Monday, January 29, 2007

The Changing and Unchanging Aspects of Personhood

Since arriving back from South Korea, I have been struck by the fact that our culture’s fascination with personalities has intensified. We have a fascination with celebrities, be they football coaches, politicians, megachurch pastors, or Hollywood stars.

I was reading a particular team’s football forum recently, and I noticed that some of the fans that are disenchanted with their team’s coach were venting their feelings. One participant in the discussion asked how the “haters” would feel if the team won the national championship next year. Would the disenchanted fans still hate the head coach? Their quite serious answer was in the affirmative. Those fans were so obsessed with their hatred that they could not let go of it, even if the coach won the biggest prize. They had painted themselves into a corner with their hate, and they could not get out of it.

I have noticed the same phenomena in churches. When a new pastor comes, there is ordinarily a honeymoon period in which members give him the benefit of the doubt for a temporary period of time, but they begin to form a lasting opinion of him from the beginning of his tenure at the church. At some point, many of them decide that they like him or don’t like him. After that crucial point, everything he does is viewed through colored lenses. If they have decided that they don’t like him, they begin, perhaps unconsciously, to accumulate evidence for his dismissal. If they have decided that they like him, then they blissfully ignore any mistake he makes and thus fail to help him grow when a constructively critical word to him in private (or rarely, publicly) might really be helpful. When a pastor finds a church where he is truly loved and appreciated, he hates to leave. In many cases, however, after about two years a few or many church members make church life unbearable for the pastor, and a divorce between the pastor and the church occurs. It is no wonder that many pastors question their call into the ministry after such negative experiences.

Why do we react to key leaders this way? Perhaps one reason is that we cynically don’t believe our leaders can learn from their mistakes and improve their performances over time. We are impatient with them and have unrealistic expectations. We wonder why they cannot be like the spiritual giant down the road, the superstar pastor of another church. Of course, some aspects of their personalities will not change much, if any. We must understand, however, that Christian people can genuinely change for the better. Perhaps we ignore this great truth because so many of our church members are stalled in their spiritual growth. We simply don’t see people change at all for the better, or we don’t notice any change because it is so gradual. Intellectually, we believe people can change for the better, but emotionally and subconsciously, we don’t believe it. Pastors and denominational leaders are not fully-formed spiritual giants in most cases. If we want our denomination to be all that it can be for the Lord, we need to exercise more patience with our leaders. Most importantly, all of us need to be teachable and “leadable.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I think it is interesting how different groups of people who affirm unconditional election can approach it in different ways. All people who believe in unconditional election would probably agree with the general definition of it given by Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Seminary:

“Unconditional election to salvation may be defined as God’s gracious choice, made in eternity past, of those whom he would save by faith through the atoning death of his Son, a choice based not upon anything that those so chosen would do, or any choice that they would make, or on how good or bad they might be, or on anything else specifically true about them (i.e., their qualities, characters, decisions, or actions) in contrast to others, but rather based only upon God’s own good pleasure and will.”

Bruce Ware, Divine Election to Salvation: Unconditional, Individual, and Infralapsarian in Perspectives on Election: Five Views, ed. Chad Owen Brand (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), 4.

Selected Scripture Passages Relevant to Unconditional Election:

Ephesians 1:4-5 – “4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (NASB, emphasis mine)

Romans 9:11-13, 22-23 – “11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’ 13 Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.’ . . . 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”

1 Peter 1:1-2 – “1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

2 Timothy 1:9 – “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

The Key Exegetical Issues in Regard to the Above Verses: “According to” (κατά) takes accusative objects in these verses. Daniel Wallace described the basic uses of this preposition: “1. With Genitive a. Spatial: down from, throughout b. Opposition: against c. Source: from 2. With Accusative a. Standard: in accordance with, corresponding to b. Spatial: along, through (extension); toward, up to (direction) c. Temporal: at, during d. Distributive: ‘indicating the division of a greater whole into individual parts’ e. Purpose: for the purpose of f. Reference/Respect: with respect to, with reference to” (emphasis mine).

Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 376-377.

Thus, a chronological or logical order is not necessarily expressed in regard to predestination and His will in Ephesians 1:5, in regard to purpose and choice in Romans 9:11, in regard to choice and foreknowledge in 1 Peter 1:1-2, and in regard to calling and purpose in 2 Timothy 1:9.

In regard to Romans 9:11-13, 22-23, another exegetical issue is whether Paul is discussing national election or individual election. In the same chapter, Paul said that not every member of the nation of Israel is a member of spiritual Israel (9:6-7), and he discussed Pharaoh as an individual (9:17), so the context indicates that 11-13 and 22-23 should be understood as references to individual election.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Is faith the cause of election, the effect of election, or the instrument by which God gives salvation? The preposition “by” (εν) is listed by Bauer (BAGD) under the heading “causal or instrumental” (p. 260). Dana and Mantey consider the meaning “because of” to be a remote meaning (p. 105). Carl Conrad, an emeritus professor in the department of classics at Washington University, regards the preposition as instrumental in this verse: “(1) Yes, I think that the EN must govern both dative + genitive phrases--both hAGIASMWi PNEUMATOS and PISTEI ALHQEIAS. (2) It is certainly most probable that the same function of EN + dative is involved in both phrases and that the function is instrumental (‘by means
of ...’) in both instances.”
Thus, faith is the instrument by which God saves us.

Romans 8:29-30 – “29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Does this verse mean that only the elect are called (καλεω), or is the verse simply saying that those who would receive the gospel if they had the chance (those whom He foreknew) always have the chance (are called)? In the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:3, those called (καλεω) did not come to the wedding feast. In Matthew 22:14, many are called (κλητός), but few are chosen (εκλεκτός). Do the elect receive an internal call while the non-elect receive only an external call?

John 1:13 – “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Is this verse simply drawing a distinction between physical birth and spiritual birth, or is it giving a detailed description of the cause and non-causes of the spiritual birth? In any case, God does not save us based on a decision of our will.

John 15:16 – “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

The Key Exegetical Issue in Regard to the Above Verse: Was Jesus referring to their selection as a group of twelve disciples or their selection as elect, individual disciples? Judas was no longer present, so they were “clean” as individuals (John 15:3) whereas they were not all clean when Judas was present (John 13:10). Our election to salvation is unconditional; i.e., it is based on God’s choice, not our choice.

Various Specific Views of Unconditional Election:

1. Five-Point Calvinist (TULIP) Perspective that Denies Libertarian Free Will

Some have argued that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but Roger Nicole stated: “Calvin’s statement in response to Heshusius, dealing with the participation of unbelievers in the Lord’s Supper and quoted above, deserves special attention: ‘I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.’ This appears to be a categorical denial of universal atonement.”

John Calvin’s perspective on election and foreknowledge (comments on Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2):

“The foreknowledge of God, therefore, which Paul mentions here, is not a mere knowing beforehand, as some ignorant people imagine in their stupid way. It is rather the act of adoption, by which God has always distinguished his children from those who are reprobate. In this same sense, Peter says that believers have been elected for the sanctification of the Spirit according to the foreknowledge of God. Whence, those mentioned above reason foolishly when they infer that God has elected those whom he foresaw as worthy of his grace. Peter does not flatter the believers, as though each one of them owed his election to his own merit. On the contrary, by recalling them to the eternal counsel of God, he denies that they are worthy of God’s grace. So, Paul here repeats with other words what he had said about God’s purpose elsewhere. It follows that God’s knowing the elect rests upon his own good pleasure, because he foreknew nothing outside of himself which led him to will the adoption of sons. He marked some for election according to his own good pleasure.”

John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries, ed. and trans. Joseph Haroutunian (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 308.

John Calvin’s perspective on free will:

“Since in fact they take it to imply ability and power, one cannot prevent from entering the minds of most people, as soon as the will is called free, the illusion that it therefore has both good and evil within its power, so that it can by its own strength choose either one of them. . . . We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil.”

John Calvin, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius, ed. A. N. S. Lane, trans. G. I. Davies (Grand Rapids: Baker books, 1996), 68-69.

2. Four-Point Amyraldian/Sublapsarian (TUIP) Perspective that Denies Libertarian Free Will

Brian Armstrong’s description of Amyraut’s (1596-1664) theology:

“This does not mean, of course, that Amyraut does not affirm absolute predestination. Like Luther, he does this in the most unequivocal language. In exercising his absolute mercy God is ‘purely, and simply, and absolutely free.’ By this arbitrary operation of his will God takes no account of man’s condition or response but creates faith in him and imputes to him Christ’s righteousness.”

Brian G. Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in Seventeenth-Century France (Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 201.

“This is perhaps the most adequate definition of ‘hypothetical universalism’ which can be given. Fulfilling God’s will for universal salvation, Christ procured it for all. Here is Amyraut’s universalism. It is hypothetical, for salvation is only effectual when and if such and such a condition is fulfilled.”

Ibid., 212.

“Amyraut demonstrates at length his teaching on free will, namely, that the will is never to be thought of as in equilibrio but rather as inclined. In this inclined disposition it chooses freely what it desires. Because it is corrupt, however, the will can never choose the good; indeed, it is totally impotent in salvation unless renewed by God’s Spirit.”

Ibid., 107.

3. Three-Point (TUP) Perspective that Affirms Libertarian Free Will

Perspective of E. Y. Mullins, President of The Southern Baptist Seminary (1899-1928):

“Any doctrine of divine sovereignty must safeguard man’s freedom. The sovereignty of holy and loving character, indeed, expresses itself in constituting man as a free moral being. Sin came in and human nature became so biased that, without God’s prevenient grace the will inevitably chooses evil. But neither prevenient nor regenerating grace, nor grace in any of its forms acts upon the will by way of compulsion, but always in accordance with its freedom. The will responds and man chooses for himself God’s freely offered gift of salvation.”

E. Y. Mullins, The Axioms of Religion (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1908), 83-84.

“The divine forces which operate through the gospel are adjusted and adapted to evoke a free moral response on man’s part.”

E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1917), 51.

“Freedom of the will, broadly defined, is self-determination. The power of contrary choice is one form of the manifestation of this self-determining power.”

Ibid., 62.

“Does God choose men to salvation because of their good works or because he foresees they will believe when the gospel is preached to them? Beyond doubt God foresees their faith. Beyond doubt faith is a condition of salvation. The question is whether it is also the ground of salvation. The Scriptures answer this question in the negative.”

Ibid., 343.

“In his free act of accepting Christ and his salvation man is self-determined. He would not have made the choice if left to himself without the aid of God’s grace. But when he chooses, it is his own free act. God’s grace is not ‘irresistible’ as a physical force is irresistible.”

Ibid., 344.

Analysis of Mullins by Tom Nettles:

“Although the doctrine of unconditional election was accepted by E. Y. Mullins, both his theological method and his specific exposition of divine election served to compromise the earlier views of Dagg, Boyce, Broadus, Manly, Mell and others.”

Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory (Lake Charles, LA: Cor Meum Tibi, 2002), 246-247.

Perspective of Norman Geisler, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary (Geisler considers himself an Amyraldian/moderate Calvinist by affirming irresistible grace to the willing and denying five-point Calvinism’s irresistible grace to the unwilling, but as will be seen below, his concept of grace seems resistible as he defines free will as the power of contrary choice):

“God’s will to save those who believe (i.e., the elect) is unconditional. So this is not a repudiation of unconditional election. Election is unconditional from the standpoint of the Giver (God), but it is conditional from the standpoint of the receiver. And since God foreknows for sure who will receive it, the result is certain. Thus, in this sense God’s grace on the elect is irresistible.”

Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 94.

“Although no one can believe unto salvation without the aid of God’s saving grace, the gracious action by which we are saved is not monergistic (an act of God alone) but synergistic (an act of God and our free choice). Salvation comes from God, but it is completed by our cooperation.”

Norman Geisler, Sin, Salvation, vol. 3 of Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), 136.

“Salvation is unconditioned from the perspective of the Giver, but it is conditioned from the view of the receiver (who must believe in order to receive it). In short, salvation comes from God, but we receive it through faith.”

Ibid., 182.

“Since love is always persuasive but never coercive, God cannot force anyone to love Him—and this is what ‘irresistible grace on the unwilling’ would do. God’s persuasive but resistible love goes hand in glove with God-given human free choice. Again, human free will is self-determination, involving the ability to choose otherwise. We can either accept or reject God’s grace. In brief, God’s saving grace works synergistically with free will; that is, it must be received to be effective.”

Ibid., 193-194.

“Humans can be free in the libertarian sense (of having the ability to do otherwise—contrary choice), and God can eternally know all of this without violating our freedom.”

Ibid., 200.

The three-point scheme is different from the concept first made popular by Luis Molina (1535-1600). The term comes from the view that, if one put things in logical order, God first considered an infinite number of imagined worlds and circumstances that determined what an infinite number of imagined persons could do. Second, He knew exactly what free choices would certainly be made by an infinite number of persons in those imagined worlds and circumstances (a second type of knowledge), and thus He knew exactly what any imagined person would certainly do. Next, He decided to actually create the imagined world with the imagined beings and circumstances that glorified Him the most. After that decision, God had a third type of knowledge—a complete knowledge of the world He actually created.

The second type of knowledge was called middle knowledge by its adherents because it logically occurred between the other two types of knowledge. Middle knowledge makes God’s election dependent on the imagined freewill actions of imagined beings, so it is incompatible with unconditional election. In contrast, three-point (TUP) theologians believe that God’s election is in accordance with His knowledge of future events, but they do not believe that God’s election is determined by His knowledge of future events. Geisler commented:

“In opposition to this Molinistic view of middle knowledge, which suggests that God’s foreknowledge is dependent on our free choices, the classical view of God (held by both Calvinists and traditional Arminians) affirms that God is an eternal and entirely independent Being. . . . God’s knowledge cannot be dependent on our free choices. Finally, the whole idea of there being a chronological or even logical sequence in God’s thoughts is highly problematic for evangelical theology. It runs contrary to the traditional doctrine of God’s simplicity (absolute indivisibility) held by Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, and bequeathed to modern evangelicals through the Reformers. God’s attention does not pass from thought to thought, for His knowledge embraces everything in a single spiritual co-intuition. For if God is simple, then His thoughts are not sequential but simultaneous. He does not know things inferentially but intuitively. . . . There is a third alternative. It postulates that God’s election is neither based on His foreknowledge of man’s free choices nor exercised in spite of it. As the Scriptures declare, we are ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God’ (1 Peter 1:2 NKJV). That is to say, there is no chronological or logical priority of election and foreknowledge.”

Geisler, Chosen But Free, 51-52.

“There is no contradiction in God knowingly predetermining and predeterminately knowing from all eternity precisely what we would do with our free acts. For God determined that moral creatures would do things freely. He did not determine that they would be forced to perform free acts.”

Ibid., 54.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ecstatic Utterances and PPL Revisited

I’ve been doing some more research in this area. As I earlier indicated, I believe that modern ecstatic utterances (babblings, etc.) are not the same phenomena as biblical tongues. I believe that the biblical tongues were normal, human languages and that the ability to speak them came miraculously, not from studying them. I will try to succinctly present evidence for that conclusion. Second, I will discuss the cessation of that particular gift. (I don’t believe all spiritual gifts have ceased.) Third, I will discuss the origin of modern ecstatic utterances, including private prayer language (PPL). To make this presentation more readable, I will place references as endnotes so as not to interrupt the train of thought.

Question #1: Were the “tongues” mentioned in Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12-14 human languages or ecstatic utterances?

Acts 2

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:4, NASB)

In the above verse, the word “glossais” (γλώσσαις) is used for “tongues.”

“And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:6)

In the above verse, the word “dialekto” (διαλέκτω) is used for “language.”

Some proponents of modern ecstatic utterances have said that the people speaking in tongues were using non-human languages, and these proponents believe that the hearers miraculously heard the message in their own language. If these proponents are correct, two miracles would have been required. This scenario seems inefficient and unnecessary.

If the miracle was in the hearing, then there was no need for a miracle in the speaking. The speakers could have spoken normally, and the hearers would have heard miraculously. The evidence favors the view that the speakers were miraculously speaking various human languages. The Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest commented on Acts 2:4:

“Let us be careful to note that Acts 2:4 refers to the languages of the individuals mentioned in Acts 2:8-11.” (1)

1 Corinthians 14:21

“21 In the Law it is written, "BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME," says the Lord. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

In verse 21, the Greek word for “other tongues” is “heteroglossois” (ετερογλώσσοις). In Acts 2:4, the Greek phrase for “other tongues” is “heterais glossais” (ετέραις γλώσσαις). Notice the similarity between the “other tongues” in Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth, a group that understood what he meant by “tongues.” Luke, in contrast, was writing to someone who may not have been familiar with the gift of tongues, so he was more descriptive in Acts 2.

At the beginning of verse 22 in 1 Corinthians 14, the phrase “so then tongues”—“hoste hai glossai” (ωστε αι γλωσσαι) is significant. The inferential conjunction “hoste” means “therefore” or “so then.” “Hai” is a definite article that modifies “tongues,” and in this situation it is an article of previous reference (anaphoric article). The Greek scholars Dana and Mantey commented on this use of the article:

To Denote Previous Reference. The article may be used to point out an object the identity of which is defined by some reference made to it in the context.” (2)

Thus, Paul was referring to human languages in verse 21, and he was referring to human languages in verse 22. Fred Fisher, a former professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, listed some reasons for believing that the “tongues” in 1 Corinthians 12-14 referred to human languages:

“This was a common use for the word ‘tongues’ in the New and Old Testaments (cf. Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). . . . The complex of Greek words which is translated ‘interpret’ or ‘interpretation’ (1 Cor. 12:10, 30; 14:5, 13, 26-28) is used, with one exception, in the New Testament with the meaning of translating a foreign language (cf. Acts 9:36; John 1:38-42; 9:7; Heb. 7:2). The one exception where the meaning is the more common Greek meaning of explaining something is Luke 24:27. . . . The analogy between the Old Testament passage and the tongues in Corinth (1 Cor. 14:21) would support the idea of a foreign language, for the Old Testament passage clearly has this meaning (cf. Isa. 28:11-12). . . . The statement that the tongues were a sign for ‘unbelievers’ (1 Cor. 14:22) would be in favor of a foreign language which the unbeliever could understand. . . . The strong supposition that all spiritual gifts were for the purpose of gospel proclamation would favor the idea of foreign languages as the meaning of the phenomenon at Corinth. In view of these considerations, it would seem that the weight of the evidence is in favor of giving the ‘tongues’ at Corinth the meaning of speaking unlearned foreign languages. The only real objection to this is found in 1 Corinthians 14:2 and 14 and possibly 23. If, however, we suppose that the speaker did not himself understand the language, but spoke it in the grip of the Holy Spirit, these passages could be so interpreted.” (3)

Question #2: Has the biblical gift of tongues ceased?

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

“8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

Four things distinguish tongues from prophecy and knowledge in the passage: the use of the middle voice for “cease” rather than the passive voice for “done away” in verse 8, the use of the verb “cease” (pauo, παύω) with tongues instead of the verb “done away” (katargeo, καταργέω) used with prophecy and knowledge, the fact that verse 9 omits tongues but says that prophecy and knowledge are partial, and the fact that verse 10 uses the same verb (“done away”) as verse 8 for prophecy and knowledge. That's four strikes that indicate that the gift of tongues is in a different category. Paul was saying that biblical tongues would cease by themselves (middle voice), but prophecy and knowledge would be stopped (passive voice) when the perfect comes. I interpret “the perfect” as the second coming of Christ. Thus, Paul was saying that the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will be stopped when Christ returns, but tongues would stop by themselves at some point prior to His return. Has that point in history already occurred? Yes. Notice what Robert Gromacki said about it:

“In the three centuries that followed the apostolic era, there are only two references to tongue-speaking (Montanus and Tertullian who was a Montanist). The fact that Montanism reflected a false, egotistical view of pneumatology can hardly argue for the genuineness of Biblical glossolalia in that period. Therefore, there are no genuine cases of glossolalia in the post-apostolic era. Speaking in tongues had definitely ceased. The testimonies of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine confirm this conclusion.” (4)

Could biblical tongues start again after ceasing for a while? Gromacki answered this question:

“If the gift were supposed to be permanent, then it would have occurred in every generation of every century up to the present time. To argue that the gift was active in the apostolic era, then silent for centuries, and is now active again is contrary to the plain statement of Scripture. When they cease, they cease. This is a blanket statement—not to be repeated again.” (5)

Herschel Hobbs also commented on 1 Corinthians 13:8-10:

“The word ‘cease’ is a future middle form. They will make themselves cease or automatically cease. This gift ended with the first century.” (6)

Question #3: What is the origin of modern ecstatic utterances and private prayer language (PPL)?

This is an interesting question. I’ll quote several people to provide some possible answers.

Gromacki gave the following options:

“Four possible opinions as to the source of modern glossolalia have been presented. Both sides admit that the phenomenon can be satanically, psychologically, and artificially produced. However, the advocates believe that much tongue-speaking has been produced by God. The author believes that the origin of modern speaking in tongues cannot be limited to just one source, but that all modern glossolalia can be explained by the first three mentioned.” (7)

David Christie-Murray referred to animism as a cause:

“Animism is an early stage in the evolution of religions; . . . primitive peoples imbued with animistic beliefs commonly accept that human beings may be possessed by spirits and speak their languages when under possession.” (8)

George Cutten mentioned great excitement as a cause:

“Pseudo language, or articulate sounds which simulate words, is probably the most common kind of speaking with tongues. . . . With the great excitement attending certain experiences, we can well understand from other cases how the rational part of the mind—consciousness—would be put out of action.” (9)

In regard to private prayer language, I think Matthew 6:7 can be applied:

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

The Greek word in verse 7 for “use meaningless repetition” is “battologeo” (βαττολογέω). The word is onomatopoetic, meaning it sounds like the word it means. For instance, we use the word “swish” to describe a basketball going through the net without touching the rim, and we use the word “buzz” to describe the sound a bee makes. “Logeo” means “to speak,” and thus “battologeo” means “to speak batto.” Thus, Jesus said that we should not “speak batto” when we pray privately. Jesus said that this practice was something that the Gentiles did. Gromacki cited the instructions given by a person teaching others to speak in tongues:

“Repeat certain elementary sounds which he told them, such as ‘bah-bah-bah,’ or something similar. He then laid his hands on the head of each seeker, prayed for him, and the seeker did actually speak in tongues.” (10)

Not every person that uses PPL today says “batto,” but another onomatopoetic word—“babble”—describes some of the content of the prayers of some people who engage in PPL. We should not babble in private prayer.


1. Kenneth Wuest, Untranslatable Riches from the Greek New Testament, in
Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1942), 109.
2. H. E. Dana and Julius Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament
(Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 141.
3. Fred Fisher, Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Waco: Word Books, 1975), 217.
4. Robert Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1967), 17.
5. Gromacki, 126.
6. Herschel Hobbs, The Epistles to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1960), 64.
7. Gromacki, 49.
8. David Christie-Murray, Voices from the Gods: Speaking with Tongues (London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1978), 4.
9. George Cutten, Speaking with Tongues: Historically and Psychologically Considered (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1927), 173.
10.Gromacki, 42.

For Further Study

A missionary friend of mine sent the following web addresses for sites that discuss the origin of ecstatic utterances, etc.:

Monday, January 01, 2007

Some Thoughts on New Year's Day

I have been wondering lately how folks in biblical times celebrated New Year's Day. Interestingly, the Israelites had two New Year's Days. The first occurred in the spring on the first day of the first month—the month of Abib/Nissan (Exodus 12:2). The second occurred in the fall on the first day of the seventh month—the month of Tisri (Leviticus 23:24) at the end of the harvest year (Exodus 23:16). Interestingly, in each case, a significant day followed New Year’s Day—Passover in the spring and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) in the fall. The fall New Year’s Day was more of a civil holiday like our New Year’s Day, but the Israelites celebrated it in spiritual ways. Some specific steps were to be taken on this day (Rosh Hashanah), according to Leviticus 23:24-25:

1. Observe a Sabbath.
2. Observe a memorial of blowing of trumpets.
3. Observe a holy convocation.
4. Give an offering.

This is good advice for activities on New Year's Day that can be applied to us (without the blowing of trumpets). Cease from normal, servile activities. Remember the blessings of the past year. Spend significant time with the family at home and at church. Resolve anew to present ourselves as living sacrifices, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).