Decently and In Order

One of my biggest gripes with Charismatic/Pentecostal church services is the ruckus that ensues when an entire congregation begins speaking/shouting in tongues during the service.  This just seems to be out of order, unruly even.  But then I wonder, if this is the norm in these services then is it really out of order?  In other words, while such behavior might be inappropriate in the local Catholic or Baptist church, that doesn’t necessitate that it’s out of order in the Charismatic/Pentecostal church.  The fact of the matter is that we all have different orders of service, different liturgies (or lack thereof), and what’s normal in one church might be abnormal in another.  If Charismatics/Pentecostals keep their tongue talking limited to the times when it is appropriate to do so then they aren’t really being disorderly, are they?  But if they interrupt the preaching or some other part of the service with their behavior then they are, right? 

What do you think?  I’m especially interested in what the tongue talkers have to say.


42 thoughts on “Decently and In Order

  1. If it is expected in the service then it’s not out of order, but it is a disordered time of the service, even if expected. ; )

    Have you ever listened to the warm up time before an orchestra plays? It’s an expected and planned time before the actual performance, however it is still a disorderly and chaotic noise. Nobody goes to hear the warm up time. It’s only when all the instruments are playing in unity that the orchestra is edifying to everyone.

    Now that’s just an analogy so don’t press it further than it’s intended. : )

    Bryan L

  2. When I attended a charismatic church, the church tended to Paul’s commands to Corinth-

    “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged…”

  3. Nick, that’s a tough question. I would think that is the sort of situation that Paul was possibly addressing in 1 Cor. 14

    Now having said that. In all of our services we allow people to pray & worship in tongues. There are times when we have prayer services where the whole congregation will pray out loud in tongues.

    I have to finish a bit later, leaving to church.

  4. Bryan L: That’s actually a pretty good analogy, especially in light of Paul’s talking about “clanging brass” and “tinkling cymbols.”

    Bryan: I’ve been to one church like that (Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center) — It would be pretty sweet if that were the norm.

    Robert: I agree, I think Paul was addressing this in 1Cor. 14 (as well as 12-13 to some extent). Your services sound a lot like mine.

  5. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28 TNIV)

    That is the context of verse 33: For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

  6. Well, I tend to think if there is strong pastoral leadership and he or she leads the congregation in a time of “prayer in the Spirit” then might be okay. Strong pastoral leadership is the key.

    Obviously it is out of order to interrupt another who is speaking to give a word in tongues.

  7. Stan: Yes, that’s the context, but that’s actually a bit different then what I’m talking about.

    Brian: That’s kind of what I’m thinking of. If there’s time set aside for the practice then is it really disruptive or out of order? Probably not.

    Kevin: It’s definitely uncomfortable in the beginning, but then so is the sermon! What started bothering me after a few years was the conviction that we were doing exactly what Paul told the Corinthians not to do, but now I wonder if that’s necessarily the case.

  8. You’re exactly right, Nick. Paul’s suit was not against glossolalia but rather against disorder and causing offense to outsiders. So if it’s done in an orderly way (and some glossolalic praise that I’ve heard is more orderly than any vernacular hymn could ever be!) and in a context where there are practically no outsiders (at least not of the sort who wouldn’t have a clue as to what was going on), then I don’t see how Paul’s words would really apply.

    When done in an orderly way, the outsider will often be drawn to the deeper things of God. (Some outsiders, however, have been so poisoned against glossolalia that there’s really no point in *not* offending them.)

  9. It is my opinion they are behaving fleshly and that “modern tongues” are in no way similar to the kinds of “languages” Paul was talking about in Corinthians.

  10. Very few scholars think that Paul believed that glossolalia was actual earthly languages. (Forbes and Gundry are the only prominent exceptions that I can think of.) In fact, if you’ll read Acts 2, you’ll see that the miracle of speaking unlearned languages was what made the Acts 2 outpouring so spectacular, over against other normal outpourings accompanied by ordinary glossolalia. The Acts 2 paradigm is the exception, and the Pauline view is the more typical scheme.

  11. Nick, didn’t log back on after church.

    I just wanted to say a bit more about our prayer services. They are not part of our normal scheduled services (i.e. Sun, Wed, and home bible studies). These prayer services are dedicated to prayer, worship and praise and that’s it. There are times during these services where our senior pastor will direct the church to pray in tongues together out loud. Which I think is fine. Also we will do corporate prayer, as well as individual prayer in English. We do these about every quarter.

    These services are not intended for visitors, only church members. A visitor is more than welcome to show up but we don’t encourage members to bring visitors to these services.

    Other than that, our normal services we try not to stifle the Spirit, and keep things in order. It’s a delicate balance.

  12. John:

    Some outsiders, however, have been so poisoned against glossolalia that there’s really no point in *not* offending them.

    Well said! ;)

    Michael: John beat me to responding but he said pretty much what I would have. Other than Acts 2 you’d have a very hard time making a case for earthly languages.

    Robert: I see. If that’s the case then it’s different than what I’m used to. Generally during praise and worship there is a lot of tongue talking in pretty much every service (even in the midst of singing), and also at the end of service during the prayer time/altar call. I think the balance you speak of is the key and often we tend to go overboard.

  13. Don’t most scholars agree that the tongues in Acts 2 differ from the Corinthian tongues? I’m not arguing for xenoglossia in Corinthians, but glossolalia.

    The babbling that goes on, at least in the prayer meetings I would overhear while studying in the church library at a local church were utterly ridiculous, and could not be defined as glossolalia by any standard. They bear no semblance at all to a language, and I believe, fleshly.

  14. Acts 11:15 explicitly states that the Gentiles had their own Pentecost. This would keep with the same paradigmatic language used to describe the Acts 2 event. Luke will also employ similar descriptions for the “Samaritan Pentecost” of Acts 8.

    Acts 2 is clearly not the only exception for xenoglossia.

  15. Where I get uneasy is when there is a lot of tongues happening all over the place and there is no interpretation. Scripture is rather unambiguous that tongues is something prophetic and interpretation is nearby. I think that many people speak in tongues irresponsibly as a show of how blessed they are and the desire of the gifts can become a subtle, yet powerful, for of idolatry.

    But I am always a little uneasy with overly-dramatic displays of emotionalism in worship since it is a fact that groups of people will feed off of each other’s displays of emotion thus rendering their tongues, healing, whatever as products of “group think” rather than something from God. Discipline always has its place in worship. It’s the same psychosocial principle that has its effect in riots and it can happen even in the sacred bounds of worship – we are all only human after all. I think 1 Cor. speaks a lot to the problems when we worship in the Spirit in an undisciplined manner.

  16. Michael,

    That may be your reaction to glossolalia, but that doesn’t really show that it’s different from what Paul was talking about. After all, isn’t your reaction to glossolalia pretty much the same as the reaction that Paul said that the outsider would have: “You are mad”?

  17. Acts 11:15 clearly states:
    As I began to speak, a the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.

    “Just as on us at the beginning” is hard to confuse.

    The rest of the language used to describe the conversion of the Samaritans is the same Greek vocabulary that Luke employed at Pentecost.

    The Holy Spirit “falls” on the Samaritans.

    They saw great signs and miracles.

    Etc etc.

    It should be hard to read the Greek and discern these events as dissimilar. The language used to describe them appears only in these critical sections where the Gospel is coming to new people groups, like the Samaritans, Gentiles, or the Ephesian disciples of John who were an OT people.

  18. Ah yes. I’m an outsider to the faith. Let’s not discuss your position on our freedom to “re-interpret the Old Testament” since the NT fellows got it wrong.

    Paul believed that there was an order about things and that God is a god of intelligibility. Glossolalia was an unknown phenomenon to the speaker. However, linguistic studies demonstrate that is false. The speaker is using only language patterns and sounds that are a part of his native language.

  19. Michael,

    Apparently, it’s not as “hard to confuse” as you think.

    When Peter says “Just as on us at the beginning”, he means simply what he says: just as the Spirit fell on us at the beginning, so also it has fallen on these Gentiles. “Just as” refers to the Spirit has been poured out on the Gentiles just as (that is, correlative now strictly in the fact of its being given) on the Jews, *not* to a similarity of all the effects that went with it on these two occasions. Peter’s point is only that the Spirit has been given–it is completely beside the point (for his case) what the effects were, or how identical or different they were on the two occasions. What matters for Peter’s argument is simply that the Spirit was given to the Gentiles, just as it was given to the Jews gathered on the day of Pentecost.

    If I say, “Hugh died at an early age, just as his father had,” the similarity implied in the words “just as” is confined to their sharing the fact of an early death. I don’t mean to imply that their deaths were similar in any other way. “Just as” is operative simply for the point of the comparison.

    And I still see nothing in Acts 8 to indicate xenoglossia. Just because two outpourings are spectacular does not indicate that they were similar in all respects.

  20. Michael,

    Please don’t take any offense at my use of the term “outsider”. I wasn’t meaning to imply that you were an “outsider” in the sense that you seem to have taken it. I simply meant that your reaction to glossolalia was pretty much the same as what Paul said that visiting nonglossolalists would have, and that that counts more *in favor of* a similarity between modern glossolalia and Pauline glossolalia than against it.

  21. Michael,

    I assure you that I’m not playing games. My points are simple and very straightforward. Just as you read too much into my use of the term “outsider”, so also you have read too much into Peter’s use of “just as” in Acts 11.

    It’s absolutely normal for someone using the construction that Peter uses to intend the scope of saying “just as” to be limited to the point being made. Isn’t that obvious?

    Tell me honestly: Do you really think that when the other apostles heard Peter say that the Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles “just as” it had fallen on “us” at the beginning, that those other apostles took him to imply that all the same spectacular effects (e.g., rushing wind, tongues of fire, xenoglossia, etc.) took place too? Don’t you think it more likely that they took Peter to mean simply that the Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles just as it had fallen on the Jews (which is exactly what he says)? And if Peter only meant to say that the Spirit had now fallen on the Gentiles, just as it had fallen on the Jews, how should he have said it any differently?

  22. Well, how did the Holy Spirit fall on them?

    When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

    Regarding the Gentile conversion account:

    As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ,

    You’re obfuscating John and you know it.

  23. The event itself is described in Acts 9,

    44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.

    And later interpreted as the same as, or “just as” Pentecost.

  24. I’m really not sure what you’re saying, and I’m not sure why you say I’m obfuscating.

    Of course I believe that when the Spirit was poured out that there was glossolalia. That’s normal–it’s how Paul would understand it, and it’s how the long ending of Mark understands it. That’s not at issue.

    The issue is whether glossolalia as found in these outpourings is normally xenoglossic? That’s what you seem to think, and, if I understand you correctly, you base your argument on the use of “just as”. I have tried to show you that you’re reading the “just as” construction in a very artificial way–a way that normal speech doesn’t even think to do.

    Perhaps you are assuming that if glossolalists are said to be “extolling God” when they speak in tongues, that that means that they are speaking earthly languages? But that would be an errant assumption, as the *Testament of Job* uses the same language of Job’s daughters when they are said to speak in the language of angels.

    If I’ve missed the substance of your argument, please try again. I want to make sure I understand you.

    What am I supposed to be seeing in the scriptural passages that you quoted? I don’t see anything there to support your view.

    Please don’t tell me that I’m obfuscating. I’d rather you tell me why I’m wrong.

  25. John, do you see me as creating an argument here? I’m not sure why you are giving attention to “extolling God”, that is another tangent. Scripture is making the connection between the giving of the Spirit and tongues at Pentecost with that of the Gentile conversion – certainly not I. If I were quoting scripture wrongly I would hope you could correct me. This is explicit in Acts though. This is not an argument I’m trying to make John, this is only an observation. I’m simply pointing out what the Scriptures say. You said that xenoglossia is only occuring in Acts 2. But Acts 10 and 11 say it occurred again for the Gentiles. I should hope that I do not need to add to the words of Scripture here.

    Acts 2 (Jerusalem Pentecost):
    When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

    Acts 10 & 11 (Gentile conversion)
    While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God… the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning [Acts 2]. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

    It is further interesting to note that the understanding from both events is repentance:

    Acts 2
    “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    Acts 11
    “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

    I think you are wanting the text to blatantly say “this is exactly just as”, or “this is no different from the beginning”. But I do not believe Luke was expecting his readers to understand the tongues occurring in these events as different. Indeed, everything is the same! The Spirit is given in the same way, both groups speak in tongues, and the conclusion in both cases is repentance and following Christ.

    I’m not trying to do gymnastics here, I really see this pretty cut and dry.

    I shall turn your argument on its head and ask you, what do you see in the text that would otherwise indicate these tongues as somehow being different?

  26. Wasn’t the crowd with Peter during the Gentile conversion the same crowd at Pentecost? I don’t have my book open at the moment, but if it is, that would serve to underscore my observations noted above, I should hope.

  27. Michael,

    You aren’t, by chance, being influenced by Malcolm Yarnell, are you? Your views sound similar to his.

    I would think that if a first-century Christian historian made a point of the glossolalia exhibited on the day of Pentecost being understood as languages by visitors from all over the map, but subsequent outpourings of the Spirit mention glossolalia without implying that it was xenoglossic, most early Christian readers would take the point about xenoglossia on Pentecost to have the significance that it plainly has (*viz.* a special miracle), but they would take subsequent outpourings as examples of glossolalia plain and simple–that is, as non-xenoglossic glossolalia as understood by Paul, and experienced by most Christians. Why shouldn’t they?

  28. Never heard of him…

    Your last paragraph was over my head to be frank. What of my question for you though?

    Honestly, my biggest influences here on this topic is Dr. James Hamilton. Pages 182-203, “God’s Indwelling Presence”. He articulates Luke’s highly paradigmatic language surrounding the Baptism events. I simply ran with it since the discussion was similar.

    I’m embarrasingly not well read. I came to Christ 3 years ago and my library is only a fraction of Norelli’s. I have about 250 books. But they are very very strong titles. Titles my Uncle and other theologians have highly recommended.

  29. Michael: Alright, a lot has gone on in my absense, so here’s a few thoughts.

    (1) I’m not sure what ‘standard’ you’re referring to for glossolalia when you say that the ‘babbling’ you’ve heard cannot be defined as glossolalia by any ‘standard.’ What you call ‘babbling’ others call ‘ecstatic utterance’ but I don’t think that anyone can get around Paul’s statement that those who speak in tongues speak unto God because no man understands them (1Cor. 14:3).

    (2) You at one point appealed to linguistic studies but I’m not sure why. Your point seemed to be that the sound patterns are part of the speakers native language but what import does that have? And how do we explain similar sounds and patterns across the board from American to European to African to Asian believers that speak in tongues?

    (3) I have to agree with John in that I think you’re reading too much into “just as” — You seem to be reading “just as” as meaning “in the exact same manner” rather than “like” or “also” which I believe is how it is intended.

    (4) There really is no indication that the same kind of tongues were spoken in Acts 10 as in Acts 2. We’re missing a significant piece of the puzzle; in Acts 2 men were gathered from a variety of nations and all heard people speaking in their own languages. There’s no indication in Acts 10 that the Gentiles were speaking a different language than the Jews to begin with, or that they began to speak in the Jews’ own language once the Holy Spirit fell on them (that would be my response to your question to John about what would lead one to believe that the tongues were different).

    (5) I don’t have as many books as you might think. At three years in I had nowhere near 250! :)

    John: I’m pretty much in agreement with all you’ve said.

    Drew: That was similar to my thinking before but now not as much because if there is a designated time then there is no disruption, no confusion, no ‘showing off’ so to speak. Also, Paul is equally clear that the person who speaks in tongues without an interpretation edifies themself, but the interpretation edifies the church. I think an argument can be made that in times of prayer, praise, and worship when we are directing our tongues toward God that an interpretation isn’t necessary.

  30. In a corporate setting Norelli, what is the use of speaking in tongues if the men are speaking only to God? And why are intereptretations always lacking?

    The discipline has gone unchecked in charismatic churches (at least the ones in southern Dallas where Charismatic schools such as Christ for the Nations and SWAGU have a heavy influence no doubt). My first church after coming to Christ was a charismatic church that I faithfully attended for about 9 months straight. There is no obedience to the Word of God on this issue. Further, it is getting very tiresome to be met with the “outsider/unbeliever” remark when a fellow Christian decides to speak up about the ridiculousness of it all. If my salvation is going to be called into question for protesting such chaos, then I’m prepared to make my Athanasian stand “against the whole world”.

  31. Michael: In a time of prayer or worship the use is glorifying God and building yourself up in the faith. Also, interpretations are not always lacking, I’m not sure where you got that idea. I’ve heard many a tongue interpreted.

    But I wouldn’t paint with such a broad brush in saying there is no obedience to the word of God on this issue. The fact is that all churches run their services differently, even Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. As I said to Bryan above, Faith Fellowship Ministries World Outreach Center operates according to 1Corinthians 14. But that’s kind of the point of this post; if there is a designated time to speak in tongues and it isn’t disruptive to the order of service, then can a congregation said to be being disobedient to the word of God?

    And I understand your frustration. I’d hope you’d be able to see how other Christians get equally frustrated with their glossolalia being called ‘babbling,’ ‘false,’ ‘unbiblical,’ ‘nonsense,’ and things of the like. For the record, I don’t consider you an unbeliever or outsider, and I don’t believe that anyone here has called your salvation into question because of your position.

  32. Michael,

    Jim Hamilton is a good man, but I doubt that I would agree with his view of glossolalia very much.

    I’m sorry for the extra-long sentence. It was intended as an answer to your question. I’ll try again.

    Luke presents glossolalia as normally accompanying spirit-reception. It does so in Acts 2, 10, and 19, and, as there was something visual that made Simon Magus want a certain power, it is also implied in Acts 8. Any Christian reader in the first two centuries who read the book of Acts would have immediately recognized this gift. Any who had not experienced it or heard it would have known about it from 1 Corinthians. So when Luke was writing his account, he would have known that readers would have associated glossolalia as presented in the text with glossolalia as they knew it as eye-(ear?-)witnesses. If Luke at any time wanted his readers to think that the glossolalia they were reading about was different in any way from normal glossolalia (*viz.* that it was xenoglossic), surely he would have indicated that in the text. He does this *one time* and *only* one time: in the miracle at Pentecost. He does so there for the reason that Nick mentions: the international context invited this spectacular miracle to witness in a special way that God was bringing the nations to experience him in Jerusalem.

    In other words, when you read Acts, you need to try to read it as Luke’s intended readers would have read it. That means reading it as one who was more familiar with an *angeloglossic* understanding of glossolalia (that is, an understanding that it was speaking in angelic langauges), or with an understanding of glossolalia as an ecstatic utterances of the human spirit not intended to be linguistic in the normal sense. Luke’s intended readers did not read Acts for the first time and say, “What’s this strange speaking-in-tongues stuff?” They knew what it was, and they read their own presunderstanding of the gift into the text, except in the one instance where Luke indicates that something exceptional was going on.

  33. If Luke is that careful of a historian then how do you explain the blunder in Acts 11? I cannot help but read it and think, this is the same thing. Carbon copy. The detail is left out about men from every nation. If the crowd with Peter is the same crowd at Pentecost, then they are hearing xenoglossia. John, who is that crowd mentioned in Acts 10 with Peter? I believe it was the dispersion.

  34. Bryan L: I remember, I think I commented on that post. I’ve toyed with the idea that tongues with interpretation was at work in Acts 2, but in the end I couldn’t convince myself.

  35. I have to leave for Boston in a couple of hours, and I won’t be able to resume this conversation until Tuesday, but I have a question: What blunder in Acts 11 are you talking about?

  36. In the AG, as I understand it, we see them as the same tongues, with different functions, one private, one public. All can speak/pray in tounges but only those whom the Spirit enables and who obey the Spirit’s leading, give a “message” in tongues in the congregation, as is the case with prophecy, or any other spiritual ministry (ie., gift).

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