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These features, at least in English, may convey the feelings of the speaker about his audience or about himself or about a problem he is thinking about.

In some cases, the message may be quite specific. Pattison reports,. One subject, whose glossolalic speech became pleading and quite serious, made it clear that she was simultaneously wishing to herself that the interviewer might accept glossolalia for himself. The second kind of information in T-speech is associational-lexical. That is, it is information bound up with the associations that a speaker makes between ideas on the one hand and small relatively isolatable chunks of speech on the other.

Now, of course, the small chunks of free vocalization have no lexical dictionary meaning in the native tongue of the speaker. A German psychiatrist, Oskar Pfister, attempted to explore this possibility by recording phonetically some utterances of a T-speaker named Simon. In every case Simon responded with an incident from his past usually childhood structurally related to his present emotional difficulties.

In view of the fact that word-association phenomena are common both to Christians and non-Christians, there is reason to assume that forms of competent free vocalization other than T-speech have the same capabilities of carrying information. The psychological value of these observations should not be overlooked. A speaker might use free vocalization to articulate and release emotions that he cannot express clearly, or that are too personal or intimate to share directly with others.

This is presumably one reason but not the only one or the most significant one why T-speech is valued by the charismatic movement. Does the linguistic and psychological evidence lead to the conclusion that almost all, if not all, instances of modern T-speech are not miraculous or divine?

Here is the crucial question. Some linguists and social scientists have indeed pronounced T-speech nonmiraculous. But I think that they can give such a clear-cut answer only by exceeding their competence. Social science does provide a plausible naturalistic explanation for T-speech. But I suspect it could also. Israel enjoyed quails in the wilderness because a wind brought them from the sea Num Consider also a case of healing. Suppose that Christians pray for a fellow Christian who is sick, and God answers by healing him.

Now compare this with T-speech. Because of its unusual character and because of the theological explanations attached to it, it tends to arouse awe and wonder—or fear and perplexity—quite often. Such an assessment must be grounded in biblical teaching. Hence, it is more important to know what the Bible says about these things than what the modern analysts say.

Only so can we reach firm conclusions. But the modern scientific analysis is not profitless. It can help us not to blind our eyes to some of the ways that T-speech functions in charismatic communities. It can, moreover, push us away from the extremes of totally negative. The remainder of this article is devoted to arguing against the extremes. People in one extreme evaluate modern T-speech in totally negative terms. According to this view, T-speech is a psychological delusion having nothing to do with the Spirit of God. Hence it ought to be forbidden.

I will assume for the sake of argument that these people are basically correct in their reading of the biblical data. Even making these assumptions, we must still reckon with the fact that free vocalization can have psychological value in some circumstances. We must reckon with the fact that T-speakers are attached to free vocalization partly because of benefits that they sense they receive. I can illustrate most clearly by describing the experiences of someone who enters the charismatic movement.

My particular example is, of course, hypothetical, but the various elements can be found documented in both social-scientific literature and in literature by charismatics themselves. Our exemplary charismatic, then, receives benefits of three main kinds from T-speech. First, his T-speech reinforces belief in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. When uttering a T-speech, or when reflecting on the fact that he has done this in the past, he may marvel at the.

He is convinced more thoroughly than ever, and more deeply than ever, how wonderful and powerful God the Holy Spirit is. What a marvelous blessing! Now, what is happening? Our T-speaker is being taught by God the biblical doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers. He is being taught the power of the resurrected Christ who comes to dwell in him and give him joy and victory in the Holy Spirit.

No wonder he is filled with joy!

Of course, there is also a danger here. Does the T-speaker base his convictions about the Holy Spirit first of all on his experience or first of all on what the Bible says vividly brought to his attention by his experience? If the former, he has developed a bad attitude concerning the grounds for his beliefs. If his experience seems later on to be no longer so fresh or so deep, he will not have stability. Moreover, the habit of leaning on experience may leave open the door for false teaching Eph But let us suppose the best.

Let us suppose that the T-speaker does not regard his experience as an ultimate basis for belief, but a reminder of the basis provided in the Bible. Secondly, suppose a T-speaker is troubled by a deep problem or concern, and does not know how to pray Rom — He pours out his heart to God in a T-speech, believing that God understands perfectly what his concern is, and that God is helping him to pray rightly.

Even if it carried no information, we could still be assured that God does indeed understand the desires of his child, and answers those desires in accord with his will 1 John — Hence many times the T-speaker may find that those hidden desires and concerns of his are answered by God. Even when he does not receive an obvious or immediate answer, he is comforted by the assurance that God has understood. As a result, he may grow to express himself more deeply when he prays in his mother tongue.

T-speaker may misunderstand the role of T-speech in it. The T-speaker is being taught confidence in a prayer-answering God who knows our inmost thoughts and desires Phil —7; Rom ; Ps Then, he has the experience of uttering a T-speech. And he is doing something remarkable with me. Little me. I never thought I was important to God. It must be that God can still heal and can still direct my life in both ordinary and remarkable ways for his glory.

I will start praying for God to do those things, and expect that sometimes he will. God is still speaking when I read it. All his promises are true today! Once again, this Christian is learning something biblical. He is learning that God is still alive, God is still the same God, and the building of his church still goes on. It would become dangerous only if he started looking for modern apostles and additional commands to add to the Bible.

He may have become interested in T-speech because he felt dissatisfaction with his own Christian life. He felt an emptiness, a lack of power, a lack of vital and fresh communion with God. He wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So he began to pray, to seek God, to repent, and to seek instruction from the Bible about the Holy Spirit.


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He found that he was holding back certain things in his life. He found areas that he was keeping to himself rather than surrendering to God. Perhaps for him the area of the use of language was one such area. Still, many of his prayers and desires were genuine, and God answered them. Since his first experience with T-speech, his life has been transformed. He has awakened to the reality of the work of the Spirit in his life.

He has started to believe that God still does remarkable things today. He has come to trust that God knows and understands his deepest concerns. He has started to look to the Bible for answers to his daily problems. He finds now that the Bible is a living book where God speaks. The intensive fellowship that he has experienced with other charismatics has further strengthened his Christian life.

Then our friend looks at others.

The Gift of Tongues

Others too have had the same experience with T-speech. He turns to Acts 2. It is the sign of baptism with the Holy Spirit. It must be the key to revival. What has happened? Now suppose an opponent tells our T-speaker that modern tongues are a delusion, and that the charismatic movement is unbiblical. What will the reaction be? The reaction is likely to be simply anger, incomprehension, and pity.

He has seen the Bible come alive to him. There are lessons for us here. First, doctrine is indeed based on the Bible, not on experience. An experience valid in many ways can all too easily be misinterpreted and lead to bad. But the sword cuts two ways.


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  6. There is no substitute for patient, sympathetic listening as well as to speaking James , trying to find the real rather than simply the apparent sources of disagreement. Charismatics are frequently more gracious in argument than their opponents. They will seldom be convinced unless they see the love that is so important to them manifested in those with different convictions. Let the opponent examine himself, repent, and ask God for his own renewal in these areas before he ventures to criticize.

    Are there some implications for them? For the sake of argument, I will assume that they are right in thinking that the gift of tongues continues beyond the apostolic age. It occurs even among non-Christians in both religious and secular contexts. True, Christians are united with Christ, and that means that they are radically different from unbelievers. But it does not mean that they cannot sin. They can free vocalize as easily as a non-Christian. And it seems inevitable that in some cases they will try to use free vocalization in worship, and yet still be sinning.

    If it is possible at other times, why not the first time? Fortunately, many charismatic groups in the United States have grown in maturity over the years. Even from the beginning they were aware of certain dangers. But in the last few years they have eliminated some remaining problems. But it will illustrate in the abstract what abuses might occur. He wants to be able to perform miracles and to have power cf. Acts He is told that these things are to be sought through the baptism of the Holy Spirit marked by tongues.

    He is told at the same time that not all Christians have received this baptism. He is eager to receive this baptism. Hence others pray for him. Or perhaps he is told to begin by imitating a few lines spoken by a T-speaker. When he utters a. The social scientist tells us that that is to be expected. You have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

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    I am no longer in the same category as ordinary Christians. Would we say the Holy Spirit is at work blessing this man in a special way? First, he is despising the biblical teaching on prayer. Why did God have so many prayers recorded in Scripture if not to instruct us Matt —15? Second, our hypothetical Christian has despised his brothers who do not use T-speech. He had never visited Rome, so he could not know whether all spoke in tongues. Our Christian is told that it is important to respond to the impulse of the Spirit. Is this story of a hypothetical Christian a farfetched example?

    In some ways, it is. There are several constraints that keep this type of thing from happening. First, God has mercy on Christians and keeps them from wandering too far. Third, many charismatic groups do have conscious and unconscious safeguards to protect their members from these errors. Admittedly, the bad examples that I have mentioned are extreme cases. But I mention the extremes only to raise another question: can there also be cases of mixtures of good and bad? In our hypothetical case, the Christian wanted T-speech for the completely bad motive of desiring greatness.

    Is it possible that. For instance, in our hypothetical case, the Christian used his ability in T-speech to become puffed up about his own relationship to God the bad side. Are there cases where these two uses of T-speech are combined? What protection, then, does the charismatic movement have against deviations, excesses and impure motives? Two kinds of protection come to mind. First, the gift of discernment of spirits 1 Cor. Paul does not tell exactly what kind of gift this is. But evidently it is a gift enabling one to sift the good from the bad in extraordinary manifestations of spirits.

    Why not? First, this gift, like other gifts, could be corrupted. The first group was the apostles, as we have already noted. They received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost which gave them this power. The second group included those people to whom the apostles gave this power by laying their hands on them.

    This is the way this miraculous gift was given. One example of this is seen in Acts Notice verses 5 and 6 And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. Is there an apostle still living today? So there is no one who can give this power to anyone else. And no one is still alive today who was given this power by an apostle. Therefore, the gift of tongue speaking is not available today. They spoke in tongues without an apostle laying his hands on them.

    This is true, but this third group which spoke in tongues in the New Testament was a special group. Cornelius spoke in tongues as a sign that the Gentiles were to receive the Gospel along with the Jews. You see, until the events recorded in Acts 10 and 11 occurred, only the Jews had received the Gospel. But here God was making it clear that the Gentiles were also to hear the Gospel.

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    To make this clear to the Christians former Jews who were present at the house of Cornelius, God gave the Holy Spirit directly to these Gentiles. By doing so, no one who saw it could deny that this was the work of God. It was a special event for a special purpose.

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    It happened only one time. The Gospel is still being preached to the Gentiles, but no person is receiving the Holy Spirit as Cornelius did. Therefore, no person is speaking in tongues as he did. So we see the three groups in the New Testament who spoke in tongues. Each did so for a specific and special purpose. Those purposes do not exist today, and no one is speaking in tongues today.

    The answer is yes. This gift of the Holy Spirit was to end when the New Testament was completed. This was clearly stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians The verses tell us: Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things.

    For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Paul refers to that which is perfect. At the time Paul wrote, the revelation from God was not in its final written form.