14. A QUESTION OF TONGUES
New Covenant Thoughts on Glossolalia and Xenoglossia
Q. One of the frustrating questions we are receiving from our many friends in the Pentecostal Movement is why we, as New Covenant Christians, reject the practice of "tongue-speaking". I know that we have published a great deal of material on this subject already, but for the sake of our brethren in the charismatic movement, I would like to review the biblical data once more, as we never seem to come to agreement on this subject. I think this is all the more important as there are so many charismatics who are interested in the New Covenant work for whom our rejection of glossolalia is a major stumb- ling block. What is to be done?
A. Well, we are ourselves deeply troubled over this lack of agreement because, as you correctly point out, this Church could have grown considerably over the past year or so had we been more liberal on this matter if glossolalia or so-called "speaking in an unknown tongue". There are many who have wanted to be a part of us who were turned away by our rejection of charismatic tongue-speaking. We could have "turned a blind eye" for the sake of Church growth but that would have been dishonest in the extreme. For us, the truth is of the utmost importance even should that mean we never add a single new member.
But let's take a closer look at this troublesome word glossolalia which comes into our language from a couple of New Testament references where the Greek expression glossais lalein occurs. To begin with, the English word "tongue" is synonymous with the word "language" and exactly is the same for the Greek word glossa. Thus in the opening of 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul writes: "I may speak a human language (tongue) or an angelic language (tongue), but if I have no love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal..." (v.1, my translation).
Q. The fact that two categories of languages is mentioned would surely suggest, as Pentecostals teach, that what they practice is angel language- talk?
A. The word "language" implies rules of grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc.. Pentecostal-type tongue-speaking has none of these, as an article we have already published called "Glossolalia: The Gift of Gibberish" has established. Even if we couldn't understand a language, it would still have structure. Thus "angel language", whatever it is, must be orderly.
Q. Isn't that just a supposition? An assumption?
A. If you mean, "is it provable", then, until we have an Angel-English dictionary, Thesaurus, and Grammar Book, then obviously, no. But given the meaning of the word "language" I think the burden of proof is on the charismatics to show that their dissociated speech is "angel-talk".
The Bible mentions many encounters between human beings and angels and in every single encounter the angel is comprehensible. He has spoken to the human in his or her own language, whether Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. or in some modern language today.
Q. But this is surely just translation? What of the communication between angels?
A. Your question begs another one -- why should we need to speak in a language we don't understand? Since angels can obviously communicate to us in our own mother tongues, and can understand us when we talk back to them, why should we need to talk "angel"?
Q. Perhaps it is the language of heaven...?
A. That is, with respect, your assumption. Where in the scriptures does it say we will speak an "angel tongue"? But we are speculating, and when we speculate we can go needlessly around in circles. We must deal with the data that we have before us, and that is to be found in Acts and some of Paul's writings.
I should add here an interesting historical observation. Whereas prophecy was known throughout the Christian Church in the first century and afterwards, there is little or no evidence (that I can find) that tongue-speaking was, for example, a part of the Sub-apostolic Church. The Church fathers Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and others never mention it. That I find interesting.
More to the point -- and this we can prove absolutely from the Bible -- the so-called "glossolalia" of the modern Pentecostal, charismatic movement had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DAY OF PENTECOST. In fact, the account by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles is unequivocal -- when the disciples spoke in "tongues" after the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the upper room, they were speaking in KNOWN MODERN (at that time) LANGUAGES. We know this is so because Luke tells us quite clearly. There were Jews from all over the Roman Empire present and they recognised the languages of the provinces from which they hailed. They were, as a result, "amazed and astonished" -- not from hearing gibberish, but their own local languages spoken by Galilean peasants! (Ac.2). Listen to what they say: "...how is it that each of us hears in his own NATIVE TONGUE? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judaeans, Cappadocians, Pontians, Asians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, Arabians....." etc.? (v.8-10). You can't deny it -- they were hearing KNOWN HUMAN LANGUAGES. That is the truth of Pentecost; and if charismatics tell you otherwise, then they SPEAK AGAINST SCRIPTURE. I will restate it: the tongue-speaking that took place on the Day of Pentecost was not the gibberish spoken in modern charismatic meetings. It was in known languages that outsiders could verify. In other words, it was subject to CRITICAL ENQUIRY -- witnesses could be procured to confirm that the event was genuine -- that true languages were being spoken by those who had never learned them. IT WAS SCIENTIFICALLY TESTABLE, one of the few instances in Christianity susceptible to the scientific method.
Q. What, then, of the Corinthian phenomenon?
A. That is an entirely different matter and it is that I will address in a moment. But let us first be agreed that the tongue-speaking on the day of Pentecost was nothing more or less than the supernatural ability to speak in a known foreign language. Do you agree?
Q. Of course. It is incontestable. The Bible leaves us with no other conclusion.
A. Then really the Pentecostals and their offshoots have no business calling themselves "Pentecostals" because what they are manifesting is not the spirit of that momentous day at Pentecost. IT IS SOMETHING ELSE. It is that "something else" we must look at.
Q. What of Corinth, then? And the apostle Paul compared with Luke?
A. It is good you raise the question of personalities because Paul and Luke write in very different ways. Luke is a doctor, a scientist, and wrote in a highly accurate, almost at times, dry style. But that is his strength, because you always know what he is talking about. But Paul was a completely different personality, a charismatic (dare I use the term now?!), flamboyant personality, a gifted orator, highly intellectual, a philosopher-disciple. When he writes he employs all kinds of devices including hyperbole (exaggeration), sarcasm, and so on. He is a complex personality and writes in a complex format.
Q. You mean he exaggerated some of the things he said?
A. Absolutely, as the Hebrews are wont to do. Paul, bless his soul, liked to think of himself as "the greatest" in everything. He claimed to have been the greatest sinner, the hardest worker in the Gospel, had suffered more than any of the other disciples, etc.. He even exaggerates and says: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all" (1 Cor.14:18). I am sure there is truth in all these statements relatively-speaking and at different times -- I am not saying he is being untruthful, you know, just a little colourful.
Q. You said that his was typical of the style of other Hebrew writers?
A. And of human beings in general! Read David's psalms, especially when he is in his down moments. He is convinced he is the only one alive who loves the Lord and His Law. And John, or whoever wrote the concluding remarks of John's Gospel, who says that were all of Jesus' words to be written down, all of the libraries in the world wouldn't be able to contain them. This is a human form of expression.
I am not questioning the integrity of Paul. But he was a human and used human figures of speech.
Q. I know you are going to launch into the Corinthian experience, so before you do, perhaps we could take a look at some other passages which are normally related to glossolalia. I am thinking right now of Romans 8:26-27 where Paul says that at times we don't know how to pray and the Spirit intercedes with "groanings" (KJV) or in some translations, "sighs" (Moffatt). Isn't this "tongues"?
A. Well, I've groaned and sighed a lot in praying but I have never spoken gibberish. This is not glossolalia (so-called). Now you know the kinds of sounds you make when you groan or sigh -- when you have intense longings for something. You go, "Ugh!", "Ohhhh!" or something like that, not "Shalamalala-ma-la" or any of the other nonsense one hears in Pentecostal meetings. Ask anyone you know (who doesn't know what we're talking about there) to give you a groan or a sigh -- ask them to imagine all sorts of "intense longings" and I guarantee you'll get nothing like what you here in charismatic meetings which are usually high-pitch cries rather than low-pitch groans.
Q. I guess you are right. That makes more sense. It seems they are trying to squeeze in their glossolalia into anything that doesn't sound like pure language...
A. I agree entirely. They have a phenomenon and they're trying to fit it into scripture rather than let scripture speak for itself. So can we agree that Paul is not talking about dissociated speech in Romans 8?
A. Then let's get back to the heart of the "problem", and that is 1 Corinthians. It's here that the disagreements are a problem. And there are real problems because we're never entirely sure when Paul is playing "devil's advocate" and when he is giving us an apostolic injunction.
To begin with, let us realise that the Church at Corinth had MAJOR PROBLEMS. This was not a model New Testament congregation. It was seriously off the Way. This alone should alert us lest we be tempted to imitate it. Paul had a lot of straightening out to do, not just in the matter of tongues but in other matters. And the way he writes suggests to me that in the beginning he was of two minds as to what was happening in Corinth.
Q. You mean he was unfolding his position as he "mentally worked it through" in his letter?
A. Something like that. But let's try and summarise what he was saying. I have given a lot of historical background in an article I wrote on Women's Ministry so I will not repeat that here, save to mention that the speaking in gibberish was AN ESTABLISHED PRACTICE IN THE PAGAN RELIGION OF THE TIME.
Q. You're referring to the Delphic Oracle?
A. Yes, and the fact that part of the problem with "tongues" in Corinth had to do with women, since the Priestess of the Oracle was a woman. The Oracle was located just across the bay from Corinth at Acrocorinth. Its practices were well known.
The Corinthians, it seems, had had their imaginations fired about tongue- speaking "à-la-modern Pentecostal Church". It was so well established when Paul stumbled upon it that he had to tread carefully. He was perhaps unsure himself at first and wished to investigate it thoroughly. He would have known about the ecstatic utterances of Saul and the prophets centuries ago and wondered if there wasn't, perhaps, some connection. (I too wonder what Saul got up to). Whatever it was, the Corinthian congregation was split about it. Paul starts diplomatically, to calm the troubled waters over -- instead of launching out into a full attack, and thus risk alienating half the Corinthian saints, he focuses on the need to get the gifts generally into perspective so as to bring the people back into the Spirit of Christ where a happy solution can be found. He points out that the saints have different gifts, all of which are needed, and it can only be silly to play the one gift against the other or to organise them into a hierarchy of value.
Q. So you mean they were quarrelling over which of, for example, prophecy or tongues was the most important?
A. That was a part of it. He approached the problem like a good pastor, calming everyone down first, and reminding them that there was One more important than all the gifts, and especially pointing out the three Cardinal Gifts of Faith, Hope and Love (Charity). Without getting himself drawn into a partisan conflict he emphasised the fact that all the gifts belonged to the Church and should not be valued or sought on the basis of spectacular appearances.
A. Very. And you will find that he uses this pastoral approach many times. And that is why he is misunderstood. Let me give you a parallel approach. Homosexuality, as you know, is a very serious sin, and is condemned in no uncertain terms. But if, when you meet a homosexual, the first thing you do is launch into an all out attack, you will only alienate him. This is not the way of Christ. Rather, the homosexual must have the love of Christ revealed to him first. He must know that he is accepted as a person so that a bond of trust can develop. Only then can you start to gently lead a person into acceptance that their lifestyle is wrong. The Spirit convicts far better than the sharp tongue of our Adam-nature.
Q. So you would speak as though homosexuality were OK in the beginning and gently work your way around to pointing out it was a sin?
A. Almost. I would not say it was "OK" but rather I would steer away from that sort of question. Now the situation at Corinth was inflamed. These people had not long before been pagans of probably the worst dye -- we can assume this because in many places Paul refers to the Greek converts' past and how they had been idol-worshippers, perverts, and the like. Their conversion was new. They were immature in the things of the Spirit, always a very dangerous phase of Christian growth. As a pastor of their souls he knew that they had to be gently led away from old thinking patterns. That takes time and a lot of correct application of true principles.
See how Paul tries to resolve the situation. Instead of getting into a theological debate he appeals for love (1 Cor.13). "Get this focus," he is saying, "and we'll be able to sort this problem out amicably without compromising the truth." This appeal for love was not a general discourse on love -- it was shaped and created by Paul for a very specific purpose of demonstrating the solution to the tensions of the Corinthian congregation. The references to glossolalia (13:1,8), prophecy (13:2,8), gnôsis (i.e. the claim to revealed special knowledge or "revelation" -- 13:2,8), the power of miracles (13:2), and the capacity for "helpful deeds" (i.e. good works, ministry, etc. -- 13:3; cp. 12:28) all point toward the gifts that manifest themselves in the congregation there. He stresses that these gifts can become divisive unless they are controlled by agapé -- Christ-like love. Thus he deals with the central human problem first -- egotism and pride, because unless you deal with these and get people into a state of humility and receptivity, all discussion and debate is in vain.
Q. A person convinced against his will, remains unconvinced still!
A. Exactly! Human psychology must come first. He wants people to look at the various gifts (true as well as false) to see if the motivation is right. Are these spiritual manifestations an ego-trip or a true expression of Christ's love? Why are these gifts being searched for? How can we recognise a false gift born of selfishness? Why do the people want the gifts? In 1 Cor.8:1 he writes: "Gnôsis puffs up, but love builds up". He wants to build up unity and love before dealing with deviant theology and practices. They were converted by love and were led to true doctrine and practice thereafter; similarly, the Corinthian colony needed restoring in the same way. He applies this principle of the power to love to build-up in 1 Corinthians 14, applying it in poetic style in 1 Corinthians 13. It is very clear and simple. The exercise of the gifts of the Spirit should be governed by what best builds up the community. Love means concern for the community and is the check on the exercise of the gifts for personal gratification or the gratification of some rather than all.
Q. Mmmm. This is very interesting...I've never thought of the charismatic gifts in this light before...
A. Paul reassures the tongue-speakers that there is true tongue-speaking -- notice he doesn't knock them down in the beginning -- he says: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all." "Wow", they must have thought, "he's on our side after all." He has reassured the tongue-speakers that he isn't against tongues per se -- he doesn't go into details here because that isn't important. These people weren't there on the Day of Pentecost so they probably had no idea what true tongue-speaking was. Paul is showing that he isn't partisan. But then he starts, gently, to expose the wrong ways of the tongue-speakers -- remember, he is coming out of a love-context, and so they have his confidence: "NEVERTHELESS," he adds from his position on the moral high ground, "in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (14:18-19).
Now understand this -- Paul is saying that gibberish is useless. And the Corinthians were talking gibberish. Why? Because the whole body is instructed only by intelligible words. Notice he isn't attacking tongue- speaking per se, only the false Corinthian variety which was in imitation of the Delphic Oracle. There the priestess talked gibberish and a poet "interpreted" what she said in hexameter verse. Those seeking oracles usually left more confused than when they arrived because the oracles were always so vague.
Q. A bit like Nostradamus' "prophecies"!
A. Indeed. So Paul is not knocking tongues (whatever that is -- we have yet to define it further in light of what the apostle says to the Corinthians). He continued by saying, if you do speak in tongues, "then there should also be INTERPRETATION" (14:27).
Now, let me ask you (because I know you have been to a lot of charismatic meetings): what percentage of "tongues" is interpreted, that is, translated?
Q. Well, it varies from church to church, but in most I would say less than 5%.
A. I would say even less. I have been to many Pentecostal meetings in Norway and only once did I hear an attempt at interpretation. And in that case the "interpreter" said ten times as much as the one speaking in "tongues". I also listened for key words like "Israel" or "Jerusalem" and their Hebrew equivalents and only heard one (usually the "interpreter") use them. So what I heard was not a true translation.
But to keep to the point. Most charismatic churches flout Paul's rule -- they do not interpret. They say that this is for "personal edification". Yet Paul says that unless the Church (congregation) is being edified, this sort of tongue-speaking should not be allowed: "...he who speaks in a tongue edifies (builds up) himself, but he who prophesies builds up the church" (14:4).
Now Paul is clearly here not talking about a Day of Pentecost communication in a modern language. He is talking about some sort of language which is incomprehensible to all but the person speaking it. For this reason, he insists, it should be done in private. Not in Church. This kind of glossolalia is a special form of communication between man and God. But, Paul says, this is not to be used for evangelism or in public. It can become divisive when used for any other purpose than the edification of the person who has that gift. With humour and irony, he describes at length how singularly non-productive glossolalia is for those who come into the church as strangers. He says that they will just think you are crazy (14:23).
Q. I'm a little unclear here. Are you saying that what the Pentecostals do in their meetings is OK so long as it is done in private?
A. No, I'm not. I am not talking about the dissociated gibberish one hears, though this would certainly be a step in the right direction. I am talking about a language with structure which is revealed to the one speaking it supernaturally.
Q. Could others similarly anointed understand it? Couldn't a group of people communicate together in it?
A. I don't know, but the New Testament nowhere says that they do. Indeed, I would ask myself, why should they when they already have an earthly mother tongue to do so with? No, this is a communication between a believer and God. It is what we, in the New Covenant Church, call the Adamic Tongue -- the original language spoken by father Adam and mother Eve -- "Edenic", if you like.
Q. Why is it then called the "tongue of angels" and not "Adamic" or "Edenic"?
A. Presumably because it is only spoken by angels and has passed away as an earthly language.
Q. What would it's nearest equivalent be today?
A. Probably Hebrew.
Q. Now Paul, you said, was worried about unbelievers thinking believers were crazy hearing them talk gibberish. You also said earlier that at Pentecost modern languages were spoken. Didn't the unbelievers present also think the disciples were crazy?
A. The unbelievers in that upper room thought the disciples were drunk. And why? Because they were speaking so many languages simultaneously. What would you think if I suddenly started speaking Albanian, followed by Korean and then Swahili? You'd be tempted to think I was a bit drunk, wouldn't you?!
Now, let's be clear about one thing -- Paul wasn't worried about Christians looking fools -- whenever we preach the cross people think we are crazy because it is meaningless to them (1 Cor.1:22-23). Paul was only too happy to be a fool for Christ's sake (1 Cor.4:10). But what Paul is afraid of is WRONG FOOLISHNESS. I suppose he knew that some Christians love to feel encouraged in their witness by the world's accusing them of being crazy. The more they are labelled crazy the more they feel sure their witness is strong and courageous.
I remember one well known TV evangelist who mentioned how he went to a fast food restaurant to pick up some food and suddenly started blurting gibberish at the waiter. He was very proud of this and liked to say how the Lord had spoken to him. But this is wrong foolishness -- this is utterly ridiculous..
Q. Even destructive...
A. Yes, it's a mockery of Christ. No wonder so many unbelievers think charismatics are crazy. And I sympathise with them. I don't think they're crazy, just blinded and deluded by a false gift. They parade and trumpet it as evidence of salvation -- it is nothing of the sort. It's just the Adam-nature running amok in speech. No-one is built up. I know of Satanists who attend Pentecostal churches and "have a party" at the back of the meeting hall during tongue-speaking sessions. They speak in tongues too, praising Satan. They think it's great fun. And it is...for them, because it is a mockery of God.
In Paul's day the Greeks were the intellectuals par excellence. They sought wisdom whilst the Jews sought for signs. Paul knew how such fearless witness could send him on what are nothing more than ego-trips. He sees the risks when others do it, and therefore in his writings to the Corinthians he brings in his principle of "love". He is quite clear. Any "building up" is done better if one understands what is being spoken -- glossolalia does not build up the Christian community. It opens it up to justifiable ridicule.
Now the Lord warned about modern charismatics in the Old Testament...
Q. You mean, there's a direct prophecy about them??
A. Yes. In Isaiah 28 the Lord addresses the drunkards of Ephraim. "...men are reeling drunk and staggering in their cups; prophets and priests are reeling drunk, fuddled with liquor; they reel amid their revelations, they stumble as they give their charges; they vomit foully over the sacred tables, till not a place is clean?" (Is.28:7-8, Moffatt),
Q. What has that to do with glossolalia??
A. Let me read on and I think you will see how clearly. "'Whom is he going to instruct?' they say to me; "to whom does he mean to impart his oracles? Is it to babies newly weaned, just taken from the breast? For he does nothing but stammer about 'law upon law, law upon law, line upon line, line upon line, a little here, a little there..." (Is.28:9-10, Moffatt).
Q. I'm sorry, but I don't see any connection...
A. That is hardly surprising since I am reading from an English translation. But if you look at the original Hebrew you will see something startling. Now I read from the Moffatt version of the Old Testament, which I consider to be a superb rendering, but like all other versions, it lacks because it makes some wrong assumptions. There is very strange language in this passage, words that actually have no meaning to a human being even though men have "translated" them: these are the words in Hebrew -- I want you to think about them carefully and then tell me if they sound like something else you may have heard:
"sav lasav, sav, lasav-kav, lakav, kav, lakav-zeer sham, zeer sham"
Now our brilliant translators have "translated" these words in all sorts of different ways. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, renders them as, "affliction upon affliction, hope upon hope, yet a little, yet a little" (LXX); the Authorised King James Version which some bibliolaters thing is word-perfect renders them as: "precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (KJV). Paul, however, was familiar with these words in the Hebrew and translatable form. They were meant to be a mimicking either of child talk or of drunken talk. They came to his mind when he thought about Corinthian glossolalia and his reference to childishness and adulthood in 1 Corinthians 14:20 is another indication that he has in mind not only Isaiah 28:11 but the whole passage, since in 28:9 there is a reference to little children. You see, Paul is quoting this passage containing gibberish -- he says: "By strange speakers (heteroglossoi) and by the lips of foreigners shall I speak to this people and even so they will not listen to me" (1 Cor.14:21).
Q. Now you've really got me confused! So you're saying that GOD is speaking gibberish to these people -- the modern charismatics, but they won't listen to Him? Is this how He speaks to people who won't listen to Him?
A. Don't you see? Christians AREN'T LISTENING to God. They are listening to their own unredeemed, fallen soulish Adam-nature. They have become so spiritually deaf that they are resorting to the babbling of small children and drunkards.
Q. But are you saying that it is GOD saying these words or their Adam natures??
A. Bear with me a little longer. There's a whole new world of understanding about to open up for you. Now what does Paul say immediately after quoting Isaiah? Perhaps you could read out 1 Corinthians 14:22 for us:
Q. Yes.... (I'll use the King James Version, if that's OK?)
Q. "Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not for them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe" (1 Cor.14:22, KJV).
Wait...could I read from your Moffatt version just to be clear...?
"Thus 'tongues' are intended as a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; whereas prophesying is meant for believers, not for unbelievers" (Moffatt).
A. You look quite pale! Is something the matter?
Q. But....that's contradictory...
A. What do you mean?
Q. Paul is saying the opposite here of what he said earlier! What's going on??
A. Well, it appears that way, doesn't it? Let's recap as some of our listeners will lose the thread too. You see, Paul seems to have shifted his argument completely -- he appears to have done a U-turn, and this has really bothered interpreters. Charismatics like these verses and ignore the earlier ones which say the opposite -- that "tongues" is for believers only in private, and prophecy for unbelievers to make them stand in awe of God and bring them to repentance. Now Paul is apparently saying the very opposite -- on the basis of the quote from Isaiah, that glossolalia is for a sign not for unbelievers but for believers (14:22). After which Paul seems to do another U-turn by making a plea for the use of prophecy rather than glossolalia in church meetings, and this for the specific reason that prophecy has the power of leading to the conviction and conversion of the outsider.
Q. So how do we resolve this inconsistency??
A. Paul is dealing with some very stubborn, rebellious immature Christians who not so long previous were raw pagans. They are still being weaned out of their former ways. They think that their babble is angel tongues. It isn't. He is pulling together several strands of thought -- indeed, he is throwing together thoughts and scriptures into the mix to get the Corinthians to think it through.
They key here is in the word "sign" which is badly translated in our English versions because it is not easy to get the original sense of the Greek over. I'm going to use a translation of 1 Corinthians 14:22 made by Krister Stendahl which resolves the problem. The translations which say, to the effect, "tongues are a sign for believers but for unbelievers" overlooks the expression eis semeion which means, "for a sign". Thus Stendahl translates the passage: "Thus (according to the quotation from Isaiah 28:11) glossolalia becomes (einai eis) a (mere) sign not for believers but for unbelievers."
For Paul, because of the stumbling block the Jews had for signs, the word "sign" has a negative connotation -- it refers to a "mere sign". I can give you some references at the end of our interview. I will point out that it is well known that the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) have a negative attitude towards signs (Mk.8:12; Lk.11:29; Mt.12:40). Sign-seekers are a great impediment to true faith for they are seeking outward manifestations of the truth instead of the truth itself.
So, let me restate this point again: a "mere sign" does not lead to faith but to a hardening of unbelief. To the believers, glossolalia is not a sign, it is a part of their experience. And Paul's point in this instance is that the church owes the outsiders and unbelievers who come to the assemblies more than a mere negative sign toward their judgement. It owes them the full opportunity of repentance and the chance to recognise fully that God is in truth in the assembly of Zion. This can be accomplished by prophecy, and by the plain and clear speaking of the word of God. It cannot be achieved by glossolalia, which for the outsider simply enforces his alienation, causing him to stumble over the mere sign, as Isaiah had predicted in that passage.
Q. So, let me try and formulate this in my mind...
A. Go ahead...
Q. 1 Corinthians 14:21-25 is saying this: From the Scriptures we learn that when God speaks through glossolalia, which is the Adamic Tongue (or at least, an angel tongue), it will not lead to faith...
A. Right. The word eisakousontai means "they will not hear", a prophetic future used by Paul to refer to the situation now at hand in the church...
Q. Yes... Thus it is clear, from this prophetic word, that glossolalia is a mere sign, incapable of leading an unbeliever to faith. Of course, to the believer glossolalia is not a sign, for he has listened to the Word of God and come to faith...
Q. Prophecy, on the other hand, is toward faith and not toward the hardening of unbelief.
Q. Thus, if in the local colony (assembly, church) all speak with tongues, and outsiders and non believers come in, they will think the Christians are mad. And then the sign of glossolalia will work on them as Isaiah had predicted.
Q. But if all speak in understandable prophecy, then the non-believer or the outsider will be brought to repentance, convicted and judged as the secrets of his heart are laid open and he falls down, worshipping God, declaring that God is really among us.
Q. OK, now I have another question. What was the "tongues" that the gentile believers spoke in when Peter was among them in Acts 10:44-46?
A. Well, you tell me. You know how God works! If this was glossolalia then this must have been in private. If it was xenoglossia (speaking in a known foreign language) then they would have probably been together. Acts 10 does not give us the context or specific instances, just a general occurrence amongst the gentiles.
Q. What about Acts 19:6?
A. You mean where Paul laid hands on them and they started speaking in tongues and prophesying?
Q. That's the one.
A. Well, my answer has to be the same. This can't have been gibberish because these were disciples of John the Baptist assembled together, twelve in all, as I recall.
Q. What of Acts 4:31?
A. You've come armed tonight! That's good. Let's take a look at that one because I don't think it has anything to do with tongues: "At their prayer the place of meeting was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking God's word fearlessly; the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all" (Ac.4:31, Moffatt).
This to me looks like preaching though it might have included prophecy. I see no evidence of "tongues" here.
Q. I think that's pretty well exhausted the most important references to tongues in the Bible. This has been an interesting review for me though I still have many questions.
A. I agree. There is a lot more. I think we ought to remember also that the gift of languages at Pentecost signalled not only a new spiritual gift but a symbolic beginning of the reunification of the human race through speaking in one language -- it was, in a way, a reversal of the tragic breakdown in communication that took place at the Tower of Babel (Gen.11:6-9).
Q. Do you think it is true that what happened at Pentecost was a "one-off" event and that glossolalia -- however you define it -- is the "main" type of tongue-speaking for us today?
A. I've heard the argument advanced but I find no evidence for it in scripture. We have already seen a couple of other places in Acts where the supernatural speaking of foreign languages probably functioned. Glossolalia is a private matter between the individual and God. It should hardly, if ever, be reported, except by someone reporting his own personal experience. If a person reports the glossolalia of others, then I very much doubt it is true glossolalia. It is, in its very nature, NON-PUBLIC. Therefore I state again categorically -- all the public occurrences of tongue-speaking is fake, not because I feel it must be, but because God's Word says it must be.
As for the gift of xenoglossia, I know that it takes place from time to time. I know of one Pentecostal preacher who preached in Chinese for a hour, breaking off from a Norwegian sermon. It was especially for a Chinese outsider who had come into the meeting. She was converted, praise God! Now THAT is the genuine article!
Q. What about singing in tongues?
A. The same rules apply. If it's a foreign language, fine, provided there are some there whose mother language it is in. If it is glossolalia, then it is a private affair unless someone can translate.
Q. What of Paul when he says that tongue-speaking should feature a normal meeting provided it is translated?
A. I covered this earlier. If there is a genuine translation of the genuine Adamic tongue, then that is in order. If someone sings in Adamic and it is translated, then that is in order. But if there is no genuine translation, then it is false.
Q. What if it is Adamic and no-one can translate?
A. If God causes someone to speak in Adamic in a meeting, there will always be a translator.
Q. How are we to discern between Adamic -- angel tongues -- and the fake Corinthian-type glossolalia?
A. The message given will likely be prophetic and it will edify -- build-up -- the saints present at worship. It will not be some wishy-washy admonition which is typical of those who do "translate -- if it is a prophetic word it will be specific and relevant to the situation.
Q. Why not just prophesy in one's mother tongue, then? Surely that's simpler?
A. That's a question I don't know the answer to. I've never heard Adamic spoken, save in the dream-state. But I suppose it will bring a distinctive quality of Spirit. I'm guessing, though. Maybe it is only possible to speak in Adamic if you are in the Spirit...
Q. What about Cain? He spoke Adamic even after he had murdered Abel.
A. That is true. I'm afraid I can't help you further here as this is only speculation. Speaking in tongues is not yet a part of the New Covenant Christian experience [January 1998] -- we only know prophesy and gnôsis (knowledge-revelation). But I hope we will know before too long! It will come as and when it is needed.
Q. What do you see happening in the charismatic movement in the future?
A. My prayer is that it tidies up its tongue-speaking act. So long as it disregards scripture, it is in open rebellion against God's Word. God is not behind the gibberish -- it is no more than soulish prattle such as a small child would speak or a drunkard. I will be generous and say it is the talking of a tiny child -- and if it is, I pray to see maturity in that part of the Body. But sometimes I know it can also be demonic -- Satanists speak in tongues too, as indeed to all pagan religions. Therefore it is highly dangerous.
Q. But will they renounce it?
A. (smiles). I doubt it. You know what human nature is like, and the power that human tradition linked to pride has. Some (charismatics) will see through the facade, most will want to continue.
Q. What is your view of the Azuza Street revival, when Pentecostalism effectively started?
A. You know, I don't think it's right that Pentecostals use the title "Pentecostal" because they aren't imitating Pentecost. I would prefer to call them "Azuzals" or "Corinthians" because that is where their movement began. The Azuza Street revival marked a yearning for the old-time charismatic gifts. The yearning was not wrong and indeed the Lord has used many Pentecostals mightily. I will say that it was a mixture of the hand of God and a release of pent-up soulish energy dying for release. Pentecostalism started amongst the poor and repressed and with that background the gibberish we hear is not altogether surprising. Now it has become a habit. And in some churches it is even "taught".
Like most contemporary churches, some of their [Pentecostal] works are of God, some are of man, and some (alas) are of the devil.
Q. Do you think Pentecostalism will come to an end?
A. Every denomination will eventually. It will certainly be burned and all the dross removed. But then you will be left with --
Q. -- a New Covenant Christian!
A. Well, a purged one, at any rate! We're a long way from the millennial ideal yet. But to answer your question specifically, yes, of course, all the gibberish tongue-speaking will end. Indeed, Paul tells us, doesn't he, that the gifts like prophecy and tongues will vanish one day because we won't need them. That too is something to be looked forward to, when perfection comes.
In the meantime, we have a serious problem with all the false glossolalia present. It isn't of God and it's binding those who use them down as infants in the spirit. At best it's just disconnected psychological release; at worst, demonic possession.
Q. So our stand remains unchanged?
A. It must do, mustn't it? We don't need the "high-voltage religion" of the charismatics (as Stendahl calls it). We can express our praise for God in so many ways -- losing control in one almighty gush of emotional outpouring and disconnected blabbering is not God's way -- self-control permeates the whole Christian religion. On the other day I was in a Pentecostal household administering a blessing to a sick lady. My Pentecostal friend reflexly began shouting "hallelujahs" as I prayed to such an extent that I couldn't even hear myself think. I had to shout in order hear myself -- and that's another problem -- Pentecostalism is loud and noisy -- it has to be, otherwise no-one can hear themselves!!
On the other hand, we are not "anti-charismatic" -- in fact, we claim to be charismatic Christians too. Those churches that have suppressed charismatic manifestations often argue that the biblical phenomena were given to the early church for its breakthrough period, that once the truth was established, such "primitive" things were no longer needed. Such reasoning, which is nowhere backed up by Scripture, has a defensive ring. The defensiveness is one of embarrassment, either for the absence of what the Bible describes as part of the full Christian experience, or for what "enlightened" Christians perceive as unsavoury and primitive in the annals of our tradition.
Q. Might our revulsion for the glossolalia of the Pentecostal movement not also be the product of "embarrassment"?
A. It's a question we must honestly face. Believe me, I have tried hard to open up to the Pentecostal Church Spirit -- many times, but each time a voice tells me, "No, this is not the Way of the Lord." I must obey both my inner conscience and, more importantly, what the Word says. I long to have the gift of tongues, not because I want to have an ecstatic experience for myself, but so that I can preach the Gospel in foreign tongues and reveal the glory of God.
And I would like to make another observation. I don't think people can live healthily with a high-voltage religious experience over a long period of time. While I reject the breakthrough argument on the plane of institutional history, I am very sympathetic to it when applied to individual history.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Charismatics need non-charismatics badly (and vice versa) -- they need to know that their relationship with God does not depend on the intensity of their experiences. Pentecostalism, and charismatic Christianity, need to learn the lesson that feeling-based religion is oftentimes dangerous. I have seen it so many times not just with Protestants but with Mormons too, for whom "feelings" about the "truth" play an important part in their "testimony". To base a faith on feelings predominantly is to open the door to a quick and easy deception by the Adamic nature which is constantly seeking for "thrills". It is not unlike the world seeking for the thrills of romance -- of being "perpetually in love" on a passionate high -- and of dumping one partner for another in order to keep it alive. That one should want the awe and wonder of the perpetual "falling in love" experience is understandable (and its physical expression, sex) until it has a drug-like hold on you and you cease to be free without your "fix". I think much tongue-speaking is just that -- an emotional fix to keep a Christian who has lost his centre and facility to think deeply to move on.
There are certain psychological symptoms which manifest themselves in the abuse of such experiences. When the "high" does not come quite as freshly and strongly as we remember it before, then there is a strong and real temptation to "help the Spirit" a little by forcing the emotions. Such is dishonest because it is cheating the soul. And this can create feelings of guilt.
Q. So what is the place of the charismatic gifts in the Church of God?
A. It is a component but not the end itself. In a way the "anti-charismatics" are right -- it is important for the "breakthrough" of the Church, but I would say it is needed in every dispensation. The New Birth is glorious but it can't be repeated. I have tried! Mine was ecstatic but my subsequent spiritual births have all been different -- powerful, yes, but not quite so outwardly apparent. Jesus never spoke in tongues, you know -- He didn't need to. He had an inner harmony, peace and power that precluded the need for such. The vibrant, outward showy stuff is more for the young in spiritual experience who are experiencing the dramatic contrast of the transition from worldliness to a new life in Christ. That refreshing influx of charismatic fever is needed, just as falling in love is for a firm foundation in marriage. But that love changes, becomes maturer and more quiet, though never less intense. So it is with the charismatic gifts.
Q. So really what the Christian needs is to make the transition from loving the gift which God gives to loving God who gave the gift.
A. A nice way to put it. Charismatic fervour is like seasoning and is healthy for the Church but it is not the only way. That is probably why I get exhausted in charismatic churches and end up going to Baptist or similar churches for a while. It's good to turn up the heat for a while but not if you become addicted to it like rock music or if it burns you out.
The Church in the New Testament was a young Church -- that is why I feel we strongly need the testimony of the Church from the Sub-Apostolic period too because the latter reflects a degree of maturity not found in the New Testament period. And that is why we love so much the writings of Clement of Rome (his epistles and especially the second) represents for us the goal of a Local Colony. We recognise the New Testament developmental phases as being essential, of course, but we look one step further -- and this is where I think charismatic Protestantism fails. It's trying, as it were, to maintain "perpetual youth", and it uses the charismata to force that. Indeed, the charismata, as they suppose, become their elixir for spiritual youth, preventing the child from growing up into maturity. That is the great tragedy of the charismatic world of churches. And that is why a lot of mature unbelievers are turned off by them.
What I am hinting at here is the necessity for the young Christian to move upwards towards what can best be described as Christian mysticism. The true Christian mystic, if I can use that word (though it tends to have other meanings, unfortunately), is a pioneer who desires to ultimately transcend the gifts in order to come face to face with the living God and know Him as He really is. There are many dangerous paths that lead off the Way in such a quest and thus one must always have ones feel firmly planted in the reality and needs of the outer world. For him, the gifts become merely outward projections of an inner reality that he seeks to know -- the living Christ. Eternal life, Jesus said, is gnôsis (knowledge) of Jesus Christ, and the Father who sent him (John 17:3), not the charismatic gifts, and in the end he will want to go past them. Such is a sign of spiritual maturity in the Gospel.
Q. This is true. As we grow up in the Lord we desire to know Him in more meaningful and deeper ways. Many of the charismatic gifts seems less important to me now as I grow older -- I feel rather that I want to get into the very heart of God and people.
A. Yes, I know what you mean. Yet the gifts remain, and are used when they are needed.
Q. Could I finally ask you what you understand "new tongues" to mean in Mark 16:17?
A. I don't know. Verses 9-20 are missing from many of the older manuscripts of the New Testament and this has led some to conclude that they were not there originally. Some manuscripts do not read "new tongues" but just "tongues". The word "new" would certainly add a new dimension.
Q. Such as?
A. Well, it might mean that God wants us to communicate the Gospel in a new way -- the same truths but differently presented. I can also see, however, how a charismatic might abuse this passage to mean that everyone who speaks in glossolalia speaks in a new language, and that everyone speaks his own private language with God.
Q. There are some who teach this, aren't there?
A. Yes, alas. Percy Collet is one of them. They teach that everyone who is born-again should ask God to communicate supernaturally their own private "tongues". I do not believe this, partly because these people use their "private languages" in public and thus break Paul's rules (since who can translate a private language -- indeed, what would be the point?), and what would be the point of speaking a private language anyway especially if you don't speak the words? Why speak in tongues at all? It is meaningless.
Q. The usually excuse is that one can't understand the supernatural -- it is just something that transcends our faculties on the physical plane...
A. You know, this is usually the excuse of last resort for anything. "I can't help myself, I'm just that way". Or, "no-one understands this doctrine -- it's a mystery, and we must just accept it."
Q. Like the Trinity?
A. Yes. Whilst it might be true, it's not in the Bible, but a human extrapolation. And we are asked to accept a human extrapolation as a mystery. OK, if it was stated in the Bible without an explanation, then we would, as bible-believing Christians, be obliged to accept it in the hope that the mystery would eventually be revealed. But this is an extra-biblical doctrine. To accept it on faith is no different from accepting a Papal Bull or the pronouncement of a Mormon prophet. To accept it is to say that "I am a Bible-plus-Trinity-believing Christian" and overturns the article of faith of so many Protestant Churches that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice.
We must use this principle regarding tongue-speaking too. Just because the Bible may say something about a "new" tongue doesn't give us the right to go inventing private doctrines on the subject. We must take the whole Bible revelation on tongues and not just go launching out on one passage which seems to give us licence to go believing in new, disjunctive teachings.
To end this discussion, unless you have any other important questions you would like to ask, my I summarise what the Bible teaches about tongues:
(1) The Pentecostal experience in which the Church was anointed and revived had nothing to do with speaking in non-intelligible speech. Those anointed spoke in KNOWN languages which some of those present recognised as their own. Thus the Pentecostal Movement so-called, and its grandchild, the charismatics in general, has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE JERUSALEM ENDOWMENT AND THE SPIRITUAL LAUNCH OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. This form of tongues is called, in the Greek, xenoglossia, or speaking in foreign (xeno) tongues (glossia);
(2) The Bible also makes mention of GLOSSOLALIA, otherwise known as "angel tongues". As a language, glossolalia must have repeatable vocabulary, syntax and grammar, so that if you were to tape-record thousand of people speaking glossolalia, you would be able to work out some sort of structure;
(3) True glossolalia may be spoken in public ONLY if there is a translator present; otherwise (and this is its chief use) it is to be done in private by the believer when praying to God;
(4) The Corinthians were not only speaking tongues in public and causing chaos, but they were imitating pagan ways where tongue-speaking was common knowledge -- and, specifically, in this case, women were playing a leading rôle (perhaps because they were more susceptible to it) and were overturning patriarchal authority and disturbing the peace of the Corinthian Colony. Paul likens what they are doing to the drunkards of Ephraim in the Book of Isaiah, whom he quotes as they mumble gibberish like a small child;
(5) Glossolalia is not a sign for unbelievers who will rightly look upon Christians practising it as nut cases -- glossolalia becomes a NEGATIVE SIGN to them, turning them away from Christ. Prophecy is the gift which is to be used, when the Spirit moves, to bring them to repentance by exposing the secret thoughts of their hearts.
This is the summum bonum of what the Bible teaches about tongues.
Q. But the problem remains, even if we obey the biblical injunction, as to what glossolalia actually is -- that is, how do we identify it?
A. I agree. And I can't give you a clear-cut method of exposing false glossolalia until we have an Adamic Dictionary and Grammar! The only answer is that each local Colony must have mature, spiritual Elders and Eldresses who can discern the Holy Spirit. It means that such must also have the authority to immediately stop all false outbursts if glossolalia. Without that authority, a Colony will propagate the lowest common denominator and you will get Pentecostal Church-type. And that would be disastrous for the New Covenant Church.
Q. Better to stop tongue-speaking altogether, maybe?
A. Better to make it a PRIVATE matter and keep it out of Church, at any rate. You can't judge whether a person is telling the truth or not if they are speaking in untranslated tongues but you ought to be able to judge what kind of spirit it is bringing. Is the spirit, for example, anti-gnôsis?
A. Meaning, is the spirit leading you to put your emphasis on feelings rather than what the Word of God teaches? Does it lessen the desire to study and come to a knowledge of God? Is it anti-rationalistic, anti-thinking? Does it encourage the practitioner to seek after gifts more than truth? Indeed, one of the most important key questions I would ask anyone claiming to be a Christian, tongue-speaker or no, is this: Which do you think is the most important: LOVE or TRUTH?
Q. I was about to answer that but I sense that there's a catch in your question!
A. You know me well! Most people would instinctively answer that LOVE is the most important but if you know the Word of God you will know that you cannot define "love" without knowing what the Truth is. Look, the world has a thousand definitions of love from tolerating what anyone believes, thinks, or does no matter who they are to launching "holy wars".
Q. And that is why knowing the Bible is so important, isn't it?
A. Yes, absolutely. That is the standard of truth that man has been given by God. There God defines what is right and wrong, what is truth and falsehood, and what is love and hate. I know the dilemmas because in my youth I was briefly a Buddhist and was taught very different ideas about love and hate compared with what is found in the Bible. Therefore I must say -- and I must say it will all urgency and concern -- that we must first establish the Truth before defining what love is.
I had a discussion with a Pentecostal about a year ago about one of these super-preachers who is teaching New Age doctrines. I, and a brother, were pointing out that this preacher was not a true Christian. He was very indignant and pointed out what a loving man he was and about many of his prophecies that had come true. He did not want the man's teachings compared with the Bible, quite possibly because he did not want to know his Bible.
Q. We hear that sort of defence all the time, don't we? Like, "he's such a kind, sweet, generous and loving man" when he is teaching things like abortion, reincarnation and the like, whereas a Bible-believing preacher who condemns immorality is branded as a "fanatic", "intolerant" or sorely lacking in love?
A. It is the fallen Adam-nature making such accusations and praising that which is false -- and often it is demons behind the Adam-nature. Sadly, in the charismatic churches where false glossolalia feature strongly, subjective reasoning often replaces the critical "dividing of the Word" that the Lord requires of His followers. True love emerges from an apprehension of correct principles and is warm, generous, overflowing, and tender -- and is often mistaken for the counterfeit variety which displays the same symptoms...until it is confronted with the TRUTH...
Q. When all hell breaks loose!
The Truth is the great liberating factor that releases Christ-like, agapé love. It is not an outward veneer. The man or woman who loves the truth is like a sponge willing to absorb anything that is from God's mouth, but with a protective shield of armour preventing that which is false from getting in. Those who do not love the Truth are like a sponge that will absorb anything that happens to tickle the ego.
Q. So what would your message be to those in the charismatic movement who have been deluded by false glossolalia?
A. Not to be afraid, that God is not going to measure our righteousness by so insignificant a phenomenon as tongue-speaking should we be required to abandon it. That the substance of the Christian faith is TRUTH in LOVE. That the charismata, beautiful and wonderful though they are, are but an appendage to the faith which may just as easily not be used as used, and that they must occupy their proper place in the worshipper's life, namely, in second place. The problem with many charismatics is that they have come to worship the charismata -- the gifts -- it has become idolatry for them. And the revelation of this idolatry is no more made clear when the tongue-speaker is asked to stop what he is doing, especially if the reaction is bitterness or anger, because such reveals its root in the Adam-nature.
Q. Might they not say that you are just lecturing about something you don't know about?
A. I will share an experience with you to illustrate. As you know, the Lord has used me to bring forth nearly 1,000 revelations to the Church. I used to breathe them at one time. It was an exhilarating experience. And then suddenly, about three years ago (maybe not so long ago) He suddenly spoken to me directly, saying: "Stop writing revelations." I couldn't believe it. It had become habitual for me and so important that the prophetic gift was taking me over. I realised that I had a drug-like dependency and, though it was mild, was nevertheless real. Well, I stopped, and was very confused at first. I could not understand what (in this case) he wished me to stop something that was lawful until later when I understood the seeds of idolatry. Only after I had understood was I given permission to write revelations again.
We must be able to say "no" to the gifts at any time. But more importantly, we must be able to say "no" to the FALSE GIFTS because the latter just enslave us. False tongues does not edify the Body spiritually -- it is a kind of hypnosis, a drowning out of the Spirit, a way of dulling the pain of responsibility for Truth, a substitute for eternal life.
You know, I was a Mormon for three years, and whilst they don't practice tongues, they do have an equivalent, and that is their "testimony" time. Once a month the members, including tiny children, go up to the stand and tell everyone the same things -- that their Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and that their current leader is a true prophet, and so on. They are often very tear-filled experiences. By constantly repeating these things, and investing them with considerable emotion, they gradually brainwash themselves and each other. Take away these linchpins -- the exclusive truthfulness and authority of their Church, and the truthfulness of their prophets, and their whole religion collapses -- they have nothing. Many other denominations are built upon such false foundation-stones too -- remove the Watchtower Brethren and expose the name "Jehovah" as a linguistic error, and the Jehovah's Witness religion collapses; demonstrate that Sabbath observance on Saturday is not necessary to have eternal life, and the Seventh Day Adventist religion collapses; demonstrate that speaking gibberish is not a sign of being born-again and a good many Pentecostals and other charismatics have no sure visible means of knowing whether they are saved or not. And so on.
True Christianity is built upon the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, Truth, and Agapé-Love.
I would therefore urge all charismatics who practice so-called glossolalia to re-examine the Scriptural witness anew and to abandon any practice not in harmony with it. Jesus is the Way (the path of discipleship), the Truth and the Life. We must get these three right if we are going to get to know Him and not go wandering off the Path. These are dangerous time when all churches which are not built upon the truth will get swallowed up into the devilish One Word Religion being created by the antichrist. We have to get out of Babylon now before it is too late.
Oslo, Norway, Tuesday 13 January 1998
 1 Cor.1:22; Rom.4:11; 2 Cor.12:11-12; Rom.15:18-19; 2 Thes.2:9; 3:17, etc.
Please also see the important article, Tongues of Contention
This page was created on 23 January 1998
Last updated on 23 February 2001
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