Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The experience of speaking in tongues

Yes, sometimes I even take requests. An individual approached me in church a few weeks back and asked me to write a blog on the controversial topic of speaking in tongues. I would be glad to weigh in on my viewpoint from Scripture on this topic. But let me start by reminding us that the clearest teaching in Scripture on the topic of speaking in tongues comes from First Corinthians 12-14. I find it no coincidence that right smack dab in the middle of this passage is a treatise on the need for us to love each other in the church. So as I give my opinion, let me start with the preface that we may not all agree on this issue, but we sure must still all agree to love each other anyway.

The basis of all of our beliefs on the topic of tongues, as well as any other topic, must be Scripture. All too often I hear people say, “Well, I understand what you are telling me about what the Bible says, but I had this incredible experience.” Experiences are great but experience does not provide a basis for our faith. It is faith which must provide a basis for our experiences.

I remember going over to the house of a woman who had just lost her husband. This tragic death happened on the day prior to their 25th wedding anniversary. You would think that she and her daughter would be distraught, but instead they were giddy, almost like what you would expect at a Junior High girl’s slumber party (not that I know what that is like). Here is why the mood was so light and jubilant. That morning, the wife’s sister had been at the grocery store getting oranges when she said her sister’s dead husband appeared to her. He told her to go to the floral section and get a dozen roses to take to his wife for their anniversary and to tell her not to worry because he was in heaven. The wife was elated. Now she knew that her husband was in heaven. But wait. Is an experience that someone had at the produce section of the local grocery store really what we would want to base our theology on? Wouldn’t it be better to base our hope of this man being in heaven on the promises of salvation as seen in the Word of God?

Peter had incredible experiences including witnessing the transfiguration of Christ where he saw Jesus transfigured with his own eyes and heard the voice of God with his own ears, but he still said that we have an even “more sure” thing to base our faith on and that is Scripture (First Peter 1:19-21). Paul had even greater experiences but the heart of his message always came from Scripture (Acts 17:2-3). God Himself tells us through Paul’s letter to Timothy that only Scripture is sufficient for everything we need to know and do (Second Timothy 3:15-17). It is the Word, not experience, that must be our final say and authority (John 17:17). We are to judge all teachings, even that of speaking in tongues, by one thing…the Word (Acts 17:11).

So as you read on in the next few blogs, I would ask you to set your experiences on this issue aside. I would ask you to set aside your preconceived ideas and notions. I would ask you to set aside stories you have heard about other people regarding this topic. I would ask you to look only at Scripture as your basis of belief.

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