What Does Research Say About Speaking in Tongues?

What Does Research Say About Speaking in Tongues? August 19, 2018

What Does the Research Say About Speaking in Tongues?

“Tongue-speaking has also been reported by those under the influence of LSD. The Pentecostal experience is not unique (1).”


Do people wave flags at your church? Apparently, that’s something people do… And, they’re not flags so much as they’re “banners”(?).

Much of this is why I actually have come to love Pentecostalisms charismatically unorthodox practices.

When I was younger I attended this Christian camp in South Carolina… It was honestly the highlight of my year, every year. There were activities like archery, crafts, and “sports” where we really just played dodgeball every day.

But, I remember there also being group activities, sporadic pillow fights, and of course, there was “battle boats” (not worth the time explaining; just worth noting there must’ve been insurance problems for the camp).

At night, we’d come together and worship outside – I’d never experienced anything like this; it wasn’t just the style of music but, it was the emotion, the passion, and what some might call “charisma.” People not just raising their hands during worship, but swaying and rocking back and forth, praying out loud or going so far as laying face down on the ground.

This was not just new to me but, it was also bizarre for me (as a 10-year-old). What was most bizarre though was when those praying outlaid began to speak unintelligibly; one after another…

This was my first encounter with “glossolalia,” otherwise known as “speaking in tongues.”

What even is “glossolalia” or “speaking in tongues”?

Unknown Language or Gibberish?

It’s honestly been a while since having encountered anything like this… but, as I’m a self-professed “skeptic by nature” I’ve always been hesitant to ever believe that it’s “real” – i.e. that it’s actually a language of the Holy Spirit (HS).

Lucky for us, we’re living in an age of information that’s been saturated with research on just about anything and everything including this “phenomenon of speaking in an unknown language.”

Here’s the “sparknotes” version of this topic…

What Christians Believe Speaking in Tongues to Be…

So, there’re two primary camps to this conversation:

  1. There are the Continuationists.
  2. And, then there are the Cessationists.

The continuationists are the ones who support speaking in tongues and they believe it to be a spiritual gift; “an edification of oneself (1 Corinthians 14:4),” and/or a “prophetic means of communicating lending sign to unbelievers that their God is true (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).”

The letters of Paul speak the most on this topic; most notably, when speaking of speaking in tongues people refer to the Acts 1 and/or Acts 19:5-7; which highlights the day of Pentecost – hence the denominational naming of “Pentecostals” today.

But on the opposite end of this spectrum are those who label this as “Cessationists”.

MacArthur is a cessationist and is one of the most prominent voices in the church against the continuationist beliefs of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement (3).”

Here’s the thing though, as this is most popularly known to be attributed to Christians, it’s not a “language” that is isolated to Christianity…

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