(image courtesy ChristArt)
By Spencer D Gear
I’ve heard some fairly demeaning things said about the gift of tongues down through the years. Here is one example that I encountered on the largest Christian forum in the world, Christian Forums. In a discussion on tongues in Baptist churches he said,
My old Baptist pastor said that people who do it are just leading themselves on and getting over-the-top exited (sic) and i really don’t see the point in babbling to god but objectively the bible does support it and ive (sic) known some awesome christians who do it.
My response was:
“Babbling to god” is hardly a biblical way of describing one of God’s genuine gifts of the Spirit.
Could it be that you don’t understand this gift and so use this kind of put-down language, ‘Babbling to god’ – along with the lower case for ‘god’? Are you saying that the person with the gift of glossolalia is worshipping another ‘god’?
Then this reply came to my post:
I would tend to agree that the practice as it is done in many Christian circles is little more than “babbling” presumably “to God.” And that is the more benign form. In some circles, there is an entire theology built around “speaking in tongues” that is dangerously exclusive and overly reliant on a very specific practice.
‘Babbling to God’
How does one reply to such content? I responded that I find it reprehensible that he used language such as “babbling to God” to refer to God’s supernatural gift of tongues. On occasions I speak to God in the language of tongues in my home devotions, a language that he has given me and it is by no means “babbling”. It is God’s gift to me and I use the glossolalia that he has given me to communicate with him in my prayer time.
This person obviously doesn’t understand this gift, otherwise he would not be using this disparaging kind of language.
However, I do find that many Pentecostal and Charismatic gifts allow this speaking in tongues, without interpretation, in the public gathering and this leads to unbiblical disorder. The Scriptural injunction is that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).
This does not happen in some of these churches that I have visited. This means that they are right out of order, based on the teaching in 1 Cor. 14. In fact, I think it could have been this kind of chaos that Paul was addressing in Corinth.
However, excesses should never be a reason to reject biblical doctrine. Extremism should tell us where to make correction and get back to biblical teaching. But cessationism is not the solution.
I’ve been off the air with my computer with a virus for the last week. I contracted it by opening an email that was from my son’s email address but it was one of those extremist virus producers who use email to catch us. I was caught by such extremism. However, it would be unrealistic of me to give up using email because of some extremist who abused the privilege.
It’s the same with the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. I will never interpret God’s amazing gifts of the Spirit through the extremism I see in some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. They are doing things indecently and out of order (the opposite of 1 Cor. 14:40). God wants us to get back to biblical order in the decent manifestation of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.
In fact, this biblical injunction should be happening in all Pentecostal and Charismatic groups and churches: “Let the others weigh what is said” (1 Cor 14:29).
This fellow responded to me on the Forum,
Would it be fair to say that there are those who are not genuinely exercising the gift of tongues but are going through the motions for the sake of showing off or pretending to have a spiritual prowess of sorts? I would say that in church circles that overly emphasize speaking in tongues, this is quite common and is nothing more than “babbling” supposedly “to God.” If you find this opinion “reprehensible” then so be it. I just want to make sure you understand what you are calling “reprehensible”.
In short, I am not referring to “God’s supernatural gift of tongues” as babbling. I am referring to the act of pretending you have said gift as “babbling”.
Of course it is possible to fake a genuine gift of the Spirit. But it also is possible to fake being a Christian as well. Any who want to demonstrate spiritual prowess by faking any kind of gift are heading in the wrong direction spiritually. It is easy to fake any kind of religious experience. Let’s not focus solely on the Pentecostals or charismatics.
So could “babbling for God” be in competition with:
- Solemnity for God;
- Contemporary Christianity for God;
- Traditionalism for God;
- Evangelicalism for God;
- Liturgy for God, etc?
He says that ‘I am referring to the act of pretending you have said gift as “babbling”’. What criteria are you using to determine the genuine from the fake to KNOW that they are “babbling for God”? Does he have the genuine gift of the Spirit of discernment / knowledge so that he can walk into any Pentecostal or Charismatic church and he knows exactly who are exercising genuine gifts and those who are “babbling for God”?
Is speaking in tongues gibberish?
That’s how one writer stated it:
Speaking in tongues was simply, as stated, an act of communication on the part of the Spirit to help communicate and found the church movement that led us into the age that we are in now, the Church Age. Tongues was the Spirit of Christ taking hold of the ears and mouths of people and letting them understand each other in their own language without the speaker or listener speaking any specific language. READ THE BIBLE.
Seriously, take some courses in a Bible college to understand this. Read the original Hebrew and Greek texts, realizing what it meant. In Greek, which is what the new Testament was written in, in the book of Acts when the writer says “spoke in tongues” it is the phrase “mílise se pollés glósses””, which literally means, “many languages”. So you could say, they spake in MANY LANGUAGES, meaning everyone understood what was being said. It was NOT gibberish….
Speaking in Tongues is not a gift that the Spirit grants these days because it’s need was fulfilled and we have moved on passed that time. We have multilingual Bibles now, there is no reason that we would have to speak in Tongues considering we can present a Bible in virtually any language now. It’s time has passed.
I wish I could agree with you but I can’t. Why? The Bible disagrees with that perspective. What happened on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4, with the outpouring of the Spirit was a once only experience.
However, the gift of tongues is a different gift that God continues to give. I know that from 1 Corinthians 14:1-5,
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (ESV).
We are to earnestly desire all spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, but the genuine gift of tongues and interpretation continues. There is no place in the church gathering for any who speaks in tongues without interpretation. However, these verses teach that there is a genuine gift of tongues where one ‘speaks not to men but to God … for he utters mysteries in the Spirit’. You seem not to have experienced or want to experience this, but I can vouch for this kind of communication with God on almost a daily basis. I praise and thank God for this gift he has given me.
However, while Paul gives a preference for prophecy as a gift in the church as it ‘builds up the church’, he still gives this important teaching about tongues:
‘I want you all to speak in tongues’ (1 Cor 14:5).
So the gift of tongues was available to NT believers. Notice the contrast:
‘The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up’ (1 Cor 14:5).
So the gift of prophecy approximately equals tongues with interpretation for the building up of the church.
My experience is that there is such poor teaching on the correct approach to the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit – especially tongues and interpretation – that there is too much existential chaos allowed by church leaders at the local church level that is too much like Toronto ‘blessing’ and Brownsville Pensacola ‘revival’ excesses.
The excesses should not cause us to reject the correct biblical teaching of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit that includes tongues and interpretation.
 Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues?’, Blooper #171, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t1133006-18/#post61495691 (Accessed 3 October 2012).
Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 October 2016.