The Pentecostal "speaking in tongues"

For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:22)

Over the last half century we have witnessed the incredible growth of the pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism has even challenged the hold of the catholic church in south america, where there are 17 million pentecostal members in brazil alone. It has been estimated that in the United States alone, 200,000-300,000 Catholics have become "Pentecostal" or "Charismatic"(A NEW GUIDE AND ALMANAC RELIGIONS OF AMERICA, By Leo Rosten 1975 ). The hallmark of the pentecostal movement is its believe in miracles specifically speaking in "tongues". Most pentecostals believe that in order to be a "true christian one must be able to speak in the Spirit", in other words those religious denominations which cannot (or don’t) speak in tongues are not from a Holy Spirit. First, let use for clarification briefly examine the origin of pentecostalism.

Pentecostal:what is sometimes called classical pentecostalism grew out of the late 19th century holiness movement in the united states. The holiness preacher charles fox parham began preaching (1901) to his topeka congregation that speaking in tongues was objective evidence of baptism in the spirit. After the los angeles mission of parham's apostolic faith sect became the center of a great revival (1906) the movement quickly spread around the world. Over the next two decades the movement split along doctrinal and racial lines. Of the many pentecostalist denominations in the united states today, characterized by belief in the experience of holiness or christian perfection. This perfection is climaxed by an "infilling of the holy spirit," as evidenced by "speaking in tongues," ecstatic utterances frequently unintelligible to listeners,

Now let use begin our examination of pentecostal "miracle" of speaking in "tongues".

First, it is important to note that most scholars agree that one of the signs of demonic possession is the speaking in strange or unintelligible tongues, as the following shows:

"According to the roman ritual, other signs of possession include ‘the ability to speak with some familiarity in a strange tongue or to understand it when spoken by another; the faculty of divulging future and hidden events; and the display of powers which are beyond the subject's age and natural condition.’" (joseph ecanem, ph.d., demonic possession, p. 23)

"The catholic church still defines true signs of possession as displaying superhuman strength, often accompanied by fits and convulsions; changes in personality; having knowledge of the future or other secret information; and being able to understand and converse in languages not previously known to the victim, such as the phenomenon glossolalia.Early puritan ministers and later protestant clergy agreed on the same symptoms for declaring a person demonically possessed. In many incidences there was a complete ignorance of the person's medical condition and behavior." (Michael foreman, ph.d., a short history of diabolical possession, p. 59)

one of the signs of possession as listed in the rituale romanum is as follows: "to speak unknown languages (xenoglosia) and to sustain conversations in such languages, as well as to understand the languages that are spoken." (Rituale romanum)

Of course this does not mean that all "speaking in tongues" is demonic such as the speaking in intelligible tongues that we read about in the book of acts of the apostles. In acts 2:4-8. It tells the happenings on the day of pentecost. The twelve apostles miraculously spoke in tongues which they received through the baptism of the holy spirit. These tongues were human languages which the apostles miraculously spoke. But it does very well show that the demons also can perform this "pentecostal miracle of unintelligible tongues" this is further emphasized by the fact that this manifestation common in non-christian occult and satanic religions [it is common in the hindu belief] is identical to many modern pentecostal churches.

"Kundalini in english means ‘the serpent power.’ it is the common hindu belief that within each person resides a "serpent" coiled tightly up at the base of the spine. Through practicing kundalini yoga, along with chanting, mediation, and an impartation from the guru one can have their kundalini awakened. Kundalini yoga is the "power yoga" of hinduism. It is the pathway to supernatural power and godhood. Kundalini yoga can also lead to mental collapse, psychosis, and demon possession or oppression. the awakening can bring up memories of past psychological traumas. The grofs state that "individuals involved in this process might find it difficult to control their behavior; during power rushes of kundalini energy, they often emit various involuntary sounds, and their bodies move in strange and unexpected patterns. Among the most common manifestations ... are unmotivated and unnatural laughter or crying, talking tongues ... and imitating a variety of animal sounds and movements" (p. 78-79). The grofs state that "careful study of the manifestations of kundalini awakening confirm that this process, although sometimes very intense and shattering, is essentially healing" (citing warren smith by permission in an article for spiritual counterfeits project entitled "holy laughter or strong delusion" (fall, 1994, vol. 19.2), p. 14).

The fact that the unintelligible tongue-speaking experience is found in false pagan religions would indicate that its source is not from god but is a human experience confused for divine intervention. The fact that the same experience is known in, and sometimes outside the religious experience altogether would indicate that its source is not from god. The fact that it can be learned and imitated would indicate that it is not a miracle.

Second, pentecostals will tell you that they know that their gift comes from god, because they "feel it". As it is, it is quite normal for the devil to come posing as an angel of light, or even god himself, as the following citations from early christian tertullian (160-200? A.d.) shows:

"Let a person be brought before your tribunals who is plainly under demoniacal possession. The wicked spirit, bidden speak by the followers of christ will as readily make the truthful confession that he is a demon as elsewhere he has falsely asserted that he is a god" (tertullian, apolog., tr. Edinburgh, p. 23).

"All the authority and power we have over them is from our naming of the name of christ and recalling to their memories the woes with which god threatens them at the hands of christ as judge and which they expect one day to overtake them. Fearing christ in god and god in christ, they become subject to the servants of god and christ. So at our touch and breathing, overwhelmed by the thought and realization of those judgment fires, they leave at our command the bodies they have entered." (Tertullian, ibid).

Third, we see that sacred scripture also points this fact out:

"And no wonder: for satan himself transformed himself into an angel of light." (2 corinthians 11:14)

"Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a doctrine to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema." (Galatians 1:8)

So, we see that just because we "believe" that they action or message is from god this most certainly does not mean that this action is indeed from the holy ghost and not from a demon.

Forth, as this is the case, we must try the spirits, and test them, as the following citation from the first epistle of st. John the divine shows:

dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of god: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 john 4:1)

Now, let us examine the speaking in tongues that is referred to the book of acts of the apostles

(New international)acts 2:6 when they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. (7) utterly amazed, they asked: "are not all these men who are speaking galileans? (8) then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? (9) parthians, medes and elamites; residents of mesopotamia, judea and cappadocia, pontus and asia, (10) phrygia and pamphylia, egypt and the parts of libya near cyrene; visitors from rome (11) (both jews and converts to judaism); cretans and arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of god in our own tongues!" (12) amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "what does this mean?"... (41) those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

The bible is explicitly clear on exactly two points:

First: each one of the crowd heard them (note: this is pleural not singular meaning the crowd heard the group of disciples) speaking in his own language despite the large number of native languages (parthians, and medes, and elamites, and the dwellers in mesopotamia, and in judaea, and cappadocia, in pontus, and asia, phrygia, and pamphylia, in egypt, and in the parts of libya about cyrene, and strangers of rome, jews and proselytes, cretes and arabians.)

Second: the glossolaly ("speaking in tongues") described in acts was historic, articulate, and intelligible to both the disciples and to the crowd. This makes perfect sense when one realizes the greek word for "tongue" is gloce-sah' (strong's ref. # 1100) which means : the tongue; by implication a language (specially, one naturally unacquired):

The definition of language is:

lanq·guage : audible, articulate, meaningful sound as produced by the action of the vocal organs understood by a community (© 2000 by merriam-webster, incorporated)

Neither of these two points are accomplished in the pentecostal "speaking in tongues" which st. Paul in 1 corinthians condemns and likens to "speaketh (like) a barbarian"(14:11) and speaking "into the air" (14:9) st. Paul further goes on to explain that if the whole group come together into one place, and all speak with these unintelligible tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, "will they not say that ye are mad?" these unlearned, or unbelievers, certainly would not be "utterly amazed" (acts 2:7) as the crowd was when the apostles performed the true miracle of "Speaking in tongues". The new testament gift of tongues is a miracle and consists of speaking in human languages that the speaker, had not known or learned by natural means and which the listener understands. Not the pentecostal preachers practicing mass hysteria, holy laughter, slain in the spirit, animal sounds, spiritual amnesia, spiritual muteness, spiritual drunkenness, spontaneous movements, see someone do "the dead chicken" on the floor and another while standing up! Hear the "redhead moo" while the preacher crows like a rooster. The pentecostals and their pastors worship in chaos (condemned 1 corinthians 14:40 ) and misbehave in church services in ways that other real christian church goers discipline their children for, and blame it on the Holy Spirit!

 Third: it is important to note jerusalem was then as now a polyglottal region and could easily have produced one hundred and twenty persons who, in the presence of a cosmopolitan assemblage, might express themselves in fifteen different tongues. Since the variety of tongues is attributed to the group and not to individuals, particular disciples may not have used more than their native aramaic, though it is difficult to picture any of them historically and socially without at least a smattering of other tongues. The linguistic conditions of the country were far more diverse than those of switzerland today. The number of languages heard equaled the number of those in which the listeners "were born".

Fourth:subsequent manifestations occurred at caesarea, palaestina, ephesus, and corinth, all polyglottal regions. St. peter identifies that of caesarea with what befell the disciples "in the beginning" (acts 11:15). There, as at ephesus and jerusalem, the strange incident marked the baptism of several converts, who operated in groups. Corinth, standing apart in this and other respects, is reserved for special study.

Fifth: st. Paul's concept (i corinthians).for the biblical data thus far examined we are indebted to the bosom friend and companion of st. Paul. St. luke. That being true, the views of st. Paul on supernatural glossolaly must have coincided with those of st. Luke.

Now st. Paul had seen the gift conferred at ephesus and st. Luke does not distinguish ephesian glossolaly ("speaking in tongues") from that of jerusalem (acts chap. 2). They must therefore have been alike and st. Paul seems to have had both in mind when he commanded the corinthians (14:37) to employ none but articulate and "plain speech" in their use of the gift (9), and to refrain from such use in church unless even the unlearned could grasp what was said (16). No tongue could be genuine "without voice" and to use such a tongue would be the act of a barbarian (10, 11). For him the impulse to praise god in one or more strange tongues should proceed from the holy ghost. It was even then an inferior gift which he ranked next to last in a list of eight charismata. It was a mere "sign" and as such was intended not for believers but for unbelievers (22).

St. paul, in commending the gift to the corinthians, therewith gave his guaranty that the characteristics of corinthian glossolaly were those of the gift itself. Some writers in overlooking this point place st. Luke at variance with st. Paul, and attribute to the charism properties so contrary as to make it inexplicable and prohibitively mysterious. There is enough in st. Paul to show us that the corinthian peculiarities were ignoble accretions and abuses. They made of "tongues" a source of schism in the church and of scandal without (14:23). The charism had deteriorated into a mixture of meaningless inarticulate gabble (9, 10) with an element of uncertain sounds (7, 8), which sometimes might be construed as little short of blasphemous (12:3). The divine praises were recognized now and then, but the general effect was one of confusion and disedification for the very unbelievers for whom the normal gift was intended (14:22, 23, 26). The corinthians, misled not by insincerity but by simplicity and ignorance (20), were actuated by an undisciplined religious spirit (pneuma), or rather by frenzied emotions and not by the understanding (nous) of the spirit of god (15). What today purports to be the "gift of tongues" at certain protestant revivals is a fair reproduction of corinthian glossolaly, and shows the need there was in the primitive church of the apostle's counsel to do all things "decently, and according to order" (40). Faithful adherence to the text of sacred scripture makes it obligatory to reject those opinions which turn the charism of tongues into little more than infantile babbling (eichhorn, schmidt, neander), incoherent exclamations (meyer), pythonic utterances (wiseler), or prophetic demonstrations of the archaic kind (see I king 19:20, 24). The unalloyed charism was as much an exercise of the intelligence as of the emotions. Languages or dialects, now kainais (mark 16:17) for their present purpose, and now spontaneously borrowed by the conservative hebrew from gentile foreigners (eteroglossois, cheilesin eteron, I corinthians 14:21), were used as never before. But they were understood even by those who used them.