Monday, February 24, 2014

On speaking in tongues (glossolalia)

Glossolalia: profuse and often emotionally charged speech that mimics coherent speech but is usually unintelligible to the listener and that is uttered in some states of religious ecstasy and in some schizophrenic state 

When I was a Christian believer of the Pentecostal church they told me from the beginning that the sign that I have been baptized by the Holy Spirit was that I would be able to speak in tongues. At the time I did not know that this was incorrect. The church had come to believe this based mostly on some verses found in the N.T. oftentimes when someone or a group of people converted to Christianity the text would end with the new converts speaking in tongues. They also like to compare the description of what allegedly occurred in the scriptures on the so called day of Pentecost to what is experienced in the churches today.

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

As is common with most Pentecostals context means nothing. They take this narrative and its details as similar to what they experience today. The only problem with this is that in this instance they were speaking in tongues but in the languages of men, not gibberish as is heard in the churches today. This is clearly indicated in the following verses.

5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”  Acts 2:5-12

The reason I bring this up is that when I was visiting a church that belonged to a pastor friend of mine I came across two teenaged sisters crying in the back row. I approached them to ask what was the matter and was told that they both felt as if God did not love them and they felt out of place in the church because they had not yet received the so called gift of speaking in tongues. From the moment that you convert to Pentecostalism you are told that you will be baptized in the Spirit and that tongues would be the sign. Many who come in become committed to receiving this gift and often pray fervently for it. Not knowing that speaking in tongues as outlined in the scriptures was not the same phenomenon.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31

This previous verse states that everyone in the church may serve a different function and thus have different gifts of the Spirit. It was this that first made me doubt my own "gift" and what I saw in church regularly during service. It was also interesting to me that Paul also differentiated between tongues as the language of the human spirit to God and tongues as diverse human languages.

13For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 1 Corinthians 14:13-14

22Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 1 Corinthians 22-23

Pentecostals do not follow these rules and this led me to suspect the veracity of the experience. I prayed to God with a heavy heart often asking for knowledge and understanding regarding this matter. I asked for his confirmation that I was on the right track with my studies and research on the subject and it actually came in the form of a book I stumbled upon by chance. That book forever changed my life and was pivotal in my breaking free from the superstitions and practices that held me captive.  The book was 'Charismatic Chaos' by John F. MacArthur Jr.

I have come to the conclusion by experience and by my encounter with those young girls that speaking in tongues is both a psychological and social phenomenon. Unconsciously an adherent can pick it up simply by being exposed to it and desiring it. Once you are indoctrinated to believe it your mind is prepped. Then you hear what it sounds like and your unconscious mind records these sounds and subsequently you end up imitating these sounds in a state of ecstasy and high excitability. Like many so called paranormal phenomenon such as OBE's (out of body experiences), NDE's (near death experiences), etc. this too is in the mind. No God nor Holy Spirit required. Some people just like in hypnosis are more susceptible to it than others thus the reason why some never experience this phenomenon.

When I was an evangelist I was fully open to God and the supernatural experiences that accompanied believers. Contrary to what some atheists who have not experienced religious fanaticism to this level the followers are not all faking it. I know I wasn't, and I believed that everything I did was as a result of the gifts of the Spirit which I believed at the time abided in me. This knowledge was the beginning of my liberation from my beliefs and my fanaticism. The day I realized this and knew it in every fiber of my being I felt like the chains of superstition had fallen off and I had finally understood John 8:32. Except the truth was not the gospel nor the fictitious tales about Jesus the Christ. It was the realization that all those beliefs were founded entirely on foreign ancient superstitions and myths.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.

1 comment:

  1. I have only personally seen the mysterious arm raising of the Zombies of Christ at a house meeting, which at age 16 or 17 I saw immediately as exactly what you describe - suggestibility and peer pressure to have the same effect that everyone around you has. Later, studying some other cultures I encountered videos of Afro-Brazilian worship that includes dancing as preparation for the entry of the loa, or supernatural spirit, and I realized why the spirit-possession stories of the NT would have been accepted by African slaves - they are totally in line with west African beliefs. This is how Christianity spread - by having a little of something for everybody and being able to be molded to the culture of each area where it spread. I bet those stories were even put in the Bible in the first place for the benefit of people whose cults endorsed spirit possession.