Recently I came across this detractor sharing his thoughts on the gift of tongues. After listening to his views I felt that this would be a good opportunity to provide people with a response to similar comments.
1. The Modern Day Gift Of Tongues Is Not Biblical. The opponent reasons that biblical tongues is speaking in your own language and the listeners hear you in their own language. He says that’s what happened on the Day of Pentecost. What the Bible says however, is that they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). It doesn’t say that the Spirit gave the listeners translated hearing. They heard their own languages because the believers were speaking those languages. Paul said that there are different (or “various” in the ESV) kinds of tongues in I Corinthians 12:10. Acts 2 was a manifestation of tongues as a sign. The tongues spoken of in I Corinthians 14 was for believers in public assembly, and was to be accompanied by interpretation which would in effect accomplish the same thing as prophesying. It had nothing to do with providing a sign for unbelievers. A third manifestation of tongues is for private devotion. I Corinthians 14:14,15 says “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” Jude also made reference to praying in the Holy Ghost in Jude 20. In the cases of public assembly or private devotion there is no need to speak in an unknown human language. Certainly one of the manifestations of tongues is as a sign for unbelievers (Mark 16:17), but we can’t overlook the clear biblical teaching regarding other manifestations.
2. Speaking In Tongues Is Not For Everyone. This is a common misconception with cessationists. I had this view myself until I was enlightened by a gifted bible teacher. It is based on a misunderstanding of I Corinthians 12:30 where Paul says “Do all speak with tongues?” The answer is obviously “no”, but the question isn’t addressing individuals using tongues in private devotion or even occasionally in public assembly. This is referring to the ministry gift of tongues, as you can see from the context of other ministry gifts in the same passage (apostles, prophets, teachers … etc.). Clearly not all believers will have that kind of ministry, but all can speak in tongues in a different capacity (again – various kinds of tongues). That’s why Paul said in I Corinthians 14:5 that he wished all believers spoke with tongues.
3. The Gift Of Tongues Is Not A Test Of Salvation Or Having The Holy Spirit. Of course it isn’t, and very few Pentecostals or Charismatics teach that. This is a straw man argument. All born again believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, but not all believers have the infilling of the Holy Spirit for empowerment. The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for service, not salvation. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8)
4. Charismatic Speaking In Tongues Is Rejected By Language Experts. So what? Since when do we derive our theology from what “experts” or science has to say? Science also says that man has been around for 2.5 million years, that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, that the universe is 14 billion years old, , and that the first living cell was likely produced by random chance when lightning struck a vat of primordial soup. As believers we go by what God said in His Word, not by what the “experts” say. The Apostle Paul referred to speaking in the tongue of angels in I Corinthians 31:1, which suggests that at least in some cases the tongues spoken aren’t human in origin. As for fraud, there’s a certain amount of fraud among adherents to every theological persuasion. That proves nothing as to whether or not speaking in tongues is a biblically legitimate practice today.
5. Charismatic Speaking In Tongues Has Pagan Origins. Only if the New Testament was written by Pagans. This is a “guilt by association” assertion that comes from the fact that there are ancient writings referring to ecstatic speech used in pagan temples. The test of a doctrine’s validity isn’t who else may have practiced it, but its basis in scripture. Water baptism was also practiced by pagans prior to John the Baptist. Does that make water baptism “pagan” in origin?
6. Charismatic Speaking In Tongues Shows Signs of Demonic Possession. The opponent’s point here is that Charismatic services create confusion, and since God isn’t the author of confusion these must be demonic manifestations. I find it interesting that the only time most of these cessasionists ever discern the presence of demons is in Charismatic worship services. People might get carried away from time to time and become a bit fanatical or disorderly about how they manifest the gift of tongues, but that just means that they’re carnal like the Corinthian church was. It doesn’t mean that they have demons. Paul addressed the Corinthian church’s misuse of spiritual gifts, but he didn’t say that they were manifesting demons. If you’ve ever seen a demonic manifestation you’ll know the difference. When a person has a demon the last thing they want to do is hang out with believers and hear the Word of God.
7. Satan Can Counterfeit Miracles Of God. The opponent’s point here is that Satan can produce a fake version of tongues, which is true. It’s also true that Satan can quote scripture. Does that mean that we shouldn’t? This is the “throw out the baby with the bathwater” argument. Just because Satan can counterfeit the authentic doesn’t mean that we should avoid the authentic. We just need to use discernment and test the spirits (I John 4:1) to see if they’re of God.
8. Charismatic Speaking In Tongues Is An End Time Deception. To prove this point he quotes Revelation 16:13 where John describes three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. These unclean spirits gather the armies together for the battle of Armageddon. His reasoning here is that frogs capture their prey with their tongues, and therefore tongues is being used by Satan to capture people through deception (facepalm). I really don’t see that much commentary is required for this one, but I’ll comment anyway. John didn’t say that they were frogs. He said they were unclean spirits that were like frogs. How speaking in tongues is supposed to amass the armies of the world to a war is beyond me. It’s the false miracles of the false prophet that cause people to worship the image of the beast, not tongues. Speaking in tongues is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, who comes to draw people to Jesus. How could any Bible believer conflate the two?
9. Charismatic Speaking In Tongues Is A Characteristic Of End Time Babylon. Here he basically equates glossolalia with the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. Other than the fact that the word “tongues” is used in both cases I see no connection. At the Tower of Babylon the confusion of tongues was how God separated man into various languages, cultures, and regions. In the New Testament Jesus said that believers would speak with new tongues, and the Apostle Paul expressed his wish that all believers would speak in tongues, and stated that he who speaks in an unknown tongues edifies himself. (I Cor. 14:4) The purpose of tongues in the New Testament isn’t to confuse, but to edify. The way that tongues were being used was causing confusion however, so Paul corrected the church at Corinth about how to utilize this gift. He added in I Corinthians 14:39 “forbid not to speak in tongues“.
10. The Charismatic Movement Is Helping Catholics and Protestants Unite. You could make the same argument concerning Billy Graham, who has had friendly relations with popes for fifty years. Is he “of the devil”? The Ecumenical Movement began a century ago in Europe, and its origins had nothing to do with speaking in tongues. Some Protestants might be uniting with Catholics, but most aren’t. Some Charismatics might be uniting with Catholics but most aren’t. The fact that some are has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not speaking in tongues is a valid practice for the church today.
People like this are pretty easy to locate, especially when they use disparaging words like “babbling”. Apparently he had a bad experience or two with Pentecostals and felt the need to enlighten everybody, which is fine. But when you do that you have to check your emotions and prejudice at the door and adhere to sound hermeneutics and exegesis, which he failed to do. As we see repeatedly, when you let your passions get in the way of your analysis you lose credibility.