Thursday, August 31, 2006

Three Positions on Tongues

1. Continualist: Today the gift of tongues is widespread just like in the days of Paul the apostle.

2. Cessationalist: Today the gift of tongues is not in existence.

3. Semi-Cessationist: Today the gift of tongues is very rare. It sometimes appears when God wants people to hear His word in their own language.

What position do you take, and what is your biblical evidence for it?


Blogger Alycelee said...

Did you start this blog as a result of the discussion on Wades blog and Dr. McKissics chapel sermon?
Are you only wanting to discuss tongues?
I certainly hope not.
The issue and our theology is much bigger.

Thu Aug 31, 08:55:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Hi, Alycelee,

The discussion of tongues is just the beginning topic of this blog site.

Agape back at you

Thu Aug 31, 02:02:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

I don't find any evidence of #2 or #3 in the Bible. I hasten to add I see evidence of abuse of #1, in some places.

I'll state this here as I didn't want to turn Wade's blog into a forum on tongues: I think all "tongues" is a prayer language. If Paul's statement that the phenomenon is speaking only to God, that's all it could be, if you include praise in the term "prayer".

Acts chapter two refers to comments that they were "declaring the wonders of God". That fits with my thoughts.

If 1 Corinthians 14 were the same thing, Paul's corrective would be most logical, in light of the purpose for getting together. All prayer and praise would hardly be encouraging one another to love and good works.

Naturally, I take no part in the normal Pentecostal practice of "messages in tongues". I won't judge them, but that's not my view and thus not my practice.

Fri Sep 01, 03:51:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...


I certainly respect your opinion. I just don't see any evidence in Scripture for what people call a private prayer language (PPL) these days. What PPL refers to these days is normally ecstatic utterance in private. I've heard PPL in public, and I cannot discern any grammatical structure. In some cases, one or several words are repeated, and sometimes it sounds a bit like having a good cry. Thus, there is no language, only a private emotional venting. What was going on in 1 Corinthians 14 was public in nature, and it involved already existing foreign languages. Many PPL advocates use 1 Corinthians 14:14, but the context of the verse indicates that it referred to public rather than private prayer. The prayer is discussed in verse 15, and people listening to the "giving of thanks" in verse 16 say "Amen." Chapter 14 is concerned with folks understanding the language. There is nothing to understand with todays PPL because there is no language to understand. As I have mentioned on other blogs, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 is a key passage because it is the only passage that discusses the cessation of tongues. Three things distinguish tongues from prophecy and knowledge in the passage: the use of the middle voice rather than the passive voice, the use of one verb for tongues instead of another verb for prophecy and knowledge, and the fact that verse 9 omits tongues but says that prophecy and knowledge are partial. That's three strikes that indicate that the gift of tongues is in a different category. Here's a good quote from John MacArthur:


The verb that says tongues will cease (pauo) is in the middle voice. Let me show you the differences in the active, passive, and middle voices. In the active voice we would say, "I hit the ball." In the passive voice we would say, "The ball hit me." And in the middle voice (if English had a middle voice) we would say, "I hit myself." In other words, the Greek middle voice is reflexive, indicating that the subject is acting upon itself. The middle voice also indicates intense action on the part of the subject. Literally, then, verse 8 says, "Tongues will stop by themselves." That's the meaning that the middle voice gives to the verb pauo.

The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the middle form of pauo fifteen times to translate the Hebrew word which means "to complete," "to stop," "to finish," "to accomplish," "to end." It has a finality to it. And the reflexive middle voice gives it the idea that it ends all by itself.

c. The Inevitable Deduction

The gifts of prophecy and knowledge, then, are going to continue on until the "perfect thing" comes and stops them. The gift of tongues is going to stop all by itself. That's what has to be deduced when one looks at the Greek.

Fri Sep 01, 07:53:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Oops, I said I had heard PPL in public. I meant to say I have heard ecstatic utterances in public.

Fri Sep 01, 07:55:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

I'm about to go to the office and only have a couple minutes but I'll say this: I've heard pentecostals repeating one syllable over and over and that doesn't make any sense to me, either. But Romans says I'm not to judge another man's servant, so unless I'm in a position of authority and hence responsibility for someone else, I won't.

If that's their spirit speaking directly to God's Spirit, so be it. I just won't do that and in fact don't hang around AoG's for that and other reasons.

More later. If I feel like it. Hey I am 68 years old and just learning this curmudgeon thing.

Fri Sep 01, 08:58:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Bob, it was good to talk with you.

Fri Sep 01, 09:22:00 AM 2006  
Blogger dave said...

Don't know if this helps but the main verse (prooftext??) used by some of my pentecostal friends to defend this to me (a baptist)was Romans 6:26ff.

Fri Sep 01, 09:22:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Dave, were you being humorous, or was that a misprint? Romans 6 only has 23 verses.

Fri Sep 01, 10:25:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


In order to pick up where we left off, I will re-post my last comment directed to you on Rob Westbrook's blog:

baptist theologue,

At the risk of my lack of knowledge of N.T. Greek being exposed, I will concede that the object being "confirmed" are the Corinthian believers themselves.

However, it still seems to me that the result of this confirmation (which will continue to the "day of our Lord Jesus Christ") is "that ye (the Corinthian believers) come behind in no gift" (also, as a direct consequence, continuing to the "day of our Lord Jesus Christ").

Do you have an answer for this?

Also, just curious, have I met you before? Or are you a different Mike Morris?

Sat Sep 02, 06:35:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, we have met, and I am probably the person you have in mind.

The question you pose is in regard to whether all the gifts would continue for the Corinthian believers until the second coming. They were not lacking in any gift (1:7), and the believers would be confirmed to the end (1:8). It seems to me that the focus was on the believers, not their gifts. If Paul had said in verse 8 that their gifts would be confirmed to the end, I would agree with you.

If Paul believed that tongues would last until the second coming, then I think he would have included them in the statement he made about prophecy and knowledge in 1 Corinthians 13:9. Instead, he indicated that tongues were in a different category:

1. He used the middle voice with tongues and the passive voice with prophecy and knowledge in 13:8.

2. He used one verb with tongues and a different verb with prophecy and knowledge in 13:8.

3. He left out tongues in 13:9.

Paul didn’t say when tongues would cease, but because they are in a separate category from the gifts that would last until the second coming, we can conclude that they would cease before the second coming.

Sat Sep 02, 08:43:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, a few more thoughts on 1 Corinthians 1:7-8:

If their gifts were intimately connected to the believers, and if the believers were the ones who would be confirmed to the second coming, then the following must be true:

1. The Corinthian believers died physically, but their spirits were preserved.

2. Their physical bodies were dead in the grave. Their bodies have not yet been resurrected. Thus, their vocal cords no longer function. In their spiritual existence in heaven at the present time, they cannot speak in tongues as they could when they were physically alive on earth.

3. If their gift of tongues is not now operable, then it follows that their gift of tongues is not confirmed with them to the end (1:8).

Sat Sep 02, 10:20:00 AM 2006  
Blogger dave said...

It was a typo.. Romans 8:26.


Sat Sep 02, 11:55:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Hi Dave. I just finished writing a comment on Romans 8:26 on Wade's blog. I'll include part of it here:

Jim McGuire, Professor of Greek at Logos Bible Institute in Sun Valley, California, discussed the common misconception about groaning:

“The word for tongue in Greek is GLWSSN (glose, plural glossalalia). It is the normative word for language. It was a known language, not gibberish or babble or an unknown prayer language. In King James' day, ‘tongues’ meant
what ‘languages’ mean to us. . . . Romans 8:26 says, ‘And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with groanings too deep for words.’ Some say, ‘See there, these groanings are referring to unknown language! They are groanings too deep for words.’ But the Greek says a very interesting thing here. It
literally says, STENOGMOIS ALALNTOIS, ‘unutterable groanings.’ These are groanings which cannot be uttered, not groanings which can be uttered.
Furthermore, it is the Spirit who prays interceding for us, not we who pray these unutterable groanings. So this is hardly a passage to support unknown
prayer languages.”

Sat Sep 02, 02:27:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


First off, hello, good to know with whom I'm speaking. I hope you and yours are all doing well.

Next, although I agree with you it is the Corinthian believers who are being "confirmed" in 1 Cor. 1.4-8, I still maintain that the means of the specific confirmation referenced were their spiritual gifts, especially those related to "utterance" and "knowledge," which I assume, given the context of 1 Cor., to include tongues. When you cross-reference this with Heb. 2.3-4, as well as the various experiences recorded in Acts, it is hard, in my opinion, to avoid this conclusion.

Even many non-Charismatic commentators acknowledge this. The term "sign gifts," as I understand it, has its origin in this interpretation. The "sign gifts" were given, according to some, in order to authenticate in a supernatural way the advent of the New Covenant, and the witness of the apostles. It seems to me this is the "confirmation" Paul had in mind, when writing what he wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 1.4-8. And this "confirmation" was to continue "unto the end."

I'm sure there are other ways to explain this, but to me, the surface meaning is the one I am seeing. To me, it does violence to the general tenor of the text to say the Corinthian believers would indeed be confirmed to the end, but the original means of this confirmation would shortly cease in and of itself, leaving God to come up with other ways to continue his confirming of the believers.

If you don't read this in the text, I suppose there is nothing I can do to prove that is the case. But, at least, I think that you must admit that the biblical case for the continualist position is not based upon conjecture. It is based on a quite plausible understanding of the biblical text.

Regarding 1 Cor. 13.8-10, I refer you to D.A. Carson:

"But the verb with "tongues," (pausontai), is in the middle; some take this to mean that tongues will cease of themselves. There is something intrinsic to their character that demands they cease--apparently independently of the cessation of prophecy and knowledge. This view assumes without warrant that the switch to this verb is more than a stylistic variation. Worse, it interprets the middle voice irresponsibly. In Hellenistic Greek, the middle voice affects the meaning of the verb in a variety of ways; and not only in the future of some verbs, where middles are more common, but also in other tenses the middle form may be used while the active force is preserved. And such points the verb is deponent... In short, I do not think that very much can be made of the use of pausontai in verse 8, any more than one can make much of other stylistic features that regularly escape detailed comment... The third and majority interpretation is that "perfection" is related to the parousia (or presumably death if that should intervene and if the matter of "perfection" is looked at from a purely individual point of view rather than absolutely). I say "related to the parousia" rather than "parousia" itself, because some have objected that the word parousia is feminine, whereas the word for "perfection" is masculine. the objection is without merit, for "perfection" is not the parousia itself, but the state of affairs brought about by the arrival of the parousia.

The outcome of the debate over these positions is very important, because Paul writes that the imperfect disappears when perfection comes. In other words, the gifts of prophecy, knowledge, and tongues (and presumably by extrapolation most other charismatic gifts) will pass away at some point future to Paul's writing, designated by him "perfection." If this point can be located in the first or second century, then no putative gift of prophecy, knowledge, or tongues is valid today. Conversely, if this point is located at the parousia, then there is nothing in this passage to preclude a valid gift of tongues or prophecy today...

In my judgment, this third position has powerful evidence in its defense. Among the most important factors are these: (1) It is difficult to believe that Paul could have expected the Corinthians to think that by "perfection" he was alluding to the cessation of the writing of Scripture. (2) Most important is verse 12b. Perfection entails a state of affairs where my knowledge is in some ways comparable with God's present knowledge of me... (3) Scarcely less important is verse 12a. Now we see "but a poor reflection"; the expression suggests unclear or still indistinct divine revelation; but then, when perfection comes, "we will see face to face"--almost a formula in the Septuagint for a theophany, and therefore almost certainly a reference to the new state brought about by the parousia...

In these verses Paul establishes the end of the age as the time when these gifts must finally be abolished."

I highly recommend Carson's text in its entirety. "Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14."

Sat Sep 02, 05:21:00 PM 2006  
Blogger dave said...

Thanks. I just pointed it (Rom 8:26) out b/c I hadn't seen it mentioned yet. The verse just happened to be a fave for prooftexting. I had it quoted to me a bunch before I learned Greek.

Sat Sep 02, 08:11:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Dave, you're welcome.

Sat Sep 02, 10:42:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, maybe we can get together next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Our discussion seems to be centered on the word “confirm” (Greek “bebaioo”). Bauer’s Lexicon (BAGD) defines it as “make firm, establish.” Spiros Zodhiates (born to Greek parents on the island of Cyprus) defines it as “to make firm or reliable so as to warrant security and inspire confidence, to strengthen, make true, fulfill (Mark 16:20; Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 1:6; Heb. 2:3). In the NT used with the personal obj. and signifies confirming a person’s salvation, preservation in a state of grace.”

Let’s look at what is confirmed in the following passages:

Mark 16:20 – the word
Rom. 15:8 – the promises
1 Cor. 1:6 – the testimony
1 Cor. 1:8 – you (the believers)
2 Cor. 1:21 – us with you (the believers)
Col. 2:7 – you (the believers)
Heb. 2:3 – salvation
Heb. 13:9 – the heart

All of these things will be preserved in a state of grace after physical death. Notice that 1 Corinthians 1:7 says, “You are not lacking in any gift.” “You” in Greek is “humas,” the second person plural pronoun. Paul was writing to the local church in Corinth; thus, that church was not lacking in any gift. In 1:8, Paul said they would be preserved (confirmed to the end).

You said,

“To me, it does violence to the general tenor of the text to say the Corinthian believers would indeed be confirmed to the end, but the original means of this confirmation would shortly cease in and of itself, leaving God to come up with other ways to continue his confirming of the believers.”

I think that you would agree with me that what confirms/makes firm/establishes/preserves us is the Holy Spirit, not His gifts. Maybe we are defining the word in slightly different ways.

I have great respect for Dr. Carson, but my impression is that his position is the minority view. I will take sides with former Southern Baptist professors Robertson, Brooks, and Winbery on this issue as they commented on 13:8.

A. T. Robertson: “They shall cease (pausontai). Future middle indicative of pauw, to make cease. They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves.”

Brooks and Winbery:

“Wherever (there are) tongues, they will cease by themselves.”

Brooks and Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1979), 112.

Sat Sep 02, 11:45:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


Are you implying that "bebaioo" always means "preservation in a state of grace"?

If such is the case, are you also saying that in Mark 16.20 the "word" is "preserved in a state of grace," in Romans 15.8 the "promises" are "preserved in a state of grace," and 1 Corinthians 1.6, the testimony is "preserved in a state of grace"?

Thanks, by the way, for the Mark 16.20 reference. It is one more passage, together with Heb. 2.3-4, that talks about spiritual gifts as God's means of "confirmation."

I do not deny there are many cessationist commentators who are generally good Bible scholars. I myself frequently consult MacArthur's commentaries, and have a great deal of respect for him and his views. Robertson's expertise of the Greek is indisputable. In spite of all of this, it seems to me that there has been a theological bias against continualism since the days of Calvin and the original reformers, due to a self-imposed need to explain the absence of "sign gifts" in their day. This tradition has been carried forward to the present by many of those commentators who feel a big theological debt to Calvin, as well as by the Dispensationalists, since cessationalism conveniently fits their system of God working different ways in different dispensations.

Are you saying, though, that Carson is mistaken when he says "The third and majority interpretation is that 'perfection' is related to the parousia"? It seems significant to me (although I would readily concede that correct theology is not determined by popular vote) that someone as serious and scholarly as Carson would dare to make such an affirmation, even in spite of the Reformed and Dispensational bias against this view.

Sun Sep 03, 01:29:00 AM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...

Oh, and I forgot to say, Sure, I'd love to get together for some fellowship next time we are in town. Are you still in the Memphis area?

Sun Sep 03, 01:31:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, I was referring to Dr. Carson's treatment of the middle voice. I agree with Robertson, Brooks, and Winbery that the middle voice is significant in 1 Corinthians 13:8. I agree with you and Dr. Carson that the "perfect" refers to the second coming. Thus, prophecy and knowledge are partial and will be made to cease (passive voice) at the time that Christ returns. Tongues, however, cease on their own (middle voice).

You asked,

"Are you implying that "bebaioo" always means 'preservation in a state of grace'?"

I think the preservation nuance is there to a lesser extent in Mark 16:20, but I think it is stronger in 1 Corinthians 1:8. I used the expression "confirms/makes firm/establishes/preserves" to describe the verb, but I think "confirms" sometimes outweighs "preserves" as in Mark 16:20. Robertson says the word means "to make to stand, to make stable." When something is confirmed, it is made stable, and thus there is some degree of preservation.

You mentioned continualists and cessationists. I think the semi-cessationist position has become a viable alternative for many Southern Baptists. Sometimes we hear anecdotal reports about people miraculously speaking a foreign language on the mission field, and we don't know whether to believe it or not. (I've never seen this on videotape.) The semi-cessationist view is attractive to those who believe such anecdotal reports. I would assume that most Southern Baptists, however, still do not believe that ecstatic utterances are biblical.

Sun Sep 03, 07:15:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

P.S.: I'm still in the Memphis area.

Sun Sep 03, 07:16:00 AM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


It looks to me like we've about "squeezed this lemon" for what it's worth, without coming to a mutual agreement. The next level of discussion would be a lot more in depth, and involve referencing entire books and scholarly articles, in their context, not just isolated quotes.

I, convinced I am doing so in an earnest attempt at objectivity and openness to being convinced otherwise, remain unconvinced by your arguments. I imagine you would say the same to me.

I would hope that I have at least demonstrated that the argument in favor of the continualist position is not superficial, or based merely on experience, but rather on serious attempts at objective exegesis.

A whole other line of debate has to do with the "continualist" versus what you call the "semi-cessationalist" view. Since I interpret you as taking the "cessationist" view, I have not bothered to go there. Much of my argument regarding my disagreement with what I understand you to be saying by the "semi-cessationist" view was on-line in the comment section of Jerry Corbaley's post on Tongues and the IMB Policy, but I just now see he has finally taken this off-line. So I end up having to re-hash a lot of this all over again. For now, I will leave that for at least a little later on, though.

One last question for now. Following along the line of your recent comments over at Wade Burleson's blog, do you consider that the views I take on "continualism" ought to disqualify me from service with the IMB? Why or why not?

Sun Sep 03, 10:31:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sun Sep 03, 02:43:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

I believe that it is important to follow policy if one is an employee. The IMB policy states, "Therefore, if glossolalia is a public part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC." Glossolalia apparently is a part of your conviction but not your practice. Therefore, you have not eliminated yourself from being a representative of the IMB. Also, the policy is not retroactive. By the way, what do you believe is now continuing: miraculous foreign language ability, ecstatic utterances, or both?

Sun Sep 03, 02:47:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


I was not asking for your interpretation of current policy, but rather your opinion as to what policy should ideally be.

Regarding your question for me, my answer would depend on what you mean by "ecstatic utterances." I believe it is possible that legitimate tongues speaking could be beyond the capability of linguistic examination. If it were possible to scientifically prove that modern tongues were indeed a miraculous manifestation, that would take away the need for faith. As my Dad used to say, "If He wanted to, God could 'reach down His hand from out of heaven,' take the roof off of this building, and say 'boo'. And everyone here would become believers immediately. But He doesn't work this way, because He wants us to come to Him out of faith, not out of sight.

I am not necessarily saying I think the following is THE explanation of modern, legitimate tongues. I only include it here to point out one possibility not contemplated in the dichotomy you propose between "miraculous foreign language ability" and "ecstatic utterances."

(Everything from here on in this comment is a direct quote from: D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit, excerpts from pp. 77-87).

“What does glwssais lalein (glossais lalein), to speak in tongues) mean?…

Were the tongues at Corinth “real languages,” or something else? To put the matter in technical terms, is the phenomenon of 1 Corinthians an instance of xenoglossia (that is, speaking in unlearned human languages) or glossolalia (that is, speaking in verbal patterns that cannot be identified with any human language)? This is an extraordinarily difficult question to answer convincingly on either side, despite the dogmatic claims made by many proponents on either side …

MacGorman insists that glossolalia in 1 Corinthians is “Holy Spirit inspired utterance that is unintelligble apart from interpretation, itself an attendant gift. It is a form of ecstatic utterance, a valid charismatic endowment.” He goes on to affirm that if the modern reader reads real languages into the picture, then verses such as 14:2, 13, 14, 18, 26 degenerate to sheer nonsense. But in fact, not one of them is nonsense, even if the tongue is a real language, provided only that the tongues-speaker does not know what he or she is saying – a point Paul surely presupposes when he exhorts the tongues-speaker to pray for the gift of interpretation, and acknowledges it is possible to pray without the mind…

Moreover if tongues are principally unintelligible at the intrinsic level until the gift of interpretation is exercised, one wonders in what sense tongues are being “interpreted” at all…

On the balance, then, the evidence favors the view that Paul thought the gift of tongues was a gift of real languages, that is, languages that were cognitive, whether of men or of angels…

What bearing does the discipline of linguistics have on the assessment of modern tongues? To my knowledge there is universal agreement among linguists who have taped and analyzed thousands of examples of modern tongues-speaking that the contemporary phenomenon is not any human language. The patterns and structures that all known human language requires are simply not there. Occasionally a recognizable word slips out; but that is statistically likely, given the sheer quantity of verbalization. Jaquette’s conclusion is unavoidable: “we are dealing here not with language, but with verbalizations which superficially resemble language in certain of its structural aspects.” When studies have been made of tongues uttered in different cultures and linguistic environments, several startling conclusions have presented themselves. The tongues phenomena have been related to the speaker’s natural language (e.g., a German or French tongues-speaker will not use one of the two English “th” sounds; and English tongues-speakers will never include the “u” sound of French “cru”). Moreover, the stereotypical utterance of any culture “mirrors that of the person who guided the glossolalist into the behavior. There is little variation of sound patterns within the group arising around a particular guide,” even though other studies show that the tongues patterns of each speaker are usually identifiable from those of others, and a few tongues-speakers use two or more discrete patterns. In any case, modern tongues are lexically uncommunicative and the few instances of reported modern xenoglossia are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid on them.

What follows from this information? For some, the evidence is so powerful that they conclude the only biblical position is that no known contemporary gift of tongues is biblically valid, and ideally the entire practice should be stopped immediately. For others, such as Packer, modern tongues are not like biblical tongues, and therefore contemporary tongues-speakers should not claim that their gift is in line with Pentecost or with Corinth; yet on the other hand the modern phenomenon seems to do more good than harm, it has helped many believers in worship, prayer, and commitment, and therefore should probably be assessed as a good gift from God that nevertheless stands without explicit biblical warrant. I cannot think of a better way of displeasing both sides of the current debate.

Can we get beyond this impasse? I think so, if the arguments of Poythress stand up. How, he asks, may tongues be perceived? There are three possibilities: disconnected sounds, ejaculations, and the like that are not confused with human languages; connected sequences of sounds that appear to be real languages unknown to the hearer not trained in linguistics, even though they are not; and real language known by one or more of the potential hearers, even if unknown to the speaker. I would add a fourth possibility, which was later treated by Poythress though not at this point classified by him: speech patterns sufficiently complex that they may bear all kinds of cognitive information in some coded array, even though linguistically these patterns are not identifiable as human language.

Our problem so far is that the biblical descriptions of tongues seem to demand the third category, but the contemporary phenomena seem to fit better in the second category; and never the twain shall meet. But the fourth category is also logically possible, even though it is regularly overlooked; and it meets the constraints of both the first-century biblical documents and some of the contemporary phenomena. I do not see how it can be dismissed.

Consider, then, Poythress’s linguistic description of glossolalia:

Free vocalization (glossolalia) occurs when (1) a human being produces a connected sequence of speech sounds, (2) he cannot identify the sound-sequence as belonging to any natural language that he already knows how to speak, (3) he cannot identify and give the meaning of words or morphemes (minimal lexical units), (4) in the case of utterances of more than a few syllables, he typically cannot repeat the same sound-sequence on demand, (5) a naïve listener might suppose that it was an unknown language.

The next step is crucial. Poythress reminds us that such free vocalization may still bear content beyond some vague picture of the speaker’s emotional state. He offers his own amusing illustration; I shall manufacture another. Suppose the message is:

“Praise the Lord, for his mercy endures forever.”

Remove the vowels to achieve:


This may seem a bit strange; but when we remember that modern Hebrew is written without most vowels, we can imagine that with practice this could be read quite smoothly. Now remove the spaces and, beginning with the first letter, rewrite the sequence using every third letter, repeatedly going through the sequence until all the letters are used up. The result is:


I think that is indistinguishable from transcriptions of certain modern tongues. Certainly it is very similar to some I have heard. But the important point is that it conveys information provided you know the code. Anyone who knows the steps I have taken could reverse them in order to retrieve the original message. As Poythress remarks, “thus it is always possible for the charismatic person to claim that T-speech [tongues] is coded language, and that only the interpreter of tongues is given the supernatural ‘key’ for deciphering it. It is impossible not only in practice, but even in theory, for a linguist to devise a means of testing this claim.”

It appears, then, that tongues may bear cognitive information even though they are not known human languages – just as a computer program is a “language” that conveys a great deal of information, even though it is not a “language” that anyone actually speaks. You have to know the code to be able to understand it. Such a pattern of verbalization could not be legitimately dismissed as gibberish. It is as capable of conveying propositional and cognitive content as any known human language. “Tongue” and “language” still seem eminently reasonable words to describe the phenomenon. This does not mean that all modern tongues phenomena are therefore biblically authentic. It does mean there is a category of linguistic phenomenon that conveys cognitive content, may be interpreted, and seems to meet the constraints of the biblical descriptions, even though it is no known human language. Of course, this will not do for the tongues of Acts 2, where the gift consisted of known human languages; but elsewhere, the alternative is not as simple as “human languages” or “gibberish,” as many noncharismatic writers affirm. Indeed, that fact that Paul can speak of different kinds of tongues (12:10, 28) may suggest that on some occasions human languages were spoken (as in Acts 2), and in other cases not – even though in the latter eventuality the tongues were viewed as bearing cognitive content.”

Sun Sep 03, 04:09:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, thanks for including the excerpts from Dr. Carson’s “Showing the Spirit.” I enjoyed reading it, and I thought it was quite informative.

In regard to the IMB’s policy on tongues and PPL, you said,

“I was not asking for your interpretation of current policy, but rather your opinion as to what policy should ideally be.”

I am in full agreement with the policy as I understand it, and I don’t see any need to try to improve upon it as an individual. It apparently resulted from the work of an IMB committee.

I’ll make a few comments on the excerpts from Dr. Carson’s “Showing the Spirit.”

Dr. Carson stated that modern cases of someone speaking in a foreign language are unproven:

“In any case, modern tongues are lexically uncommunicative and the few instances of reported modern xenoglossia are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid on them.”

This statement is quite relevant for semi-cessationists who believe that the miraculous gift of speaking in unlearned human languages sometimes (but rarely) occurs these days. The evidence is anecdotal in nature; i.e., someone says that it occurred on a mission field, and the audience has to take the word of the speaker or writer that it actually happened as described. Dr. Carson said that no weight can be laid on such reports.

Dr. Carson also gave another comment that is relevant for semi-cessationists:

“To my knowledge there is universal agreement among linguists who have taped and analyzed thousands of examples of modern tongues-speaking that the contemporary phenomenon is not any human language.”

Semi-cessationists would expect at least some taping of human language, especially on the mission field, but such proof does not exist.

Dr. Carson seems to believe that the modern expression of tongues involves sounds that have a type of structure but that do not form normal human language:

“I would add a fourth possibility, which was later treated by Poythress though not at this point classified by him: speech patterns sufficiently complex that they may bear all kinds of cognitive information in some coded array, even though linguistically these patterns are not identifiable as human language. . . . It appears, then, that tongues may bear cognitive information even though they are not known human languages. . . . It does mean there is a category of linguistic phenomenon that conveys cognitive content, may be interpreted, and seems to meet the constraints of the biblical descriptions, even though it is no known human language.”

He apparently does not have a high degree of certainty about this modern phenomenon. Notice in the above quote the words “possibility,” “appears,” and “seems.”

Dr. Carson believes there were two types of tongues in the New Testament:

“Indeed, that fact that Paul can speak of different kinds of tongues (12:10, 28) may suggest that on some occasions human languages were spoken (as in Acts 2), and in other cases not – even though in the latter eventuality the tongues were viewed as bearing cognitive content.”

Again, he does not have a high degree of certainty. He used the phrase, “may suggest.” I respectfully disagree with Dr. Carson. Many human languages were spoken by those in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, and the gift of speaking human languages was needed at that time. Similarly, many human languages were spoken by those in Corinth, and the gift of speaking human languages was needed at that time. The Old Testament quote given in 1 Corinthians 14:21 is a reference to human languages. Notice what Albert Barnes said about 14:21:

“With men of other tongues ... - This passage, where it occurs in Isaiah, means, that God would teach the rebellious and refractory Jews submission to himself, by punishing them amidst a people of another language, by removing them to a land - the land of Chaldea - where they would hear only a language that to them would be unintelligible and barbarous. Yet, notwithstanding this discipline, they would be still, to some extent, a rebellious people. The passage in Isaiah has no reference to the miraculous gift of tongues and cannot have been used by the apostle as containing any intimation that such miraculous gifts would be imparted. It seems to have been used by Paul, because the ‘words’ which occurred in Isaiah would ‘appropriately express’ the idea which he wished to convey (see the note at Mat 1:23), that God would make use of foreign languages for some ‘valuable purpose.’ But he by no means intimates that Isaiah had any such reference; nor does he quote this as a fulfillment of the prophecy; nor does he mean to say, that God would accomplish ‘the same purpose’ by the use of foreign languages, which was contemplated in the passage in Isaiah. The sense is, as God accomplished an important purpose by the use of a foreign language in regard to his ancient people, as recorded in Isaiah, so he will make use of foreign languages to accomplish important purposes still. They shall be used in the Christian church to effect important objects, though not in the same manner, nor for the same end, as in the time of the captivity. What the design of making use of foreign languages was, in the Christian church, the apostle immediately states; 1Co 14:22-23. Yet for all that ... - Notwithstanding all this chastisement that shall be inflicted on the Jews in a distant land, and among a people of a different language, they will still be a rebellious people. This is the sense of the passage, as it is used by Isaiah; see Isa_28:12. It is not quoted literally by the apostle, but the main idea is retained. He does not appear to design to apply this to the Corinthians, unless it may be to intimate that the power of speaking foreign languages did not of necessity secure obedience. It might he that this power might be possessed, and yet they be a sinful people; just as the Jews were admonished by the judgments of God, inflicted by means of a people speaking a foreign language, and yet were not reformed or made holy.”

Sun Sep 03, 10:19:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


Thanks once again. I appreciate your reluctance to go on record as expressing any opinion beyond what IMB policy already stipulates. That is your prerogative.

I have gone on record here on this blog, in comments on other blogs, and in personal correspondence to the trustees, expressing my disagreement with the new policy. I believe it is inconsistent for the IMB to not allow practictioners of PPL to be appointed, supposedly because of concern they will want to teach their view of tongues to others, if at the same time they continue to allow non-practicing continualists to be appointed.

Don't get me wrong. I am very glad I am still allowed to be an IMB missionary. But I do feel somewhat odd, knowing that I am still on the IMB payroll due to what seems to me to be a "loophole" that goes against the real intentions of the new policy. And I have a pretty strong suspicion that the amount of IMB M's who are in the same position as mine is not small.

I, by the way, am much more understanding of the old policy not permitting public practice or advocacy of tongues, as this has a real potential of causing contention among co-workers on the field. But I believe that PPL is a complete different story.

Regarding Carson, you are correct in pointing out he is not a vocal advocate for tongues, nor generally Charismatic in his theology. However, I believe he is to be commended for his general objectivity and openness.

I have no basic objection to Barnes' quote on 1 Cor. 14.21. And I realize the reference to "tongues of angels" in 1 Cor. 13.1 may be completely hypothetical. But, especially given the reference to "different types of tongues" (1 Cor. 12.10,28), I don't think the strictly "human language" argument is quite as lock-tite and seal-proof as it is often made out to be.

Bottom line: Are we as Southern Baptist going to draw the line on supporting missionaries on the basis of what appears to me to be biblical interpretation that is still up for debate? Also, when I seek to open up my life more and more to the work of the Holy Spirit, do I need to be careful lest He give me the gift of tongues, and I lose my job as a result? I hope I am able to honestly say my obedience and openness to the Holy Spirit takes priority over my job security.

Mon Sep 04, 07:07:00 AM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...

Instead of "I have gone on record here on this blog," I meant to say "I have gone on record on my blog."

Mon Sep 04, 07:08:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, you said,

"I believe it is inconsistent for the IMB to not allow practictioners of PPL to be appointed, supposedly because of concern they will want to teach their view of tongues to others, if at the same time they continue to allow non-practicing continualists to be appointed."

Here's my rationale for why the IMB policy is okay:

1. Modern PPL is ecstatic utterance rather than a supposed foreign language. I assume that most Southern Baptists still agree that this is an unbiblical Pentecostal/charismatic practice.
I would argue that Matthew 6:7 applies to this modern PPL. The ban on "meaningless repetition/babbling" in Matthew 6:7 can be applied to modern PPL. There are many Pentecostal/charismatic groups that send out missionaries. Modern PPL practitioners could be sent out by those groups rather than by the IMB. Some Southern Baptists have no idea what PPL is; they think it is akin to groaning and reference Romans 8:26. Of course, the Greek indicates that such groanings are unutterable. Nevertheless, there is confusion in the SBC in regard to how PPL should be defined. If a non-practitioner of PPL errantly believes that it is some type of groaning, that person can still serve effectively as an IMB missionary. A practitioner of PPL, however, fully understands that it involves ecstatic utterances.

2. Some Southern Baptists are semi-cessationists. They have neither exerienced a miraculous foreign language ability nor seen it in person, but they have heard anecdotal reports about it on the mission field, and they believe such reports. The IMB policy would leave room for such people. The anecdotal reports, if true, indicate that the miraculous foreign language ability is usually a one-time experience under extraordinary circumstances, not a normal practice. The IMB missionaries who are semi-cessationists are already studying the language of their focus group, and thus they would not by definition be able to say that they themselves were experiencing a miraculous foreign language ability. The miraculous foreign language ability supposedly only comes to those who have not studied the language. Thus, IMB missionaries, working with their focus group, might believe that this could occur, but they would not experience it themselves.

3. In many if not most cases, modern ecstatic utterance involves learned behavior in Pentecostal/charismatic environments. In such environments, it is a contagious phenomenon. Dr. Carson made this clear in the excerpts you posted:

"The tongues phenomena have been related to the speaker’s natural language (e.g., a German or French tongues-speaker will not use one of the two English 'th'sounds; and English tongues-speakers will never include the 'u' sound of French 'cru'). Moreover, the stereotypical utterance of any culture 'mirrors that of the person who guided the glossolalist into the behavior. There is little variation of sound patterns within the group arising around a particular guide.'"

If a person believes that speaking in ecstatic utterances on a normal basis (regularly in worship services) is correct behavior, then that person will likely be a practitioner. Of course, this would be a distraction on the mission field.

Mon Sep 04, 10:17:00 AM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


There are many "continualists" who are not, at the same time, strictly speaking, either Pentecostal or Charismatic. Although, I will agree the term "Charismatic" is quite ambiguous, and can be applied to a number of different divergent groups and individuals.

In any case, my point is, there are a number of people who are "continualist" and even those who practice the "gift of tongues" (some only privately, some not so privately) who consider themselves (or at least have considered themselves up to now) to be more doctrinally compatible with the IMB and SBC than the various Pentecostal/Charismatic groups you mention.

If the SBC wants to collectively determine that these people are no longer within the parameters for missionary service, that is their prerogative. As my father once said (paraphrased here), If they want to determine that they must teach that pickles have souls, that is their prerogative also.

As I said before, I can understand the directive against the public exercise of tongues, not as a doctrinal position, but rather as a pragmatic provision to avoid unnecessary awkwardness, tension and conflict between workers on the field.

Up to now, that I am aware, the SBC has never officially defined itself doctrinally in regards to cessationalism, or the definition of biblical tongues. Thus the supposed majority opinion is just that: a supposition. In the meantime, there are plenty of things I imagine the "majority" of Southern Baptists believe that both you and I would not want to hold as requirements for IMB missionary service. The majority may well be dispensational in their eschatology. Would we want to make that a requirement? The majority are probably not 5-point Calvinists. Would we want to rule out 5-point Calvinists from missionary service with the IMB? After all, they can serve with the Presbyterians if they want...

Mon Sep 04, 11:59:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, you said,

"The majority are probably not 5-point Calvinists. Would we want to rule out 5-point Calvinists from missionary service with the IMB? After all, they can serve with the Presbyterians if they want..."

Alan Cross made a similar statement to me on Wade's site:

"But, I find it hard to understand how Arminians and Calvinists can find common room in the SBC and cessationists and continualists can't. It is beyond me."

Here is the reply I made to Alan:

"Arminians and Calvinists can both use James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion. Most of the people from both sides would agree that regeneration and faith/repentance occur simultaneously in terms of chronological order. They would disagree on which one precedes the other in terms of logical order. The important point is that both groups agree with the soteriological section of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, and they can share the same gospel in a worship service."

Your dad was not a five-point Calvinist, but Bellevue uses Evangelism Explosion. He and Dr. Mohler both agreed with the soteriological section of the BF&M.

You said,

"Up to now, that I am aware, the SBC has never officially defined itself doctrinally in regards to cessationalism, or the definition of biblical tongues. Thus the supposed majority opinion is just that: a supposition."

I agree. The associations have traditionally served as doctrinal watchdogs in regard to errant churches. Sometimes churches have been disfellowshipped by associations. In the 1970s, associations dealt with charismatic problems. Now, however, the problem is on a denominational scale in regard to tongues/PPL and the IMB. The only way I can see to effect a permanent, decisive solution is for the BF&M to be revised. A section on tongues (and perhaps alcohol) needs to be added.

Mon Sep 04, 12:53:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...

PPL practicers and non-PPL practicers can both use EE as well, (though I personally like other evangelistic models better).

What specifically is it about PPL that makes it so "taboo" to so many people? Does the practice of PPL lead anyone to distort the essentials of the Gospel? Why center in on this practice, and not a hundred other potentially divisive practices?

Incidentally, I think your application of Matthew 6.7 is a far stretch. Zodhiates defines "vain repetitions" ('Battologeo') as: "to speak foolishly. Not to be confused with 'battarizo' to stutter. Characterizes 'polulogia', wordiness, much talking (Mt. 6.7) as contr. to succinct, knowledgeable speech, thus foolish speaking or indiscrete vowing in prayer. Much useless speaking without distinct expression of the purpose."

Regarding a possible BFM revision, I notice you have already dropped by Alan Cross's blog, and commented on his most recent post. I echo what Alan has to say regarding this.

Tue Sep 05, 11:10:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Bauer's Lexicon (BAGD) defines it as "babble, speak without thinking."

Our own A. T. Robertson defined it in a comment on Matthew 6:7:

"Use not vain repetitions (mē battalogēsēte). Used of stammerers who repeat the words, then mere babbling or chattering, empty repetition. The etymology is uncertain, but it is probably onomatopoetic like 'babble.'"

Marvin Vincent also defined the word in a comment on 6:7:

"A word formed in imitation of the sound, battalogein: properly, to stammer; then to babble or prate, to repeat the same formula many times, as the worshippers of Baal and of Diana of Ephesus (1Ki 18:26; Act 19:34) and the Romanists with their paternosters and aves."

Notice that all three of the above Greek scholars use the word "babble" to describe it. Whether known words, strange sounds, or a combination of the two are babbled, this "babble" prohibition could be applied to modern day ecstatic utterances in PPL. God can understand English, so why would English speakers need a different language to pray to God?

Tue Sep 05, 12:22:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


While we are in the "battle of the Greek scholars" :-), I will throw in W.E. Vine, just for good measure...

BATTALOGEO: to repeat idly, is used in Matt. 6:7, "use (not) vain repetitions;" the meaning to stammer is scarcely to be associated with this word. The word is probably from an Aramaic phrase and onomatopoeic in character. The rendering of the Sinatic Syriac is "Do not be saying 'battalatha,' idle things," i.e., meaningless and mechanically repeated phrases, the reference being to pagan (not Jewish) modes of prayrer. 'Battalos' "the Gabbler, was a nickname for Demosthenes, the great orator, assigned to him by his rivals.

In any case, I am not ceding that PPL is necessarily what you call "ecstatic utterance" or "babbling." As I said earlier, just because "tongues" may elude scientific confirmation does not necessarily mean it is without meaning.

Tue Sep 05, 04:01:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, when I've heard people in public speaking in tongues, it is pretty difficult to analyze what it is. It doesn't seem to have any structure. If the biblical gift of tongues was not the miraculous ability to speak in foreign language, then I don't see the need of it. As I said earlier, in the case of PPL, God already understands the natural language of the person praying. Why would the person need a new language? In the case of public tongues, I can see where a gift of speaking an unlearned foreign language would have been useful in helping audience members speaking that language understand the message of the speaker.

Tue Sep 05, 04:29:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

A few more thoughts from various commentators on Matthew 6:7:

John Calvin:

"He uses two words, with the same meaning: battologia ('stammering on') is superfluous and futile repetition, polulogia ('much talk') is a useless flow of words."

Calvin, "A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke," vol 1 in Calvin's Commentaries, eds. David & Thomas Torrance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 203.

R. T. France:

"Heap up empty phrases translates the Greek battalogeo, a word otherwise unknown in contemporary literature, and perhaps coined as an onamatopoeic term for empty 'babbling'; its resemblance to the Hebrew batel ('vain, idle') would sharpen the point. The stress is apparently on the quality rather than the quantity of the utterance."

France, "The Gospel According to Matthew," in the Tyndale Commentaries, ed. Leon Morris (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 133.

Sherman E. Johnson:

"The Greek verb means 'to babble.' . . . It reminds one of heathenism, with its magical texts. A good example can be seen in those nonsense syllables from 'Charm for Securing an Attendant Spirit.'"

Johnson, "Matthew, Mark," vol. VII in The Interpreter's Bible, ed. George Buttrick (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1951), 308.

Tue Sep 05, 08:01:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Rob Westbrook said...

Hey BT,

I've a question I never got around to asking you over at my blog.

If PPL never existed, and the gift of tongues has ended itself, then, what is going on with the people who are practicing what they understand to be these gifts? What are they doing? Are they making it up? Are they being influenced demonically? Is it psychological?

From all I can gather, you totally dismiss tongues and PPL. Is that correct? Then what is going on?

Thanks for all your work and scholarship on this subject. I'm still not convinced but have enjoyed the discussion. I look forward to your answer.

Wed Sep 06, 12:18:00 AM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


God doesn't need the English language or any other language to understand us either. He knows much better than any of us ever will every thought we think before we even think it. But, in spite of this, he has chosen to give us the "gift" of language.

I think we get into pretty deep water any time we begin to analyze "why" God does what He does. Why did He create the appendix? Why did He choose Abraham and his descendents? Why did He choose you and me?

Also, I have wanted to eventually get around to asking the same question Rob asks, but have deferred until now, conceding that the primary issue is what does Scripture teach, not what does experience show. I am interested in your answer to Rob's question, though.

Wed Sep 06, 02:40:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Rob and David,

You both asked some valid questions.

Rob, you asked about the cause of today’s glossolalia. My impression is that it is normally a powerful psychological phenomenon, and it is usually a learned behavior. For example, I remember seeing Jimmy Swaggert on television before his scandal. He gathered a large number of people around him at the end of an emotional worship service, and he asked them to touch one another. Swaggert then guided them into the desired behavior. He told them that they would sense strange sounds arising within them, and he said that they should let these sounds come out of their mouths. Thus, there was powerful psychological suggestion in evidence at that time. I’m not saying that everyone who speaks in tongues had an identical experience. If a person grows up in a Pentecostal/charismatic environment, however, he or she is more likely to practice glossolalia. A clinical psychologist and United Methodist minister, H. Newton Malony, performed a variety of experiments in the 1970s in connection with Fuller Seminary to determine the parameters of glossolalic phenomena. Here are some excerpts from Malony’s article:

“In the first study, based on this model, the incidence and frequency of glossolalia were correlated with the personality variables among youth who were members of a religious group where glossolalia was the expected norm (middle to upper class Assembly of God youth attending a summer camp). Over ninety percent of the youths (ages 14-17) reported they spoke in tongues. . . . Demographically, glossolalia was related to having been converted, frequency of church attendance and the religious activity of parents. It was not related to sex or an index of socio-economic class, i.e., the salary of the father. While it most often began in a group setting, it was more frequently used in private devotions. . . . Where tongue-speaking is expected, the vast majority of youth are glossolalic by age seventeen.”

Malony, “Debunking Some of the Myths About Glossolalia,” in Charismatic Experiences in History, ed. Cecil M. Robeck Jr. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), 104-108.

In regard to a different study, Malony made an interesting comment about the difference between neo-Pentecostals and Pentecostals:

“They seemed to be neo-Pentecostals for whom glossolalia appears to be predominantly under voluntary control. We need to assess the phenomenon among traditional Pentecostals for whom glossolalia reportedly is much more likely to be experienced in uninvited possession.”

Ibid., 107.

When I hear the phrase “uninvited possession,” red flags go up. That sounds like a dangerous situation to me.

David, you stated,

“He knows much better than any of us ever will every thought we think before we even think it. But, in spite of this, he has chosen to give us the ‘gift’ of language.”

I agree. God is omniscient. He knows what we will pray before we pray it. Still, He wants us to pray. If God can understand English, and I think He can, why would He not want us to pray in English in private? Are prayers utilizing PPL more spiritual than prayers in English? (I know that is a “why” question, but I think it is a valid question in this discussion.) In the group context, if some folks don’t speak English, I can understand why God would want those people to understand what is said in their own language. Again, if the biblical gift of tongues were still present, the IMB could save a lot of money in terms of language school by appointing people with that gift as missionaries. The anecdotal reports on the mission fields, however, indicate that when the supposed miraculous speaking of a foreign language occurs, it is usually a one-time experience under extraordinary circumstances. Such a one-time experience should not be regarded as the biblical gift of tongues, because according to the NT description, the person possessing that gift would be able use it continuously. Rather, such a one-time occurrence, if true, should be considered to be a modern miracle. I don’t think the IMB policy denies that such miracles can occur. (In a similar train of thought, I believe that miraculous divine healing still occurs, but I deny that the biblical gift of healing is still present.)

Wed Sep 06, 09:04:00 AM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


Wow! 40 comments on your first post! That's pretty impressive. Of course, 30% of those comments have been from me. I would say that means you owe me a steak dinner or something. ;)

Seriously, I keep thinking with each comment that it is going to be my last one on this post, but then you keep coming back with things I don't think I ought to leave unanswered. At least, as far as I'm concerned, there has been a respectful and fraternal tone throughout the entire conversation. So, why not keep going?...

I am fairly confident that "psychological suggestion" does indeed have a lot to do with a lot of modern "glossolalia." At the same time, I have heard testimonies from some, whose word I have no reason to doubt, of having received the gift of tongues spontaneously, completely unexpected. Even if 99 out of 100 cases of reported tongues were demonstrated to be fraudulent, that would still not rule out in my mind the possibility of authentic tongues. I believe that for every one of God's gifts (not just "spiritual gifts") the devil has his counterfeit.

I agree with you. The term "uninvited possession" raises some serious "red flags" with me as well. I would hope we could agree that is not what this discussion is about. I think we both are completely in agreement about this type of thing.

As I read the NT, I have a hard time reading into the text a group of "gifted" people who are able to translate, or speak in certain foreign languages whenever the situation demands it. If such were the case, I think the biblical text would be clearer about describing this. I see, rather, one-time or sporadic miraculous occurences like Acts 2, where it is not even completely clear whether the miracle was in the mouths of the speakers or in the ears of the hearers, or both, possibly Acts 8, where "Simon SAW the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands," Acts 10 with Peter and Cornelius, and Acts 19 with Paul and the "disciples" who had only experienced "John's baptism." In none of these cases do I see implied an on-going ability to speak in certain known languages with the purpose of communicating the Gospel to foreigners.

What I do see is Paul speaking either Greek (Acts 21.37) or Hebrew (Acts 22.1-2), that he had studied and learned by natural means, according to the linguistic context at hand.

It also seems odd to me that if tongues in Corinthians were a known language that someone present in the congregation knew, why there would always be need for an interpreter. If such an occurence were to happen in a church I were pastoring, I would understand the message was for the person who was able to understand the language. I would be curious to know what was said. But I don't think the across-the-board requirement for a supernatural Holy Spirit inspired interpretation would necessarily be appropos in such a setting.

Also, why in the world would Paul tell the Corinthians to "speak to themselves and to God" (1 Cor. 14.28) if they were speaking a foreign language meant for someone else who was able to understand it?

Wed Sep 06, 10:30:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, a steak dinner sounds good the next time you are in town. I would suggest, however, that we go Dutch while speaking English. ; )

You said,

“It also seems odd to me that if tongues in Corinthians were a known language that someone present in the congregation knew, why there would always be need for an interpreter.”

Remember that an interpreter needs to know more than one language. If two non-bilingual language groups are present in a worship service, and if a speaker of language A begins speaking miraculously in language B, and if the speaker does not know what he is saying, then he will need an interpreter to explain the meaning to him and the others who speak only language A.

Another clue about 1 Corinthians 14 occurs in verses 10 and 11. In most of the chapter, the Greek “glossa” is used for the English “tongues.” In verses 10 and 11, however, the Greek “phone” is used for the English “tongues.” In their comments on verse 10, Barnes and Vincent said that “phone” is a reference to languages.

You asked, “Also, why in the world would Paul tell the Corinthians to ‘speak to themselves and to God’ (1 Cor. 14.28) if they were speaking a foreign language meant for someone else who was able to understand it?”

I think this was an example of the ability to use the gift on demand. In this case, apparently at least 3 languages were in view. The speaker could speak and understand language A naturally and language B miraculously, but the audience could only understand language C. There was no interpreter for the audience, and the speaker would serve no good purpose by using his gift to speak language B. If an interpreter could understand languages A and C or languages B and C, then the speaker could get his message across to the audience, but no such interpreter was present. (God of course could understand all three languages.) Notice that verse 27 states the need for an interpreter who can understand all the languages spoken if two or three speakers were using the gift. Interpretation was also a gift of the Spirit, and apparently some people had the ability to use that gift on a continual basis. The whole chapter makes it sound like this was an ongoing problem in worship services, not one-time or sporadic miraculous experiences.

Barnes commented on verse 27:

“1Co 14:27 - Let it be by two, or at the most by three - That is, two, or at most three in one day, or in one meeting. So Grotius, Rosenmuller, Doddridge, Bloomfield, and Locke, understand it. It is probable that many were endowed with the gift of tongues; and it is certain that they were disposed to exercise the gift even when it could be of no real advantage, and when it was done only for ostentation. Paul had shown to them 1Co 14:22, that the main design of the gift of tongues was to convince unbelievers; he here shows them that if that gift was exercised in the church, it should be in such a way as to promote edification. They should not speak at the same time; nor should they regard it as necessary that all should speak at the same meeting. It should not be so as to produce disorder and confusion nor should it be so as to detain the people beyond a reasonable time. The speakers, therefore, in any one assembly should not exceed two or three. And that by course - Separately; one after another. They should not all speak at the same time. And let one interpret - One who has the gift of interpreting foreign languages, (Note, 1Co 12:10), so that they may be understood, and the church be edified.”

I have worked pretty hard at learning some foreign languages. Sometimes I’m guilty of using one when it’s not necessary, just to show off. This was apparently the problem with the Corinthians who had the gift of speaking foreign languages. The other spiritual gifts—teaching, administrations, helps, etc.—could be used on a continual basis. I have no reason to believe that the biblical gift of speaking in an unlearned foreign language could not have been used on a continual basis.

Wed Sep 06, 12:00:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

I probably should expand my comments on the Greek "phone" (voice, sound, language) in 1 Corinthians 14:10-11. Actually, the word also occurs in verses 7 and 8. Let's look at the passage:

"7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me." (NASB)

There are obviously tones, sounds, and notes in music. If a bugle is played in such a way that the hearers don't understand it, then the soldiers will not prepare for battle. In Paul's day, if someone else spoke a foreign language unknown to the hearer, then the hearer referred to the speaker as a barbarian. If the hearer were to hear something with no structure, however, the hearer might assume that the speaker was someone speaking random sounds, not necessarily a barbarian speaking a different language. Notice the following comments on 1 Corinthians 14:11.


"The Greeks classified all men as Greeks or barbarians. So Paul would naturally call the man who utters these strange sounds with his voice (not Greek, of course, which Paul would understand) a barbarian; and this man, finding himself unable to make Paul understand, would from his standpoint as a non-Greek reciprocate and call Paul a barbarian. We at once see how this applies to using the voice when one is speaking in tongues. We also see that what Paul describes here refers to foreign languages. The speaker uses his 'voice' when he is speaking the language that is incomprehensible to Paul. The very term 'barbarian' settles the point regarding the 'voice' that is used in speaking a foreign language and thus also in the analogous case when a member of the church similarly uses his voice in speaking with tongues (foreign human languages)."

R. C. H. Lenski, "The Interpretation of St. Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians" (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), 588.


"For were the language spoken to me ('tes phon.') 'aphonos,' and so unintellible in itself, I could not in that case appear even as a barbarian to the speaker, because, in fact, what he spoke would be understood by no man. The barbarian . . . speaks only a foreign language, not one altogether void of meaning for others. . . . Paul has chosen 'phone' to denote language."

H. A. W. Meyer, "Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Corinthians," trans. D. D. Bannerman, in vol. VI of Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament, reprinted 1980 (Winona Lake, IN: Alpha Publications, 1883), 319.

Our own A. T. Robertson commented on the clear speech mentioned in 14:9 and perhaps used a bit of humor:

"Unless ye utter speech easy to be understood (ean mh eushmon logon dwte). Condition of third class again (ean and aorist subjunctive). Eushmon (eu, well, shma, sign) is old word, here only in N.T., well-marked, distinct, clear. Good enunciation, a hint for speakers. Ye will be speaking into the air (esesqe eiß aera lalounteß). Periphrastic future indicative (linear action). Cf. aera derwn (beating the air) in Acts 9:26. Cf. our talking to the wind. This was before the days of radio."

Wed Sep 06, 02:08:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


The scenario you describe with "tongues" being known human languages is possible. But, in my honest opinion, especially given the references to "different types of tongues" and "tongues of angels," it seems to do less violence to the text if they are (at least some if not most of the time) not known human languages, but rather languages of another category, that are able to be supernaturally interpreted by those with the gift to do so.

To be honest, I can read 1 Cor. 12-14 both ways. However, upon trying my best to reflect unbiasedly and detainedly on this text, my present understanding seems more natural to me. The clincher for me, as I sought to define my views on this subject, was 1 Cor. 1.4-8. It seems clear to me (though I understand that not so much to you) that these verses teach that the gift of tongues was to continue as a part of God's confirmation of the saints until the return of Christ. And, if this is the case, it leads one to be more open to consider the claims of those who purport to have this gift. Then, when I observe the otherwise sound doctrine of some (not all) who purport to speak in tongues, as well as their sterling Christian character, it leaves me to be a good bit less skeptical of their claims regarding tongues.

Also, it seems to me that the consequences of mistakenly excluding such a brother/sister in Christ from fellowship would potentially be worse than those of mistakenly validating his/her misguided experience (provided that experience does not lead them into false doctrine).

Wed Sep 06, 04:06:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

David, you've summed up your position well. Unless you want to discuss tongues further, I'll let you have the last word. I'm thinking about doing my next blog entry on free will. I believe that freewill decisions can sometimes be made; I'm not a five-point Calvinist. I bet you and I are in basic agreement on the subject of free will.

BT out.

Wed Sep 06, 06:00:00 PM 2006  
Blogger David Rogers said...


I'm fine leaving it there for now too. I'm sure we'll run into each other here and there on the blogosphere, and probably sometime in the "real world" as well.



Thu Sep 07, 09:19:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Stephen Pruett said...

With regard to middle voice of cease. I understand the concept that this refers to ceasing on its own, but it is still grouped with the others which shall be stopped, and the same time frame is given for all three. They will stop when the perfect has come. It seems to me that your view is not aboslutely ruled out by the text, but mine is more consistent with the text! You have to ASSUME that the middle voice means it will cease on its own BEFORE the perfect has come. That is simply not present in the text. I admit it is anot a wildly ridiculous assumption, but why assume at all when there is no need to do so. The text explicitly refers to all three of these gifts then one time frame associated with the end of them (whether by direct action or by dying out on their own doesn't really matter).

Paul does allow and promote a private prayer language in 1Corinthians 14:28, "But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God." Paul does not say not to pray in private in a tongue, but only to avoid it in church unless there is an interpreter. I don't know what to call this other than a private prayer language.

It seems to me that the balance of the evidence suggests that this language is not a human luanguage; why else would Paul say that no one is edified because they did not understand it. Notice that Paul did not question the validity of the gift or that it was indeed from God. He simply said that an interpreter was required. This seems strange if it was a human language. Why would God cause someone to speak in a human language understood by no one in the assembly, if Paul is clear that understanding and edifcation of the hearer is the priority in the assembly? So you think Paul was recommending a translator for a foreign human language to translate that foreign language spoken by a person whose native language could already be understood by most of those in the assembly? It just seems too farfetched to me. It is totally unlike the situation at Pentecost, when all understood in their own language (without an interpreter), which was obviously useful.

Paul says I will pray (and sing) both in the spirit (in unknown tongues) and with understanding. What is the evidence that praying in the spirit cannot be "ecstatic utterances" that allow a non-verbal yet meaningful and uplifting communion with God? This fits the text better than the assumption (and that is all it is as far as I can tell) that Paul is praying to God in a foreign human language and getting something spriitual from it.

I Corinthians 14:2 states that only God, NO man understands that which is spoken in a tongue. If speaking in tongues was really speaking in known languages, lots of men (all who speak that language) would be able to understand it. How do we get past this verse, when stating that tongues cannot be ecstatic utterances?

Tue Sep 19, 04:45:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, in regard to tongues in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, I think there is a “triple whammy” that puts tongues in a different category from prophecy and knowledge:

1. Paul used the middle voice with tongues and the passive voice with prophecy and knowledge in 13:8.

2. He used one verb with tongues and a different verb with prophecy and knowledge in 13:8.

3. He left out tongues in 13:9.

Prophecy and knowledge are categorized as partial in verse 9; the gift of tongues is not. Thus, in verse 10 prophecy and knowledge cease when the perfect comes (the second coming); the gift of tongues therefore must cease at some point prior to the second coming.

Another clue that I haven’t mentioned before in regard to verse 10: The Greek verb “katargeo” is used in verse 10 with prophecy and knowledge; it is also used in verse 8 with prophecy and knowledge. Again, a different verb (“pausontai”) is used with tongues in verse 8.

You said in regard to tongues and the middle voice:

“It is still grouped with the others which shall be stopped.”

Remember, however, that words can be grouped together to contrast their differences as well as to compare their similarities.

In regard to 14:28, I don’t think this verse necessarily refers to prayer. It could refer to using one’s language ability privately (with only oneself and God as an audience) rather than before an audience that doesn’t understand the language one is speaking. There was no need to use the miraculous gift of tongues to speak to God; God could already understand the natural language of the speaker.

There were many languages being spoken in Corinth. An audience that did not understand what the speaker was saying would not be edified by his words.

In regard to 14:2, Albert Barnes made this comment:

“This verse is designed to show that the faculty of speaking intelligibly, and to the edification of the church, is of more value than the power of speaking a foreign language. The reason is, that however valuable may be the endowment in itself, and however important the truth which he may utter, yet it is as if he spoke to God only. No one could understand him.”

Wed Sep 20, 08:40:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Stephen Pruett said...

I am not convinced that any of the 3 points you mention mean what you say they mean. These are assumptions, not the only clear interpretation of the text that is possible. With regard to the middle voice, it does not matter that tongues will cease on their own or be elminated, so I do not find the same significance you do in this. The use of different verbs which have similar meanings most likely signifies nothing. It may just be Paul's style not to repeatedly use the same verb in close proximity (a similar practice is favored by many modern writers).

The fact that tongues is not mentioned in verse 9 does not suggest to me it is being left out the timetable in verse 10. Knowledge and prophesy are listed because they have somthing in common (they are presently fragmentary, as stated in verse 9). Tongues is not fragmentary so it is not listed. If you believe tongues is not an example of the imperfect passing away when the perfect comes, then you must believe speaking in tongues is perfect (complete) in the present time. I think it is obvious that this is not what was intended. The most straightforward reading of the whole passage is that the imperfect includes all three items listed and thus they will all end at the same time. Otherwise, this would need to be specified. If I list three things together and tell you they will be stopped, die out, and be stopped, and then I tell you why two of them are imperfect, and then I tell you that imperfect things will end when perfection comes, you would assume in any other situation that all three things listed are in that category of imperfect things. Otherwise, there would be an explantion as there is for knowledge and prophesy. If these three things are listed together to contrast them (as you suggested in your post), the contrast would have been made clear. It was not.

With regard to 14:28, what is speaking to yourself and God, if it is not prayer?? I would remind you that Paul says LET HIM do this, not exlcude him from service if he does this. I agree that tongues is a less desirable gift and less useful than others, but Paul evidently did not believe it to be a waste of time, as he practiced it "more than you all" and I would suggest that Paul was an excellent steward of the time he was given.

The testimonies of several bloggers who have a private prayer language without having sought it suggest to me that they are not mistaken about their gift. I think it is no accident that music is mentioned in the same passage that refers to praying with understanding AND with the spirit. Singing words that glorify God with understanding is uplifting, but getting caught up in the music even if there are no words can be even more uplifting. By the way, Paul notes that he favors praying in the Spirit (in tongues) AND with understanding (not either or). This is entirely consistent with interpreting 14:28 as referring to private prayer. 1Corinthians 14:2 fits nicely into this interpretation as well. It says he who speaks in a tongue speaks only to God, because NO MAN can understand him (presmuably unless God provides an interpreter). This does not seem to be a foreign language. It is either a completely unknown language or it is a well known language, but the ideas expressed are not comprehensible to the hearers ("because in the Spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things"). This works like music to uplift the speaker, but Paul makes clear that unlike music it is not to be used in public without an interpreter.

I think Baptists have valid concerns about charismatic practices, because many who claim to have the gift of tongues seem to have learned it from others and may be fooling themselves. Unfortunately, many in charismatic churches also violate the rules specified for tongues by Paul. However, we have taken this uncomfortable feeling Baptists have about tongues to the scriptures as a bias and that bias causes just the type of interpretation you favor. I cannot see how an objective evaluation could lead to that interptetation. Actually, I can see how it could be listed as one possible interpretation. It is not absolutely precluded, but it is way way way far from certain and clearly not the only or the most reasonable interpretation.

This is my major concern. We are taking a questionable interpretation of a third tier doctrine and excluding outstanding Baptists from service because of it. It makes no sense at all to me. I was once under the thumb of a vindictive, mean Department Head who could have fired me on a whim (he did fire three others). I know what it feels like to have your career that you have worked all your life to achieve and that supports your family threatened for no good reason. This happened almost 20 years ago, and it still affects me. Therefore, I am particularly attuned to the problems faced by people who have been Baptists their whole lives and have trained to be missionaries and are now, for no good reason, are denied this career. The interpretation precluding a private prayer language is way too shaky to justify doing this to anyone.

In any case, I would like to commend you for your explanation. Although I do not find it convincing, it is better than others I have seen, as are your responses to comments.

Wed Sep 20, 06:49:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Stephen, if you want to keep going on this topic, we can. If not, I'll let you have the last word.

Wed Sep 20, 08:50:00 PM 2006  

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