The Tongues of Men and Angels: Tongues part 1

Theology / Biblical Studies

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“Speaking in tongues”? It may sound like gobbledygook, but some people think they are speaking in the language of angels, whatever that is. Are they right?

The last century (give or take a couple of decades) saw the birth of a new movement within Evangelicalism. The Pentecostal phenomenon is now ubiquitous in world Christianity, including within the mainstream churches (where it is more often called a “charismatic renewal,” with the term “Pentecostal” used to describe denominations marked by charismatic practice and theology). I have commented on some aspects of the movement before, in particular its belief in the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” I’m going to write a couple of articles on the distinctive Pentecostal / charismatic phenomenon of “speaking in tongues,” regarded with suspicion by some within the wider church, with amusement by those outside, but widely viewed as evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit by insiders. It seems all the more appropriate that I should publish the first instalment in this series today, on Pentecost Sunday!

There’s a huge amount that I could say, but I want to keep some focus rather than follow-up every issue. I’m going to proceed like this. First, in this article I’ll offer some very scant historical comments and take the first (small) step into the biblical material, beginning with Paul’s reference to speaking with the tongues of “men and angels” in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter thirteen. Then in part two I’ll move on to what Paul has to say in chapter fourteen about the gifts of the Holy Spirit as used in public worship, and lastly I’ll move to the book of Acts (which written later than Paul’s letters, so we are working in the order of writing) and offer some theological comments, hopefully bringing an overall biblical perspective to the significance of “tongues” as a phenomenon in the New Testament.

In the early twentieth century a new phrase entered the Christian vocabulary: “speaking in tongues.” Outside of Christian circles, modern English usage would have prevailed and people would more likely have used the word “languages.” However, “speaking in languages” doesn’t sound particularly interesting – and certainly not mysterious. People know what that is, so anybody who came along and said that there was a new phenomenon of “speaking in languages,” or that speaking in languages was some sort of deep spiritual experience, would not have gained much attention. However, Christians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were in a somewhat different position. In normal life they used the latest form of English, but in church life – and especially in their reading of the Bible – an older English prevailed, namely the English used in the King James Bible (or versions closely based on it), and indeed the expressions used by the writers of the Bible in the ancient world. And so, while in everyday life they used the word “language,” when reading from the Bible they used the word “tongue,” more common in a time before ours, to refer to a language. While “speaking in languages” does not sound particularly interesting, “speaking in tongues” sounds a little more removed from normal life – a bit more mysterious, perhaps. I take the view (doubtless a very unpopular view with some Christians) that if Bibles had always ruthlessly been kept up to date in their usage of English, the modern Pentecostal / charismatic phenomenon of “speaking in tongues” would never have arisen. Who would have looked at biblical references to people speaking in “languages” and thought “Interesting, I wonder what that is. Am I missing out”? On the contrary, the phenomenon sounds fairly ordinary. But as everyday English references to people speaking in the Chinese tongue or the Swahili tongue disappeared, the phrase “speaking in tongues” was able to take on a new meaning. Now, when a person heard that there was a sort of spiritual phenomenon called “speaking in tongues,” the reaction was along the lines of “that sounds different, what is it?” In short then, part of what enabled the Pentecostal understanding of “speaking in tongues” to get off the ground in the modern world was the fact that language changes, and what was once a mundane turn of phrase now sounds more arcane.

If you ask a number of Christians what they mean by “speaking in tongues,” you’ll get a number of answers (by which I mean a number greater than 1). However, given my own experience – first as a young teen observing the Catholic charismatic renewal, later within Pentecostal churches as a member and my experiences since then with many Christians who subscribe to Pentecostal theology (as well as giving the issue some coverage in academic study), I’m going to take a risk and offer a broad definition of speaking in tongues as that phenomenon occurs today in Pentecostal churches and charismatic movements: “Speaking in tongues” is taken here to mean miraculously speaking in a language that you have never learned and do not understand. That language is taken to be a gift given by the Holy Spirit, a language whose main purpose (in practice in Pentecostal churches) is to express yourself to God in a way more perfect than your own naturally learned language. The language is, as a rule, incomprehensible to all listeners and sounds like gibberish.1 Here is a relatively neutral short news story about people speaking in tongues, and based on my own experience I would describe these examples as fairly typical of what takes place in many charismatic settings:

Some things are obvious even at first glance: These people have no idea what they are saying, they have no idea what the other speakers are saying and you have no idea what they are saying. Indeed, you cannot tell by listening to them that they are saying anything at all.

Doesn’t the fact that nobody can tell that anything is being said suggest that nothing is being said? These aren’t really languages at all, are they? Can’t we all plainly hear that? I think the answer is “yes,” but this series is about biblical exegesis. Here is where an important answer is given on behalf of those who speak in tongues, an answer that goes to the very heart of what speaking in tongues amounts to. “True,” our tongues-speaking brother or sister may say, “when we speak in tongues it may sound like gibberish. That’s because it’s not a human language. It’s a heavenly language that we couldn’t possibly understand. See, look: St Paul refers to speaking in tongues as speaking of the tongues of angels in 1 Corinthians 13.” So that comeback is what sends us to our first piece of biblical interpretation.

The thought that “tongues” is a heavenly or angelic language finds expression in many Pentecostal authors. Gordon Fee described the Corinthians’ worship as a place where “all spoke in tongues, the language of angels.”2 You can see right away the transition from biblical terms to Pentecostal terms. In Scripture, glossai (tongues) is a plural term to refer to multiple languages, but as soon as Fee talks about the phenomenon, “tongues” is spoken of as though there were a language called “tongues.” Many writers go even further, using the recently coined but glossolalia, a Greek word meaning speech in tongues. The New Testament contains no such special word for speaking in tongues, and using the word can misleadingly suggest otherwise.

But now to the text. In context, Paul has a major problem with the behaviour of the Corinthians. The way that they are conducting their worship is inconsistent with love. In particular, one of the ways that they have gotten things wrong is in their beliefs and practices surrounding the speaking in other languages (or “tongues” as we might have said in a bygone era). He has several things to say in correcting them (and because he is correcting them and disagrees with them, we can never assume that when Paul describes what people are doing in worship here, he is telling the reader what the gifts of the spirit are really like!). In 1 Corinthians 13, he is correcting them by trying to explain that love is the real measure of spirituality. Love is greater than all of the gifts that the Corinthians think they have. it is in 1 Corinthians 13 that we find that famous litany of love, repeated at so many weddings: Love is patient. Love is kind, etc. But right before that, Paul compares the value of love to the value of a few of the gifts (probably the gifts that the Corinthians were misunderstanding or misusing). Here’s what he wrote in verses 1-3:

I may speak in different languages of people or even angels. But if I do not have love, I am only a noisy bell or a crashing cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy. I may understand all the secret things of God and have all knowledge, and I may have faith so great I can move mountains. But even with all these things, if I do not have love, then I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned. But I gain nothing if I do not have love.3

This is the only passage in the New Testament where there is any innuendo that glossai or languages/tongues spoken by humans might be those of angels. The first thing to observe about it is that this particular passage is not a teaching about what glossai or any of the gifts of the Spirit are actually like. The purpose of this passage is to subordinate those gifts to the practice of acting in love. Tongues are only mentioned in passing as an example.

But in this brief reference, is Pauline giving us a window into his view on tongues, a view that he never sets out, where the gift of languages might really amount to speaking in the language of angels? Gordon Fee thinks so. He draws attention to a little-known passage in the Testament of Job, as follows:

There is some evidence from Jewish sources that the angels were believed to have their own heavenly language (or dialects) and that by means of the “Spirit” one could speak these dialects. Thus in the Testament of Job 48-50 Job’s three daughters are given “charismatic sashes”; when these were put on they allowed Hemera, for example, to speak “ecstatically in the angelic dialect, sending up a hymn to God with the hymnic style of the angels. And as she spoke ecstatically, she allowed ‘The Spirit’ to be inscribed on her garment.”4

This is one reason why Fee maintains that “That the Corinthians at least, and probably Paul, thought of tongues as the language(s) of angels seems highly likely.” Setting aside what the Corinthians may have thought (because remember, they had gotten their view of the gifts of the Spirit pretty messed up, which is why Paul had to write these things in the first place), Fee’s argument from the Testament of Job seems fairly weak for two reasons.

In the first place, it may well be that the passage to which Fee alludes was written later than Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Although we can’t be certain when The Testament of Job (http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/testjob.html) was written, dates range from within the first century BC to the first century AD (the majority of scholars appear to favour the latter), quite possibly by a Jewish sect in Egypt. In all likelihood, Paul had never read this document.

Secondly, it is ridiculous to imagine that anyone actually took this passage to be a true historical account. Angels are rarely encountered in Scripture, but when they are, they are understood in the language of the hearer (an angel, after all, is a messenger). Moreover, in the account of the daughters, they are said to leave their bodies and ascend into heaven, something nobody could observe.5 Of course Fee’s point is not that the event really occurred but only that this is what some people at the time believed. But this is not enough to make his case in a way that is likely to satisfy an Evangelical. Some people somewhere at the time may have believed this. But people at the time believed all sorts of crazy things.

Thirdly – and this is the main point I want to make about 1 Corinthians 13, even if some people believed that the angels had their own language and even if Paul knew about them and even if he agreed with them – something that we know nothing about (phew, just getting past the hurdle of all the ifs is hard work!), St Paul simply does not say here that he speaks in the languages of angels. On the contrary, he uses three hypothetical scenarios: Even if I speak in the languages of men and angels, even “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge” (this is the literal wording, with no “if” in between prophetic powers and the understanding of mysteries), “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,” “if I give away all I have,” and “if I give up my body to be burned.”

Now here is the point: Paul did none of these things. In fact the rhetorical nature of Paul’s tactic here is to set up ridiculous scenarios describing actions that he either couldn’t possibly perform or never had performed, and then saying – but even if I could or did, it wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t have love. Paul did not have prophetic powers to understand every mystery. Paul did not have faith so as to move mountains. Paul did not give away everything he had (he even had the audacity to ask Timothy to bring him his cloak, books and parchments). Paul did not give up his body to be burned (!), and neither did he speak in the languages of men and angels.

As we will see when I discuss the use of languages in 1 Corinthians 14, what has happened in the handling of the “tongues of men and angels” in 1 Corinthians 13 has been a mistake where people pick up the language that Paul is using to rebuke and correct the Corinthians, and interpret it as though this is Paul’s description of the way things really are – when that was never the purpose of this language at all. Whatever the Corinthians might have believed about speaking in other languages, Paul, in his response to their antics, certainly does not tell them that speaking in languages as a divine gift amounts to speaking in the languages of angels.

Glenn Peoples

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  1. There are alleged exceptions to this, namely rare anecdotal tales about a person who spoke in tongues and was understood by a person present at the meeting who recognised some or all of what was said as words in a language they know. []
  2. Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 145. []
  3. I have intentionally used the New Century Version of the Bible here because it uses the modern term “languages,” possibly disabling our tendency to see “tongues” through a Pentecostal lens because of the familiarity of how that word is used. []
  4. The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 630-631 []
  5. As per M. R. James’ translation http://wesley.nnu.edu/sermons-essays-books/noncanonical-literature/noncanonical-literature-ot-pseudepigrapha/testament-of-job/, “Then rose the one whose name was Day (Yemima) and girt herself; and immediately she departed her body, as her father had said, and she put on another heart, as if she never cared for earthly things. And she sang angelic hymns in the voice of angels, and she chanted forth the angelic praise of God while dancing.” []
{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Andrew June 9, 2014, 12:16 am

    Hi Glenn,

    Definitely agree with a lot of what has been said here. Over the years I’v had quite a bit of exposure to this notion of ‘speaking in tongues’ or, more precisely, speaking in angelic languages, but I’v never actually had any such experience of speaking in angelic languages myself. In-fact I was once told by a number of Pentecostals that I wasn’t saved because I hadn’t spoken in tongues!

    It also seems to me that this notion of speaking in tongues (where those ‘tongues’ are allegedly angelic and incomprehensible to ordinary humans) is an inherently gnostic idea.

    Having said that, do you think that there is a legitimate place in worship for ‘speaking in tongues’ where the ‘tongues’ in question are foreign *HUMAN* languages? For instance, there are allegedly cases in which monolingual english speakers find themselves unwittingly preaching the Gospel to those in the congregation who aren’t native English speakers. I’v heard of cases, for instance, where a monolingual English speaker preached the gospel to some Portuguese visitors in his church.

  • Dan June 9, 2014, 1:08 am

    As for the speaking in human languages: As dangerous as anecdotal data can be, I remember reading an article by a linguist/missionary where he listened to an evangelist claim to speak in an unspecified human language. The linguist explained why, linguistically speaking, what he heard could not have possibly been a real language.

    I imagine the situation you allude to could have been different. There was actually a practical reason for Portuguese to be spoken there and I see no reason the Holy Spirit couldn’t have allowed for a one-off miracle there. Of course, this is different from the common charismatic process of ongoing tongues.

  • Andrew June 9, 2014, 9:40 am

    Dan,

    Oh sure! As I may have hinted, I’m really quite skeptical of the popular level practice of ‘speaking in tongues’, I believe I referred to it as a gnostic idea. That’s why, in my first post, I distinguished between speaking in ‘angelic languages’ and speaking in ‘human languages’.

  • Teluog June 9, 2014, 1:37 pm

    Glenn, thank you for zeroing in on the exegesis of the passage in question. Evangelicals need to realize the rhetorical aspects of Scripture and be able to interpret Scripture as God-breathed literature where rhetorical elements need to be taken into consideration.

  • Giles June 10, 2014, 1:05 am

    Sorry to be a compulsive commenter but I really want to know, what happened to the New Testament gift? Paul says these things will pass away with knowledge, when we see face to face. Don’t get me wrong. I see the force of your exegesis plus the evidence from linguists that comtemporary tongues are not languages. I just wonder where the real thing went?

  • Andrew June 10, 2014, 9:43 am

    Actually I’v ever so slightly modified my views on the status of speaking in the tongues of angels since I last commented. Don’t get me wrong I still don’t think that they’re a real gift, but I’m no longer as convinced by my initial assertion that they’re an inherently gnostic idea.

    I heard the suggestion from one of the pastors in this video that Satan cannot understand these languages, thereby allowing the prayer to be coded in such a way that he (that is Satan) cannot interfere in the exchange. Now we might doubt whether these are actual languages, and it does create a mess of additional theological questions, but at the very least, it doesn’t seem inherently gnostic in nature.

  • Glenn June 10, 2014, 9:11 pm

    “Paul says these things will pass away with knowledge, when we see face to face.”

    Giles, I don’t know for sure that Paul said that “these things” (i.e. speaking in other tongues) would pass away, only that the imperfect will pass away when replaced by the perfect. Does that refer to the use of other languages passing away? Maybe. I do have some sympathy for the so-called “cessationist” view on tongues as a plausible view. But I think before we are able to ask where this phenomenon went, we need to know what it was – otherwise it’s possible that we think it went away, but really it never went anywhere, it’s just not what the charismatics think it is.

  • Mick June 11, 2014, 12:01 am

    OK, so is there anyone out there who once experienced the phenomena or gift and who now wants to refute it? Who now sees themselves as having an emotional or religious rush of blood to the head, a temporary hysteria?

  • Glenn June 11, 2014, 12:18 am

    Mick, there are a number of Christians who were once charismatic / pentecostal in thought and practice but who are no longer. I’ve just done an internet search for “former pentecostal” and there are plenty of results that would match what you described.

  • Frank June 11, 2014, 4:58 am

    I became a Christian when I was 19 (late 80’s), and because I had no church experience and my family had only the very briefest of nominal Catholic exposure, my ‘church’ was listening to Keith Green music until I stumbled through a number of churches that felt more like musuems than anything and I finally found a church where it was evident that the people believed that God was alive, could talk, was relevant to every part of life, and therefore a real relationship was not only possible but should be expected – something the other churches lacked, by all appearances.

    This happened to be a nondenominational Charismatic church and, unfortunately, they also believed that ‘tongues’ was a sign of salvation. Being a young Christian I didn’t fully understand many things and I muddled my way through some of the weird stuff, swallowing some of the bath water just so long as there seemed to be a genuine baby around. It wasn’t until the ‘Holy Laughter’ movment was welcomed into this church that I began earnestly questioning much of what they were teaching. I left soon after that.

    I practiced for those few years what I thought, by faith, was speaking in tongues. It wasn’t until after I began questioning their interpretions on other things that I began to question this as well. I am convinced that I was a simple case of a sincere person being sincerely wrong. I was speaking gibberish believing that I was doing what God wanted me to do.

    As an aside, I think it is no coincidence that during the same time I began questioning those Charismatic beliefs I was becaming familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Malcom Muggeridge, Ravi Zacharias, and also the music of Mark Heard, The Call and Daniel Amos. They were a big help. 🙂

  • Giles June 11, 2014, 5:08 am

    I don’t know about cessationism, but I do think if anyone claims to prophesy in God’s name they must be 100% right all the time or they are deserving of death, following the Bible. When people tell me they have a word from God I think “why aren’t you trembling then?” it’s really scandalous how Christians blaspheme in this way, thinking it of no moment when their prophecy is falsified.
    I attended a Pentecostal church once. A man prophesied that God was so pleased with them they would soon have a second congregation. A little later the pastor was caught having an affair and the church split into two. So he was half right.

  • Mick June 11, 2014, 1:14 pm

    When I was searching for God but had not really committed myself I became friends with a group of charismatics in Uniting church denomination in Australia. From all walks, they had a real joy and love, God seemed very real to them but hidden to me. One night I attended a combined church meeting lead by a non-charismatic church. It was as dead as mutton and during the cup of tea afterwards I wandered out to the hall steps to have a smoke. A light fixture above appeared to have a nest of wasps but I paid no attention. Next thing I had a burning pain on my throat, a wasp had got caught between collar and neck and stung me. Within five minutes my throat swelled like a bullfrog, I was having difficulty swallowing and getting dizzy. I told the charismatics I had accompanied, and asked for a lift to a clinic.
    They told me they were going to pray for me, I thought it was a nice gesture but I really wanted medical assistance. They sat me down, prayed over me jabbering in tongues, proclaiming healing. Nothing happened, I was embarrassed and a whole hall full of spectators were clearing back from the scene. Then one of them asked if I believed Jesus today was the same as yesterday. It seemed logical to say yes – Did I believe he still healed – I thought there’s probably good people he does that to so I said yes. ‘Do you believe he wants to heal you’ and showed me the scripture where ‘they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover’ Then started another round of tongues etc while I sat dumb and cringing. Then I had a thought, the bible is true or it’s not, it was Sydney or the bush. I decided that much was true and instantly the pain went and my neck deflated. Later that evening at someones home I asked for prayer, as they prayed someone/something came inside me and I burst out in a torrent of tongues. I have no doubt it was an infilling of the Holy Spirit. I got baptised, started evangelizing among my shipmates, something I would never have done and a small number became converted to Christ.
    I don’t think its a useless gift or an hysterical phenomenon, or something that ceased with the apostles, despite the sometime lack of order and discipline in its use.
    I don’t think either that anyone with an experience is at a disadvantage to someone with a theory.

  • Frank June 11, 2014, 2:15 pm

    “I don’t think that anyone with an experience is at a disadvantage to someone with a theory.”

    Mick, this isn’t meant to discount your experience, but I think the converse of your statement may be equally true: anyone with a theory isn’t at a disadvantage to someone with an experience. The truth is that we cannot help but theorize about our experiences because we naturally seek to understand them.

    I found that my Charismatic experience was a mixed bag of good and bad. The bad part was that it was overwhelmingly emotionally driven, always searching for the experience of God in a ‘miracle’ of some kind, and always in worship were we meant to experience God by culminating in an ecstatic crescendo of ‘tongues.’ This may not be the experience of all Charismatics, but it was my experience of every fellowship that I frequented.

    Still, I agree with A.W. Tozer that experience of God is necessary:

    “Sound Bible exposition is an imperative in the Church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” – The Pursuit of God

    True. But we need more than experience. Otherwise a Mormon’s ‘burning in the bosom’ is as authoritative as our ‘tongues.’ Personally, I don’t find anyone’s experience authoritative or sacrosanct. I’m looking forward to Glenn’s Part II.

  • Glenn June 11, 2014, 6:32 pm

    Mick, with respect, there’s nothing in your comment that I think counts as an explanation of the text in front of us when it comes to what it says about languages. I say that respectfully, but because so often when the intense need and desire of others is to set out the biblical teaching, someone essentially “kicks the can over” (an expression we use here) and tells us their story, as though that answers the question that we are here to answer. How many explanations are there of the sounds coming out of your mouth, given the context? Probably several. But in this series I’ll be hoping to explain what the New Testament says on the subject.

    I also think that you confirm Gordon Fee’s observation that Pentecostals tend to exegete their experience rather than Scripture sometimes.

  • Mick June 11, 2014, 7:33 pm

    All well and good. If you can’t back it with scripture then ditch it, even if you’re doing it in faith. So if I can’t understand it and there’s no foreigner that benefits from hearing in his own language it can’t be from God? How would a foreigner hear without some swivel eyed pentecostal loon uttering in the first place, after all there’s Google Translate they could avail themselves of if they really wanted to hear from God? If you were not able to dismiss the ‘gift’ in today’s world would you honestly desire it? I look forward to your objective exegesis without experiential prejudicial cans rolling around the deck.

  • Glenn June 11, 2014, 8:05 pm

    “How would a foreigner hear without some swivel eyed pentecostal loon uttering in the first place”

    Why must it be a Pentecostal? I don’t see the biblical gift operating in pentecostal practice.

    I’m glad you look forward to the exegesis. 🙂 Your comments on the use of biblical passages in this blog post are also welcomed, should you have any. I just want to remind us that really the point of these posts is the interpretation of Scripture.

  • Brian June 12, 2014, 11:01 am

    Hi Glenn,

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts over the past year, and this is the first time I have felt brave enough to post on your website.

    I wonder of you if you could clarify something for me? Are you saying that speaking in tongues is not a gift of the Holy Spirit – that is, a God given ability for someone to speak in a new language that they have not learned naturally. Or are you simply saying that although Paul may have spoken in earthly languages that were divinely given, it was unlikely that he ever spoke in angelic tongues? In other words are you trying to debunk the Pentecostal view of speaking in tongues or simply making a point that Paul never spoke in the tongues of angels?

    I am a Pentecostal and I have always taken the view that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit where a person is given the ability to speak in a language they have not learned naturally, and that new tongue or language could be in any language either earthly or angelic, like its says in Acts 2v4 – “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

    Also I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to believe that angels would have their own heavenly language(s); yes they can speak in earthly languages too.
    Angelic languages must exist – I would be amazed if they didn’t!

  • Ben June 12, 2014, 3:59 pm

    I really appreciate your exegesis Glenn! Great timing too – we’re going over these passages in church right now (1 Cor 13 last week and 1 Cor 14 this coming week).

  • Bernard June 17, 2014, 6:10 pm

    Dan Said:

    “I imagine the situation you allude to could have been different. There was actually a practical reason for Portuguese to be spoken there and I see no reason the Holy Spirit couldn’t have allowed for a one-off miracle there. Of course, this is different from the common charismatic process of ongoing tongues.”

    Granted, I believe God can make this happen. I just see no reason why someone would start to speak in portuguese in an english group while under the Spirit’s influence. Not without an interpreter, and even with one, I don’t get why God would continue speaking to his people in a manner that always has people wondering if it [really] happened. If there’s so much doubt going around, maybe there’s a reason for it: it wasn’t a real miracle.

    If God wants to speak to a congregation, why not just have people prophesy and let the congregation pass judgement? Better yet, why not speak with an audible voice from heaven? Why not do something that doesn’t require fallible humans to constantly scurry around making sense of (and interpreting) strange phenomena in so many different ways that it’s hard to see unity in such a group.

    It is always a case of some miracle happening in some fashion that cannot be objectively verified to be a miracle by an entire group who witnesses it. There are always skeptics who doubt it, and rightly so.

    If God’s gonna do a miracle, somehow I think He’d choose less confusing, less obscure, and less deliberately divisive ways of demonstrating his presence.

  • Glenn June 20, 2014, 6:51 pm

    Uber Genius – you’ve posted a comment using a pseudonym, and you did not use a real email address, so I was not able to contact you about it. Please contact me with your real name and email address if you would like this comment restored. Thanks.

  • Marius July 2, 2014, 10:52 pm

    Love it. I’m eagerly awaiting part 2 and 3.

  • Ben July 12, 2014, 3:48 am

    Hey Glenn,

    Great to have out out at HBU last night. We really enjoyed having you around.

    I’m not sure how the Pentecostal movement is expressing itself in your parts of the world, but the distinction between so-called first/second wave Pentecostalism and third wave (or “neo-charismatic” according to wikipedia) is important to maintain. As a part of that third wave, the Vineyard denomination for instance has a much more balanced view on the expression of spiritual gifts and particularly on the “baptism of the Spirit” as not an experience separate from conversion. Now that some 20% of worldwide Christians are affiliated with a Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition, it’s hard to paint in broad brush strokes for such a diverse conglomeration of views.

    A small niggling point, but it is a little harsh to critique people in the early 1900’s in the US for not using a more up-to-date translation than the KJV. Without 100 options to choose from today, they just used the translation available.

  • Glenn July 14, 2014, 6:18 am

    Hi Ben – it was really nice to meet and interact with you.

    I agree that all Pentecostal movements can’t be lumped together. In New Zealand we do maintain the distinction (though not always explicitly) between more traditional Pentecostal and “third wave.” I recall when the so-called “Toronto Blessing” was the latest news, and the majority of vocal critics in New Zealand were Pentecostals themselves. I do lump all tongues speaking together though, so long as it takes the form of speaking in what sounds like a gibberish that the speaker did not learn. So it’s not really the Pentecostal Churches that I have in my sights, rather the phenomenon of speaking in tongues.

    I didn’t mean to criticise the early Pentecostal movement for using the KJV. I only meant to say that in the modern English speaking world of the time, different language was being used from that in the KJV, so the idiosyncratic use of the word “tongues” arose at least partly because of that disconnect. So what I meant is that if English Bibles had been kept up to date, this might not have happened. But you’re absolutely right, it wasn’t the Pentecostals’ fault that the KJV with its outdated English was still being used so widely.

  • Ben Stasiewicz January 8, 2016, 7:31 am

    Hey Glenn, Just to let you know the youtube video you link to in this article no longer exists.

  • Derek September 18, 2016, 8:54 am

    It has really amazed me that in all the biblical theories and views according to “Paul”, no one has emphasized on 1 Corinthians 14:2, written by the same Paul which reads
    “For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries in the Spirit”.

    now according the Paul here; there is indeed a diversity of tongues that is unknown to man(The Language of the Spirit).
    Paul again wrote in Romans 8:26; Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered”.
    27′;And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God”

    In summary, Paul has indeed made it clearly known that there is a dimension in prayer where our natural known language becomes limited and there comes the breaking forth of spiritual language that serves as intercession according to will of God.

    So it amazes me why the focal point is on 1 corinthians 13:1, why? because the 14th chapter and the 2nd verse actually clarifies everything.

    language of the spirit/tongues of angels/diversity of tongues may sound gibberish to the natural Man but in the supernatural it decodes mysteries.

    And you may not understand until you actually receive the gift.

  • Emman October 12, 2017, 8:20 am

    Thanks Derek,

    Glenn one thing I just want to say is that letter kills but it is the spirit that brings life.

    Tongues are very real. Its a mystery but carries much potency.

    Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. He that speaks in tongues speak not unto men but unto God. The bible also says no man understands him however in the spirit he speaks mysteries. Halleluia.

    Also Paul said while cautioning the excesses of the corinthians said that I thank God that I speak in tongues more than ye all.

    I was a very good christian but powerless and coming under various spiritual attacks that I almost began to question the bible and the power of God until I met sone friends.

    My life took a new dimension. Whether we like it or not, as Christians we are in a battle and tongues is one of the weapons in our arsenal but what ee dont believe in will not work for us. Proper and balanced teaching matters. Letter kills but the spirit brings life! God be praised!

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