Questions about Tongue-Speaking
NCW 70, February - April 2001
Q. I was looking around for something else on the web and began to read your message on tongues. I stopped reading when I discovered you base some of your arguments on the idea that Paul was exaggerating when he wrote some of the things he wrote. Like many Christians I regard the bible as infallible and also the inspired word of God. I do not read the bible as if it were the words of men but of God. So when I came to the part where you spoke of Paul exaggerating I hear you accusing God himself of exaggerating.
Obviously you don't regard the word of God the same way I do because the bible itself points to itself as being infallible. Not one jot or tittle will return void or remain unfulfilled. So what is the point of using scriptural arguments if you hold parts of the bible to be inaccurate? When you approach the word of God this way you lose any ability to make a solid case for anything because you make the determination of the accuracy of the word a subjective thing. When that happens you are just exchanging opinions.
As for your comments about rejecting tongues because misinformed Charismatics call it angel talk -- seems foolish. It seems you are rejecting tongues from your beliefs -- not because it isn't in the bible -- but because humans are making scripturally unsubstantiated statements about a gift they may or may not have but certainly don't understand from a scriptural point of view.
In case you are interested I have witnessed two people get saved because they heard someone speaking in tongues in a language they personally knew but the person who spoke in tongues did not know the language. One of them was a black guy I was sitting beside in church who heard one of our congregation praising God in his own language. He comes from a tribe deep in Africa and speaks a dialect known only to the people of his tribe. When I asked him why he got saved he told me that he'd heard this guy (who was not speaking anything I understood) praising God in his language and he knew this guy could not speak that dialect with such perfect inflection unless he'd grown up or spent many years in his tribe. The other incident happened at a prayer meeting with a girl who approached a man afterward who'd been speaking in tongues and told him she was surprised he spoke such fluent Scandinavian. He said he did not know the language but was speaking only in tongues. She told him how he was saying such beautiful things to God that she wanted to know more about the God he spoke to. She ended up receiving Christ. I've heard many other stories like these ones but these are the only ones I know first hand. Another girl I knew personally and whom I used to haul around in my hatchback car had her spine severed in several places and was paralyzed from the waist down and would never walk again. Two friends I know were with her one night praying for her healing and praying in tongues. After they had been praying in tongues for over an hour she got up and walked. There was no possible way for medical science to repair that broken spinal cord because we'd sent her x-rays to specialists all over the world and they all said there was no way to repair the severed spine. At the time she was single. Now 15 years later this girl is married with children and still walks today.
Personally I think you're investigation is biased and intended to disprove something you are afraid of. You can disprove anything you want to if you try hard enough. It does nothing to disprove the truth however. It only serves as a means to support your untrue doctrine based on false premises.
I doubt my letter will do anything to change your mind but I though it was worth a try. I speak in tongues every day. It edifies me just as the scripture says it will. Also in Jude the bible exhorts us to pray in the Holy Ghost building ourselves up on our most holy faith. I recently had the dean of a prominent bible college challenge me on that scripture questioning me as to whether it meant tongues or not. I told him I had accepted it to be that but admitted I had not done a word study on it. He went that afternoon and checked it out and said that according to the Greek text it means tongues. Tongues as a form of prayer is real whether you think you have disproved it or not.
A. Thank you for honestly sharing your thoughts and beliefs about this very important issue. Unfortunately, you seem to have misunderstood a number of things about our position on tongue-speaking.
Firstly, the use of hyperbole ('a deliberate exaggeration used for effect' - The New Collins Concise English Dictionary, p.550) was a common literary device amongst the Hebrews for making a point, and especially amongst the first century Jews. You will find numerous examples of this in the New Testament. The fact that such devices are used does not detract from the inspired nature of the Bible - we too believe the original autographs to be infallible. Please remember that the word 'exaggerate' is used in two different ways in the English - one negative and one positive. It can mean either "to regard or represent as larger to greater, more important or more successful, etc. Than is true" or "to make more noticeable" (Ibid., p.384). Thus we find different writers of the Gospels focussing on one or more particular themes at the expense of others because of the audience they were writing to or to make a point. This device would fulfil the criteria of the second definition of 'exaggeration'. It is in that sense that we use the term - not to demean Paul or to question the inspiration or infallibility of Scripture - but to make a point, viz. That we may make something larger than life not with a view to deceiving but to throw light on something else. Thus Paul lambasts the Judaisers who insist on circumcision as a necessity for salvation by saying he wished they would go all the way and castrate themselves. Are we to believe that Paul wished them to literaly castrate themselves or that he was simply trying to make a point? For some might argue that this was his intent and that this therefore throws doubt on the inspired nature of his writings. Paul can be very sarcastic at times (as in the above example) but it is with a purpose: to illuminate the truth more clearly. Even the Saviour used metaphors which could be construed as 'exaggerations' by those not understang the use of metaphor when He accused the scribes and pharisees of being a "brood of vipers". But He was still inspired.
Secondly, New Covenant Christians do not reject tongues. Absolutely not. Indeed, the examples you cited of those supernaturally speaking in recognisable foreign languages are exactly what we believe true tongue-speaking to be! What we do not accept is what has come to be called glossolalia, that is, meaningless jabbering which nobody understands.
To clarify what is a complex but very important issue we recently published a new article called Tongues of Contention: Settling a Difficult Issue in the Body of Christ (New Covenant Press, 2001) which I hope will clear up any misunderstandigs you may have about us.
So, brother, I would say "Amen!" And "Hallelujah" to all the examples of tongues you cited.
The "not one jot or tittle" passage does not refer to the whole Bible (which did not exist then - all that was around when Yah'shua/Jesus spoke these words was the Old Testament) but to the Torah, and specifically the Penteateuch and the Nevi'im (Prophets). It should also be remembered that at times Paul states that he is writing his own opinion and not necessarily Yahweh's mind on a particular matter. Where he clearly does so, we must take him at his word and treat these words accordingly. Otherwise we shall treat the rest as being infallibly true. (1 January 2008)
This page was created on 20 March 2001
Last updated on 1 January 2008
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