Glossolalia and the body of believers

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name(Jesus) shall they cast out devils, they shall SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES; they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not harm them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” - (MARK 16: 17-18)

‘And they were amazed and were in doubt, saying one to another what meaneth this? Others mocking said these men are full of wine.” - (ACTS 2: 12-13)

This idea that they are full of wine, is this because they are also speaking utterances of otherly prayer language in praise of God? We know, of course, that the gift of tongues was also the gift of diverse languages so that those near to them could hear the gospel message and understand it. 

“The multitude came together and were confounded because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled saying one to another; Behold ate not all these which speak Galileans? and now hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born.” - (ACTS 2: 6-8)

It is scriptural, yes, that we lay hands on members of the Christian community and ask for God to fill them with the Holy Spirit, after the pattern of scripture:
“Prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: for as yet he was fallen on none of them: only they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost.” - (ACTS 8: 15-16)

And here the Holy Spirit empowers these believers and then they are baptised afterwards.
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word, and they of the circumcision were astonished as many as came with Peter that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then answered Peter. Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptised which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” - (ACTS 10: 44-47)

“When they heard this they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them and they spake in tongues and prophesied and all the men were about twelve.” - (ACTS 19: 5-7)

I am realising the extent to which I might have damaged my own acceptance of the Holy Spirit. I seem to have stepped up the act of discernment to such an extent, in the face of the suspicion that is out there (I have read too much cessationist stuff on the net), that I am constantly asking myself whether I am not being emotional or living out of too experientialist a theology. 

Anyway, I continue to wrestle with these things, seeking earnestly to worship in Spirit and truth, to have the Word and the Spirit govern my life. 
Paul explains how “I thank my God I speak with tongues ...” - (I CORINTHIANS 14: 18)

There is such a range of diversity on the issue of tongues. I have been quite captured by the discussion over at New Leaven on this topic. In my formation group this morning, we reflected on the teaching that the year group above us had received on the issue. At my placement church there is a wide-acceptance of the charismatic gifts. I am free to pray this way in ministry with people. We must always be discerning, think always of our brothers and sisters and grow in that most important fruit: love, for one another. If people are not comfortable with it, we need to listen to them. However, surely there must also be lavish exaltation of our beautiful Lord and spontaneity in praise and worship. Having said that, speaking in tongues is more often than not, not emotional and excessive. It seems to be a place where human language runs out and another language begins as the Spirit intercedes. When that runs out too, I find my place of deep silence where there is no language at all.


Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for these interesting reflections.

But your post comes out blank in Google Reader. That's because the text is set to white - not just to the default colour which is what you usually do. Maybe this was a clever ploy to get people like me to read your actual blog and so increase your Biblioblogger ranking ;-) but I'm not sure it will actually work - more likely to put people off.

Rachel Marszalek said...

You credit me with more intelligence that I actually possess - very kind of you. I will set it to grey and that should help a bit.

Thank you.

Peter Kirk said...

Rachel, you have plenty of intelligence. I'm glad you're using it on helpful theology rather than on trying to get yourself meaningless blogging rankings!

Rachel Marszalek said...

Biblioblogs has disappeared.
Not to be sniffed at though - it opened up a new world for me regarding research materials and comments on biblical texts, much discernment required, however.

Suem said...

I hesitate to comment on this one, as I worry I may have upset you previously? I joined a charismatic Christian group when I was about thirteen, it was common practice to baptise people in the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands. Almost everyone in the group spoke in tongues, it was a part of every prayer group ( with interpretation- very scriptural.) My experience of tongues was something completely spontaneous and it took me by surprise, I didn't feel pressured, although I was aware that this group did kind of consider something was lacking if you couldn't speak in tongues.

It is not something I do any more. I can, but it feels rather "fake". Maybe this is a taught reaction. I discussed it once with my husband and he was perplexed and said something along the lines that I was involved in some crazy shit in my teens etc. I got the impression he thought least said was soonest mended!

I suspect more people in the C of E from evangelical backgrounds speak in tongues or have spoken in tongues than admit it. It can be rather taboo ( which is not good), except in some churches where it is seen as a badge of a true Christian ( also not good.)

From experience, I think different people's "tongues" sounded very distinctive, I remember one sounded Chinese, another very musical and one quite guttural. I did notice the range of "vocabulary" could be limited, with certain "words" or sound patterns repeated regularly. The studies that say glossalia is not as developed structurally and syntactically as another language ring true for me.

I think it is a shame if people are made to feel bad about tongues, it is in the bible, it is a recognised religious phenomenon and if it enhances people's spiritual lives then where is the problem.
I might do a blog post on tongues - but it is telling that I feel more circumspect about doing that and how I might be judged than writing about sexuality or sexual abuse.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Yes Sue, I always post very hesitantly on this topic. I think, in part, we react, aware of our postmodern obsession with individualism. There is a reaction against the experiential and the personal because we all hope to recover a sense of the communal, which is so distinctive about Christianity but so lacking in secular Britain.

Also in a faith that is all about inclusion, radical inclusion, tongue-speaking Christians need to be careful about anything that might exclude. We all need to watch ourselves very carefully and pray that the Holy Spirit gives us the discernment to know when such intimate prayer languages are affirming and edifying and when they are not. As with anything, the most beautiful things of God can be used by the devil. We have to pray about it and reach out to God and our brothers and sisters too.

Thank you


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