Saturday, December 15, 2012

SPEAKING IN TONGUES, BAPTISTS, AND OTHERS

Originally, I was ordained a Baptist minister. Though I am now a liturgical/sacramental priest, I do like to look in on my Baptist friends. I wrote a post on the Baptists’ problem with speaking in tongues. It became my most read post. Meanwhile, the issue became hotter, so I decided to revise the article and print it again with some of the good comments added. Basically, the problem involves the intellect vs the spirit.

Two Christian writers can help shed light on Southern Baptists’ (as well as others’) problem with “tongues”. One is the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, and the other, St. Paul. Both of these men recognize they possess two mental systems. Paul uses the word “understanding” (in Greek, the intellect) to describe one of the systems. He uses the word translated as “spirit” for the other system. We hear him describing how he works with his two systems in 1 Cor 14:15 “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also...I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also”. In other words, he is fully aware that he is using two distinct “mental” systems in his spirituality.
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St. John of the Cross, similarly describes two systems. He uses the word “sensual” (the understanding, will, and memory) for one system and “spirit” for the other.

Both men were conscious that the two systems had real problems with one another. For more on this. St. Paul describes the problem as follows: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.”1Co 2:14) St. John of the Cross describes this same problem as follows: "The sensual part of a man has no capacity for that which is pure spirit.” (Bk. 1 IX 4). . St John goes further: “For anything that the soul (the intellect) can do of its own accord at this time (i.e. when God has infused Himself), serves only, to hinder inward peace and the work which God is accomplishing in the spirit.” (Bk. 1 IX) The intellect is getting in God’s way.

For St. John, God communicates directly with the spirit mind, outside the intellect’s capabilities. God even deliberately “binds (the intellect's) inner faculties and allows it not to cling to the understanding, nor to have delight in the will, nor to reason with the memory. When once the soul (intellect) begins to enter therein (arrive at that state), its inability to reflect with the faculties grows ever greater.”Bk. (1 IX 4) At some point, the soul can go dark ( flat line). Thus, the title of St John’s book is: "Dark Night of the Soul”. Flat lining is a positive thing spiritually, but intolerable to the intellect.

St. Paul also wants to flatline the intellect, but unlike St. John of the Cross who lets God do it, St. Paul works on the experience himself: He tells us how he does it. 1Co 14:4 “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself (in Greek: “is a house builder,”, i.e. “building up his house”). He describes then how this gets his intellect to “go dark.”. “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding (intellect) is unfruitful (Greek: “barren,” not producing intellectual fruit”).(1 Co 14:14).

Today, if you read the attacks on “speaking in tongues”, you will quickly discern the resistance of the intellect to “go dark”, “to be unfruitful”, to enter “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Some attackers are appalled by an intellect becoming unfruitful. Others, only mock what they see or hear. In our present age of reason, most intellects struggle furiously to maintain domination over the consciousness. The word hegemony is useful. Hegemony is used to describe the dominance of one state over another. It is mostly used about political states, but it can be used with states of consciousness. The intellect demands hegemony in the modern mind. The idea of losing your mind temporally for the sake of making direct contact with God is unacceptable to most. See another take.

Which brings us back to the Southern Baptists. Baptists have two historical forces at work that give them problems with “tongues”. Fundamentalists among the Baptists get their title as the guardians of the fundamentals of the faith, i.e. correct theology. Guarding the fundamentals is a cerebral activity.

Secondly, Baptists got their name for their insistence upon reaching an age of accountability before being baptized -- believers baptism. Psychologists attribute this age of accountability which occurs around puberty, as resulting from the interconnections of the brain’s neurons reaching a level of maturity which makes rational thought possible. In other words, a core Baptist belief is the demand that you must be capable of understanding what you are doing. Spirituality as rational.

Following is a thoughtful comment received:
Anonymous said...
Fr Don has demonstrated something I have observed about the evangelical mind. Movie and TV often portrays evangelicals as emotional or simple-minded. In fact, behind some of the emotions of conversion is a tremendous rationality. Rather than conversion being a matter of emotion, Baptist theology tends to cast it as an act of the mind or will - the opposite of many of the images that are used to slam evangelicals like Southern Baptists.

I am wondering about the origins of this intellectual view of faith. The Baptist opposition to speaking in tongues seems rooted in their public embracing of dispensationalism. Rather than asking how to do the works of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, their rational theology reasons that the absence of those works today is proof that they were temporary gifts given to establish the Church until the canon of scripture was set. This position leads them to misinterpret Paul's state about spiritual gifts ceasing when that which is perfect is come (1 Corinthians 13). Clearly Paul is envisioning the coming of Christ and the life of the kingdom of God when partial revelation will give way to the fullness of God's presence and relationship with us.

In his books, "Surprised by the Power of God" and "Surprised by the Voice of God", former Baptist theologian Jack Deere shares a compelling account of his shift from dispensationalism to embracing the power and gifts and the Holy Spirit as described in the bible. I have come to a place where I cannot preach about a Jesus who cannot, or will not, do today all that the bible says he will do. This has not been a rational change and much as a change of heart. Speaking in tongues has become a wonderful means of prayer that helps me go beyond the limitations of my intellect. The child-like faith I exercise in praying from my born-again spirit through the power of the Holy Spirit helps me open up to God's ability to do beyond my wildest dreams. Like others, I constantly fall short of the fullness that is truly available - and is what I believe to be God's highest will for us. But I can't rationalize that reality away based on my short-fall because I have tasted enough of the real to know that there is gold in those hills that is worth the effort to mine it.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

As I was leaving wonderful hymn sing early on Monday morning I thought Who brought the idea that speaking in other tongues was of the devil into this wonderful group of believers? I asked the Holy Spirit to let me know what happened. Then on Tuesday morning the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, it was intoduced by the devil himself. He didn't attack the word of wisdom, or knowledge, or faith, or miracles, or prophecies, but he attacked tongues. Why? because tongues form words, and praying in the spirit means he cannot understand the words. Everything is controlled by words, God's word coming out of our mouth tears him up. Also, by getting people to deny the gift of tongues is an afront to the Father Himself who is one with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit who is love will not draw people to Jesus. Have you ever noticed that those who deny the gifts very seldom win souls and keep on fire for winning the lost. Secondly the
devil made sure that he sent many religious demons into our earth so that we formed many relgions, and whether they were protestant, charasmatic, catholic, hindu, moslim, buddhist, new age, occult,
anything as long as the devil can keep us divided by strife and who is who by dividing the church over issues that never was in the bible in the first place, he then can conquer and divide. The bible teaches that through Jesus Christ, and our confession that He came from heaven and was raised from the dead by the Father and when we ask Him to forgive our sins by faith, He will do so, and thus connect us to the Kingdom of God by the new birth. And there is no other way. His kingdom opperates differently than does our relgions. Those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. There is no dividing His church through religion, or man made doctrines that keep us from afronting the Holy Spirit, who is absolute love. Gal. 5:6

Anonymous said...

I have my own story of going from being entirely skeptical of speaking in tongues to being granted a prayer language.

But after my initial experience of speaking in tongues (which I did only when I was by myself and I still wasn't sure for awhile that it was "real"), I have not used it very much. That was at least six years ago.

Being in the Anglican tradition, there hasn't been too many occasions for me to speak in tongues publicly and it's seldom that I even do so by myself. When I do, it's usually because I feel under spiritual attack and it's like a tool in my spiritual toolbelt. On a few occasions, I've done so with another person when praying for a need of theirs.

I don't really experience any kind of particular emotion when I pray in tongues and I certainly don't understand what I'm saying. In fact, it's almost mundane to me. I am a little on the cerebral side, so maybe that has something to do with it, but I think I'm open to the experience.

All that to ask this... Am I missing something?

Blogger said...

Anonomous Thanks for your comment. I don't know what to add to what I already wrote. It sounds though that you are off to a good start.

What some Anglicans do and even Roman Catholics, is to find a good spirit filled independent church where there is a lot of joy and love of Jesus.

The Anglican or Roman Catholic gets a good dose of high powered worship, then returns to their roots keeping all they have learned.

scoutmasterdave said...

I really enjoy your writings! please keep sharing your heart and insights.
You are a blessing to the body of christ...

Blogger said...

Hey, Thanks a lot. I have been caught up in the national election and writing on a political blog. With the election over and with your encouragement, I will try to get back to my spiritual blog.

Anonymous said...

I've been a Baptist for years, and have never heard of Baptists speaking in tongues.

It's funny that you switched to Catholicism...In my opinion Catholics have more controversial problems than Baptists.

Here's a list of Catholic beliefs and practices that I and tons of other people (even some Catholics themselves) don't agree with:

1)Mary being sinless - read Romans 3:23
2)Purgatory
3)Infant Baptism
4)Confession to a Priest
5)the Apochrypha/Deuterocanonical Books (books thrown in the Catholic Bibles that sadly make no sense and clash with parts of the true 66 books)
6)Priests not being able to marry -read 1 Timothy 2:1-5

It's quite sad that Catholics think that the Bible is not good enough to stand on its own and that undivine sources such as the Catholic catechism and the Apochrypha are needed.

Blogger said...

Anonymous, knowing how much speaking in tongues means to Christians, I am disappointed that you swerved off into the weeds.

At such times, I always repeat the little nursery rhyme:

"Pussy cat, pussy cat, Where have you been?
"Why, I've been to London to see the Queen."
"And pussy cat pussy cat, what did you do there?"
"Why I frightened a little mouse under the chair."

Anonymous said...

I am going to pray for that mouse under the chair, i was that Southern Baptist who was well versed in the Bible, Praise God Baptists get you saved and teach you the Bible...and Praise God when I told him I needed more he sent me to a little nondenominational church where the young spirit filled preacher had been raised as a charasmatic. It is truly an amazing experience when God's spirit living inside of me has a divine conversation with God himself...It is real Praise GOD it is real...

Blogger said...

Anonymous, Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am a Baptist, but we don't believe in speaking in tongues unless another person is able to understand what you are saying. We do not believe that it is the necessary, & I am not convinced otherwise unless someone is able to give counter evidence towards 1 Corinthians 14:6-12. Neither do I understand why there is need for argument. Why can we not just accept that every denomination has true believers, despite our minor contradictions? I have no doubts that my presbyterian friends, calvinist teachers, catholic grandmother, & non-denominational mother are all going to heaven. And once we get there, we'll all find out the truth.
Furthermore, I have no problem in admitting that my speculations might be wrong. As every person is made sinful, I believe that every denomination has flaws & imperfections. The devil is ever present & the temptation to convert to the most convenient denomination at the time is much stronger than people care to admit. For this reason, I feel a slight resentment towards the calvinists, whose Renaissance founders only supported the division because of the financial merits it would bring. Whatever a person's denomination, I just wish they would stick to their beliefs instead of swaying to whichever way the wind blows. However, me being a young child of 15, I don't suppose any of you adults will take into account any of my arguments as valid. At the moment, the only think I'm worried about entering college & being assimilated into the evils of this atheist world. They've already claimed my aunt. I pray that God will guide & protect me as I prepare to enter the unsheltered adult life.

Amanda said...

I wish that different denomenations could just accept others and not start debates and basically hate on eachother. Especially when there are people who are baptists, catholics, and christians who all share the same heart and love for God and Jesus Christ. I cant help but feel a righteous anger towards that because Satan himself is trying to cause strife among churches, so that we fight fight fight and forget what our God Given purpose is while being in this temporary life. My heart and prayers go out towards people who continue to argue about what is right and wrong in churches. . I believe there are bigger things to worry about in this life. And i dont know about anyone else, but i want to become a missionary for Jesus Christ, and show the world that there is a God, and that i want to be an example and disciple of his works.