Since I was saved in the summer of 1973, I have seen many attempts at «tongues speaking.» Not once have I heard anything like a biblical tongue, which is a real earthly language. For example, while attending Celebration Jesus 2000 in St. Louis with press credentials, I witnessed great confusion about tongues.
Jack Hayford’s book on tongues was published a few years ago by a non-Pentecostal publisher, and while speaking in St. Louis, he reported that many non-Pentecostals and non-Charismatics have learned to «speak in tongues» by reading his book. The charismatic phenomena are increasing rapidly in non-Pentecostal groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention. In Christianity Today, May 16, 1986, Pastor Don LeMaster of the West Lauderdale Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, estimated that five percent of SBC congregations were openly charismatic at that time. That number has surely increased during the past 16 years. Charisma magazine, March 1999, contained a report entitled «Shaking Southern Baptist Tradition,» which gave many examples of charismatic Southern Baptist congregations.
I remember being very perplexed about tongues as a new Christian. I was led to the Lord in the summer of 1973 by an old-line Pentecostal man; and the night that happened in a motel room in Daytona Beach, Florida, he prayed that I would receive the gift of tongues. The next day we parted ways and I have never seen him again, but for the first few months after that, I sought wisdom from the Lord on the subject of tongues. I visited Assemblies of God churches, attended a Nicky Cruz crusade, and diligently studied the issue in the Bible. Instead of giving me the gift of tongues, though, the Lord gave me the understanding that it was a temporary gift that is not for today.
The reasons I rejected the tongues of the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement 29 years ago are the reasons I rejected the «tongues» I witnessed in St. Louis in 2000. Consider four of those reasons:
CHARISMATIC TONGUES CAN BE LEARNED
According to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, tongues speaking is something that can be taught. At the New Orleans ’87, another conference I attended with press credentials, the participants were invited to stay for «after glow» sessions following the evening meetings. At these sessions, the people were instructed in how to be «baptized in the Holy Spirit» and «speak in tongues.» First, they were all led in a sinner’s prayer, then they were proclaimed «baptized in the Holy Spirit.» Next, they were instructed simply to open their minds and mouths and to speak gibberish, believing that God would turn this into «tongues.»
In St. Louis, Catholic Bishop Sam Jacobs of Alexander, Louisiana, taught the people simply to open their mouths and begin talking like babies. He said that once they learned to speak in baby «tongues,» they could eventually learn to speak as adults. Jack Hayford said much the same thing. When his daughter was worried that her «tongues» was not a real language, he encouraged her that she had to «start somewhere» and that she should ask God to increase her ability.
My friends, this business of learning to speak in tongues is nothing more than absolute nonsense. There is not even a hint in the Bible that the gift of tongues can be taught to someone or that those who received the gift in the apostolic churches had to develop it as if they were actually learning to speak. There are no baby tongues in the Bible! If this is not unscriptural heresy, there is no such thing. God commands that His people reject such things. Those who ignore the Bible’s teaching and rush on in an attempt to receive a charismatic experience open themselves to great delusion.
CHARISMATIC TONGUES DO NOT HAVE TO BE PRACTISED UNDER THE DIRECTIONS OF 1 CORINTHIANS 14
Charismatic tongues-speaking was practiced throughout the three large conferences I attended in New Orleans, Indianapolis, and St. Louis; but it was never done in obedience to the apostolic ommandments of 1 Corinthians 14. Following are the rules that the Apostle Paul gave about the use of tongues in a Christian meeting:
1. Tongues can only be spoken by one or two individuals, three at the most; and they must speak one by one in turn and not at the same time (v. 27). Mass tongues speaking is confusion and is forbidden by God (vv. 23,33).
2. Tongues can only be spoken if they are accompanied by interpretation (v. 27,28).
3. Tongues can only be spoken by men (v. 34).
All three of these apostolic rules are blatantly ignored at modern charismatic meetings.
CHARISMATIC TONGUES ARE NOT A REAL LANGUAGE
The tongues of the New Testament were real earthly languages. It was a divinely-given ability to speak a language which the person had never learned, and thus was a miraculous sign. That’s what Acts 2 plainly says.
«And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that EVERY MAN HEARD THEM SPEAK IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And HOW HEAR WE EVERY MAN IN OUR OWN TONGUE, wherein we were born?» (Acts 2:4-8).
Early Pentecostal leaders understood this and claimed that their tongues were real earthly languages. They even thought they would be able to go to foreign mission fields and witness through miraculous tongues without having to learn the languages. Those who attempted this, though, returned bitterly disappointed!
«Alfred G. Garr and his wife went to the Far East with the conviction that they could preach the gospel in ‘the Indian and Chinese languages.’ Lucy Farrow went to Africa and returned after seven months during which she was alleged to have preached to the natives in their own ‘Kru language.’ The German pastor and analyst Oskar Pfister reported the case of a Pentecostal… ‘Simon,’ who had planned to go to China using tongues for preaching. Numerous other Pentecostal missionaries went abroad believing they had the miraculous ability to speak in the languages of those to whom they were sent. These Pentecostal claims were well known at the time. S.C. Todd of the Bible Missionary Society investigated eighteen Pentecostals who went to Japan, China, and India ‘expecting to preach to the natives in those countries in their own tongue,’ and found that by their own admission ‘in no single instance have [they] been able to do so.’ As these and other missionaries returned in disappointment and failure, Pentecostals were compelled to rethink their original view of speaking in tongues» (Robert Mapes Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism).
The conclusion was soon reached by the early Pentecostals that their «tongues» were not earthly languages, but a «heavenly» or special prayer language; and those are the terms we heard frequently at the conferences in New Orleans, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Yet the tongues that I heard in these conferences were not languages of any sort, but merely repetitious mumblings that anyone could imitate. Larry Lea supposedly spoke in tongues in Indianapolis in 1990, and this is a key example of what is being passed off for tongues in the Charismatic movement. It went something like this: «Bubblyida bubblyida hallelujah bubblyida hallabubbly shallabubblyida kolabubblyida glooooory hallelujah bubblyida.» I wrote that down as he was saying it and later checked it against the tape. Nancy Kellar, a Roman Catholic nun who was on the executive committee of the St. Louis meeting in 2000, spoke in «tongues» on Thursday evening of the conference. Her tongues went like this: «Shananaa leea, shananaa higha, shananaa nanaa, shananaa leeaÂ…» repeated over and over and over.
If you think I’m making fun of these people, you are wrong. This is taken directly from the audiotapes of the messages. If these are languages, they certainly have a simple vocabulary! My children had a more complex language than that when they were still toddlers.
James Robison, a Southern Baptist evangelist who became a Charismatic some years ago, spoke at New Orleans in 1987, and though he believes in tongues speaking for today he warned that most of it is merely gibberish:
«Most tongues speaking and praying I hear is not in the Spirit. It’s in the flesh. It’s accommodating, because so much pressure was heaped on people to conform that they finally give in and begin imitating each other. They don’t have a language of the Spirit; they’ve got tragedy. There’s no power; there’s no energy; there’s no life; there’s just a bunch of gibberish! It’s very sad.»
At the press conference two days later, I referred to this statement in questioning conference leader Vinson Synan about the tongues that were being spoken at the conference. I asked Synan and the other conference leader, Sklorenko, if they «believed that much of the unintelligible noises which are being made by the people could be human induced?» This touched a sore spot, and I was attacked even by members of the press. Two of them angrily said that they did not believe Robison said such a thing, but it is on the tape. After these two individuals calmed down somewhat, Synan challenged me to prove that the tongues at the conference were not real languages, saying:
«If I hear a guy from India speaking Hindi, to me that’s unintelligible babbling. It may be a perfectly good language. And how do you know, or how does anyone know, what language these people may be speaking in? I mean, can you prove that?»
The answer to Synan’s challenge is not difficult. In the church we started in South Asia, there were at least ten different mother tongues among the members, at least in the early days. Though I do not understand most of
these, I recognize immediately that a real language is being spoken. You can hear the many different words; even a small child has a vocabulary of hundreds of different words in his language. I hear the precise intonation; the sentence and thought structure as phrases, clauses and sentences are started and stopped; the punctuation. Every language is composed of these familiar traits.
The «tongues» which are spoken in the modern Charismatic movement are not languages. They were not earthly languages, nor heavenly languages, nor prayer languages, nor languages of any sort whatsoever. They are unintelligible mutterings; repetitious silliness. At best, they are pathetic attempts to release the control of the tongue and imitate a divine miracle.
CHARISMATIC TONGUES IGNORE THE PURPOSE OF BIBLICAL TONGUES, WHICH WAS A SIGN TO THE JEWISH NATION
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, tells us exactly why God gave tongues to the early churches:
«Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe» (1 Corinthians 14:20-22).
In this passage, Paul was trying to make the Corinthian church understand God’s purpose in giving tongues. He quotes a prophecy from Isaiah 28 and applies it to New Testament tongues. The prophecy was that God would speak in foreign tongues to the Jewish nation as a sign, yet they would not believe it. THUS, TONGUES WERE A SIGN TO THE NATION ISRAEL. Israel rejected that sign as they did the sign of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; and they continued stubbornly in their blindness and unbelief. God turned to the Gentiles to take out of the Gentile nations a people for his name. That is what God has been doing these past 2,000 years since the ascension of Christ. That is what the «church age» is all about. One day God will again turn His attention to the nation Israel and the prophecies for Israel will be fulfilled literally during the Great Tribulation, the glorious return of Christ, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The purpose for tongues soon ceased as the gospel was carried to the Gentiles. This is why we see so little about tongues after Pentecost. There are a couple of other mentions in Acts (with Jews present each time), then the references in 1 Corinthians 12-14. That is all. That is all God says about tongues in the entire New Testament! And most of what is said is corrective.
Friends, the miraculous tongues of the first century were not «bubblyida bubblyida bubblyida bubblyida»! Apostolic tongues were not something that could be taught or learned. They did not start with baby languages.
Beware of the confusion of modern «tongues.»