Tongues: A Spiritual Gift for Today?

            Since Christ’s ascension, theological differences tend to weaken the unity of the Church.  However, through the differences intense study is birthed, debate and discussion flow, and Christians come together to find solid ground.  Historically, councils have been called to determine which view would stand as orthodox and which would be deemed heretical.  In some cases, the differing views were decidedly nonessential and allowed to co-exist.  While present-day Christians rarely see ecumenical councils called to rule upon new theological ideas, we do find that differences thrive still to this day.  Often, these differences are weighed out in the court of common practice.  At present, the North American Church is divided on its stance regarding miraculous spiritual gifts, most notably, the activity commonly referred to as ‘speaking in tongues’ or simply just ‘tongues.’  After an examination of this gift of the Spirit, this post will argue against both the cessationist viewpoint and the hyper-Spirit-filled stance in favor of the adoption of an open, but still cautious approach to tongues.[1]  In making this argument, attempts will be made to answer some important questions on this matter: Were tongues of the New Testament a known language, an unknown language, both, or not a language at all?  If indeed tongues exist today, can it be expected that today’s tongues should look like the examples found in Acts, or like the teaching in Corinthians (if indeed they are different), or like something else?  Is speaking in tongues a necessary proof that one is born again or filled with the Holy Spirit?  Does this gift come through a second conversion experience, commonly referred by hyper-Spirit-filled Christians to as a ‘baptism of/in the Holy Spirit’?  Have these miraculous spiritual gifts (specifically tongues) ceased, or is it possible that they might be manifested today?

Before examining the various experiences of tongues that appear to be from a source other than the Holy Spirit, those from Christians of the early Church, and the tongues experiences as recorded in the New Testament, an understanding from where the word and activity are derived, and what it means, is necessary. 
‘Tongues’ commonly comes from the Greek word, glossa, meaning either ‘tongue’ or ‘language,’ although Strong suggests that it “sometimes refers to the supernatural gift of tongues.”[2]  Perschbacher expands on this meaning, adding that in reference to Acts 2:11, 1 Corinthians 13:1, and elsewhere, glossa might be thought of as, “a language not proper to a speaker, a gift or faculty of such language.”[3]  On the other hand, Samarin, a linguist, defines glossa as “a single continuous act of glossolalia,” compounding the simple definition previously provided.[4]  Under this definition, what then is glossolalia?  It is worth noting that a cursory search of the Greek New Testament for the Greek word glossolalia—the combination of the Greek words glossa and lalia, meaning “speech” or “way of speaking”—turns up no usage.[5]  Glossolalia, as defined by Samarin, is first, “a vocal act believed by the speaker to be a language showing rudimentary language-like structure but no consistent word-meaning correspondences recognizable by either the speaker or hearers; (in Christianity) speech attributed to the Holy Spirit in languages unknown to the speaker and incomprehensible without divinely inspired interpretation”; and second, “(loosely) unintelligible speech, gibberish.”[6]  While glossa is the word most often used in association of the Spirit gift of tongues recorded in the Bible, glossolalia is the activity generally thought of when understanding ‘speaking in tongues’ today. 
In seeking to define ‘speaking in tongues,’ Grudem states, “Speaking in tongues is prayer or praise in syllables not understood by the speaker.”[7]  Grudem’s definition however, does not leave room for the other activities spoken in tongues as seen in Acts and Corinthians, such as actual communication to foreign listeners.  It also raises a question of control of the audible message if the speaker does not understand what is being vocalized.  Neither Grudem’s definition, nor Samarin’s first definition, address whether true speaking in tongues as gifted by the Holy Spirit is only a practice of Christians and not any other form of religious nor non-religious exercise.

Tongues Not Associated With The Holy Spirit.  The practice of speaking in unintelligible utterances is not proprietary to Christianity.  As Osborne explains, “In the ancient world, ecstatic utterances, trances, and frenzied behaviors were commonly associated with pagan prophets.”[8]  Examples are numerous.  In the Eleventh-century B.C., Egypt documented ecstatic speech resembling speaking in tongues.[9]  This behavior was “believed to be revelations from the gods, made up of foreign words and senseless noises,” states May.  “The more mysterious and incomprehensible these formulas were, the greater their power was thought to be.”[10]  May also holds that it is probable (but not entirely convincing) that India may also have had instances of ecstatic speech or glossolalia at that same time.[11]  Both the Prophetess of Delphi and the Sibylline Priestess of the Hellenistic era spoke in unknown utterances.[12]  A trance-like state and speaking in tongues were part of the Dionysian rituals.[13]  In South America, there are illustrations of rudimentary glossolalia suggesting that Incans, Toltecs, and Aztecs may also have practiced speaking in tongues in their ceremonies.[14]
            The Taisho Tripitaka records the 196 A.D. an instance of the wife of Ting-in who would become ill and speak in foreign languages she had not previously known.  Asking for a writing instrument, she would write down what she had spoken, only later to learn from a monk that she had written a sutra.[15]  In 1892, an American woman given the pseudonym case-name “Helene Smith,” apparently would fall into trances and speak what those around her called “Martian language.”  When studied by Flournoy, it was determined that her speech was grammatically dependent upon the French language and showed a connection to Sanskrit.[16]  In the 1840s, the Quakers spoke in tongues.[17]  According to May, “Joseph Smith instructed the early Mormons to rise upon their feet and to speak in tongues.”[18]  The Doctrine and Covenants records that Joseph Smith received a revelation on March 8, 1831 giving instruction for the unified patterns for the conducting of church services.[19]  Part of this instruction includes that the members ask for spiritual gifts, of which the subsequent list features “speaking in tongues.”[20]  The shaman of the Semang pygmies speaks in what they call “celestial spirits.”[21]  The Gusi cult in North Borneo prays in a language they believe is only known by the spirits.[22]  And the Eskimo spiritual leaders of the Hudson Bay, Chukchee, Koryak, Asiatic, Lapps, Yakuts, Tangus, and Samoyeds all adhere to the use of a spirit language.[23]
            While this non-exhaustive survey demonstrates that the behavior of speaking in tongues is not exclusive to the New Testament Christian Church, it is important for one to realize that the existence of these other glossolalia experiences does not discredit tongues in the Church, nor does it lend greater support for biblical tongues.  To use these examples in any argument other than to show that glossolalia has been (and still is) practiced outside the Christian faith is spurious and akin to comparing the consumption of bread and wine during a business meeting to the practice of celebrating of Holy Communion.  Indeed, the specific nature of these examples is difficult to determine, and the large scope of experiences does little to help define the biblical understanding of tongues that are causing division in the Church.  To narrow the focus, I will now briefly examine some historical use of tongues in the post-New Testament Church.

Tongues After The New Testament.  Around 172 A.D., a prophetic movement surfaced in Phrygia, what is now Turkey.  It was lead and named after Montanus, a new convert to Christianity, and featured prophecies spoken in Spirit led utterances.[24]  Other leaders of the group included two prophetesses—Pricilla and Maximilla—who presumably also spoke in tongues.[25]  The group’s most noteworthy adherent was Tertullian, who also spoke favorable of the practice of speaking in tongues.[26]  Although the Montanism lasted well into the Third Century, the synods of bishops in Asia, as well as church leaders in other areas, condemned it.[27] 
            The topic of tongues, especially in his later years, also appears in the work of Origen.  He held that glossa is a reference to known world languages (often drawing references back to the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11), and Paul, Origen believed, through the gifting of the Spirit, spoke nearly all the languages of the world.[28]  Irenaeus also spoke highly of tongues.[29]  But despite the positions of some early Church Fathers, the practice in the Western Church was nearly non-existent by the Fourth Century.[30]  According to Osborne, “Chrysotom was quite negative, and Augustine declared it had been given only for the NT times.”[31]  However, the practice may have continued in the Eastern Church well into the Middle Ages.[32]  “Luther and Calvin both spoke positively of the gift,” writes Osborne, “and some believe Luther actually had had such experiences.”[33]  However, Mill (rightly) suggests that this is highly debatable.[34]  For over a decade in the 1730s, a group known as the Huguenots on Southern France experienced speaking in tongues, as did a group of Catholic pietists around the same time.[35]  In the 1830s, the Methodists experienced glossolalia.[36]  And in 1850s Russia, a Pentecostal-type movement was born and is reported to have lasted almost 100 years.[37]
            The opening of the Twentieth-Century saw the origin of what is dividing the Church today.  In 1901 at the Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, it is reported that Charles Parham laid hands on a woman named Agnes Ozman and prayed that she receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”  Ozman then spoke Chinese for three days, unable to speak in English.  Twelve other students are also reported to have received this second experience baptism.[38]  Parham concluded that this gift was a sign that the end-time was at hand.  He also believed glossolalia was a gift of known world languages.  “Spirit-filled believers,” records Burgess, “could fan out and preach the gospel message without the painstaking process of learning a new language.”[39]  The students held that their experiences were the same as that seen in Acts 2 and served as “indisputable proof of the end-time Holy Spirit baptism.”[40]  While this was the start of the Pentecostal movement, it did not pick up steam until 1906 when W. J. Seymour lead a glossolalia movement now named the “Azusa Street Revival” in Los Angeles, California.  The fervor lasted two years and brought much attention to the Pentecostal movement.[41]  Similar outbreaks of revival glossolalia have occurred throughout the Twentieth-Century, such as the ‘Toronto Blessing’ in 1994, but the one most worth noting occurred in 1967.  Laurentin reports that in a variety of locations across America, Catholics—mainly professors and laymen, but also some priests—experienced speaking in tongues.  Many of the occurrences were separate from the others and hardly any were aware of each other.[42]
            While these speaking in tongues experiences are thought provoking, Christians should follow the advice of Paul: “test everything; hold fast to what is good.”[43]  It is at this point that my examination of the gift of tongues will turn to the New Testament.

Tongues in the New Testament.  Luke records biblical examples of speaking in tongues in the second, tenth, and nineteenth chapters of the book of Acts.  These are descriptive stories that might prove helpful in understanding this behavior.  In addition, Paul teaches on this topic in his first letter to the Corinthians.  Chapters 12 through 14 cover a wide breadth of material but are primarily focused on the gifts of the Spirit.  However, it is important to note that Paul is specifically addressing the church in Corinth.  It may very well be that the experiences recorded in Acts and the experiences addressed in First Corinthians are historical events and do not serve as a normative instruction for the gift of tongues today.  On the other hand, if we are to treat both Acts and Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as nothing but historical documents, what value are they for the Church today? 
            Because Luke records the first instance of speaking in tongues, we will begin with the narrative found in the second chapter of Acts.  In verses 1-3, Luke records that on the day of Pentecost, 120 people were together in the Upper Room when the sound like rushing wind filled the house.  What looked like fiery tongues came down and rested on them.  Calvin suggests that the wind and visible tongues served as a way to “stir up the disciples” (and for us, “awake all our senses”) so there would be no mistake that the Spirit had come as Christ promised.[44]  Of the three accounts recorded in Acts where people speak in tongues, this is the only occurrence that is preceded by noise or a visual sign.  Verse 4 reads, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[45]  Here, we see that “all” were filled; and Lea and Black argue that in this instance, “The filling of the Holy Spirit appears to be a state in which a person is controlled by the Holy Spirit for service.”[46]  It is also seen that before the word ‘tongues,’ is the word ‘other,’ in the Greek, heteros, meaning “other” but also “another’s,” “altered,” or “strange.”[47]  As the passage continues it becomes apparent that these “other tongues” can be understood (with out the need for an interpreter) by a large variety of foreigners, each hearing in his native language.[48]  Most were perplexed but some accused the speakers of being drunk.[49]  While it is clear that tongues in this event were a known language, it is unclear why some in the crowd would mockingly say that the speakers were drunk.  To what aspect of this event were the mockers addressing?  Bruce does not clear up this question, but he does draw a parallel between these mockers and Paul’s idea of visitors to the church in Corinth.  He writes, “Paul, who had the gift of glossolalia himself, had to warn the Corinthian Christians that a stranger entering one of their meetings when they were all ‘speaking with tongues’ would certainly conclude that they were mad (1 Cor. 14:23).  So on this occasion there were some in the crowd who dismissed the strange event with a jibe.”[50]  The event at Pentecost was not only the first experience where speaking in tongues is recorded, it served to signal that the Spirit was now with the people as Jesus had promised.  Duffield and Van Cleave write, “The manifestation of the Spirit of the Day of Pentecost was the original outpouring of the empowerment of the Church.”[51]  But given that Acts records other instances of the falling of the Holy Spirit on people groups, and subsequently those people speaking in tongues (which will be examined shortly), how should the other events be seen if this event at Pentecost was merely a sign?  Are the other events also signs of specific occurrences or are they an explanation of a normative experience for all believers?  Only after more of the biblical material is examined can an attempt be made to answer this question.
            The next event comes in Chapter ten.  Acts 10:44-48 records Peter’s experience as he preached to Cornelius, a Gentile, and Cornelius’ household.  In this case, the Holy Spirit fell upon people who were not previously believers or baptized with water, so it was not a second experience, but a first.[52]  Verse 46 records that they (meaning Peter and the circumcised believers that came with him) witnessed the new believers speaking in tongues.  This time there is no mention of ‘other,’ and nothing is recorded to indicate that the speakers could be understood or that the language they were speaking was a known world language.  As previously stated, there is no mention of the sound of wind or tongues of fire coming down.  However, when Peter explained this event to the church in Jerusalem, he said, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.”[53]  Therefore, it is safe to assume that these two events were alike in at least some very important ways that Peter and the others understood.  If the purpose of the event at Pentecost was to ring in a new area of the Holy Spirit, what then was the purpose for this event at Cornelius’ house?  In speaking first about Pentecost, Wade writes,
The purpose of this miracle seems to have been to serve as credentials for the message they were about to bring.  The miracle in the house of Cornelius served a similar purpose.  It convinced Cornelius and his household that the message brought by Peter was indeed from God.  But, more importantly, it convinced Peter and his Jewish companions that the gospel should also be made available to the Gentiles.”[54]

Wade, it seems, believes this event was specifically for Peter and Cornelius, and not much of an instruction for us today.
            Acts 19:1-7 is the final recorded tongues event in Luke’s book; but it is significant because it involves Paul, who outlines instructions about the gift of tongues to the church in Corinth.  Here, Paul finds twelve disciples who were baptized into John’s baptism (that is, the baptism of repentance) but had not received the Holy Spirit when they believed.[55]  Considering John baptized them, they had to have been baptized before Pentecost.  It seems that these believers might not have known much of Christ or the gospel at all.  Verse 5 tells us they were baptized in the name of Jesus, but were unaware of the Holy Spirit.  When Paul laid his hands on them, “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.”[56]  Like the event in Chapter 10, there is no mention of noise or visible tongues of fire.  There is also no way to know if what they were speaking was an earthly language or not.  While this passage is frequently used in support of second experiences after Pentecost, note that Paul asks if they received the Spirit “when you believed?”[57]  It is as if Paul is suggesting that is when it should have happened.  However, Maclaren argues, “this question suggests that the possession of the Holy Spirit is the normal condition of all believers”; however, “the outer methods of His bestowment vary: sometimes He is given after baptism, and sometimes, as to Cornelius before it; sometimes by laying on of Apostolic hands, sometimes without it.”[58]
            If the instances recorded in Acts were the only instances of speaking in tongues available to us, some clear conclusions could be drawn.  First, because in all of Acts there is only examples of  132 people plus all those at Cornelius’ home speaking in tongues, it might be thought that speaking in tongues was not such a significant event that it served as proof of being filled with the Spirit.  Paul is never recorded in the book of Acts speaking in tongues even though in his letter to the Corinthians he speaks in tongues more than all of them.  Second, it is clear enough from the first recorded event that the tongues were a known language (but previously unknown to the speaker).  It is likely that at the second event, being just like the first, known languages were also spoken.  And there is really no way to tell from what is recorded about the third event.  And third, it would seem that receiving the Spirit can, and most likely, happens for us today when we believe, but only if what is recorded in Acts is normative.  However, Acts is not the only New Testament source for information on tongues.
            Carson and Moo explain that the church in Corinth was experiencing some problems.  It was not as if they were going back to their pagan faith, instead, they were learning what it was to be Christian.  Not fully grasping the meaning of salvation, or how to live in the shadow of the cross, they engaged in one-upmanship.  Those with more knowledge began to use it to crush the weaker Christians.  And in this environment, according to Carson and Moo, “Which charismatic gift they have becomes far more important than whether or not they love brothers and sisters in Christ.”[59]  Therefore, the letter to the Corinthians should be recognized, in part, as a letter of instruction to a church that is grossly misusing the spiritual gift of tongues, rather than one that serves as a model for all the Church for all time.
            Starting in Chapter 12 of First Corinthians, Paul explains to the church the proper attitude and use of the spiritual gifts.  He teaches that they, including tongues, are given to each person for the common good.[60]  But although all gifts are needed in the body, all do not receive the same gift, including the gift of “various kinds of tongues.”[61]  Specifically, Paul writes rhetorically, “Do all speak with tongues?”[62]  And Paul calls this church to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” so he can show them a “better way.”[63]  At this point, it would seem obvious that at least some in the church might have the gift of tongues, but that is merely speculation. 
            Chapter 13 opens with a rather complex statement.  Paul says whether he “speaks in tongues of men and of angels” but is without love, his is a noisy gong.[64]  What does Paul mean by ‘tongues of angles’?  Barclay argues it is just poetic language and the greater point is that no matter how amazing a person might be, he is still nothing without love.[65]  On the other hand, Thrall contends that Paul is referring to “the inspired outpouring of ecstatic but unintelligible speech.”[66]  Duffield and Van Cleave argue that some tongues, like what was seen at Pentecost, are earthly languages, used for the benefit of spreading the Gospel; but, as Paul indicates, the language of angles is the “new tongue” referenced in Mark 16:17, which is used for praise and prayer through love.  They call this a “prayer language.”[67]  I believes it is this passage, more than any of the others on tongues, that has caused such a division in today’s Church.  Too often this passage is used (potentially incorrectly) as a lens of interpretation for all the other related passages.
             After encouraging the church to love one another, Paul moves to some instruction on prophecy, tongues, and orderly worship.  The meaning of these instructions generally require an understanding of the nature of New Testament tongues; however, Paul does provide some valuable guidelines.  Unlike what was seen in Acts, the idea of an interpreter of tongues is present.  If there is not an interpreter, a person speaking in tongues has no benefit to the congregation, but only to himself.  Paul does indicate however, that the speaker is still speaking to God.[68]  But this is not presented in a bad light because Paul still wants his readers to speak in tongues (and even more so, prophesy).[69]  There is an indication that Paul believes these tongues are language, not just meaningless utterances, but this does not eliminate the possibility of an angle language.[70]  If one does speak in a tongue but there is nobody to interpret, Paul suggests that person prays for the gift of interpretation, clearly indicating that the speaker does not know what is being said by his own mouth.[71]  This is made more apparent as Paul argues about praying in a tongue and praying in his mind.  While one has the ability to be silent if there are already two people speaking in a tongue, there is a hint that the speaker has no control over the message.[72]  Finally, Paul says,
In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”  Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.  If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?  But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.[73]

By this passage, it would seem that the tongues in Corinth did not serve as a sign like those at Pentecost, possibly because there was no foreign unbelievers in Corinth to hear the message spoken though the tongue.

            As the church looks at tongues today, a spectrum of ideas is generated.  On the one side, is a group that not only is practicing some form of glossolalia, but also holds that it is proof of a second experience of conversion and, in fact, is the initial evidence that the Holy Spirit has taken up residents within the believer.  On the other side is the idea that tongues are not to be practiced because the gift ceased in, or shortly after, the First Century.  These ideas, from one side of the spectrum to the other (and everything in between) often appear in doctrinal statements of belief, some times articulated plainly, sometimes coded.  In the North American Church, various positions are hotly debated, sometimes splitting churches, often dividing unity.  Who is right?   

The Hyper-Spirit-Filled Position.  While charismatic church groups are often called Pentecostal, this is not their technical name unless they follow their history back to the Bethel School events in 1901, according to Gundry.  He argues that in addition to the historical connection, Pentecostals hold to “the following doctrines: (1) All the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament are intended for today; (2) baptism in the Holy Spirit is an empowering experience subsequent to conversion and should be sought by Christians today; and (3) when baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs, people will speak in tongues as a ‘sign’ that they have received this experience.”[74]  Charismatic groups are very much like Pentecostals except for the unshared history.  They tie their history to the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960 and 1970s; however, they do not all hold to the same unified doctrines like the Pentecostals.[75]  The Third Wave’s historical roots go back only to the 1980s.  They contend that tongues do exist and that rather than serving as a second experience, the baptism of the Spirit occurs at conversion; the subsequent signs are merely “fillings.”[76]  For the purposes of this paper, these three groups have been collectively assigned the name ‘hyper-Spirit-filled.’
            Referring to Acts 2:19, Oss, a hyper-Spirit-filled Christian, says, “the last days are characterized by ‘wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below.”[77]  He and many other hyper-Spirit-filled Christians believe that speaking in tongues (and the other miraculous gifts) are these very signs.  Oss also argues that receiving the baptism of Holy Spirit is a “necessary empowerment” to witness and to be of service. [78]  He does not go so far as to say it is necessary for salvation; although, it is a second and distinct experience, whether it happens at the same time as conversion or later.[79]  Duffield and Van Cleave state that giving utterances as directed by the Spirit is the initial and immediate evidence that one is filled with the Spirit.  They claim that this experience will always be accompanied by glossolalia.[80]  When challenged with the conversion events that do not record evidences of speaking in tongues, Duffield and Van Cleave argue, “It is true that three accounts say nothing of tongues, but the omission is due to the brevity of those accounts.”[81]

 The Cessationist Position.  The cessationist holds that the miraculous gifts, including speaking in tongues, ended either at the death of the apostles or after the canonization of Scripture.[82]  The gifts were used to establish the church but are no longer needed today.[83]  Many cessationists look for support in First Corinthians 13:8-13.[84]  In part, Paul writes, “Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease, as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.”[85]  But rather than turning to this argument, Graffin instead suggests that these signs were the “mark of the apostles” and if we can agree that there are no apostles today, then we should be able to accept that there are also no tongues.[86]  He argues that the apostles made a “deposit,” that is the cannon, at which point there was no longer a need of the signs to establish their credibility.[87]  He further contends that having any revelation from tongues or prophecy would allow the church to place them above the authority of scripture.[88]  And most cessationists would agree with Gaffin’s statement, “Pentecost belongs to the history of salvation, not the order of salvation.”[89] Cessationists, it would seem, feel the passages on tongues in Acts and First Corinthians are descriptive, not normative.

            As both the biblical and extra-biblical evidence surrounding speaking in tongues is examined, one thing is clear.  Neither the hyper-Spirit-fill nor the cessationist position is correct.  The hyper-Spirit-filled position seems to run into problems on numerous levels.  While the claims of the 1901 Bethel School event indicated that the recipients were speaking earthly languages (I am not arguing that this was not the case here), the present-day hyper-Spirit-filled churches seek a “prayer language,” or as Paul put it, tongues of angels.  This prayer language does not appear to be supported in the book of Acts, leaving only a small selection of scripture—potentially only part of one verse—among the body of evidence from which to find support.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians makes it clear that not all will receive the gift of tongues, yet the hyper-Spirit-filled position demands that speaking in tongues is the immediate indicator that one has the Spirit dwelling within, and has had a second and “necessary” baptism experience.  To the issue of initial evidence, Synan writes, “In reading the New Testament, one cannot find a statement which specifically names glossolalia as the one ‘initial evidence’ of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”[90]  And to the idea of two separate baptism events, Erickson says, “Baptism by the Spirit appears to be, if not the equivalent to conversion and new birth, at least simultaneous with them.”[91]  He further argues that the cases in Acts where the events were not simultaneous were because that time was a transition period between Christ and the Holy Spirit.[92]
            The cessationist position is not as complicated.  Where they argue that the hyper-Spirit-filled position has built up the Scriptures to mean more than they say, the cessationist has stripped away too much meaning from the Scriptures.  It seems they are unwilling to allow for the miraculous sovereign power of God to manifest itself today.  In addressing the cessationist position, Saucy writes, “The New Testament does not explicitly teach the cessation of certain gifts at a particular point in the experience of the church.  It is therefore impossible to say on the basis of biblical teaching, that certain gifts cannot occur at any given time according to God’s sovereign purpose.”[93]  And in light of Mark 3:22-30, one should approach the cessationist view cautiously.  Erickson says, “One cannot rule in a priori and categorical fashion that a claim of glossolalia is spurious.  In fact, it may be downright dangerous, in the light of Jesus’ warnings regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, to attribute specific phenomena to demonic activity.”[94]  What than are we to do? 
I am arguing that we must remain open to the possibility of the gift of tongues as given by the Holy Spirit, but also remain cautious. It is not the exercise of tongues that raises concern; it is the teaching that tongues is somehow a requirement of a faithful Christian life. Also alarming is the excessive over-emotional use of glossolalia in some churches and the absolute silence of any working of the Holy Spirit in others.  To react by saying that tongues cannot happen today, as do the cessationists, nearly rejects the power and wonder of God.  I find both of these positions unacceptable.  As a community, and as individuals, we must constantly test what we see against the Scriptures, and we should commit this specific theological difficulty to prayer.  In time, God may reveal concrete answers to his people.  Is this a cop-out?  No, it is responsible approach to Scripture.
The issue of tongues is a difficult one in the Church today.  By no means has this post resolved the issue, given that most of the problem comes from the interpretation of the same pool of scriptures and this is but one interpretation.  Certainty, more exegesis is needed; more conversation is necessary; more prayer required, so that one at some point, the Church will no longer be divided by tongues, but instead united in love.  This should be our prayer; it is mine. 

Barclay, William. The Letters to the Corinthians. The Daily study Bible series. Philadelphia:
     Westminster Press, 1975.
Bruce, F. F. Commentary on the Book of the Acts. The New international commentary on the
     New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973.
Burgess, Stanley M., Gary B. McGee, and Patrick H. Alexander. Dictionary of Pentecostal and
     Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids, Mich: Regency Reference Library, 1988.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 18. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2009.
Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah:
     The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981.
Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los
     Angles, Calif: Foursquare Media, 2008.
Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Baker reference library. Grand
     Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001.
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids:
     Mich, Zondervan, 1994.
Gundry, Stanley N., ed. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views. Grand Rapids, Mich:
     Zondervan Pub, 1996.
Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message.
     Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Maclaren, Alexander. Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 12. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
Mills, Watson E., ed. Speaking in Tongues: A Guide to Research on Glossolalia. Grand Rapids,
     Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1986.
Perschbacher, Wesley J., and George V. Wigram. The New Analytical Greek Lexicon. Peabody,
     Mass: Hendrickson, 1990.
Robeck, Cecil M. Charismatic Experiences in History. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers,
Samarin, William J. Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism.
     New York: Macmillan, 1972.
Strong, James, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson. The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive
     Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2001.
Wilson, Mark W, ed. Spirit and Renewal: Essays in Honor of J. Rodman Williams. Journal of
     Pentecostal Theology, 5. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

     [1] Gundry argues that there is not a solidified name behind the large group of Evangelicals that take this position and has opted to name the group “open but caution.”  This paper will follow this example.  Stanley N. Gundry, ed, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub, 1996), 13.   
     [2] James Strong, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson, The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2001), 1599.
     [3] Wesley J. Perschbacher, and George V. Wigram, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1990), 81.
     [4] William J. Samarin, Tongues of Men and Angles: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism (New York: Macmillan, 1972), xvii.  
     [5] Strong, 1623.
     [6] Samarin, xvii.
      [7] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Mich, Zondervan, 1994), 1070.
     [8] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001), 1206.
     [9] Elwell, 1206.
     [10] Watson E. Mills, ed., Speaking in Tongues: A Guide to Research on Glossolalia (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1986), 54.
     [11] Mills, 54.
     [12] Elwell, 1206. 
     [13] Elwell, 1206. 
     [14] Mills, 64.
     [15] Mills, 66.
     [16] Mills, 55. 
     [17] Mills, 54.  While it is not this author’s intention to engage in a debate weather Quakers are Christian, some hold to a universalism that is in conflicts of some of the general doctrines of Christianity. 
     [18] Mills, 54.  Many Mormons argue that they are Christians; however, the Mormons of the 1800s just as the LDS today, do not subscribe to many of the doctrines of Christianity that orthodox Christianity hold as essential. 
     [19] This author is unsure if this practice is still a part of the LDS church services or in the private lives of Mormons today.
     [20] Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), Sec 46:13-26. 
     [21] Mills, 59. 
     [22] Mills, 59-60. 
     [23] Mills, 59. 
     [24] Elwell, 790.
     [25] Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1975), 89.
     [26] Elwell, 1207.
     [27] Elwell, 790.
     [28] Cecil M. Robeck, Charismatic Experiences in History (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), 119-122.  
     [29] Elwell, 2017
     [30] Elwell, 2017.
     [31] Elwell, 1208.
     [32] Elwell, 1208.
     [33] Elwell, 1208. 
     [34] Mills, 184-186.
     [35] Mills, 184-186. 
     [36] Mills, 184-186. 
     [37] Mills, 184-186. 
     [38] Stanley M. Burgess, Gary B. McGee, and Patrick H. Alexander, Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, Mich: Regency Reference Library, 1988), 850.
     [39] Burgess, 850. 
     [40] Burgess, 850. 
     [41] Mills, 244-259. 
     [42] Mills, 235-242.
     [43] 1Thes 5:21 (ESV).
     [44] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 18 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2009), 74.
     [45] Acts 2:4 (ESV).
     [46] Thomas D. Lea, Thomas and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 292.  
     [47] Strong, 1612. 
     [48] Acts 2:5-11.
     [49] Acts 2:12-13. 
     [50] F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, The New international commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1973), 65.  
     [51] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angles, Calif: Foursquare Media, 2008), 324.  
     [52] Acts 10:47-48.
     [53] Acts 11:15 (ESV).
     [54] John William Wade, Acts: Unlocking the Scriptures for You, Standard Bible studies (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Pub, 1987), 23.
     [55] Acts 19:1-7. 
     [56] Acts 19:6 (ESV).
     [57] Acts 19:2 (ESV). 
     [58] Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 170.
     [59] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005), 428.      
     [60] I Cor 12:7.
     [61] 1 Cor 12:8-11.
     [62] 1 Cor 12:30 (ESV). 
     [63] 1 Cor 12:31 (ESV).
     [64] 1 Cor 13:1 (ESV). 
     [65] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily study Bible series. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 119-119.
     [66] Margaret Eleanor Thrall, The First and the Second Letters of Paul to the Corinthians, The Cambridge Bible commentary (Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1965), 92.  
     [67] Duffield, 341-344.
     [68] 1 Cor 14:2, 6-10. 
     [69] 1 Cor 14:5.
     [70] 1 Cor 14:10-11. 
     [71] 1 Cor 14:13.
     [72] 1 Cor 14:13-19, 27-28.
     [73] 1 Cor 14:21-25 (ESV).
     [74] Gundry, 11.
     [75] Gundry, 11. 
     [76] Gundry, 11. 
     [77] Gundry, 266. 
     [78] Gundry, 242.
     [79] Gundry, 240-244.
     [80] Duffield, 324-325. 
     [81] Duffield, 325. 
     [82] Grudem, 1031-1037.
     [83] Gundry, 10.
     [84] Grudem, 1032. 
     [85] 1 Cor 13:8-10 (ESV). 
     [86] Gundry, 25-60.
     [87] Gundry, 61.
     [88] Gundry, 47. 
     [89] Gundry, 31.
     [90] Mark W. Wilson, ed, Spirit and Renewal: Essays in Honor of J. Rodman Williams (Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 5. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 69.
     [91] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House, 1998), 895.  
     [92] Erickson, 895-896.
     [93] Gundry, 100. 
     [94] Erickson, 896.

 *This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.  

** Photo of ~1810 Greek painting found in the Greek Catholic Cathedral of Hajdúdorog, Hungary, is licensed under a Creative Commons License and a GNU Free Documentation License.  It is available for review at, taken and uploaded by "jojojoe," a user and contributor of Wikimedia Commons.