Gift of Tongues: My View-My Experience
For those of you who like short "posts," I apologize. I cannot write my view on tongues without giving you adequate explanation. I promise, I'll try to do better in the future.
The poll I've been taking in the right column was interesting to me. I have no way of knowing who visits this blog or who takes the poll. Only if you leave a comment do I know who you are. Not surprisingly, my blog had over 150 hits since I've been comparing how the issue of tongues is handled by the two sects of Christianity I have been involved with: Seventh-day Adventism and a part of the charismatic movement called Word of Faith. Also, it does not surprise me that only 8 people took the poll. But even then, the poll is pretty interesting.
No choice received more than 2 votes. 2 people felt that the Gift of tongues was evidence one has received the Holy Spirit. 2 people felt there was a true and a false form. 2 people felt it is of the Devil. 2 people felt it is gibberish. 1 vote each for not sure, gift received at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, really irritating, beautiful, and helpful. Nobody voted for unclean spirit manifestation, baby talk, spiritual deception or spiritualism.
I loved and do still love the friends I have from my two different experiences. And as I sit here writing this post, I'm smiling. Not laughing. Not mocking. Just slightly smiling, remembering some of the enjoyable experiences I have had with my friends in both areas of Christianity. Slightly sad that they will probably never be close to each other as I have been to them. Frustrated that anything should stand between these folks, keeping them from being close friends because some feel that the others are not receiving the Holy Spirit, and yet some thinking that the others are doing something of the Devil. I will eventually tell you what I think, but first here is my experience.
Somewhere around 1988 Judy and I had been studying the Bible: 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 to be precise. Here is a list of the gifts of the Spirit. It concerned us that as far as we knew, we had none of them. And yet all throughout the book of Acts, new believers were quickly ushered in to receive the Holy Spirit. And in John 16:7 Jesus is says, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."
We called upon our Seventh-day Adventist pastor to pay us a visit. During that visit we shared our concern that as far as we could see, we were not experiencing the gifts of the Spirit. We mentioned the Gift of Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues and the Gift of Healing. With regard to tongues, he explained the standard view of Seventh-day Adventism. (see my Post from a week ago called Gift of Tongues: Seventh-day Adventist view) And regarding the gift of healing, he said that the church's emphasis on healthful living and it's education with regard to all the health arts, such as medicine, nursing, physical therapy, dentistry and more, was the modern day fulfillment of the Gift of Healing.
I was a dentist. And every day people came in to my office to have their teeth "healed" and I told them what it was going to cost. I watched the frustration they felt when the cost unexpectedly exceeded what they thought it would be. And I remembered the stories in the book of Acts, and I didn't remember anyone getting partially rehabilitated, nor did I remember anyone getting charged money for the healing. This pastor's explanation left a very bitter taste in our mouths. We knew that the Bible said in Mark 16 that one of the signs that would accompany believers would be that they would lay hands on the sick and they would recover. Somehow, I could not envision collecting fees following those signs. And furthermore, other places in the Bible, though we weren't sure of their meaning, seemed to point away from the church's stand on the tongues issue.
And it wasn't just the Gifts of the Spirit that was bothering me, but keeping the 10 commandments and honoring Saturday as a Sabbath were also bothering me. I had read and reread the book of Galatians. Along with it I had also read and reread a book by E. J. Waggoner named "Righteousness by Faith." It is believed to be God's special message for these days by many Adventists. But I came to the conclusion that Waggoner had danced around the texts in Galatians and not walked out in the freedom mentioned there.
In Acts 2, when the early disciples received the Holy Spirit, there was some kind of a convention in town at the time. People from other nations were present. And as they heard the disciples preach, it says they heard them speak in their own tongue. Note that it didn't say that the disciples spoke in their own tongue, but that these people heard them speak in their own tongue. And also note that these people thought the disciples were drunk. It didn't quite seem to line up with the pastor's explanation or books written by accepted Seventh-day Adventist theologians at that time. The fact that we never saw anyone placing their hands on believers and praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit also bothered us. And the icing on the cake for me was that in 1 Corinthians 14, believers were getting out of control with praying in tongues. Paul was admonishing them that unless they interpreted their tongues, it was better not to bring them to church and cause commotion. Probably good advice, but I wondered what were they doing in the privacy of their homes that Paul even said he was doing? Something that they shouldn't bring to church, unless they interpreted it for everyone? Was it a foreign language that existed somewhere on the earth at that time? Why would they do that at home? For practice? I didn't think so. And why did it say in 1 Corinthians 14:2 that "anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God?" Why did Paul go on and say, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophecy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified?" Later in verses 14-16 it mentions praying with spirit and praying with the mind, singing with the spirit and singing with the mind. Paul does not tell them to stop doing it at home, he merely tells them to stop doing it at church, unless someone interprets. Whew!
At this point we felt that the Seventh-day Adventist explanation was simply not good enough.
One day as we were traveling from Seattle back to Idaho, we stopped in Baker City to eat at a restaurant. While there, I spotted some literature and books that were free for the taking. The pamphlets were by the Full Gospel Businessmen's Association and the books were "The Happiest People In The World" by Demos Shakarian. Needless to say, I was not very happy those days. Frustrated was more the word for it. I hadn't received adequate answers from my church or its leading authors, so I figured why shouldn't I pick up one of these books and one of these pamphlets? The book, for me, was riveting. I longed for a connection with God that these people claimed to have. And what they claimed to have was more in line with the Bible than anything else I had ever read. After finishing the book, I looked at the pamphlet, and decided to look up a chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Association in Idaho. I found one who met during lunch hours in Boise, Idaho.
I took off work one day in time to get over to Boise and attend the meeting. Everything I heard seemed wonderful, and in line with what I had been studying in Paul's writings. They seemed to not avoid and dance around the subject of Gifts of the Spirit like my church did. At the end of the meeting they asked if anyone who had not received the Holy Spirit would like to come forward for prayer. I saw no reason why I shouldn't. They placed their hands on me and prayed. No coercion accompanied the prayer. No lights went off in my head and I did not speak in tongues or prophecy. Afterward, I caught one of the men who had prayed for me and asked him if he was concerned that I had not begun speaking in tongues or prophecying. He told me that he was not concerned and that he was sure that I would.
So the days stretched on, and I saw no evidence that I had received the Holy Spirit. Then one day I was reading 2 Timothy 1:6-7 where Paul reminded Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." It seemed to me that we had the ability to be timid and suppress the gifts which are in us through the laying on of hands. So I decided to be less timid.
As I was walking out behind the huge barn on my dad's property adjacent to mine, I decided to be less timid. And I began to fan the flame a little. So I tried to speak in tongues. And try as hard as I might, all that came out sounded like baby talk. I mean I expected to flip out in the Spirit or something. I mean here I was talking some kind of gibberish baby talk, which I would start or stop at my will. It did not take over my being. I could do most anything I wanted while I talked that way. I could tie my shoe, drive my car, water ski and most anything. Except....I could not reason well with my mind while I was talking that way. For example, I could not balance a checkbook while talking that way. The very instant I would stop, I could continue to balance the bank statement. And I thought of the verse in 1 Corinthians that mentioned praying with the spirit and praying with the mind, singing with the spirit and singing with the mind. It does seem that the two are different. When I go to the Adventist church, to my mind they sing mostly with the mind. When I attended Word of Faith, it seemed that they sang mostly with their spirit.
During the years that I attended Word of Faith, I truly enjoyed the singing in the spirit. I still miss it. It does seem to me that the body has a mental area and a spiritual area. Some call it head and heart. I have seen Eastern religions that do not recognize Christ do similar things. Using mantras or sounds they meditate until they seem to transcend the mind into spiritual.
But as for me, I have not seen much concrete evidence that I ever operated in Spiritual Gifts. My "baby talk" certainly was accepted at Word of Faith as the genuine gift. In fact, one time when a man recognized by many as a prophet was visiting our church and held a "stir up the gift that is within you" type of meeting, I tried to stir up the gift of prophecy. I mean, I felt that I had some talent in teaching and maybe the Holy Spirit would give me this gift if I tried to stir it up. So I did, and when I did, the prophet said, "That's it! Now don't you ever doubt that you have the gift of prophecy again." But it didn't feel like prophecy to me. It sounded just like me talking, and what I was saying seemed to me just crap. So I continued to doubt that experience. Another time I prayed for a dying young lady in a hospital who was believing God just a hard as a young lady can, and she died.
In John 14:12 I read, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." And what had Jesus been doing? Just before he said this he raised Lazarus from the dead. And about this time my friend's son was found dead from a seizure in their house. I went down immediately to Nevada where this young boy lay in the mortuary. With his parents' consent, I called him forth, just as Jesus did. My whole mind said, "Who do you think you are?" But I ignored it. I knew what the Bible said and I wasn't going to waiver at this important moment. I ignored my pride and just did it in faith. Nothing visible happened. Nothing visible ever happened with my prayers. I just told the parents that for me, he was risen. The rest was up to God.
Some believe that my rejection of Christianity, as explained in my book, is due to some grave disappointment with that experience. But it isn't. My rejection of Christianity is because of a long list of experiences where I have exercised my faith in God and it was like I was talking to a wall. I cannot point back to any single experience where I can say for a fact that my faith in God was listened to by a god who was in fact listening; not to a point where I can say that my prayers were heard by God or responded to.
So where do I stand with regard to tongues? I believe that by making unfamiliar words we can cause the mind to take a back seat in our being. It can be useful and fun. I do it sometimes when I'm listening to inspiring music because it shuts off my mind and my heart seems to become intimately involved in the music. But do I believe that it is a gift from God to aid the believer and take the gospel to the world? No, I do not. All these years of experience, wonderful friends, wonderful praise and worship services, and the hope of thriving in the baptism of the Holy Spirit seem futile. And for me, the Bible is a book with such a colorful and twisted history; and yet, most people are either unaware of it or don't want to see it. It is taken to mean so many things to different people, causing one group of my friends to not associate well with other groups of my family and friends. I simply do not find the Bible reasonable, and I don't like what religion has done to me or to the world. The irony of the situation is that I wish I could believe it. I even miss it sometimes. But for now, I believe what I've put in my book. I hope you find it interesting. I received my first 10 copies Friday. I feel relieved to be at this point.