Time to speak of speaking in tongues!

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday (which, fyi if ya dunno, marks the end of the 50-day Easter season: for more see Knowing the Christian Calendar). So right now a lot of Christians are revisiting the whole topic of “speaking in tongues.” Why? Because of this passage in The Book of Acts:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

(Underlined bold italics mine, but duh.)

So let’s talk a bit about speaking in tongues.

Afjgohg$&9jhiu shtiue3g+#$ ghep#@hfuHH6 **(fhelglglg blurghgopfhrrni….

Wait. That was typing in tongues. Sorry.

Har! Speaking in tongue jokes!

See, that right there is why I make the big bucks.

No, but seriously. It must be allowed that, on the surface of it at least, speaking in tongues is just a tad odd. Because why in the world would God think it a great idea to inspire people to say things that virtually no one can understand? Does the Alpha and Omega of All That Ever Was or Will Be really have nothing better to do than make people talk funny?

Then again, if I were God, would I be able to resist making people talk funny? Not for one second. And that is why I think we can all agree that it’s probably best I’m not God. (Though if I were God pizza and beer would be exceptionally good for you. Just sayin’.)

The thing about speaking in tongues is that it’s not, in and of itself, terribly convincing of anything, is it? If the Holy Spirit made a person who had never in their life spoken English suddenly start spouting Shakespeare, that would really be something, wouldn’t it? But if a person is so apparently filled with the Holy Spirit that all they can do is talk sheer gibberish? Then that’s just … listening to Sarah Palin. (Har! But moving on so I don’t get 10,000 insane emails today …)

The real truth is that speaking in tongues could be a totally legitimate phenomenon. God does, after all, work in ways so strange and mysterious that it’s all I can do to figure out how to get the top off my bottle of mouthwash. Why couldn’t one of the mysterious ways in which God works be making people speak in a language that’s exclusively between Him and them?

Maybe it’s like the secret language shared by twins: God connects with the Holy Spirit inside of a person, and the two of them start talking together so exuberantly that the host person can’t do anything but bubble over with God’s own no-time-to-translate uberlanguage.

Why couldn’t that happen? Seems entirely reasonable to me.

If this Sunday, while we are at church, someone leaps up out of their pew and starts speaking in a language for which we are one hundred percent certain there is no Berlitz program for learning, let us not freak out. Let us instead genuinely assume that God has arrived, and is moving and speaking through that person. Let us watch, listen, wonder, and perhaps even learn.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Mama Paloma

    Though I grew up in churches where people did the “Sshaaam ahmanaramadddah ladddadh” version (and can bust it out myself to this day after a few drinks), my understanding of “Speaking in Tongues” is a bit different since a friend told me of his experience. He’s from a remote island in Papua New Guinea and had been driven to another part of the country by war (see: Bougainville 1989 – 99). He and his wife (from the same island/language group) were in church when an old man (from a completely different language group – there are over 800 in the country) started speaking in my friend’s home language. To everyone else, it was gibberish. To my friend and his wife, he said “I want you to go to seminary now. Your people need you.” He went to seminary where he was accepted despite not having a college degree and just as he neared the completion of his training the chief of his village (who had been a bulwark against intrusions of western culture) died, leaving a leadership void. My friend went home and has since been instrumental in preserving cultural traditions and mediating conflicts (about which denomination should dominate) within the church and completed the translation of the New Testament into his home language.

    • Aunt Tasty

      Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

    • http://kareneeart.com/ Karen Renee

      Ah, this reminds me of some experiences I’ve read in my research on tongues. I’m of the opinion that it can often be other languages, though not always. I’m not sure what to think of those situations, since I can break into foreign sounding non-words at a moment’s notice for dramatic effect in story-telling, even though I’ve never even tried to do it for religious reasons.

      One of the stories that stuck with me from my research, however, was one where a Chinese man was attending an American church and someone up ahead of him was “speaking in tongues” by swearing fluently in Chinese with their hands raised.

      I thought to myself, after reading that–perhaps it’s best to remember–when speaking in tongues what is in the heart might come out even more clearly than we know.

  • Eric Weiss

    Morton Kelsey’s TONGUE SPEAKING remains one of the best books on the subject.

  • BarbaraR

    Do people who speak in tongues ever do so when they are not in church?

    • R Vogel

      Yes

      • BarbaraR

        I had no idea. Thanks.

        • R Vogel

          Although I find it interesting, and quite telling, that in my experience each church has their own dialect if you will. I have been to many churches where this ‘phenomenon’ occurs, and each was quite distinct from each other. Take from that what you will….

          • BarbaraR

            Interesting. I have to admit I am very skeptical about the entire thing. I have never witnessed it myself and have no real idea what it sounds or looks like. I just assumed it was some sort of frenzied nonsensical babbling.

          • R Vogel

            It certainly looks like that to the uninitiated – and in some circumstance it may be – but generally it is similar ‘phrases’ repeated over and over again, varying slightly from person to person, and more distinctly from church to church.

          • BarbaraR

            I made the mistake of going to YouTube and searching for “speaking in tongues.” The one video I watched – - well, I had to turn it off after about 1 minute. It pretty much confirmed my preexisting negative impressions and threw in a few new ones as well.

          • James Garcia

            To be fair the videos on YouTube generally always paint it in a negative light. I’m not sure which churches the other commenter attended but at the ones I attended the people always spoke in a different way, almost in different dialects. Having spoken in tongues, it has always been something very private to me, it was like something I’ve never experienced before. Was i connected to something bigger than myself? Or was it all in my head? I cant say for certain, but i like to believe i was connected to God in some way. The Bible says that it is something that is supposed to be done in private unless there is an interpreter present, so to me all of those churches where you see people going crazy and running up and down the aisles are either abusing the gift or faking it. I can’t say for sure of course. Its just my thoughts. On a side note there are a lot of other religions that have a speaking in tongues phenomenon. Its not exclusive to Christianity. One book that I read that was really good on the subject from a Christian perspective was called “They spoke with other tongues”. Its pretty good. Could it be possible that in a state of worship, praise, or deep meditation our minds connect to something greater, and when we speak in tongues or a “babble” if you will, it is simply our minds trying to make sense of that greater thing? Something that is ultimately incomprehensible?

          • R Vogel

            I grew up in it, but having left it decades ago I now find it very unsettling as well.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            That has been my experience as well. If one person uses particular phrases, everyone will, and it becomes a cacophony of phrases in group settings.

          • BarbaraR

            Why would that happen? I mean, my initial thought is “mass hysteria” but I’m trying to leave that out of the equation and see if there’s legitimacy here.

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

            I have no idea. I just found it an uncomfortable experience.

          • R Vogel

            My use of the word ‘uninitiated’ was intentional, because I think it is an initiation of sorts. Like the Mystery Cults of ancient greece, the initiate is coaxed into a ecstatic experience through a very specific set of rituals. Music, shouting, dancing, baptism, all combine to create an experience, as Karen Armstrong describes the experience of the mystai in the Mystery Cult, “a kenosis, a self-forgetfulness that enabled them to ‘assimilate themselves to the holy symbols, leave their own identity, become at home with the gods, and experience divine possession.” Almost by definition to the outside observer it would seems chaotic and unsettling. However, it follows a very specific rite.

          • BarbaraR

            What that suggests to me is that some people would be more likely to be drawn into that ritual than others, in the same way that some people are more easily hypnotized than others.
            A person willing to be absorbed into this would be a more likely candidate to experience it than a person keeping their cards close to their chest, participating on a physical level but keeping their mind cleared and detached.

          • R Vogel

            I think you are absolutely right, and explains allegro63s question above as to why it is only found in particular sects. Even the mystai of the greek Mystery Cult had varying degrees of success with it according to Proclus. People respond to different things, and this kind of self-emptying kenotic experience is not for everyone. I don’t think calling people names for their genuine emotional experiences, like some of the other commenters have done, is productive. I always think of religious experience like the artistic sense. I can sit ad contemplate a paintings from one of my favorite artists for hours, running through all sort of emotions while doing it. Some people will weep at the beauty in a piece of classical music. To others poetry elicits deep emotional responses. If I don’t have the same experience I don’t call them names. I just accept that people are emotionally different.

            Unfortunately, though, children do not have the choice, and are initiated into it without their consent. For those who do not have the experience, they pretend in order to fit in. Teaching kids to lie that young in order to be accepted by the tribe does not have good outcomes….

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            A communal experience of an altered state is a very common and helpful initiation. Sets us on the path. Confirms and validates what was once faith.

            But…

            Getting attached to any aspect will inhibit it’s evolution. Adding layers of interpretation, ritually re-enacting. The Great Mystery will remain unknown. Only hinted at.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            If should have read further. This language is used extensively below.

      • gimpi1

        So there are “tongues dialects?” Interesting…

  • Melinda Hailey

    You summed up my thoughts very well. It does not hurt me one bit to genuinely acknowledge that a person believes they have been a direct link to God through a Chosen language. If they are insincere that is between them and God. It is not mine to judge as I am so minutely small and uncomprehending of the vastness that is the Almighty.

  • Judy

    Now that I am older , I find it fascinating the diversity of worship experience there is. Raised independent fundamentalist, we were taught that the Pentecostals were at best, delusional, and at worst, demon possessed. Then attended for a while a Pentecostal demnomination. They thought anyone who had not had the experience of speaking in tongues was not fully experiencing God. It seemed genuine to me in some people and forced in others. Overall, I just felt uncomfortable, like I was at a secret club meeting illegitimately.
    Now attend a UCC church where I love the preaching and the people ,but don’t like the solemn music. The one time I raised my hands in praise I think I frightened my fellow congregants. Maybe they thought I might roll in the aisle!

    • R Vogel

      I think your analogy of a secret club illegitimately is dead on! Because of my childhood experience this is one kind of worship I have the hardest time accepting gracefully, but I am trying.

    • Psycho Gecko

      Those different church experiences are part of why I never buy into the whole “No True Christian” thing some people throw out there.

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

    There are two distinct types of talking in tongues. To “speak in other tongues” refers to human language and the ability to speak so that all believers can understand what is being said by the speaker in their own language. To nonbelievers it sounds like drunken gibberish. The second type of speaking in tongues refers to speaking in the tongues of angles which is only understood by God, this is also known as glossolalia.

    • Alan Christensen

      I think you mean tongues of angels. “Angles” made me laugh, though.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

        tongues of angles…a variation of the term sharp tongued? :d

        • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

          When my daughter was young she and her friend make a Lego club house for math geeks. They made a little flag for it that said Hell’s Angles.

          • Jill

            James, your daughter is WAY smart and she’s going to rule the world one day.

          • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

            My daughter is WAY smart but has no desire to rule the world. If Pinky and the Brain teaches us anything its that plans to take over the world never work.

          • Jill

            Maybe it’s her obvious combination of smart + funny that’ll make it happen?

          • gimpi1

            Singing, “One is a genius, the other’s insane!”

          • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

            If as we all seem to agree my daughter is a genius does that make me the one who is insane.:)

        • R Vogel

          Or with a British accent… ;)

      • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

        I was going to fix that but I decided that I would leave it as angles. I love a good laugh even if it is at my expense.

  • Laurence Taylor

    I have once heard someone speaking in Tongues. Our church does not do this, but on this occasion I was had some problems in my life and asked one of the ladies to pray with me. While doing so, she slipped from English into – Something – and back again. Although I could not understand the words, I could tell that whatever it was had structure, it wasn’t just gibberish. I asked her what it was, and she explained that sometimes she just lets God take over. It didn’t sound artificial or invented, it was just like a bilingual person will mix languages.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      I find it interesting that the practice is found only in particular sects of Christianity, and not found sprinkled throughout the faith. I admit to being a bit skeptical, but I also know that everyone I know who practiced speaking in tongues seemed to be of the mind that it was a genuine form of communication with God. I cannot fault that, as it was a practice they felt worked for them.

      • Psycho Gecko

        It’s also interesting that it only occurred like it does now after people decided to make it a thing either in 1906 as someone suggested above, or in the 1970s as I read elsewhere.

  • Lisa Marie Gilbert

    True tongues was an actual language that could be understood by others . In Acts those outside of the upper room that heard them actually heard what they were speaking in their own tongue . People read it out of context . I was raised Pentecostal and left the religion . Once I started reading the whole bible and comparing scripture to scripture , not to mention that this movement is only 100 years old . I believe in God but I hate religion .

  • Aunt Tasty

    I hear what you’re saying here. Having never been to a gathering where this type of language (or non-language) was being spoken, I just don’t have any experience with it.

    When we were kids and went on foreign mission trips (to build stuff, feed people, and put on puppet shows and whatnot) we *often* were able to speak MUCH MORE of the local language than we had prepared for… I always suspected we were “speaking in tongues” in those cases.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’m not sure this post is all that good of one if someone’s trying to convince people that not all Christians are out of touch and/or weird, especially given the facts of the matter.

    Yes, speaking in tongues could be a legitimate phenomenon in that people get so caught up in their religion that they speak gibberish (unless you’ve been preconditioned to believe it sounds like a holy language that happens to be completely different depending on who is speaking it, of course). Just like other people think they’re being healed by Peter Popoff. This whole mid-70s (as in, mentioned in the bible but not done until the 1970s) practice of Pentacostals might be convincing to y’all, but when you’ve got Ken Hagin (the guy who started the practice) hissing and the rest of his congregation mooing and barking (true story), it just looks really, really weird to the rest of us.

    And that’s putting my feelings on the matter in a very polite way.

    • Alan Christensen

      Your point about it seeming weird is well taken, but just to correct your history, modern Pentecostalism began with the Azusa Street revivals in L.A. in 1906, though it did explode on the Christian scene in the 70′s. And prior to the 20th century there are sporadic accounts of glossolalia.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      For the record, it’s never been my intention, even a little, to “convince people that not all Christians are out of touch and/or weird.” Why would I think it’s a good thing to be widely understood as … normal? Bring me the freaks, every time.

      • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

        To quote my fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn “The trouble with normal is it only gets worse.” Normal is boring.

      • Psycho Gecko

        I’m normally a big fan of things not being normal, and you certainly gave me something to think about with why this makes me so much more uncomfortable than other things that I like just fine that are weird.

        What I think it comes down to is the difference between a magician and someone like the Long Island Medium. You pay to go to a magician and they entertain you by tricking you, using well-known tricks and methods to fool you because it’s not all that serious. The medium uses the same sorts of tricks, but claims to be serious, attracts people who are serious about it, and dupes them out of a lot of money.

        So I have no problem with people dressing up in kaiju costumes to wrestle in a ring that has styrofoam blocks painted to look like buildings in it. Nor do I take issue with folks like Die Antwoord. Unusual fandoms are fine. But speaking in tongues has been studied and the tricks of how it works and how you prime people to make it happen are known. It’s done seriously, by people who believe in it, in order to strengthen the grip of a certain point of view that has no physical evidence to support it.

        Also, another enlightening thing about this thinking is that it made me sympathize more with magicians and better understand why so many of them are skeptics. It’s like a bunch of people steal their tricks, pretend it’s all real, then lie to people in order to use them, whether they think the end goal of using them is virtuous or not.

        • R Vogel

          It’s interesting you bring up Theresa Caputo. I think it is an apt analogy – I would disagree with your conclusion however. My wife loves the show and watches it a lot – so consequently I am exposed to it quite a bit whether I like it or not. I obviously don’t believe she talks to the dead. My wife, who lost both of her parents when she was very young, wants to believe she does. So as I watch the show, and see my wife’s reactions, I realize what she really wants is comfort and maybe affirmation, the same thing everyone who visits a medium to talk to their dead relatives wants. And it is this that Theresa sells, and she is quite good at delivering it. From what I have heard, virtually nothing she says in a ‘reading’ (telling that it is called that, no?) is likely much different from what someone might hear from a therapist, ex all the supernatural stuff. They want you to be happy – they want you to know they loved you – they want you to know that things you have done were recognized/forgiven/accepted. I began watching thinking it was a bunch of bunko, but as I watched I realize she is providing a service that the people who seek her out value. People leave feeling better, which is what they were actually looking for. Are they actually talking to their loved ones? No. You may decide that makes her dishonest because she is not delivering what she says she is delivering. But I think she actually is delivering what they are actually looking for.

          Good marketing doesn’t sell the product, it sells a solution to the underlying need or want that the product represents. This may be a shocker, but cigarettes don’t make you as cool as a cowboy, body spray does not make you more desirable to women, and no amount of goop you put on your face prevents aging. ;)

    • R Vogel

      It is nothing like believing you are being healed. Being healed of something is a verifiable medical fact. Either you are or you aren’t, belief has nothing to do with it. Having an ecstatic religious experience has nothing to do with verifiable fact, it is an experience. This is like saying believing you are in love, which may result in bizarre physical manifestations, is the same as believing someone just punched you in the face. I think it is well within bounds to question what they claim it to be, but you might be making an apple to oranges comparison.

      • Psycho Gecko

        I brought up people being healed by Peter Popoff because the guy claimed to be getting messages from Yahweh when he was healing people. This upped his credibility as he claimed to be receiving special knowledge from God about some person and their illness. James Randi famously exposed him by bringing along a radio receiver that allowed him to tap into the transmissions to Popoff’s earpiece from Mrs. Popoff, who was giving him information off prayer cards or conversations with individuals that took place earlier.

        Belief can have some effect on healing thanks to the placebo effect, though it should be noted that no actual healing has ever been found to occur due to faith healing or prayer. For instance, no amputee has ever been healed by faith healing (which spawned the atheist website WhyDoesGodHateAmputees.com). Making it worse some groups of Christians rely entirely on faith healing and prayer, thus leading to higher-than-average death rates.

        Anyway, the so-called divine revelations of Peter Popoff (still a trusted televangelist in the business these days, selling pre-anointed Miracle Water online) is like speaking in tongues as something that skeptics have looked into and debunked already as something that is caused by much more mundane reasons than deities speaking to people.

        • R Vogel

          How would one ‘debunk’ speaking in tongues? The placebo effect is irrelevant because the speaking in tongues makes no claim to accomplishing anything other than it happening. There is no question it does happen, unlike faith healing, only what the ultimate cause of it may be.

      • Psycho Gecko

        Hopefully I’m not coming off too hostile for y’all to handle in explaining my views. It’s not much of an excuse, but I’m suffering from a little toxic Ray Comfort exposure. I find that people like him make it easy for me to dislike Christians.

        • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

          I consider myself to a Christian even though some fundamentalist would kick me out of Club Christian in a heart beat. Ray Comfort should only be viewed in very small doses. Prolonged exposure can cause delusional thinking and may result in a permanent inability to think critically. Symptoms of toxic Ray Comfort poisoning include an uncontrollable craving for bananas.

          • Psycho Gecko

            It was actually second-hand exposure courtesy a video from Steve Shives. He has a series “An Atheist Reads…” where he tackles Christian apologetics, in part to keep up to date with what their arguments are. He’s trying to do two Ray Comfort books in a row, but I’m not sure he’ll make it.

          • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

            Second hand exposure can be just as toxic.

      • James Walker

        Unfortunately, the charismatic branches of Christianity where the glosalalia is prevalent have a strong tendency toward faith healing as well.

        • R Vogel

          Faith healing, prosperity gospel, miracles, angels and demons, the whole enchilada! In Appalachia they handle poisonous snakes and drink poison! I think it is generally a facet of charismatic religions in general, not just christianity. I think we also need to keep in mind charismatic religions tend to be concentrated among the lowest socio-economic strata, and thus the most powerless, in societies. This probably goes a long way to explain why psychologically a religion that gives them spiritual power wildly out of proportion with their economic or political power would be appealing. (Connor Wood did a nice piece on this on this site) I tend to think of religion in terms of Ernest Becker’s hero system, from his book the Denial of Death. Charismatic religions give some people a narrative in which they can be the hero. For those with more economic or political power this becomes less necessary.

  • KJB007

    I think the rules are that speaking in tongues is only allowed if there is an interpreter in the house. Otherwise, you’re probably going to hell. I grew up in a tough church.

    • D Rizdek

      I can see it now. A person stands up, convulses and starts to babble but stops midsentence and asks, “Is there an interpreter in the house.”

  • Laura Bates Sterner

    “Tongues” is a synonym for languages. This just means that they spoke in the languages of other states in preparation for spreading the Christian teachings far and wide. It doesn’t mean babbling incoherently, though this is what we seem to believe today.

    • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

      This is true for the way “tongues” is used it Acts. But in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul refers to tongues in a totally different way, “For he that speaketh in a unknown tongue speaketh not unto man, but unto God: for no man understandeth him.”

      • R Vogel

        It is a actually a different word, is it not?

        • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

          I’ve heard arguments for and against it being the same word. Like a lot of things in the Bible there is room for interpretation.

    • Robert McHenry

      But that would mean that these babblers were not equal to the apostles… and we all know that they are just as saintly as the original twelve disciples… right? Cause that is really the point of all of this… major ego boosts for babbling.

      • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

        Ego is as ego does not

  • Jill

    Wait… pizza and beer aren’t good for me? There’s my weekend ruined. :(

  • aspekx

    it is a legitimate phenomenon referred to as glossalalia and does have a surprising subset of academic literature related to it’s study.

    whether it’s because of god is an entirely different question.

    for most pentecostal/charismatic types i think it is more an attempt at letting go of conscious control. this is also why you see other demonstrative phenomenon in those particular faith groups. in my experience with them and speaking with them all of these phenomenon center around two basic psychological experiences. the first one mentioned above is control. the second, is catharsis.

    • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

      “whether it’s because of god is an entirely different question.”

      There is only God. But, people want a storyline. Millennia pass as we creep towards understanding. In utter simplicity.

  • Anne

    John, I hope I say this in a way that doesn’t come off as judgmental, although I’m sure I have some judgment behind this. What makes me most uncomfortable about speaking in tongues is not how you phrased it, which is beautiful really, “Maybe it’s like the secret language shared by twins: God connects with the Holy Spirit inside of a person, and the two of them start talking together so exuberantly that the host person can’t do anything but bubble over with God’s own no-time-to-translate uberlanguage.”

    What bothers me is how people can take one small passage out of the bible to justify any behavior. There are many individuals who take the whole speaking in tongues to extremes. Simply babbling Sunday after Sunday, at every opportunity does not make one a “better” Christian. I’ve seen places where these people who babble hold an aura of superiority, supported by those around them. It’s kind of like using that Leviticus verse to beat up our LGBTQ friends and family.

    Anyway, forgive my judgment and thank you for putting that phenomenon into perspective.

  • Dandhman

    Are there any major liberal charasmatic Christian denominations out there?
    I guess there must be a gay welcoming and affirming snake-handling church someplace (joking).
    It must depend on whether you consider those churches where members are “moved by the Spirit to testify” as being charasmatic.

  • Eric Weiss

    There is no real distinction or difference in the words used to describe the Pentecost experience from the non-understandable speaking in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Some like Spiros Zodhiates tried to claim/make a distinction based on whether the word was singular or plural, and John MacArthur adopted this teaching, but a study of the NT Greek text shows it to be a false distinction. The vocabulary used to describe the understood speech of Acts 2 is the same that is used to describe the Corinthian tongue-speaking.

  • Robert McHenry

    Maybe I got this wrong in my religion classes by the nuns, in my confirmation classes and from all of those Sundays sitting in church… but I thought the passage meant … speaking another language so that the apostles could preach to people… but then I was catholic and lots of christians don’t beleive catholics are christians.

    What amazes me endlessly though is the willingness of people to accept the unbelievable as facts and to discount facts because of their belief in the unbelievable. I have worked with people suffering from schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis’s… and there was no way for me to prove those cars weren’t talking or that Martians were beaming radio messages from behind the moon…
    Sometimes crazy people believe crazy things… other times… people’s crazy beliefs drove them crazy… but in truth most sane people just stayed as far away my clients as possible. Where as I went were most feared to tread.

    • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

      What amazes me endlessly though is the willingness of people to accept the unbelievable as facts and to discount facts because of their belief in the unbelievable.

      You had me at “What”.

  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    A weird point. The Foursquare Gospel church (about as liberal a pentecostal denomination as there is, and they aren’t liberals) holds that “Speaking in tongues” is two separate phenomena–the glossalia phenomena (sic) is mostly about the believer and God as John said, and then there are what they call “tongues with interpretation”–where one person speaks in a language they don’t know and are understood by someone in the audience, who either speaks the language natively or is giving some inspirational translation.

    It is a complex phenomenon. I now attend an ELCA church, and boy did it take them some time to deal with my occasional mutterings during prayer times. I think it is best viewed as another tool in God’s cosmic toolbox.

  • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

    Some reading into the phenomena of Savant Syndrome will surely open our eyes to the possibility. But, like rose colored glasses, our habits and expectations will color the experience.

    For me, God is a given. I want to know what that means. Getting stuck in opinions will only prevent it.

  • Ben Fader

    John, really appreciated the gracious and open handed post. As someone who has more a progressive bent theologically yet inhabits more conservative and charismatic spaces (and speaks in tongues), I hesitantly looked at this post figuring that ask I was going to find was labeling and making fun. Thanks for surprising me!

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    People speak in tongues all the time. Go to Europe and you’ll find dinner tables where five languages are strewn around like beer cans at a ball game. The difference is not that it happens, it is consciousness of how and why.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    I made one of my rare visits to church today** and thought this was inspiring to hear … the notion that the Holy Ghost operates across all boundaries of faiths, ethnicities, languages, etc., and that this is, very much, at the heart of speaking in other tongues. That the essence of Pentecost is the gift of empathy and understanding for and with others, whoever they be, whatever language they speak.

    To illustrate, Randall (Reverend) said he’d stopped by the local country market this a.m. and said good morning to the small group of locals (it’s a very small town) who tend to sit daily outside the market and watch the world go by.

    One of the old guys – not a Christian, not a religious man – said to Randall, “Got a good sermon for your folks, today?” To which Randall replied, “never know, but one can hope!” And then the old guy says, “well, good or bad, I’m sure God’ll like it.”

    Two different spiritual languages, completely understanding one another. Cool, huh?
    ________________________________

    ** and no, there were no thunderstrikes, and I didn’t melt. Although, I was a bit disappointed there were no Bloody Marys afterward … it is an Episcopal church, after all.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      the coolest.

    • Guy Norred

      You came too late. The bloody marys are before the mass, martinis after.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    There seems to be a lot of confusion of just what “speaking in tongues” is. Some comments apparently refer to the ability to speak in differing KNOWN human languages. Others seem to understand it as the sheer jibberish that appears as hysterical blabbering.

    My understanding of the first Pentecost is that the disciples began to speak in known languages so that they could go out into the world to spread the Word more readily. That strikes me as something quite different from the jibberish one first thinks of as “speaking in tongues”.

    Obviously the term is being misunderstood by a lot of people. Perhaps definitions are in order before a discussion?

    • James Walker

      the difficulty comes in Paul’s instructions to the church at Corinth regarding speaking in the “unknown tongue”. there is a presumption among the charismatic branches of Christianity that the glosalalia IS a bona fide language, just not one that is known to the members of the audience. some, following Paul’s instructions, have a person standing by who has the “gift of interpretation” to give the common language meaning.

  • gimpi1

    “Though if I were God pizza and beer would be exceptionally good for you.”

    You’ve got my vote with that platform! Let’s start the campaign.

  • Jenny DeArmond

    sheboughtahundaisheboughtahundai


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