Part 3 deals primarily with what Dr. Strauss considers to be mistakes or abuses in the use of Tongues, both in the Corinthian Church, and in contemporary Christianity. Some of his points I agree with, and some I take tremendous issue with--particularly the last one.
The Mistakes About Speaking in Tongues
As an introduction to this part of our study, I want you to see Paul's introduction to the subject of spiritual gifts. And incidentally, this is the only place in the entire Bible where spiritual gifts are discussed.
Dr. Strauss tries to subtly convince us of the relative unimportance of spiritual gifts by saying that 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the only place where such gifts are discussed, as though three rather lengthy chapters on the subject is a mere mention. Yet consider the fact that the only time the notion of being "born again", an idea very central to Protestant thinking, is the beginning of John 3. Should we therefore consider being "born again" to be even less important than tongues?
The Apostle writes, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant" (I Corinthians 12: 1). In the Authorized Version the word "gifts" is in italicized letters, telling us that it did not appear in any of the Greek manuscripts but was inserted by translators. Paul actually said to the Corinthians, "I don't want you to be ignorant about pneumatica" (the spirituals), meaning of course the spiritual gifts.
Of course. And...?
Now the Corinthians were not ignorant of the fact of the spiritual gifts, for the Apostle had already said to them, "Ye come behind in no gift" (1:7). When he said, "I would not have you ignorant", he was not speaking about their ignorance of the existence of the gifts, but rather about their ignorance of the right exercise of the gifts. They were well informed as to what the spiritual gifts were, but they were ignorant about the proper use of the gifts, as is evidenced by the mistakes they made in their exercise of them.
I can certainly agree with that.
Before Paul launches into a discussion of the spiritual gifts, he reminds them of how easily they were led astray. He says, "ye know that ye were gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led" (12:2). In substance he is saying, "Before you tell me about your experience let me remind you of your lack of spirituality (3:1), and therefore your inability to discern between the Holy Spirit and false spirits" (2:15). Because they were carnal, "babes in Christ" (3:1), their exercise of the gifts were self-induced by fleshly energy, not by the Holy Spirit. All Christians do not use their gifts properly, so that a Christian's use of a gift might not be in accord with the Word of God. Mistakes can be made by any of us in the exercise of a gift.
Here I see a slight dilemma of logic. In the passages pertaining to the spiritual gifts, Paul does not claim of the Corinthians that their gifts were false, or not of the Holy Spirit. How, then, if they are true spiritual gifts, can they be considered "self-induced"? How can a spiritual gift be manifested by fleshly energy? Strauss seems to correct himself in the next sentence, admitting that the gifts are genuine while the motives behind their use is improper.
(1) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is synonymous with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is unscriptural teaching which says that all who are baptized by the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues. The Scriptures state emphatically that all saved persons have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..." (I Corinthians 12:13). All the believers at Corinth received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, however all did not speak in tongues. The question asked in verse 30, "Do all speak with tongues?" is so phrased so as to convey the expected answer, "No."
This teaching of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada is the reason why I left that denomination, because I do here agree with Dr. Strauss. However, he does seem to be confusing terms. What is meant by "the Baptism of the Holy Spirit" is different than the baptism in water--at least to the Pentecostal's mind. In the Book of Acts (1:5), Jesus refers to the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a "baptism", though the Apostles had already been baptised in water, and thereby born again. But until this new baptism of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on the world in this way. Thus it was on the Day of Pentecost that The Church received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which all Christians participate in when, at their baptism, they receive the Holy Spirit. It is to water baptism that St. Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The baptizing work of the Spirit is not an experience in the believer subsequent to salvation. Rather it is that act of the Holy Spirit which joins the believing sinner to the Body of Christ. More emphatically, there is no other means whereby one can become a member of the Church which is Christ's Body. All saved persons have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, but not all saved persons speak in tongues. The baptizing work of the Spirit places the believer in the Body positionally.
Again, I stress, this "baptizing work of the Spirit" is effected through the sacrament of water baptism.
Be careful that you do not confuse the baptism of the Spirit with the command to be "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). All believers share equally in this position in Christ and thus share equally in union with Him. There is only one experience of baptism by the Holy Spirit but there can be many experiences of being filled with Spirit. Paul said that not all of the Corinthian Christians spoke in tongues (I Corinthians 14: 5), and yet he stated clearly that all had been baptized with the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13).
Strauss again makes a good point. The book of Acts records several occasions where the Apostles were "filled" with the Holy Spirit. While we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, we must continue to grow in Him, and yield ourselves more and more to His leading. As we open ourselves up to His presence in our lives, that is what entails our being "filled" with Him. And as we do so, we may experience one of the gifts that He has to give.
(2) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit. All believers are commanded to "be filled with (controlled by) the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18), but nowhere in Scripture are believers commanded to speak in tongues. A Christian can be under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues. There are numerous instances when the disciples were filled with the Spirit but did not speak in tongues. See Acts 4:31 and 13:9-11. To be Spirit-filled is to be Spirit-controlled. Are we to believe that the thousands of mightily used men and women of God who were among the world's best missionaries of Christ's Gospel and Bible teachers were never filled with the Holy Spirit because they never spoke in tongues? Perish the thought!
Similar to Strauss' first objection, I agree with this one. It is, in fact, almost the same as the last mistake he mentions, just worded somewhat differently. Again, it is this distinctive teaching of the PAOC that caused me to leave.
Can one know if he is filled with the Spirit? Look at one verse in the Bible where the command to be filled with the Spirit is recorded. "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:18-21). Three things are mentioned as evidence of being Spirit-filled; a joyful heart, a thankful heart and a submissive heart. Nothing is said about speaking in tongues. To sum it up in one word, Christlikeness is the manifestation of being filled with the Spirit, and the Scriptures do not tell us that our Lord ever spoke in tongues.
Again, Strauss here makes some excellent points.
(3) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit results from being filled with the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is mentioned in Galatians 5:22, 23 and includes nine characteristics. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." None of the sign-gifts are included in this nine-fold cluster of fruit. The Christian who is filled with the Spirit will manifest the fruit of the Spirit apart from ever having spoken in tongues. As a matter of fact, in Ephesians and Galatians, where the fullness and fruit of the Spirit are discussed tongues-speaking is not mentioned once. Moreover, in the list of gifts mentioned by Paul, gifts that the ascended Lord bestowed upon His Church, the sign gifts are omitted. "And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11).
I am not sure of any charismatic person that would label "tongues" as a "fruit" of the Holy Spirit, so I honestly fail to see the relevance of this paragraph. Notably, the list of gifts in Ephesians 4 are of a different type than the sign-gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. Ephesians 4 refers to the positions of leadership within the Church, which, since ordained and bestowed by God, are rightly called "gifts." But the "gifts" of 1 Cor. 12 do not of themselves entail a leadership position. Strauss is comparing apples and oranges.
All Christians should be filled with the Spirit and all are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, but not every Christian has all the gifts. Spirituality does not depend on speaking in tongues. God's goal for every child of His is to be Spirit-controlled, but that goal does not include speaking in tongues.
Since the plan of God has included that at least some people have spoken in tongues, it would me more accurate for Strauss to have said, "God's goal...does not necessarily include speaking in tongues."
No Christian need ever feel that he is lacking in spirituality because he has not spoken in tongues. Quality of life is the best evidence of the fullness and fruit of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15), yet this Spirit-filled man did no miracles and never spoke in tongues (John 10:41). But he was so Christ-like that people who were looking for the Messiah were led to ask of him, "Art thou the Christ?"
Again, good points. I have generally very little issue with the first four mistakes of Dr. Strauss' essay. Sometimes, however, I take slight issue with how he arrives at his conclusions.
(4) It is a mistake to assume that speaking in tongues is an evidence of one's faith. To the contrary, the persons who seek signs and sign-gifts show their lack of faith. It is a sin for any Christian to seek for signs before he will believe God's Word.
I'm somewhat curious about which passage of Scripture supports that claim. And moreover, seeking to be used by God through the practice of sign-gifts so that others might come to believe is certainly not sinful, but actually encouraged by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 14:1ff).
As was pointed out earlier in this study, "tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not" (I Corinthians 14: 22). So you see, the Christians at Corinth were showing that they were weak in faith, and possibly some who identified themselves with the believer had never been saved. The person who seeks any sign, whether it be speaking in tongues or any other sign-gift, is either a babe in Christ or an unbeliever.
As we discussed earlier, in response to Strauss' claim on this point, he rather butchered the context of the passage in order to arrive at his conclusion.
Thomas is an illustration of a disciple weak in faith who would not believe without seeing. After our Lord arose from death, He appeared to the disciples. "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:24, 25). Thomas was like the Corinthians, weak in faith, demanding to see the sign (miracle) before he would believe.
Everyone loves to pick on St. Thomas. Notably, the people who do so fail to realise that all of the other Apostles needed and received the same privilege (John 20:20).
Eight days later the Lord appeared again. "Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing." (John 20:27). The doubting Thomas needed a sign, so the Lord appeared to him so that he would not continue without faith. And then He said to Thomas, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20: 29).
Notably, Jesus never condemns Thomas for needing to see Him, and the Bible nowhere records that Thomas actually looked at or touched the scars before he believed. While Jesus says that those who believe without seeing are more blessed, He does not remove any blessing from Thomas. For more on St. Thomas, see St. Doubting Thomas.
The Christian who will study the Bible and believe what it says will walk by faith, not by sight or sound.
And those who, receiving admonitions such as this, therefore bottle up their doubts and fears, become atheists, because certain leaders in the Church have never let them grow up beyond the babe-in-Christ state that Dr. Strauss condemns so eagerly.
(5) It is a mistake to seek the gift of speaking in tongues. It is clear that not all in the church at Corinth spoke in tongues. Why didn't they? The Apostle says, "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...for to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" (I Corinthians 12:4-11). Please note that the gifts were given "as He (the Holy Spirit) will," not as we will, "as it hath pleased Him" (vs. 18), not us. The reason why all the Christians did not have the gift of tongues is because all of the gifts are divinely bestowed. The Spirit divides and distributes to each believer his own gift. Not one of us is capable of choosing his own gift. The Spirit will not give a gift according to our desire and the way we pray. Don't try to tell God which gift He should give to you. We are but members of the Body, and no one member has any right to tell the Head what to do.
This is expressly contrary to St. Paul's writing: In 1 Corinthians 14:1, St. Paul expressly tells us that we should pursue spiritual gifts--"especially that you may prophesy." So according to Dr. Strauss, it is wrong that we tell the Holy Spirit which gift to give us, but according to St. Paul, we should be asking God to give us whichever gift He wants--but especially the gift of prophecy. Which is it? I would hope the answer is obvious.
It would have been a mistake for the Corinthians to seek the gift of tongues because it is the least of all the gifts.
Again, though tongues (by itself) is the least of the gifts, it is still a gift of the Holy Spirit, and therefore should also not be neglected if He has chosen to bestow it. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 14:5, Paul says that "those who prophesy are of greater importance than those who speak in tongues, unless they can interpret what they say so that the church is built up by it" (emphasis mine). Put another way, if the message of tongues is accompanied by the spiritual gift of interpretation, then the tongues-message is just as valuable as the gift of prophecy. Again, Dr. Strauss seems to have difficulty reading the context of the passage through his interpretive bias.
Where the gifts are listed twice in I Corinthians 12, in each instance tongues and their interpretation are placed last (verses 8-11 and 28-30). Note the careful wording in the latter passage: "First... secondarily... thirdly... after that..." The least to be desired comes at the bottom of the list, the scale being according to importance and usefulness.
Tongues being listed last might indeed indicate its relative lower value (though, can any gift of the Spirit therefore be considered "low" in value?), but in each list, the other gifts are given in widely varying orders. In the first list, prophecy is listed only two gifts ahead of tongues, while in the second case, it is listed second only to the gift of apostleship. Further, in 1 Corinthians 14, prophecy is again given pride of place. Again, in the second gift-list of chapter 12, not all of the gifts are mentioned from the first list, and apostleship is added. Therefore, the order of the lists cannot be stressed too far.
The minor place of tongues is further stressed in I Corinthians 14:1, 5, 6, 19. The modern cult of tongues would have you believe that this gift is the only one that really counts and that every Christian ought to have it. The Corinthians erred in overemphasizing the gift of tongues as the most coveted gift of all. To them tongues was the prestige gift, hence its misuse and abuse at Corinth.
To view tongues as the greatest of the gifts is indeed erroneous. While it was stressed in the PAOC as the "initial" evidence of the baptism of the Spirit, to their credit, it was because their stance on tongues was that it was the least gift--sort of the "entry-level freebee trial offer." Again, while I disagree with their position, it is not so dire as Dr. Strauss would have us believe.
Paul charges them with such misuse of the gifts in 12:31. When he writes, "But covet earnestly the best gifts..." he is not exhorting or commanding them, as the imperative mood might indicate. Rather he is issuing a statement of fact, as is suggested in the indicative. In substance he is saying, "You are selfishly desiring the more spectacular or demonstrative gifts." The word "covet" is not used in a good sense, but in a bad sense, that of self-seeking. "You are not satisfied to be a foot, concealed in a stocking and shoe; you want to be an eye. You want to be seen and heard." And then the Apostle adds, "Yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal " (I Corinthians 12:31,13:1).
This is a blatant eisegetical abuse of this passage! Paul is indeed encouraging them to seek the best gifts, and chapter 13, the "better way", is Paul's argument for why certain gifts are better than others--because of the love for the Church that they communicate by directly edifying it. To say that the passage says the opposite of what it clearly says is a feat of interpretive gymnastics that could win an Olympic Medal for its dishonesty!
A young man who claimed to have the gift of speaking in tongues told me that the biblical basis for his doing so was I Corinthians 14:4, namely, self-edification. But this is both selfish and wrong. Paul did say, "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself" (14:4), but then he added, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church" (14:12). The gifts were given for the edification and profit of the entire Body of Christ, not merely one member. "The members should have the same care one for another" (12:25). Self-edification is contrary to the principle of love as taught in Chapter 13, for "love seeketh not her own" (13:5). The gifts were given for the common good of all (12:7).
Again, this seems to be a rather weak argument contra tongues. A personal practice of tongues to edify ourselves is not wrong (spiritual edification and growth in the Lord being an objectively discernible good), provided that the gift also be used in its function to edify others through the gift of interpretation. Saying that the personal use of private prayer in tongues in order to grow (be edified) spiritually is wrong is tantamount to saying that reading our Bibles privately or praying for ourselves is wrong because those two exercises are "selfish" and do not edify the Church. After all, in 1 Corinthians 14:28, Paul permits private tongues use.
(6) It is a mistake for a woman to speak in tongues. "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak..." (14:34). The prohibition here has a direct relation to the problem with which the Apostle is dealing, namely, speaking in tongues. Earlier in the same Epistle he told the women how to dress when they prayed or prophesied in the church (11:3-10), therefore he would not forbid them here in Chapter 14 that privilege which is countenanced in Chapter 11. The setting of I Corinthians 14:34 has reference primarily to women speaking in tongues. It is clear and unmistakable that speaking in tongues was a gift limited to men and is never to be exercised by women. Now he is not saying that women may not teach or testify or pray, but that they may not speak in tongues. Elsewhere Paul writes, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence" (I Timothy 2: 12). The point of this passage is that a woman's ministry must not usurp authority over the man. She may teach women or children, but not men.
I won't contend much with Dr. Strauss here, because I am uncertain of the Church's official stance on this (though I am sure that it is not in agreement with Strauss). However, I do not see in my reading of 1 Corinthians 14:34 a reference to women speaking in tongues. Rather, from the context (v. 35 especially), it seems that the issue is with the woman requesting clarification in a disorderly way (hence v. 35, "If there is anything they want to know, they can ask their husbands at home"). The overall context of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 is not primarily on tongues per se, but on orderly conduct during the liturgy. The proper use of tongues is obviously pertinent to that subject, but Paul's injunctions in this section are not limited to instructions on speaking in tongues. Therefore, I do not see forbidding the gift of tongues to women as a valid interpretation of this passage. After all, it is, as Dr. Strauss has emphasised, the Spirit who gives gifts to whomever He will.
If this admonition were heeded today much of the present tongues movement would be eliminated. Women are the worst offenders in the modern confusion of tongues. The word "speak" in 14:34 is the same word used in verse 28, therefore it cannot mean mere "chatter" that would disturb a service in the church. The purpose of this entire section on speaking in tongues is to curb the wrong use of the gift.
The instructions in this section, again, go beyond speaking in tongues.
Verses 27-33 give instruction for men in the matter of speaking in tongues. "If any man speak in an unknown tongue..." (14:27); verses 34-36 are directed to "women" exercising the gift of tongues. And if any women wanted to take issue with Paul, he would ask them one question, "Which book in all the inspired Scriptures was written as the result of the Holy Spirit revealing the woman?" (Verse 36). It is a mistake for a woman to speak in tongues.
Well, since we're not entirely sure who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews, I guess the question is open for debate (that was tongue-in-cheek). However, Strauss' citing verse 36 in defense of his claim falls short, since verse 36 does not refer to the writing of Scripture, or to women in particular, but rather is a warning against presuming that a "word of prophecy" that contradicts Apostolic Tradition therefore trumps or abrogates the Tradition. If a message of tongues or prophecy contradicts the already revealed word of God, then the tongues or prophecy is from a false source. This was precisely the error of the later heretical group known as the Montanists. Again, context is crucial.
(7) It is a mistake to assume that the sign-gifts are given to believers today. Now I am not arbitrarily closing the door on miracles.
In fact, Strauss seems to be doing precisely that.
God does intervene in supernatural ways performing miracles when and wherever He pleases to do so. The matter before us now is whether or not the Bible teaches that certain gifts were temporarily given.
Not so. Rather, the question is "how temporary is temporary?" An accompanying question is "What evidence do you have to support your believe in a particular instant of cessation?"
The evidence of God's Word must be the final source of authority.
I agree with this, insofar as it is understood that "God's Word" does not necessarily equate to The Bible Alone, since the Bible itself nowhere teaches that principle, and moreover refers to other sources as "The Word of God".
I am stressing this because there are many persons who are not students of the Bible, therefore their only source of knowledge and understanding is subjective, namely, reason or experience. Whatever appeals to their reason, or whatever experiences they have had, settle a matter for them once and for all time.
Here, Dr. Strauss commits a fundamental error of reasoning--namely, placing reason in a subordinate position to Scripture. Reason, properly applied, cannot contradict God's Word, since reason is a God-given absolute. As G.K. Chesterton put it,
"Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason; but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is utterly unreasonable?"There is, of course, a difference between "Reason" and a person's reasoning. But Strauss makes no such distinction, and here reasons about as properly as Flambeau in Chesterton's story. As Fr. Brown states, "It's bad theology."
"No," said the other priest; "reason is always reasonable, even in the last limbo, in the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason."
...."Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please. Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a notice-board, 'Thou shalt not steal.'"
...."You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology." (Chesterton, G.K. The Innocence of Father Brown. The Blue Cross.
It is not uncommon to hear someone say something like this: "I cannot believe in Hell because I cannot conceive a loving God sending anyone to such a place of torment." Such persons might listen to clear and sound expositions on the biblical doctrine of Hell, and yet they will reject what the Bible teaches because of their inner feelings and rationale. And so their rationalization becomes their final authority.
But again, this is not "Reason". It is, rather, obtuseness, or possibly invincible ignorance.
Now I am not suggesting that there is no validity in experience or reason. I am quite sure that there are times when one's reason and experience are correct and therefore reliable. But neither reason nor experience can be accepted as final authority. Someone will argue: "I have had the experience of speaking in tongues; I find this experience in the New Testament; therefore my experience is true." Any trained Christian philosopher will tell you that such an argument is not valid because it makes experience the basis of truth, so if one does not experience all of the experiences he does not have all of the truth. True Christian philosophy moves from truth to experience, therefore any valid Christian experience must be determined by the right interpretation of Holy Scripture. Experience, which is related to our emotions, can be deceptive, but a correct interpretation of God's Word can never deceive.
This is true, but the question remains, is Dr. Strauss' interpretation of Scripture, the correct one?
We come now to the question, Is the gift of tongues a part of God's program for the Church today? If it is, then we would be wrong if we closed our minds to it. If it is not, then we are wrong if we insist upon the exercise of tongues-speaking.
Let us turn to I Corinthians 13. Now keep in mind the fact that the subject in Chapters 12-14 is spiritual gifts with the main emphasis on tongues, because tongues was the one gift that the Corinthians were abusing. Chapter 12 concludes with "tongues" (12:30) and Chapter 13 begins with "tongues" (13:1). Obviously from the behavior of the Corinthians they were lacking in the fruit of the Spirit, namely, love. And so in Chapter 13 the Apostle dwells upon the essential ingredient of love which supercedes the gifts, and without which the Christian is nothing at all.
The exercise of love and the need to build up others developed in this chapter is also the basis for judging which gifts are "better" than others.
Among the Corinthians there were quarreling and division, but the needed fruit of the Spirit, love, was missing, so Paul writes, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (or love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (13:1). In Corinth the tongues-speaking amounted to so much noise because carnality had invaded their exercise of the gift. Even today there is a kind of spiritual prestige associated with tongues-speaking. For a Christian to show off any gift that God has given manifests pride that is lacking in love. Where love is lacking, the exercise of any gift is worthless.
Again, this is true as far as it goes. But there is a rather great difference between not exercising a gift without love and not exercising a gift at all.
If Christians would take seriously, within context, all of the teaching about tongues in I Corinthians, they could not fail to see that tongues-speaking would cease. Paul writes, "Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away" (13:8).
Yes, the miraculous gifts will cease at the return of Christ, when heaven and earth are remade and that which is "perfect" has come--namely, the Kingdom of God on earth. Love will not cease then, because love, as an essential attribute of God Himself (1 John 4:16), love is foundational to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is eternal. In the same way, 1 Corinthians 13 concludes with the Theological Virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love, claiming that Love is the greatest. Why? Because after the return of Christ, faith will become sight and hope will become experience--but love will still continue.
There will always be the need for love, therefore love will never drop off. But when the canon of Scripture is made "perfect" (or complete), there will be no further revelation from God, neither in predictive prophecy nor in divinely revealed knowledge other than prophecy. The gifts of "prophecy" and "knowledge" will be entirely unnecessary with the completion of the Scriptures. And "if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18).
Prophecy, even in the Apostolic Age, as a spiritual gift, did not have to do with the revealing of General Revelation, such as Scripture, but with Private Revelation, such as the prophets in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 21:8-14). The completion of the Canon of Scripture has no bearing on these gifts, and is not referred to in this text. To arrive at this conclusion is a major display of eisegesis. There is nothing in the passage to warrant it as a conclusion. We cannot even be certain that St. Paul was aware as he was writing that there would be a New Testament or a Canon of Scripture.
Paul acknowledged the incomplete nature of the Scriptures in his day when he said, "For we know in part, and we prophecy in part" (13:9), or more literally from the Greek, "For in part we are knowing, and in part we are prophesying."
Again, this text does not refer to the Scriptures in any way, but to the fact that we, as mortal human beings, do not now possess a full knowledge or understanding of the Mysteries of God. If this referred to the Canon of Scripture, why then does St. Paul say about "that which is perfect", that "we shall be seeing face to face"? Once the Bible was written, we did not then start to see Jesus face to face. That will only happen at His second coming.
Then he adds, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (13:10). The word perfect is in the neuter gender, and therefore refers to the perfect (finished or completed) Word of God. If the word perfect referred to Christ it would be in the masculine gender. The sign gifts were "done away" (rendered inoperative) with the completion of the New Testament.
That "perfect" is in the neuter gender only possibly means that it does not refer to Christ. If it doesn't, that does not mean that it automatically refers to the Scriptures. This again is eisegesis, reading into the text. There are many alternatives, much more likely based on Reason and Context--namely, the Kingdom of Heaven.
Furthermore, Dr. Strauss' conclusion displays his ignorance of the historical record, as well as his refusal to acknowledge the question, "When was the Canon completed?" As St. Francis de Sales asks in his tract, "Besides, I beg you to show me at what period the visible Church may have been without miracles, from the time that it began until this present?" He then goes on to list historical accounts of the miraculous within the Church after the Apostolic era, and indeed, after the final canonisation of Scripture!
Now what about tongues? "Whether there be tongues, they shall cease" (13:8). Tongues shall cease (Gr. patio), that is, they shall come to a complete halt. Who needs tongues? Only the untaught, carnal babes in Christ, for Paul added, "When I was a child, I spake as a child...but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (13:11). The word "spake" in context can only refer to speaking in tongues. So that Paul himself came to the place of Christian maturity, through God's revelation to him, where tongues were no longer necessary. And so in the same tongues context he admonishes the Corinthians, "Brethren, be not children in understanding...but in understanding be men" (14:20). Experientially, tongues cease when the Christian matures on a diet of the meat of God's Word. Actually tongues is baby talk.
This argument could succeed, if St. Paul hadn't, in chapter 14, said, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you" (14:18). Thus, Paul could not be saying that now that he is a spiritual adult, he no longer speaks in tongues, otherwise he is contradicting himself. This is the problem with Dr. Strauss' constant habit of pulling verses out of context to make his point. What Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 13 is not tongues, specifically, but the greater quality and need of love, which is eternal and will endure even in the New World, while miracles, prophecy, and tongues will no longer be needed.
For the past two years I have made it my practice to ask many of the leading Bible teachers and scholars, some of whom having a rich working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, if they have ever spoken in tongues. Among them are college and seminary presidents and professors. To date I have not had one of about sixty men tell me that he ever spoke in tongues!
Maybe that's because Dr. Strauss has been doctoring his survey, and asking only those who will give the "right answer." Perhaps he should ask my boss and priest, Fr. Dr. Peter B. Coughlin, D. Min. After all, if you only ask people who don't believe that tongues is for today, whether they've ever spoken in tongues, what answer would you expect?
I have been asked if I ever spoke in tongues. No, I have not. God and I have gotten along nicely for the past forty-five years in English. I speak to Him in English and He hears and understands me. He speaks to me in English through His Word, and I understand Him.
Judging by the level of biblical literacy demonstrated in this article, not very well...
How then can we account for the wide-spread practice of speaking in tongues? I do not have all of the answers to this question, but I will make three suggestions for your prayer consideration.
First, speaking in tongues can be self-induced. Second, speaking in tongues can be group-induced. Third, speaking in tongues can be satanically-induced.
While all of these suggestions are possible (Mormons believe in tongues-speaking, as well, after all), it has nowhere been decisively shown that these languages, which were once given by the Spirit of God, are not still given by Him. It seems to me that there is a fine line between being cautiously discerning, and calling good, evil (Isaiah 5:20).
Moreover, Dr. Strauss offers his suggestions for our "prayer consideration." Yet, the discernment of spirits is one of those sign-gifts which he claims have ceased (1 Corinthians 12:10, listed between prophecy and tongues). How then are we to discern when one who operates in tongues is genuinely so, or making it up, or demonically possessed?
Since the creation of man Satan's insidious master-plan has been to put a veil between God's children and God's inerrant Word. It began in the Garden of Eden when the Devil asked Mother Eve, "Yea, hath God said...?" (Genesis 3:1), thereby raising doubt as to the authority and authenticity of what God has said. We know that this enemy has stepped up the pace of his strategy.
Our present generation is witnessing the growing menace of satanic activity in the realm of the miraculous. Where the Devil does not succeed in taking the Bible from us, he works hard at taking us from the Bible. And he succeeds in getting Christians to focus their attention on the claims of men and women to some supernatural experience, and in so doing those seekers after the experiences of others have neither time nor interest in searching the Scriptures for God's truth.
Since we two disagree even over the proper interpretation of the Bible, it again demonstrates that more than just Scripture is needed to keep souls firm in the faith. After all, not only does Satan counterfeit the miraculous, he also has been known to quote Scripture (Matthew 4:6). That is why Jesus has given us the Church, and gifted its leaders to be Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Why?
To knit God's holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fulness of Christ himself.For one who is so concerned that we understand that the proper use of the Sign-Gifts is to build up the Church, Dr. Strauss fails to recognise that it is the Church, "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15), that protects against false signs, tricks, and teachings leading us into error.
Then we shall no longer be children, or tossed one way and another, and carried hither and thither by every new gust of teaching, at the mercy of all the tricks people play and their unscrupulousness in deliberate deception (Ephesians 4:11-14).
God does have a plan in His dealings with the human race, and that plan does not necessarily include the continuing repetition of the same miracles in every succeeding century.
Not necessarily, no. But on the other hand, we are not the judges of what God's plan entails; nor do we declare which signs God can still choose to utilise for His purposes.
The miracles of God are rare occurrences in history. Enoch's bodily translation from earth to heaven was the only recorded miracle performed by God in over 1700 years between Adam and the flood.
And yet, over a three-year period, Jesus did more signs than could be recorded in the entire world (John 21:25)! It is a materialistic bias to say that we should consider miracles to be "rare." Miracles, biblically and historically speaking, have occurred with greater or lesser frequency depending on the need of the age. During Apostolic times, as the Church was beginning, there were an abundance of miraculous signs, as St. Francis de Sales and even Dr. Strauss point out. And throughout the centuries, at various times, miracles have been more frequent during times of trial, persecution, and faithlessness. Consider, for example, the miraculous events surrounding the deaths of so many martyrs.
And in our time of faithlessness, when North America and Europe are beset with materialism, and held sway under what Pope Benedict XVI has termed "the dictatorship of relativism", should we not expect that God would act on behalf of the urgent prayers of His people in mighty ways, as He has done throughout history?
The Church of Christ does not need a new Bible, nor new apostles, nor new faith-healers, nor new charismatic movements, nor self-styled miracle workers. What the Church needs is to return to the Word of God and proclaim the whole counsel of God in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.
No one has claimed that the Church needs a new Bible, though the Reformers must have thought some alterations were necessary when they removed seven books from it. No one claims that we need new Apostles. The Bishops of Christ's Church are doing an admirable job. What we need, is doctrinal and corporal unity, under the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the pillar and foundation of truth. Division and dissention, spawned by generations of private Scripture interpretations resulting from the practice of Sola Scriptura, has weakened the Church's effectiveness, and caused a scandal in the eyes of the world.
And if my reader has never had a personal experience of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, I urge you to receive Him at once, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).
"And now why delay? Hurry and be baptised and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16).