Before I became a Christian I was a part of a charismatic church. "Speaking in tongues" was a very big part of the Sunday Services. I have actually done it a few times before I became Christian.  I am convinced that ecstatic utterances  are not supported in the Bible, but how could those experiences be explained? I have heard believers laugh or make fun of people who do that but I don’t think that it is a laughing matter. What I felt when I spoke in tongues in the past is that it was not fake and I know of other people who have experienced it as well. Can you please shed some light on this?


I am not in a position to give a fully rational explanation of what goes on in charismatic churches. I have read a book which was a psychological analysis of tongue-speaking groups. The claim of this book was that speaking in tongues, as practiced in modern churches, is a psychological phenomenon. Various Hindu groups have very similar emotional/ecstatic utterances. It is claimed by some that the Delphic Oracle in Greece was a similar phenomenon. I know that early Mormon practice definitely included tongue-speaking. If we have evidence that groups we know for sure are not Christian at all who do these things, then this calls into question "Christian" ecstatic utterance.

Biblically, we know that speaking in tongues was a miraculous ability to speak in other languages which the speaker did not know, but which could be understood by the hearers (see Acts 2 and other passages). This is not what is happening in the modern charismatic movement. To be more fair, as far as I have known of personally or even heard of so far, modern tongue-speaking is NOT use of another known language, but is a kind of gibberish (again, as far as I know).  Add to this the fact that, biblically, the miraculous gifts, as far as we know, were given by the laying on of hands of an apostle. Clearly we do not have this happening today. All this leads me to be extremely skeptical of claims of miraculous tongue-speaking today. I strongly tend toward the belief that ecstatic utterance is a psychological phenomenon which can be attained by many people in the right emotional setting, and that it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.

Now, having given a quite negative evaluation of tongue-speaking, I would like to end with a bit of humility. My response is based on scripture which is capable of a different interpretation (not with respect to the type of languages, but with respect to how miracles can be given). I would prefer to not pass a strong and absolute judgment on situations and people I do not know. I believe that if God so chose, he could cause tongue speaking today. I am not sure why he might, but I am not privy to God’s councils! I prefer to not give a carte-blanche negative judgment on all speaking in tongues. I will simply say that I have seen no evidence of legitimate biblical tongue-speaking and for biblical reasons I plan on remaining quite skeptical of such claims.

Even if we are convinced that tongue-speaking is not a legitimate expression of Christian spirituality, this is no excuse for laughing at or demeaning people. I assume that in a majority of these cases, we are talking about sincere people who, in their own way, are trying to praise God through this activity, even if they may be deceived. The Golden Rule of Jesus does not allow for such disrespectful behavior. In any case, my experience is that those involved in this activity are not going to be convinced easily it is false. Your own personal experiences are a case in point.  Use of rational argument to convince people that their experiences are not valid is a very tough row to hoe. I am not even convinced that this should be our goal. We ought to bring people to know Christ, not to stop tongue-speaking. They ought to be handled with sensitivity and without harsh and unloving condemnation. We should gently reprove people and try to help them come to a more accurate knowledge through setting a good example and calling people to a higher spirituality.

John Oakes

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