By Warren E. Berkley
There can be little doubt that a substantial number of religious zealots view Christianity as something mysterious and incomprehensible. Perhaps the most convincing demonstration of this idea is the present “tongue speaking” movement.
Any perspective of this trend ought to begin by establishing the vast difference between the nature of modern day “tongue speaking” and that which was spoken in New Testament days. Tongue speaking in those days when the New Testament was in the process of being written was a gift of God given by the Holy Spirit to enable men to preach the Gospel in a tongue, or: language, which had not been learned by the speaker (see Luke 24:46-49; Acts 2 with special attention to verse 8).
It would be difficult to overestimate this single point! We might formulate our argument in the following logical pattern:
1. New Testament tongue speaking was the intelligent rendition of languages not learned by the speaker, but understood by the hearers (see passages cited above).
2. Modern “tongue speakers” utter some kind of nonsensical mumbo-jumbo (often called “ecstatic utterances”).
3. Conclusion: Modern “tongue speaking” is not the same as New Testament tongue speaking!
In the June 3, 1973 issue of The Pentecostal Evangel (claiming to be “a charismatic magazine,” and the “official organ of the Assemblies of God”), we found a poem revealing what may be the primary motivation behind this modern craze. The poem follows.
PRAYER IN TONGUES
Oh, sweet release which made my tongue
A captive in Thy hand,
And gave to me these words of praise
Which I don’t understand.
I cannot fathom how God works,
But one thing sure I know:
The pent-up pressures of a day
Dissolve within this flow.
Cascading down the valleys of
My hungry, thirsting soul,
While washing me and cleansing me,
The waves of glory roll.
God’s Spirit is a fountainhead
Of love inside of me;
And as I pray in tongues, there wells
A gushing stream, set free.
This “tongue speaking” poet admits that she “cannot fathom how God works.” If she is like most pentecostal “tongue speakers” she is no doubt very dogmitic in her claim that her ecstatic utterances are a gift from God. In fact, she asserts within the poem that God gave her “these words of praise.” She cannot fathom how God works (even though God has revealed the truth about tongue speaking in the Bible), yet she is sure that what she has is a gift of the Spirit.
She is also sure that “the pent-up pressures of a day dissolve within this flow.” At this point we are made to wonder if “tongue speaking” is nothing more than an emotional outlet for those who are frustrated by the “daily grind.”
Another young lady (a Catholic pentecostal) . who claims to have uttered a “heavenly language” described her feelings as follows:
“There is a certain elation. Our Protestant brethren talk about `release,’ and I guess that is a pretty good way of saying it . . . Speaking In tongues leaves you physically refreshed. (Quoted from The Religion Reawakening in America, page 53).
Of course, there are any number of ways of releasing emotional tension: crying, laughing, digging in your garden, fishing, bicycling or playing a musical instrument. You may even find the nonsensical, mumbojumbo method to be the answer. But the kind of tongue speaking characteristic of the New Testament era was not just an emotional release! It was designed by God to facilitate the original proclamation of the Gospel; it is not for this age (1 Cor. 13:8-10)!
As Jimmy Jividen observes: “The present phenomenon of so-called `tongue speaking,’ like drugs, hyponosis and shock treatments, perhaps could be used under controlled situations by professionals to release anxiety and overcome inhibitions. It becomes error, however, when it is interpreted as being a special gift from God” (“Speaking in Tongues-From God or Man?” Article in Spiritual Sword, Vol. 4, No. 1, page 23).
There can be little doubt that anxiety and “pent-up pressures” need to be properly released. But let us not be guilty of claiming some gift God never promised to us. Emotional release is not worth the loss of one’s faith in Bible truth!
Truth Magazine XIX: 56, pp. 891-892
December 11, 1975