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Tongues

(6 posts)

Oh, yeah? Prove it!

Tuesday··2011·01·25 · 14 Comments
I have received some push-back (thanks to Tim Challies) on yesterday’s posting of John MacArthur’s comments on the charismatic movement. The content of the comments is no surprise, nor is what is conspicuously absent from them. This post is your opportunity to remedy that, and set me straight once and for all. The cessationist argument—my argument—begins with the fact that, according to Scripture, tongues will cease; that’s not debatable. The question is, when? Assuming (erroneously) that Scripture gives us no clue, how would we know? What if, like Noah, we were told of a coming event, but not told when it would happen, how would we know that it had? Well, it was easy for Noah: the flood came; he knew it had, and consequently, he didn’t lose any sleep about it as a future event thereafter. Cessationists believe the cessation has come, and that it came at or before the end of the apostolic age. We offer as evidence the only evidence there could be, the only evidence that should be necessary: Tongues are absent from church history. This post offers you an opportunity to refute that. This is not the place for philosophy or personal anecdotes. Your refutation must come in the form of citations from the Fathers, Reformers, Puritans, or similar sources demonstrating that tongues were an issue among them. I am not asking for their opinions on the subject, or their treatment of any biblical text; I am not asking for your opinions; I am asking for historical evidence that they were actually experiencing these things. No anecdotes or opinions, only actual documentation from cited sources. Anything less will be deleted. Read before commenting You may offer direct quotes from orthodox sources (not pagans or heretics), e.g. the Fathers, Reformers, Puritans (as in comment #1) and discuss those quotes (as in comments #2, 3, & 4). You may not tell me what you think about cessationists charismatics this challenge MacArthur, Piper, Grudem, Mahaney, etc. I will delete my own mother’s comments if she violates these rules. What I want: Unmistakable accounts of legitimate tongues, e.g., And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” Acts 2:4–11 Is this not clear?

Post-Apostolic Charismata: Montanism

Thursday··2013·06·13
Once upon a time, I challenged Charismatics to present post-apostolic examples of the miraculous gifts (two and a half years later, I am still waiting). John MacArthur writes of one example that does not qualify: You are seated in a roomful of intense worshippers. The zealous singing is punctuated by cries of praise and fervent prayers. Suddenly someone standing near you begins to speak in rapid syllables that seem completely foreign to any language you have ever heard. The cryptic “message” is echoed by a number of others in a quiet, almost inaudible way. Then, as a response, another worshipper stands and gives a message or “prophecy,” spoken as if originated with God Himself: “Thus saith the Lord. If you my people will confess your sins, and seek my path, and call on my name, you will be blessed beyond measure.” The rest of the group, quiet during the short message of prophecy, now begins to praise God as others offer additional messages. Quite possibly you recognize this kind of scene. Surely, you say, it is a description of a charismatic prayer fellowship. You are familiar with it because you have witnessed similar occurrences when accompanying friends or even family members to such meetings. Groups like this have grown more and more numerous in the last few years. This kind of activity is typical today as Charismatics speak in tongues and prophesy as the dynamic witness to what they feel is a generation living in the last days. As familiar as this seems, it is not a modern meeting of Charismatics at all. Described above are a group called Montanists, who lived in the second century A.D. Following the teachings of their leader, Montanus, this group believed that every believer was a means of special revelation. As proof they exercised dramatic gifts of the Spirit including “prophecy” and “tongues,” which they claimed were prophetic signs of the end times. Montanus believed that Christians were living in the “last days” immediately before the return of Christ. Montanus even taught that the New Jerusalem would descend upon his own village of Pepuza in Asia Minor in his life time. One of Montanus’s key doctrines was the claim that he spoke with direct revelation from God through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Montanus claimed to receive revelation God of a nature supplementary to that communicated by Christ and the apostles. He taught a progression of revelation from the Old Testament prophets to the Lord’s disciples and then on into the “new age of the Spirit.” In the “new age” the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouths of Montanist prophets and prophetesses. Montanus boldly intimidated Christians by claiming the church was comprised of two groups: the “spiritual Christians” who followed his teachings and claimed direct revelation from God and the “carnal Christians” who only had the “dead letter” of the Scriptures. . . . The rest of the church branded Montanism as a serious heresy to be rejected. The Council of Constantinople (381) decided that repentant Montanists were to be brought back into the fellowship very carefully. They were examined regarding their grasp of salvation and were put into an intensified study of the Scriptures. —John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 27–28.

Missionaries to the Gibbers

Friday··2014·04·18
The Gibbers are, of course, the inhabitants of Gibb, speakers of—well, you figure it out. Pentecostal father Charles Parham was a nut by anyone’s standard. Contrary to cessationist—i.e., biblical—orthodoxy, he expected the gift of tongues. Contrary to today’s Pentecostal/charismatic dogma, he believed that biblical tongues were actual languages, intended to be understood. He boasted to the Topeka State Journal, “The Lord will give us the power of speech to talk to the people of the various nations without having to study them in schools.” Several weeks later, he told the Kansas City Times, “A part of our labor will be to teach the church the uselessness of spending years of time preparing missionaries for work in foreign lands when all they have to do is ask God for power.” —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 22. As the best laid plans of mice and mystics often go awry, so Parham’s plans were to be disappointed. 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. — Ibid., 23.

Biblical Tongues

Tuesday··2014·06·03
The only detailed description of tongues speaking in the Bible: Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” —Acts 2:5–11 Is anyone, anywhere, claiming this ability?
What Did Paul Mean When He Said Tongues-Speakers Speak to God, Not to Men? Charismatics sometimes cling to this phrase in 1 Corinthians 14:2 as a justification for their unintelligible glossolalia. But once again, the context belies that interpretation. The entirety of verses 1–3 reads as follows: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” In those verses, Paul was not extolling the gift of tongues; rather he was explaining why it was inferior to the gift of prophecy. Whereas prophecy was spoken in words that everyone could understand, the gift of foreign languages had to be interpreted in order for others to be edified. Paul defined exactly what he meant by the phrase “does not speak to men but to God” in the very next line, “for no one understands.” If the language was not translated, only God would know what was being said. Clearly, Paul was far from commending such a practice. As he had already established (in chapter 12), the purpose of the gifts was the edification of others within the body of Christ. Foreign languages left untranslated did not fulfill that purpose. That is why the apostle put such an emphasis on the necessity of interpretation (vv. 13, 27). —John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship (Thomas Nelson, 2014), 149–150.

“This May Seem a Bit Strange …”

Monday··2014·06·30
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: PRS TH LRD FR HS MRC NDRS FRVR. 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: PTRRMNSVRHDHRDFRSLFSCRR. Now add an “a” sound after each consonant, and break up the unit into arbitrary bits: PATARA RAMA NA SAVARAHA DAHARA DAFARASALA FASA CARARA. 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.

@TheThirstyTheo



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