Volume. XX, No. 34
Sunday, 19 February 2006

From the Pastors Heart: Tongues Speaking Part 1

There has been a great controversy over tongue speaking among Christians.  There are many different ways to deal with the issue of tongue speaking.  For example, we may talk about it from its existential perspectives: whether it exists today or not.  We may talk about it from the perspectives of its nature: it is gibberish or human languages?  We may talk about it from a bigger spectrum: do spiritual gifts exist today? Or do we need them today?  These questions will lead us into another question: Is there such thing as second blessing after conversion?  What is the baptism of the Spirit and when do we receive it? 
We may raise a question whether we practice them biblically if they exist. 

There are cessationists, non-cessationists, and those in the middle.  It is not too hard to understand who the cessationists and non-cessationists are.  However, who are those in the middle?  They are usually the ones who take the position that the gift of tongue speaking exists, but it should not be related to second blessing, per se.  The attitude toward speaking in tongues has been varied from one extreme to another.  A group of people say that it is a glorious experience.  Another group of people jeer at such practice.  Examples are plenteous.  Bernard Katz said, “For the last 20 years, between 7 and 9 percent of Americans have spoken in tongues - but almost the same percentage said the practice is evidence of demonic possession” ("Quoteline and Commentaries", The American Rationalist, July/Aug, 1998).  Some people enjoy weird stories like the following: “Michael Trofimov pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of his father. Trofimov, who had recently joined a religious group, was found was his hands around his father's neck "speaking in tongues and screaming for God." His uncle said, ‘He was a good young man and then he started going to these [religious] meetings’ (Chuck Shepherd, John J. Kohut & Roland Sweet, More News of the Weird, 1990; www.edwardtbabinski.us/religion/tongues.html).  In the mean while, some people have made certain formulas to justify their tongues-speaking practices as following (Harold Bredesen, “The Gift of Tongues,” Logos Journal, March, 1978, 19-24):

  • Tongues enable our spirits to communicate directly with God above and beyond the power of our minds to understand.
  • Tongues liberate the Spirit of God within us.
  • Tongues enable the Spirit to take its place of ascendancy over soul and body.
  • Tongues are God’s provision for catharsis, therefore important to our mental health.
  • Tongues meet our needs for a whole new language for worship, prayer and praise.         

Disarrayed charismatic camp
The charismatics emphasize on the importance of so-called second blessing.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit must come after our conversion, they say.  They argue that tongue speaking is a sign of their baptism by the Spirit.  However, not all charismatic preachers agree to it.  There are many charismatic leaders who also teach that the gift of speaking in tongues is not given to all believers.  Thus, there is no consensus even amongst the Pentecostals. 
Proper approach to this study

The gift of tongue speaking is a difficult issue to deal with.  This study may be endless if we approach it from the cessationists’ or non-cessationists’ point of view.  Both camps will flare up their arguments with Bible references and feelings against each other.  I do not intend to make this study endless, without letting my opponents feel that I speak to myself but not to them at all.  Thus, for the sake of more practical and apologetic purposes, I will take an approach from a middle ground and then move towards one or the other direction.  My approach is: If the gift of tongue speaking does exist today, is it being properly understood and practiced?  In other words, if the practice of tongue speaking is biblical, do the tongue speakers practice it biblically?  This way, all of us can take a step back from the issue and look into the matter more clearly, while we are able to avoid endless existence or non-existence argument from this brief study.  Though I see this matter a bit differently from D. A. Carson, he, nonetheless, takes a similar approach in his book, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 as following:

If the charismatic movement would firmly renounce, on biblical grounds, not the gift of tongues but the idea that tongues constitute a special sign of a second blessing, a very substantial part of the wall between charismatics and non-charismatics would come crashing down.  Does 1 Corinthians 12 demand any less? (p. 50)

In order to complete this study, there are at least two things I need to consider: one is of the nature of tongues, and the other is 1 Corinthians 14, which will be a very long and enduring study.

Preliminary study

In order to understand the issue, we need to know two technical terms: (1) xenoglossia, which means “speaking in unlearned human languages,” and (2) glossolalia, which means “speaking in verbal patterns that cannot be identified with any human language”.  We will also explore which one is the closest to the tongue speaking in the Bible. The nature of tongues has been explained so differently by different groups and individuals.  For example, some say that tongues are expressions of deep feelings and inarticulate thoughts that cannot be expressed by human words.  Some say that tongue speaking is a more intense prayer experience before inexpressible God (Heribert Muhlen, A Charismatic Theology: Initiation in the Spirit, London: Burns and Oates; New York: Paulist, 1978, 152-156).  Some say that tongue speaking is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit, “whereby the believer speaks forth in a language he has never learned, and which he does not understand” (Larry Christensen, Speaking in Tongues and Its Significance for the Church, Minneapolis: Bethany, 1968, 22).

I’ll continue on this topic next week.

Lovingly, Pastor Ki

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question No. 33: What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Please pray for health & God’s healing: Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Rev Edward Paauwe, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Winston Selvanayagam, Thomas Tan, John Tann, & Kevin Tye; Sisters Kimmy Chong, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Gillian Ong’s grandfather, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law, Auntie Oei and others afflicted with illness. "Fear not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea will I help thee” (Isaish 41:10a).

Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions: Rev George van Buuren’s ministry & safety; Preacher Zhang & Ministry (Sihanoukville); b) Laos Missions - Bro Surish Dharmalingam; c) Journey Mercies - Rev George van Buuren (Adl); Bros Yik Ho Lam & You Wen Yeap; Sisters Amanda Fu & Peng Ha Yeo (Adl) & others who are travelling; d) Sketch N’ Tell Ministry - Bro Hai Seng Lim & for his missions trip (Thailand/Cambodia); e) YAF Outreach at The University of Adelaide on Tue 21– Wed 22 Feb; f) Easter Family Bible Camp at Victor Harbour, 14-17 April, & Speaker: Rev Colin Wong; g) Jobs - Bro Patrick Leong, Charles & Vivien Zhang, & Leo Xeng; h) Session Meeting.

Praise and Thank God for – a) YAF/Teens Bible Study, BSAG, Joy & Marantha Bible Study & Prayer Meeting; b) Journey mercies - Dn David Yeo (Adl), Bro Raymond Ang’s mother (S’pore); Sisters Lydia Fan’s parents (S’pore), Samantha Foo (NZ), Clara Sim’s mother (S’pore), Clara Koon’s mother (Adl), Peng Ha Yeo (Syd), Wendy Wong (Port Lincoln) & others who have travelled.

Wedding of Bro Craig Samels & Sis Clara Koon on 4 Mar. Hopefuls are invited to attend the blessing of their wedding. Further details on the notice board.

Special Item of Prayer: For the LORD to provide $18,393 for Pastor’s car by 31 Mar 06.

Family Bible Camp Committee - Anyone willing to help with organising the camp, please meet at 12:30 pm in the classroom.

Outreach at Adelaide University - help needed. If you can help, please attend a meeting at 12:45 pm.

Looking Ahead: BBK class starts on 5 Mar. Anyone seeking church membership/transfer or baptism is invited to attend. For details, please see Ps Ki or Elder Michael Lee.



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