I had a question pertaining to ‘tongues’. I never spoke it, but I have
seen a person speak it right in front of me. I have talked to different
people who speak it, from different church groups and they seem to have
similarities in regards to speaking in tongues…

You can ask for it and God will give it to you. Just start praying and
it’ll come.
There is a sense of divine peace and power to overcme sin you feel when
you speak in tongues, like an untainted (pure) language that helps you
even overcome serious addictions.
It’s apart of the body of Christ today, it’s real and personal. It’s a
heavenly prayer language.

Now, I don’t speak in tongues, nor do I think it’s still around in the
same way as in the bible. I’ve studied it out and i’m convinced it just
died out naturally after it fulfilled its purpose and after the people
with the gift died off. But I must admit, I have to be honest, I’ve heard
this ‘language’ with my own ears and heard of its effects on worship from
people I respect who say they speak in tongues themselves. The experience
does seem ‘real’ to me at least in the sense of something influencing the
tongue to speak like that for an extended period of time. I don’t think
people can fake what I’ve heard for that long! And I don’t want to judge
anyone’s true personal experiences as ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’ or just
’emotional’ just because I never had them myself. I think that’s a little
arrogant and narrowminded on my part. I’m sure some people do fake it
whatever ‘it’ is, I’m sure there is much emotionalism involved in
most groups who actually condone this practice and use Scripture to back
it up. What should my attitude honestly be in regards to this obviously
‘real’ phenomena (regardless of it’s abuse or forgery) and how can I be
sure that it’s real, ceased, or maybe it ceased and came back?


This is a very good question. You word it in a way which shows wisdom and
sensitivity, but also a desire to be biblical. I agree with you that the
miraculous speaking in actual human languages, which was passed to the
early Christians by the apostles, has almost certainly ceased. I do NOT
believe that this is a miraculous ability which these folks are having.
Nevertheless, it is a “religious experience.” Humans have the ability to
self-hypnotise through various activities. Native Africans and Americans
did this through rhythmic dancing. Other cultures induced the ecstatic
experience through the use of drugs. “Speaking in tongues” in the broad
sense is an aspect of nearly all world cultures. The Oracles of Delphi
did it. Sufis (Muslim mystics) do it, and so forth. For our supposedly
more rational Western cultures, we have a more sanitized version of
auto-hypnosis (forgive my poor use of vocabulary…. I do not know what to
call this effect.) which is the ecstatic “speaking in tongues.” I
certainly do not deny this effect. The experience is real. Whether it is
the mystical sufism or the native drum ceremonies or the ecstatic
utterance, it has a tremendous cathartic effect. The experience is always
very emotional. This is a “real” religious experience. It provides a
tremendous emotional release for the practitioners.

So you see that I do not deny the experience. I am even prepared to call
it a spiritual/religious experience and to accept that it helps believers
to have a sense of being closer to God. Perhaps it even has this effect!
I am not sure. What I do not believe, however, is that the
tongue-speaking experiences of these groups is not a true miraculous
speaking in another known (but not by that person) language. The
“requirements” and the results of these activities are consistent with a
real and fairly common psychological effect. Some people want to over
react and condemn tongue speaking as giving in to Satan. I disagree.
Personally, I have absolutely no desire to take part in this activity, but
I am not prepared to call it sinful or even bad or harmful I certainly am
not going to challenge such people and tell them that their experience is
bogus, as this will almost certainly be counter productive. Such
emotional belief is not easily overcome by rational argument.

Perhaps your attitude should be prayerful indulgence of this activity, but
certainly not support of it as a legitimate New Testament activity. Do
not bother trying to interpret these “tongues” as this would be a
meaningless activity, but you probably will not stop the ecstatic
utterances. It is not a matter of salvation, but you may want to very
patiently and lovingly explain to your friends why you are not
particularly interested in joining in.

John Oakes, PhD

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