College student thinks speaking in tongues is vital to Christian living, part 1

Steve's note: The following entries are based on a discussion about the biblical gift of tongues and those who believe tongues (as seen in many Christian gatherings today) are a vital part of the Christian life. My comments are addressed to a young believer trying to respond to a friend who is a persistent tongues advocate. The arguments in block quotes are edited from that advocate's arguments. This is biblical counseling. It does not address any life-dominating sin but it does point a believer to a God-glorifying, commandment-driven lifestyle rather than a man-centered, feelings-driven lifestyle. Examine the arguments presented by Pedro's friend in coming posts. Even a useful gift or place of service can become a substitute treasure--an idol of the heart.


The issue: "Should we be speaking in tongues today?" is one I have wrestled with. Your friend is very persistent [see parts two through five]. While I have dear friends who disagree with me on this, most of the arguments I hear come from emotion rather than good biblical exposition. If the common teaching that "Spirit indwelling = tongues" is followed through to its logical conclusion, no one can claim to be saved if they do not speak in tongues (because they do not have the Holy Spirit and, hence, do not belong to God, Romans 8:9). This can easily become a cross diminishing, performance-based righteousness if you are not really accepted in the group unless you make the cut. To some Pentecostals, speaking in tongues is what circumcision was to the Judaizers in Galatia.

Spiritual gifts are for building others up. Instead what we hear is “I need to build myself up.” Why place so much emphasis on a gift that is placed at the bottom of the biblical lists of endowments? I would welcome a tongues speaker in our church (here I make fundamentalists uneasy) if I saw the “gift” being used to edify the church under the guidelines of 1 Corinthians 14:
  • one at a time
  • no more than three in a service
  • always with an interpreter and—Paul argued...
  • men only (here I make female Charismatics and Pentecostals uneasy).

We should never interpret the Bible based on what we have or have not experienced.

I will comment on the specific arguments your friend raises.


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  2. You're more Piperish than I thought. I don't squirm too much...good luck having that happen. Have the rules ever been followed in the last 1,500 years? Not that it is entirely impossible, I'm not that clear on it myself; but there is a trend.

  3. Thanks, I think. My cessationist tendencies, however, make me wonder not so much if tongues have ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8 is about the parousia, not the completion of the Scriptures) but if their usefulness has ceased in most places. God allowed signs and wonders to be manifested on the cutting edge of gospel ministry. I would not be surprised upon hearing news of a number of useful manifestations of the Spirit in places like Iran or India.

  4. I understand that thinking. Afterall, that was the point of tongues at the beginning anyhow.

    What would be the point in america, save for teaching the ebonics speaking youth? lol

  5. Of course, this raises broader issues. Are we communicating the mighty deeds of God in the language of the people around us when we refuse to embrace new forms of creative expression that come from the image of God in men(like music)?

  6. The issue is in deciding which forms come from the imago dei and which forms do not.

    Do you have any specific criteria in mind by which to judge that?

  7. I am far from believing that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder or that art is merely "self-expression." I fall closer to the Reformed view of the arts that bristles at art as creation independent of God (Adam discovering his own way to "be like God"), but applauds art as a part of man's commission to subdue the earth (Adam naming the animals and tending the garden, Bezalel adding visual sensation to spiritual worship).

    So the artist that glorifies God does not create something out of nothing (bara). He obediently brings existing elements like dirt, plants, pieces of wood, sound vibrations, colors, etc. under subjection and orders them into something useful.

    When we are evaluating the arts, then, our question is less about the legitimacy of certain forms than it is about whether we are using those forms to honor God instead of rebel against him.

  8. RE: If the common teaching that "Spirit indwelling = tongues" is followed through to its logical conclusion, no one can claim to be saved if they do not speak in tongues (because they do not have the Holy Spirit and, hence, do not belong to God, Romans 8:9).

    I have actually been looking more into this idea myself lately - which is how I came upon this series on your blog.

    Not all spiritual gifts are for building *others* up. There seems to be two forms of speaking in tongues in the new testament. One where Christians are given the ability to speak in a language foreign to them, to edify people who understand that language. And another entirely that specifically edifies the person who is speaking in tongues.

    This second is a "prayer language" and is referred to in detail in the new testament. I have put all of the references in a bible study titled Speaking in Tongues - and your comments on that are certainly welcomed.

    In addition to scriptures and their context on this topic (speaking in tongues) I included an open dialogue about the concept of this gift:

    (snippet) What if you found out that there was indeed a special priveledged prayer language. And that the Holy Spirit (the spirit of Jesus himself) would reside within you, and use this language to communicate directly to the throne of God on your behalf. Would you want that?

    And why, do you think, would the Holy Spirit need a special prayer language? Why would he not just use plain english, or the language of the one praying?

    I am enjoying your writings here so far - keep them great posts rolling! :)


  9. I would take a very practical (as opposed to mystical) view of Paul's tongues. Did he have "the gift"? Yes. Where did he use it more than any of the Corinthians? Read Acts. This was cutting edge ministry across Asia Minor and other regions. Greek was a common tongue in the Roman Empire, but not everywhere. I do not think we need to create a second kind of tongues to explain what in Greek simply means "languages."


What do you think?