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“This May Seem a Bit Strange …”

Continuationists who are otherwise orthodox like to think that they represent the mainstream of charismaticism, and that the extreme errors of the movement are found only on the fringes. In fact, it is they who reside on the fringe of an aberrant movement, performing the service not of moderating it, but of lending it credibility. Doing so requires either a redefining of the miraculous gifts, or, as seen below, some pretty amazing gymnastics.


One of the most respected New Testament scholars in the evangelical world provides an example of this very thing [i.e., lending credibility to the broad charismatic movement]. As a careful exegete who seeks to be faithful to the New Testament text, this man correctly identifies the gift of tongues with authentic languages. However, his continuationist presuppositions inhibit him from concluding that the gift of languages has ceased. As a result, he is forced to devise a baffling hypothesis in which he asserts that modern babbling may seem like gibberish, but can constitute a rational language at the same time. In an extended discussion on this point, he provides the following example to illustrate his view:

Suppose the message is:

Praise the Lord, for his mercy endures forever.

Remove the vowels to achieve:


This may seem a bit strange; but when we remember that modern Hebrew is written without most vowels, we can imagine that with practice this could be read quite smoothly. Now remove the spaces and, beginning with the first letter, rewrite the sequence using every third letter, repeatedly going through the sequence until all the letters are used up. The result is:


Now add an “a” sound after each consonant, and break up the unit into arbitrary bits:


I think that is indistinguishable from transcriptions of certain modern tongues. Certainly it is very similar to some I have heard. But the important point is that it conveys information provided you know the code. Anyone who knows the steps I have taken could reverse them in order to retrieve the original message. . . .

It appears, then, that tongues may bear cognitive information even though they are not known human languages—just as a computer program is a “language” that conveys a great deal of information, even though it is not a “language” that anyone actually speaks.

While such a suggestion is innovative, it has no exegetical basis and adds layers of unnecessary complexity that are not warranted by the New Testament description of the gift of languages. Unique explanations like this, though well intentioned, attempt to do the impossible. All efforts to reconcile the biblical miracle of speaking foreign languages and the modern practice of nonsensical jabber fail.

—John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 235–236.

The “respected New Testament scholar” quoted above is none other than D. A. Carson (Showing the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), 85–86.), a man whose scholarship has indeed earned the respect he receives. That his charismatic presuppositions, juxtaposed on a biblical understanding of tongues, force him to concoct such a risible theory should be an obvious indicator of the impossibility of reconciling continuationism with biblical Christianity.

Posted 2014·06·30 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Cessationism · Charismania · D A Carson · John MacArthur · Strange Fire · Tongues

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