Sunday, August 06, 2006

Answering a Pyromaniac on Tongues

There is an interesting discussion going on mainly between Adrian Warnock and Dan Phillips (one of the Pyromaniacs) about the gift of tongues. Dan argues against Adrian from the cessationist position which I have mentioned in other recent postings, that this gift and all other gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer in operation today.

I made the following comment on part 3 of Dan's series - I could have demolished more of his arguments, but chose what seemed to be his weakest points:
Dan, a couple of points to clarify some of your very dodgy exegesis.

First, on Acts 2:17-18, you seem to imply that you understand this to refer to the authoring of Scripture. Thus you seem to restrict "all flesh ... your sons and daughters ... my male servants and female servants" to the Apostles, and the very few others who wrote Scripture. Was the audience restricted to the apostles' parents? Were any of the Scripture authors anyone's daughters? Is "all flesh" to be understood as referring to something like a dozen people at most? No, surely the clear intention of Peter, as reported by Luke, is to say that in these last days (or is today a period after the last days?) this prophecy can be applied to everyone, that all can expect to prophesy. This is of course precisely in agreement with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:1, that all should aspire to prophesy.

And then, referring to 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 and Isaiah 28:11-12, you wrote "The "tongues" Paul writes of are the "tongues" Isaiah wrote of, and those "tongues" are human, foreign languages." I don't think so. Look at the context in Isaiah 28. In verses 10 and 13 we have the very words which God uses to speak to his people: צַו לָצָו צַו לָצָו קַו לָקָו קַו לָקָו tsaw latsaw tsaw latsaw qaw laqaw qaw laqaw. These are NOT words in any foreign language, at least as far as I know. Most Bible translations do a disservice by trying to translate the words as if they were Hebrew, although really they are not, they are nonsense syllables (in fact I wouldn't blame you for suggesting that they are something like some modern charismatic "tongues"!). The point is that they are supposed to be some kind of nonsense baby talk - and (in v.13) they are not supposed to be a comprehensible message, because God's purpose is that it should not be understood.

This is of course a rather complex issue, but it certainly does not support your contention that biblical tongues are always real human languages. In fact it is probably a counter-example, to go along with other counter-examples such as 1 Corinthians 14:4. And (apart from your suggestion that Paul is saying that speaking in tongues is something one should not do, refuted by v.18) the only argument you have to dismiss the counter-examples is that they contradict Paul's "own flat-out and in-so-many-words statement that tongues are human languages" - which is in fact not at all "flat-out and in so many words" referring to ALL tongues but a quotation from a rather complex and obscure passage in Isaiah which does not necessarily refer to all tongues or to human languages at all. So, it seems to me, you are using the unclear to explain the clear, the opposite of how you should do exegesis in such circumstances.

In part 2 you wrote, "An ironclad case can be (and has been) made from Scripture that tongues were always supernaturally acquired human languages." Is this your ironclad case? (Where by the way is there any indication that the tongues of Isaiah 28 were supernaturally acquired?) It seems that your iron cladding is in fact very thin and rusty, and can very easily be demolished by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, which has supernatural power to destroy strongholds. And since all of what you wrote in part 2 depends on this "ironclad case", now that that case has collapsed the whole of part 2 has been invalidated. In fact I don't think much is left of any of your arguments.

And then I wrote the following as a comment on part 4 of the series:
Dan, I won't make a long comment here like I just made on part 3 (which in fact managed to refute part 2 as well). But I do want to object to your caricature of charismatic services. You wrote:
If you've been to many Charismatic services, you don't need me to go on. You could fill in gaps yourself—how the music is geared and chanted to excite the emotions directly, the preaching aimed at working directly on the emotions, the bodily choreography devised to create a mood and a feeling. It's sheer psychological manipulation, though in many cases no doubt with the best of intentions.
This is probably an accurate description of some charismatic services. It is certainly not an accurate description of all of them. In particular, your description of charismatic preaching is so wide of the mark as to be libellous. You can for example download and listen to the sermons from my charismatic Anglican church (I recommend the recent series on Acts by Mones Farah), or Adrian Warnock's sermons (which I admit I haven't listened to myself). Listen and then tell us if these are really "aimed at working directly on the emotions ... sheer psychological manipulation".

I am sure that Adrian and I, as well as very many other charismatics, would agree on teaching that Christians need a proper balance between the Spirit and the Word, avoiding both the over-emphasis on the Spirit of your caricature charismatics and the over-emphasis on the Word of many cessationists. This is the main point I was trying to make in my own recent posting on Bible deists, especially the final passage quoted from the former cessationist Jack Deere who, it seems to me, has now found something like the right balance.

I am repeating these comments here for a clearer record, in other words so that Dan cannot just delete them if he can't answer them, and also to bring others into this discussion.


At Monday, August 07, 2006 5:09:00 am, Blogger lingamish said...

Sounds exciting. I'll check it out tomorrow.

At Monday, August 07, 2006 11:40:00 am, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I'm not much of a charismatic myself, but I would like to recount my own experience of charismatic preaching. I lived one summer in Germany with the family of a pentecostal preacher and attended many tent meetings at which he and others preached. The preaching was excellent, not disorderly in any way, the music was wonderful and most of all I was impressed by the faith of this family. The father, the preacher, had been in his early teens during the Hitler years and had been hidden by his mother so he would not have to join the Hitler youth. I do not know the whole story but the testimony and faith of this family was strong and their warmth and hospitality outstanding. I do remember some discussion of speaking in tongues but I just didn't feel it was relevant to me at the time as I struggled to learn German. Although my German is not fluent I have retained a love of hearing the German language used for Bible reading and preaching ever since.

At Monday, August 07, 2006 2:58:00 pm, Blogger lingamish said...


I'd only ask that we distinguish between charismatic and pentecostal and not treat them as synonymous terms. For me, these terms describe theology and practice that hugely different.

At Monday, August 07, 2006 3:47:00 pm, Anonymous Henry Neufeld said...

I would note that while the words "charismatic" and "pentecostal" have and probably should refer to different groups they have become confused in church usage. You can't be sure the difference will be understood. It's worth working on, however, because we'll need some terminology to distinguish the views.

At Tuesday, August 08, 2006 7:11:00 am, Blogger Steven Carr said...

'The father, the preacher, had been in his early teens during the Hitler years and had been hidden by his mother so he would not have to join the Hitler youth.'

Clever idea! I wonder why that never occured to Ratzinger's family.

At Wednesday, October 11, 2006 5:24:00 am, Blogger Brother Mel said...

Hey Brother,

A couple of thoughts.

We have no example from Scriptures or from verifiable Church History of tongues being used for foreign evangelism.

Wouldn't tongues have been a great evangelistic tool? The Apostles could have fanned out in every direction, all through Asia, Africa, and elsewhere and language barriers would have been no problem. The Apostle Andrew could have gone from village to village all throughout Asia, and spoken in every dialect in every village perfectly, by simply exercising his gift of speaking in tongues. No place would have been unreachable, no people beyond their communication, and there would be no possibility of being misunderstood.

Strange thing is though, none of the Apostles or the 120 ever did that. Not one ever used their "other tongue" to preach the Gospel. It didn't even happen at Pentecost. The hearers did not report, "We hear in our own tongues the story of the Son of God, coming to the earth, bearing our sins, dying at some place called 'Calvary.' We hear that he rose again from the dead, and that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life. Can we accept Him as our Savior now and be baptized?"


They reported that "we do hear in our tongues the wonderful works of God." The assembled 120 were simply sitting there, praising God in other tongues, and passersby overheard, gathered, and identified a number of languages. The 120 were not "preaching the Gospel" or even testifying in other tongues. We know this also, because immediately afterward, Peter had to stand up and give a lengthy sermon to explain to the crowd Christ's sacrifice, and the way to salvation.

Tongues were never used to preach the Gospel. Not one time. So, what did the 120 do with their ability to speak in tongues? The same thing Paul did with his--"I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Paul and all those before and after him, like believers do today, prayed in tongues and worshipped God in tongues. He never preached in tongues. And he never commanded anyone else to preach or teach in other tongues either.

So, in a sense, respectfully, this debate is a red herring. If tongues were never used to preach the gospel, but were used only for prayer to God, and praise of God, none of which the speakers understood the specifics of, then why should God limit speaking in tongues to known human languages, when He is the only one hearing and understanding them anyway?

By the way, I've spoken in tongues publicly and interpreted also for the last 17 years. If you would care to look into this further, I have a blog Gift of Tongues---
in which I discuss these things more thoroughly.

And to respond to the gentleman who said that tongues occurred in modern times only when Charismatics had whipped up enough ferver through emotional music (my words not his), he could not be more wrong. I've spoken in tongues and interpreted literally thousands of times, and I would say that 90% of them have occurred outside of church services, away from church. And by far, these had no emotional music or anything else to whip me up into a frenzy.

If you wish to contact me directly, my e-mail is, (I know it sounds like a gimmick, but it is also the name of my blog), I'm at
Kind Regards,

Brother Mel


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