Category Archives: Charismaticism
The Gift of Tongues – Is it Real?
This is an excellent and well written article explaining one side of the debate. There is much more that can, and has been said in favor of this argument. My library will attest to that and so will a good search engine. There is a personal note at the end of the article.
Why There is No Such Thing as the Gift of Tongues
From time to time pastors are asked about a phenomenon common to Christianity in the past one hundred years called “the gift of tongues.” The phrase generally refers to a spectrum of experiences, ranging from a supposed private, non-earthly prayer language spoken between the believer and God enabled by the Holy Spirit, to an angelic, non-earthly prayer language by the believer in prayer and worship, to an ecstatic non-earthly utterance enabled by the Spirit spontaneously in the believer in private and/or public worship.
Understandably, the phenomenon has created much excitement and inquiry since its rise in the early 1900’s. Professing Christians who experience it often testify to things such as the encouraging feeling it brings, comfort in the Christian life, and joy. Notwithstanding these, and many other experiences, God’s people must evaluate all things claimed to be of God by proper interpretation of Scripture. When done so, it becomes apparent that this phenomenon cannot be justified from the word of God. Having said that, Scripture does teach that there existed a miraculous gift of languages during the foundational, apostolic era of the New Testament church. As clear from Scripture, this was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned language that is known by others on earth for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others, while pronouncing judgment on Israel. This was a critical gift for laying the foundation of the church, and, as such, has ceased. However, phenomena as previously mentioned and beyond the biblical gift of languages cannot be justified from Scripture. Briefly, here are eleven reasons why there is no gift of tongues.
1. The meaning of the word “tongues.”
“Tongues” is an unfortunate rendering of the Greek word γλῶσσα. The word refers either to the tongue organ or spoken human languages understood by other people groups on Earth. Thus, references both in Acts and 1 Corinthians 12-14 refer, not to a private prayer phenomena, but a gift of languages, involving human earthly languages.
2. The definition of New Testament spiritual gifts.
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the gift of “tongues,” or “languages,” is referred to as a spiritual gift. There, the apostle Paul teaches that a spiritual gift is an enabling of the Holy Spirit given to regenerate individuals to exalt the lordship of Christ, serve the common good of others, to be used in love for others’ edification, and exercised in an orderly manner. Therefore, the idea of an individualized, private communing contradicts the meaning of New Testament spiritual gifts and renders a gift of tongues as unsubstantiated from Scripture.
3. The transitional nature of redemptive history in the first century.
Tragically, Israel had spurned Yahweh for centuries, culminating in the rejection of her Messiah. Consequently, God judged Israel in faithfulness to his word and covenant warnings. In part, this judgment involved setting Israel aside for the sake of the church. God would no longer center his redemptive plan on the ethnic nation of Israel, but a spiritual nation; the church. Acts records this glorious transition, as the Spirit empowered believers to make disciples from and among all nations. The idea of an individualized private prayer language contradicts the redemptive historical purpose of the gift of languages in the transitional time of Acts.
In a very vivid way, the God of the nations showed with the gift of languages that one need not immerse themselves in Israeli ethnicity to enter his favor. Believers need not speak Hebrew and become a Jewish proselyte. Instead, God miraculously enabled people to speak the languages of the nations in order to speak the good news of Christ to the nations. Thus, the transitional nature of salvation history in the first century forbids the idea that this gift was a private prayer language. In no way is it a private phenomenon, but a corporate marvel for the nations and in judgment of Israel (cf. 1 Cor. 14:21).
4. Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:7.
In Matthew 6:7, Jesus teaches Christians how to pray:
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7).
The word translated “meaningless repetition,” is from the Greek verb, battalogeo. Similar to the TDNT (1:597), A.T. Robertson comments that the word carries the idea of “stammerers who repeat the words,” “babbling or chattering,” “empty repetition.” John Nolland says it’s the idea of the repetition of either intelligible or unintelligible sounds in order to multiply effectiveness (Osborne, Matthew, 226). Many commentators agree that the prefix, “batta,” is onomatopoetic. In other words, the prefix sounds similar to the thing it describes; prayers sounding something like, “batta, batta, batta.” Being onomatopoetic does not mean that the word exhaustively covers everything which it describes, but the general idea.
Christ forbids praying this way for two reasons. First, because it is characteristic of Gentiles (Matt 6:7). Praying in a way that piles up language, or non-language, unintelligible, or babbling sounds is prayer characteristic of those who do not know God. Second, our heavenly Father already knows what we need before we think to pray about it, thus we need not pray or worship in a non-earthly linguistic, unintelligible way (Matt 6:8). Therefore, Christian prayer must consist of simple, earthly languages to our God.
5. The context of 1 Corinthians 14.
Proponents of the gift of tongues often refer to 1 Corinthians 14 to support their position. In that chapter, the apostle Paul corrects the chaotic frenzy which characterized Corinthian church gatherings. The purpose of the chapter was not to give details on the practice of non-language utterances and trances (whether private or public practice), but just the opposite: intelligibility and orderliness must characterize Christian worship gatherings.
Paul is correcting error with respect to what a spiritual gift is and how things ought to operate in the corporate gathering. In the Corinthian congregation there appears to have been a frenzy surrounding this spiritual gift.
The Corinthians seemed to be erring by: 1) using the spiritual gift of languages in a disorderly, unedifying fashion, with no translation happening and 2) were engaging in the popular Greek pagan practice of non-language ecstatic frenzied utterances which were meaningless noises. Though it may have delivered a spiritual high, a feeling of elevated spirituality, and a feeling of superiority in the culture and above others, Paul rebukes them because it was disorderly and absent of edification. He will argue for intelligibility and order in the worship service, since that is the prerequisite to edification, which is the goal of gathering (1 Cor 14:12, 40). Thus, 1 Corinthians 14 does not validate the practice of a tongues phenomenon.
6. The similarities between Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14.
It is often proposed that Acts 2 speaks of a gift involving earthly languages, but 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of a different kind of phenomenon, thus, justifying a personal gift of tongues. But this understanding of the two passages will not do. Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 both use the same Greek word, γλῶσσα, which means “languages.” First Corinthians 14:10-11 and 21 all refer to earthly foreign languages. Further, in both Acts and 1 Corinthians 14, the gift of languages is said to have served as judgment upon Israel, demonstrating that God was now working through an ethnically mixed church. Consequently, Scripture does not teach that there exists a heavenly prayer language/utterance enabled by the Spirit on the grounds that Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 teach different phenomenon.
7. The meaning of “tongues of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13:1.
Some proponents of the gift of tongues teach that 1 Corinthians 13:1 suggests that there exists a heavenly or angelic language enabled by the Holy Spirit. However, the passage is a use of hyperbolic extremes.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-2).
To remove mountains, know all mysteries, have all knowledge, and possess all faith are not possible. We are not omniscient nor omnipotent. More to the point of the passage, the purpose is to teach that even the greatest manifestation of a spiritual gift is worthless without love. Even more, the passagep teaches that gifts are to be used in love towards others, while expressing the eternal nature of love and temporal nature of spiritual gifts. So, “tongues of angels,” better rendered, “languages of angels,” is hyperbole to serve the point.
Further, it should be noted that throughout history, when angels spoke, they did so in intelligible earthly languages without the need of an interpretive gift (e.g. Gen. 19:2, Jos. 5:14, Isa. 6:3, Luke 2:30-33, Rev. 21:9). Of all the times angels spoke, not once did they do so in ecstatic utterances. Therefore, there is no such thing as a gift of tongues which is a heavenly/angelic language.
8. God’s provision of 66 books containing intelligible words by the work of the Holy Spirit.
The existence of the Bible is an utterly extraordinary thing. By God’s doing, we have the pure, eternal words of the Creator and Redeemer. The Bible is pure and special revelation from God. Without intending to insult anyone’s intelligence, the Bible is a book of words. The words are human words; words of earthly language. The Bible is not a book of unintelligible words which require a special endowment to comprehend. What does that say about God? And what does that say about God’s desire for our fellowship with him? It involves simple, intelligible words featured in earthly languages.
Furthermore, the Bible is the work of the Holy Spirit. He carried men in profound acts of providence to perform a great work. The result is 66 books of logical, orderly earthly language. Since the Bible is the pure word of God, it’s safe to conclude that there exists no higher form of communication with God than that which is based upon his word. There exists no spiritually superior form of interaction or communication that that which is observed in the word of God. And, in all of the prayers, praises, letters, psalms, and books of the Bible, we observe common earthly language. There is nothing more profound or spiritual than the language of the Psalms or Jesus’ intelligible prayers in John 17 or the Garden of Gethsemane, for example.
If someone desires to pray and speak lofty, spiritual words to God, we have the Psalms, for example, which contain profound expressions of worship. On top of that, every single word in the 150 Psalms was inspired in an intelligible language by the Holy Spirit (normal intelligibility, with noun-verb-object, structure). Furthermore, when we observe the prayers of Scripture (e.g. 1 Kings 8, John 17), in every instance, whether Christ or others, individuals are praying in normal, human intelligibility.
The existence and content of the Bible teach us that the most profound expressions of worship to God are to be done in God-given, human languages with normal intelligibility.
9. The biblical scenes of Heaven.
At times, advocates of the tongues phenomenon suggest that the practice is a higher, more spiritual, or superior experience. Believers who do not seek or experience it are missing out or settling for less.
One way to evaluate the claim is to observe the biblical scenes of heaven. What type of communication do we observe in heaven? What type of worship? Fellowship? Praise? Certainly, a God as great as ours would showcase the highest forms of communication, worship, and praise in his holy word. And, as heaven is the place of glorified, perfected individuals, we could expect the most superior, spiritual phenomena. What do we observe?
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we are given several glimpses of Heaven. There are things like singing, speaking to the Lord, worship, adoration, and lament. In each scene, they are speaking intelligible language and not ecstatic chances are private prayer language (e.g. Rev. 4:8, 11; 5:5, 9-10, 12-14; 6:6, 10; 15:3-4; 16:7; 18:2-4; 19:1-6). Not once are individuals experiencing a phenomenon similar to that of tongues.
10. Pagan religious practice.
As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:7, non-linguistic utterances are characteristic of pagan religious practice. In fact, even today, tongues-type phenomena is quite common in false religion.
For example, the type of repetitive prayer phenomenon prohibited by Jesus is common in Buddhist prayer wheels, the Roman Catholic practice of prayer candles, Ave Maria’s and Pater Nosters, and prayers of the Rosary. Tongues phenomena was common in ancient Greek culture (partly what the apostle Paul corrects in 1 Corinthians 12-14). At various points in Phaedrus, for example, Socrates praises the idea of ecstatic mania. A form of non-language, ecstatic prayer was reported to have been practiced through out-of-their-mind, ecstatic oraclers at Delphi and Dodona. (http://sparks.eserver.org/books/plato-phaedrus.pdf, 7). Many more examples could be cited of ancient and contemporary pagan practice.
11. The predominant position of the church.
Up until the early 1900s, the church did not adhere to the contemporary position of tongues. A large number of sound Christian scholars held to a language interpretation, dating back several centuries: John Chrysostom (4th century), Augustine (4th), Theodoret of Cyrus (5th), Martin Luther (16th), John Calvin (16th), John Owen (17th), Thomas Watson (17th), Matthew Henry (17-18th), John Gill (18th), Jonathan Edwards (18th), David Brainerd (18th), R.C. Sproul, Ian Hamilton, and Iain Murray (contemporary).
Some of these points are sufficient on their own to demonstrate that the contemporary tongues phenomenon cannot be substantiated from Scripture. Taken together, we conclude that the “gift of tongues” was the foundational-era gift of languages. This was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned earthly language for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others. It served as a loud statement at the birth and foundational time of the church to declare that God’s plan of redemption is no longer restricted to one nation, but all nations, while proclaiming God’s judgment on Israel. This gift ceased with the apostolic era in the first century as the NT church foundation was established.
The question is frequently asked, “Then what is this tongues phenomena which many Christians claim to experience?” I do not know. What we do know, however, is that one cannot justify the experience from Scripture, and, therefore, the practice must not be sought, practiced, or propagated by Christians.
Eric Davis is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. He has been married for 16 years and has 3 children.
DAN’S NOTE: Years ago, as a young prodigal who had just returned home, I was in the charismatic camp. Like many young and enthusiastic believers I wanted everything God had for me. I read everything I could get my hands on about the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well as the gifts of the Spirit. I shared my desire with a Pastor from a Pentecostal church. I spoke in tongues the day I was baptized in water as a repentant believer and received what I thought was a valid second blessing (Holy Spirit baptism) during the same service. Over the years, as I grew in faith and continued daily Bible reading and study, I saw that much of what I had been taught and believed was in error. Equally important was the growing feeling that the charismatic ‘experience’ was more about ‘me’ getting from God than anything else.
That’s the short story and I share it so that anyone reading this article won’t think I’m just a hard headed anti-Pentecostal.
The Charismatic Spin Doctor
I ran across another Fighting For The Faith broadcast that hit it out of the park called “Michael Brown’s Spin Control for Bill Johnson”. This program has as it’s guest Phil Johnson, of Grate To You Ministries and discusses an interview between Dr Michael Brown (referred to as “Baghdad Bob” a few times) and Bill Johnson, leader of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, who just might be the most dangerous ‘wolf wearing a sheep suit’ on the planet. I highly recommend heading over there, listening to the F4F episode, watching the embedded clips of Jenn Johnson comparing the Holy Spirit to a ‘blue genie’, and also checking our some of the other links, especially the link The Bill Johnson Cornucopia of False Teaching.
If you do head over there and do a little research, let me know what you think, please.
The ‘Azusa Now’ Conference and Prophetic Extravaganza
Hat Tip in advance to Chris Rosebrough of ‘Fighting for the Faith’, whose podcast audio so enthralled me that I had to listen to the Azusa report three times and take notes!
I knew about the Azusa Now event from having read about it already, but I don’t remember where I found the article. It all went down this last Saturday, 9 April. Fighting for the Faith reported on it and I regularly listen to F4F podcasts.
The podcast began by providing a quote from Jeff Jansen of Global Fire Ministries who had a fantastic experience while driving to the Los Angeles conference site. Says Jansen:
“As we were driving on Interstate 5 to the Azusa Now event on April 9, I saw a large, gold angel standing over LA,” Jansen says. “The Lord said, ‘Just as the 1849 gold rush drew people to California … So 4/9 2016 will mark a new gold rush of divine proportion that will once again draw the nations into revival.” (Charisma News)
The F4F podcast focused on several personalities from various ministries and the pronouncements / revelations / prophesies they delivered to the ecstatic crowd.
First there was Heidi Baker (Iris Global Ministries), who has revelations and visions on a fairly regular basis. She was introduced by Bill Johnson of Bethel Church (home of ‘dead raising teams’ who will train your church). Ms. Baker’s revelation was that God was healing “digestinal” problems/diseases of all sorts (small and large intestines), as well as lots of allergies. Having heard ‘John 6’ in her spirit continually she told the crowd that “some of you feel like you are starving” and can’t eat regular food. The Lord told her that he was going to heal them as they ‘ate Jesus’.
She then prayed that the inflicted ones would rid themselves of the “poison, fluff, and puff”. God was also healing all sorts of addictions from alcoholism to drug addiction, to addiction to medicines (prescription and non-prescription.
She also said there was someone being healed from a twisted knee and a skateboarder being healed of a broken wrist. Those last pronouncements were accompanied by a sudden ‘shakaraba’ utterance while she was prophesying. Such utterances are common with her, actually. She’s a regular on Fighting for the Faith.
Next we had Kris Vallotton (Bethel Church) who began by saying God was breaking the power of suicide that was caused by a ’spirit of insanity’ that put suicidal thoughts into people’s minds. He specifically mentioned a 17 year old named Thompson. God would break the spirit of suicide from him, as well as all from the God TV watchers similarly suffering. He ‘came against’ the evil spirit of suicide afflicting them and an entire generation! In the name of Jesus he released ‘life, visions, dreams, and promises of peace’. He ‘broke the bad visions’ some were having that were caused by the ‘spirit of foreboding’.
Then we were treated to Shawn Bolz from Morningstar Ministries. Morningstar Ministries is led by Rick Joyner, who was instrumental in the ‘restoration’ of Todd Bently (Lakeland Revival) after Todd’s adulterous affair with his nanny, divorce from his wife and marriage to the nanny. Joyner was also one of the NAR prophets who anointed Todd as an ‘Apostle’ at Lakeland.
Back to Shawn……
Shawn appeared on stage to dispense ‘words of knowledge’ and prophesy over some of the thousands in attendance. He even called out people by name and revealed specific things about them and their families! I think he must have received the ‘words of knowledge’ in advance and recorded them on his smart phone because he read from it for the whole 15 minutes he ‘prophesied’. Never mind that thousands of people had registered online and given names and that Facebook can tell us all sorts of things. I actually found the video showing him reading from his smart phone as he was prophesying. I had a hard time believing the F4F account!
Cindy Jacobs, prophetess and founder of Generals International, treated the crowd with a genuine ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ moment by saying “This is that which the prophets foretold!”, referring to the Asuza Now event as a direct fulfillment of OT prophesy.
Todd White, renowned street healer (specializes in lengthening short legs) then prophesied that there is coming a time of great revival where every believer is going to have a ‘prophetic anointing, and perform great signs and miracles wherever we go, even drug stores and other places we go shooing. He kept shouting “Do you want this?” over and over again, along with “The time is now!!!!!” reminiscent of a High School pep rally.
Lou Engle, leader of The Call spoke during the ‘tithes and offerings’ interlude, talking about a new movement called SAFA (Spiritual Air Force Academy) that was birthed at the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy where a group of cadets were very much into fasting and intercessory prayer. An exciting video clip accompanied the short presentation. The SAFA is mostly young people specializing in fasting and prayer who will be removing demons from the heavens and from the darkest places on the Earth. Divine encounters would abound. It was an invitation to ‘sow’ into the SAFA movement.
So there you have it………..It was all too fantastic to keep to myself!
Sarcasm aside, I have to say that all of the above are part of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement and all regularly receive great press from ‘Charisma Magazine’, and thousands of professing Christians buy into it all.