiner reviews John MacArthur’s book, Strange fire (Thomas Nelson 2013) – The Gospel Coalition.
blue-coil-smJohn MacArthur and Strange Fire’ (Tim Challies, September 26, 2013).
blue-coil-smDave Miller (SBC Voices), ‘“Strange Fire”: John MacArthur is Right…and VERY Wrong’, 18 October 2013.

Conclusions

Although John MacArthur is a cessationist who does not support the continuing gifts of the Spirit of 1 Corinthians 12-14, the titles of his books, Charismatic chaos and Strange fire accurately describe what went on in the charismatic house church meeting I attended on 3 November 2013.

Charismatic commotion and confusion were alive and well at this gathering. It demonstrated a low view of biblical authority where extreme human performance was the guide of what should happen in a charismatic church gathering. More than ever there is a need for the teaching in Aeron Morgan’s book, The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations (2005). For a description and biblical assessment of the gift of prophecy, see Wayne Grudem’s, The gift of prophecy: In the New Testament and today (1988).

Charismatic strange fire is dangerous because it assaults biblical integrity. It exalts experience as a prominent determiner of what is right and wrong when the gifts are manifest in a church gathering. What is the biblical position?

clip_image003 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[1] 1 John 4:1-3, 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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 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 (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[2] 1 Corinthians 14:1-12, 29-33, 39-40, Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

6 Now, brothers [and sisters], if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church….

29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace….

39 So, my brothers [and sisters], earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[3] 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (ESV, emphasis added).

clip_image003[4] Acts 17:11, Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (ESV).

designRed-small (1) ‘False teaching is a malignancy that corrupts and destroys. False manifestations will lead people astray and cause more damage than [people] might deem possible’.

designRed-small (2) ‘The Scriptural guidelines for testing teachings and manifestations are there for the spiritual blessing and mutual edification of the believers who fellowship in any local church. Our Lord wants the best for His people, to prepare them for that Day when He will appear’.

designRed-small (3) ‘We must be watchful as we see emerging signs of “the apostasy” of these end times (2 Thess 2:1-3), and preserve our “love of the truth”’ [2 Thess 2:10] (Morgan 2005:254, 255-256 ).

Works consulted

Fee, G 1987. First epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce, gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Grudem, W 1988. The gift of prophecy in the New Testament and today.[3] Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

Morgan, A 2005. The biblical testing of teachings and manifestations. Spring Lake, MI: Dust & Ashes Publications.

Sommer, L 2013. Around the world in 365 days: Toronto blessing celebrates 10 years. Charisma Magazine (online). Available at: http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/devotionals/around-the-word-in-365-days?view=article&id=1104:toronto-blessing-celebrates-10-years&catid=154 (Accessed 4 November 2013).

Notes:


[1] In Aeron Morgan’s book (2005), he stated that this information came from Charisma News Service (online), 8 January 2004, and that the article was titled, ‘Toronto blessing: Just as anointed after 10 years’. He accessed it on 8 January 2004 at: http://www.charismanews.com/a.php? Article ID=8437 (Morgan 2005:179, n. 132). Such an article is no longer available online at Charisma News and the Sommer (2013) article seems to be an update of the previous article. However, a copy of the 2004 article seems to be that at: http://www.openheaven.com/forums/printer_friendly_posts.asp?TID=494 (Accessed 4 November 2013).

[2] This in no way is meant to state that all teachings on this site are supported by this researcher. For example, I do not support the Received Text (Textus Receptus) as the most reliable Greek NT nor of the King James Version and the New King James Version English translations that are based on this NT text. Also, I am not supportive of the eschatology of dispensational, premillennial, pretribulationism promoted on that site. For views that oppose this perspective, see my articles:

(1) The Greek Text, the KJV, and English translations;

(2) Excuses people make for promoting the King James Version of the Bible,

(3) Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in Scripture?

(4) The King James Version disagreement: Is the Greek text behind the KJV New Testament superior to that used by modern Bible translations?

(5) What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?

[3] A revised edition is available from Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books 2000. See: http://www.crossway.org/books/the-gift-of-prophecy-in-the-new-testament-and-tpb/ (Accessed 4 November 2013).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

Is the gift of tongues an example of babbling to God?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Beyond Words

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I’ve heard some fairly demeaning things said about the gift of tongues down through the years. Here is one example that I encountered on the largest Christian forum in the world, Christian Forums. In a discussion on tongues in Baptist churches he said,

My old Baptist pastor said that people who do it are just leading themselves on and getting over-the-top exited (sic) and i really don’t see the point in babbling to god but objectively the bible does support it and ive (sic) known some awesome christians who do it.[1]

My response was:

“Babbling to god” is hardly a biblical way of describing one of God’s genuine gifts of the Spirit.

Could it be that you don’t understand this gift and so use this kind of put-down language, ‘Babbling to god’ – along with the lower case for ‘god’? Are you saying that the person with the gift of glossolalia is worshipping another ‘god’?[2]

Then this reply came to my post:

I would tend to agree that the practice as it is done in many Christian circles is little more than “babbling” presumably “to God.” And that is the more benign form. In some circles, there is an entire theology built around “speaking in tongues” that is dangerously exclusive and overly reliant on a very specific practice.[3]

‘Babbling to God’

How does one reply to such content? I responded[4] that I find it reprehensible that he used language such as “babbling to God” to refer to God’s supernatural gift of tongues. On occasions I speak to God in the language of tongues in my home devotions, a language that he has given me and it is by no means “babbling”. It is God’s gift to me and I use the glossolalia that he has given me to communicate with him in my prayer time.

This person obviously doesn’t understand this gift, otherwise he would not be using this disparaging kind of language.

However, I do find that many Pentecostal and Charismatic gifts allow this speaking in tongues, without interpretation, in the public gathering and this leads to unbiblical disorder. The Scriptural injunction is that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).

This does not happen in some of these churches that I have visited. This means that they are right out of order, based on the teaching in 1 Cor. 14. In fact, I think it could have been this kind of chaos that Paul was addressing in Corinth.

However, excesses should never be a reason to reject biblical doctrine. Extremism should tell us where to make correction and get back to biblical teaching. But cessationism is not the solution.

I’ve been off the air with my computer with a virus for the last week. I contracted it by opening an email that was from my son’s email address but it was one of those extremist virus producers who use email to catch us. I was caught by such extremism. However, it would be unrealistic of me to give up using email because of some extremist who abused the privilege.

It’s the same with the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. I will never interpret God’s amazing gifts of the Spirit through the extremism I see in some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. They are doing things indecently and out of order (the opposite of 1 Cor. 14:40). God wants us to get back to biblical order in the decent manifestation of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

In fact, this biblical injunction should be happening in all Pentecostal and Charismatic groups and churches: “Let the others weigh what is said” (1 Cor 14:29).

Fake gifts

This fellow responded to me on the Forum,

Would it be fair to say that there are those who are not genuinely exercising the gift of tongues but are going through the motions for the sake of showing off or pretending to have a spiritual prowess of sorts? I would say that in church circles that overly emphasize speaking in tongues, this is quite common and is nothing more than “babbling” supposedly “to God.” If you find this opinion “reprehensible” then so be it. I just want to make sure you understand what you are calling “reprehensible”.
In short, I am not referring to “God’s supernatural gift of tongues” as babbling. I am referring to the act of pretending you have said gift as “babbling”.[5]

How should I respond to such questions and observations? This was my answer:[6]

Of course it is possible to fake a genuine gift of the Spirit. But it also is possible to fake being a Christian as well. Any who want to demonstrate spiritual prowess by faking any kind of gift are heading in the wrong direction spiritually. It is easy to fake any kind of religious experience. Let’s not focus solely on the Pentecostals or charismatics.

So could “babbling for God” be in competition with:

  1. Solemnity for God;
  2. Contemporary Christianity for God;
  3. Traditionalism for God;
  4. Evangelicalism for God;
  5. Liturgy for God, etc?

He says that ‘I am referring to the act of pretending you have said gift as “babbling”’. What criteria are you using to determine the genuine from the fake to KNOW that they are “babbling for God”? Does he have the genuine gift of the Spirit of discernment / knowledge so that he can walk into any Pentecostal or Charismatic church and he knows exactly who are exercising genuine gifts and those who are “babbling for God”?

Is speaking in tongues gibberish?

That’s how one writer stated it:

Speaking in tongues was simply, as stated, an act of communication on the part of the Spirit to help communicate and found the church movement that led us into the age that we are in now, the Church Age. Tongues was the Spirit of Christ taking hold of the ears and mouths of people and letting them understand each other in their own language without the speaker or listener speaking any specific language. READ THE BIBLE.

Seriously, take some courses in a Bible college to understand this. Read the original Hebrew and Greek texts, realizing what it meant. In Greek, which is what the new Testament was written in, in the book of Acts when the writer says “spoke in tongues” it is the phrase “mílise se pollés glósses””, which literally means, “many languages”. So you could say, they spake in MANY LANGUAGES, meaning everyone understood what was being said. It was NOT gibberish….[7]

Speaking in Tongues is not a gift that the Spirit grants these days because it’s need was fulfilled and we have moved on passed that time. We have multilingual Bibles now, there is no reason that we would have to speak in Tongues considering we can present a Bible in virtually any language now. It’s time has passed.[8]

My response was:[9]

I wish I could agree with you but I can’t. Why? The Bible disagrees with that perspective. What happened on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4, with the outpouring of the Spirit was a once only experience.

However, the gift of tongues is a different gift that God continues to give. I know that from 1 Corinthians 14:1-5,

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (ESV).

We are to earnestly desire all spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, but the genuine gift of tongues and interpretation continues. There is no place in the church gathering for any who speaks in tongues without interpretation. However, these verses teach that there is a genuine gift of tongues where one ‘speaks not to men but to God … for he utters mysteries in the Spirit’. You seem not to have experienced or want to experience this, but I can vouch for this kind of communication with God on almost a daily basis. I praise and thank God for this gift he has given me.

However, while Paul gives a preference for prophecy as a gift in the church as it ‘builds up the church’, he still gives this important teaching about tongues:

blue-arrow-small ‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:5).

So the gift of tongues was available to NT believers. Notice the contrast:

blue-arrow-small‘The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up’ (1 Cor 14:5).

So the gift of prophecy approximately equals tongues with interpretation for the building up of the church.

Conclusion

My experience is that there is such poor teaching on the correct approach to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit – especially tongues and interpretation – that there is too much existential chaos allowed by church leaders at the local church level that is too much like Toronto ‘blessing’ and Brownsville Pensacola ‘revival’ excesses.

The excesses should not cause us to reject the correct biblical teaching of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that includes tongues and interpretation.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues?’, Blooper #171, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t1133006-18/#post61495691 (Accessed 3 October 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #173.

[3] Ibid, dies-I #174.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #175.

[5] Ibid., dies-I #176.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen #178.

[7] Ibid., ChrisHolland169 #150.

[8] Ibid., #157.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen #161.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 October 2016.

 

Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

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By Spencer D Gear

Some Pentecostal Christian denominations and para-church agencies of a similar theological persuasion have Statements of Beliefs that state that they believe the baptism with the Holy Spirit, according to Acts 2:4, is given to believers who ask for it. [1]  The meaning is that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism/filling with the Holy Spirit.  Those who are Spirit-filled will speak in unknown or other tongues, according to this theology.

Although I accepted this view for about 13 years, an examination of the Scriptures and Christian experience have  pressed me to question this understanding.  Since I am committed to the inerrant Word of God, I have sought answers from a careful study of the grammar and context of Acts 2:4 and other Scriptures.

I consider this an important issue since the Scriptures speak about the baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit.  I deeply desire the Holy Spirit’s ministry in my life, therefore, the following study is directed towards discovering the theology of the baptism with the Holy Spirit with a view to experience in the Christian’s life.

The Day of Pentecost

What happened on the day of Pentecost was a unique historical occurrence (tongues were not sought) where the tongues were actual known dialects (Acts 2:6, 8 uses the Greek word, dialekto — dative case, which v. 8 affirms was their own native language).  These dialects were understood by the listeners and did not need to be interpreted.

To make Acts 2:4 support the “initial evidence” doctrine, one, to be consistent, must require that those baptised in the Holy Spirit today must speak in known dialects.

Other References in the Book of Acts

The “tongues” of Acts 10:46 seem to be interpreted by Acts 11:15, which means that it is the Gentiles’ Pentecost with the languages being known dialects (cf, “just as He did upon us at the beginning”, 11:15).  Therefore, because of this context of the Book of Acts, Acts 19:6 would be most consistently interpreted as the dialects of the day of Pentecost.  What is significant is that as the gospel spread and as each new group of people was encountered, tongues is mentioned (the Jews, Acts 2:4; the Gentiles, Acts 10:46; those who accepted John’s baptism, Acts 19:6).  From these verses it is evident that for some people who are filled with the Spirit, they will speak in tongues.

It is just as significant in the Book of Acts that tongues is not mentioned with the filling of the Spirit in all examples.  Acts 8:18 does not state what Simon the sorcerer saw.  Acts 9:17 does not associate Paul’s filling with the Holy Spirit with “tongues”.  It is arguing from silence (a dangerous exegetical practice) to say that Paul’s baptism with the Spirit was accompanied by tongues.  We know he spoke in tongues (I Cor. 14:18-19), but do not know when it began.

In Acts 4:8, “filled”, an aorist participle, could be translated “having just been filled”, does not mention tongues.  This is repeated in 13:9, 52.  Acts 4:31 does not mention tongues.  In fact the evidence was that they “began to speak the word of God with boldness” (NASB).  Why are not boldness (Acts 4:31), power (Acts 1:8) and prophecy (Acts 19:6) the evidences of the filling of the Spirit?

Tongues in I Corinthians

What happened on the day of Pentecost cannot be identified with the “tongues” of I Cor. 12:11, 30; 14:2, 4, 13, 19, 27 where the “tongue” either had to be interpreted (12:11, 30; 14:13, 27) or was unknown language, spoken to God for personal edification (14:2, 4).  However, I Cor. 13:1 identifies tongues with the languages of men (understandable human languages) and the languages of angels (presumably the communication language of the angels in heaven).

For me, the definitive moment in my interpretation of these sometimes difficult verses came when I studied the Greek language of I Cor. 12:29-30 which uses the Greek negative me, thus requiring that a negative answer be given to the question, “Do all speak in tongues?” which is confirmed by the NASB translation: “All do not speak with tongues, do they?”

Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, I Cor. 12:30 confirms that tongues cannot be the initial physical evidence for all believers, since tongues is not given to all.

Perhaps the reply could be: I Corinthians 12-14 must be taken as a whole and refers to the use of tongues in the corporate gathering of the church and so refers to the gift of tongues requiring the accompanying gift of interpretation.  Therefore, it is correct to say that not all believers are given the gift of tongues requiring interpretation for exercise in the gathering of the body.

This is a valid objection that I accepted for many years.  However, a closer examination of the context reveals the following:

a.    I Cor. 14:2, 4 refers to tongues for personal edification and not requiring interpretation — therefore it is not for use in the church.  This seems to be what Paul is referring to when he says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (I Cor. 14:18).  In the church, he prefers intelligibility: “I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:19)

b.    I Cor. 14:14-18 contrasts speaking and singing “with the spirit” (tongues on the basis of v. 14) and praying with the mind.  Therefore, throughout I Cor. 12-14, there seems to be an interchange of tongues (spiritual language or ecstatic utterance) as a language spoken to God for personal edification and tongues requiring interpretation for the edification of the church.

Therefore, my conclusion is that I Cor. 12:28, 30 is referring to both kinds of tongues, which are not given to all believers.  Why?  Because “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (I Cor. 12:11 NASB).  I Cor. 12:14 emphasises: “For the body is not one member, but many.”  Therefore, I do not find it surprising that tongues is restricted to some believers by the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

This has led charismatic leader and pastor of a Vineyard church (USA), George Mallone, to state: “Beyond doubt, one of the greatest theological tragedies to befall the church is the suggestion that tongues is a visible sign of having been baptized or filled with the Spirit” (1983:90).

Based on Experience

Experience is never the way to judge whether or not a doctrine is correct.  That must come from a solid historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible.  However, my experience and that of others is that, even though one speaks in tongues, this does not mean one is always controlled by the Spirit (and surely that is one meaning of the filling/baptism of the Holy Spirit).  I have spoken in tongues in my prayer time with the Lord, but later in the day have been angry with my children, told a lie, or slandered a brother.  So, speaking in tongues is no guarantee for me that I am always dominated by the Spirit of God.

On the other hand, I know people who do not speak in tongues (my wife is one example) whose lives are a constant testimony to submission to Jesus Christ and control by the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

A consistent interpretation of the relevant Scriptures reveals that tongues cannot be available to every Christian as the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit because:

1.    Not all will speak in tongues (I Cor. 12:30), and
2.    Such a doctrine usurps the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, based on the following Scriptures:

  •  “We have different gifts according to the grace given us” (Rom. 12:6a).
  •  “All these [gifts] are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (I Cor. 12:11).
  • ·Hebrews 2:4 speaks of “gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
    I believe it grieves the Holy Spirit and is a promotion of doctrinal error when denominations and Christian leaders go contrary to the Bible’s teaching.

However, if I am in error in the above contextual-grammatical interpretation of “tongues” I need your correction.  Please be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and direct me to the Word of God. Use this web page’s response form to show me my error.

References

Mallone, G. 1983. Those Controversial Gifts, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.

Endnotes:

1.    These Denominations explain the baptism with the Holy Spirit as follows:

(a)  Statement 8 of the Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal denomination) “Fundamental Truths” is:

The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit”: ‘The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance. Acts 2:4 [KJV/NIV]

The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.1 Corinthians 12:4-10 [KJV/NIV]; 1 Corinthians 12:28 [KJV/NIV]’.

(b)  The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (a Pentecostal denomination) in its ‘Declaration of Faith’ states:

We believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the incoming of the promised Comforter in mighty and glorious fullness to endue the believer with power from on high; to glorify and exalt the Lord Jesus; to give inspired utterance in witnessing of Him; to foster the spirit of prayer, holiness, sobriety; to equip the individual and the Church for practical, efficient, joyous, Spirit-filled soul-winning in the fields of life; and that this being still the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the believer may have every reason to expect His incoming to be after the same manner as that in which He came upon Jew and Gentile alike in Bible days, and as recorded in the Word, that it may be truly said of us as of the house of Cornelius: the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning [biblical references to support this statement are: John 14:16-17; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4; 8:17; 10:44-46; 1 Cor. 3:16].

(c)  The Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee (a Pentecostal denomination), in its “Declaration of Faith” states that ‘we believe … in speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost’.

(d) The Vineyard Churches USA take a different slant in their statement of Core Values, ‘The Ministry of the Holy Spirit’:

We believe that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church at Pentecost in power, baptizing believers into the Body of Christ and releasing the gifts of the Spirit to them. The Spirit brings the permanent indwelling presence of God to us for spiritual worship, personal sanctification, building up the Church, gifting us for ministry, and driving back the kingdom of Satan by the evangelization of the world through proclaiming the word of Jesus and doing the works of Jesus.

We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ and that He is our abiding Helper, Teacher, and Guide. We believe in the filling or the empowering of the Holy Spirit, often a conscious experience, for ministry today. We believe in the present ministry of the Spirit and in the exercise of all of the biblical gifts of the Spirit. We practice the laying on of hands for the empowering of the Spirit, for healing, and for recognition and empowering of those whom God has ordained to lead and serve the Church.

(e) The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (a Pentecostal denomination) in the “Confession of Faith” states that,

WE BELIEVE in the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as promised to all believers. We believe in the manifestation of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. We believe that a Christian should be a disciple of Jesus Christ living a consecrated and holy life.

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear.This document last updated at: 11 October 2015.

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