Religulous: Speaking in Tongues

So really, who takes Religulous seriously? Well, a lot of non-believers, for one thing. But do they really matter? Most Christians have avoided the documentary altogether, and it’s not surprising. But are all the concerns that Religulous raised invalid? Maybe not. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to me why people see Christians speaking in gibberish and equate it to the Holy Spirit and think that Christians are a bunch of idiots.

Yes, the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing– but to us it is the power of God. But isn’t it enough that the word of the cross is foolishness? Must we create some foolishness of our own to put on top of that? Christianity isn’t about being foolish, although some Christians seem to have adopted the concept of foolishness as their very own doctrine. Why are some Christians so intent on getting people to have some sort of mystical experience where God starts speaking unintelligible words through them? Does God really want that? Does God get kicks out of us speaking in gibberish? Does God want us to worship Him mindlessly? That seems to contradict one of the means of the directive to “Love the Lord your God.” How are we to love the Lord? With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Do we love God with all our heart at one time, and then move on to our soul, and then move on to our mind, and then move on to our strength? Or ought we not to do them all at once? Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 14:14 seems pretty clear: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.” If your mind offers no fruits of worship to God, is that really a worthwhile way to spend your time? What’s Paul’s response in verse 15? He asks: “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” Love God by praying with your spirit AND your mind. Don’t waste time praying in “tongues” that you don’t understand but rather pray with intelligible words — with your spirit AND your mind!

WARNING: Explicit language (one scatological phrase)

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  1. Out of curiosity, how would you respond to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14: “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy” and “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you”?

    • I would say that Paul wants people to be exercising the real gift of tongues — speaking in a language foreign to the speaker, but native to a listener, and having that interpreted by the person whose native language it is for the benefit of the entire congregation. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul seems to be pointing out that it’s not a spiritual gift to be speaking in a tongue that no one understands (spiritual gifts are for the edification of the body — 1 Cor. 12), but rather it is a spiritual gift to speak in a language that you don’t understand but someone else does– and so it builds them up and through the native speaker’s interpretation — the church.

      1 Cor 14:13 says “Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.” Wait — if someone is there who understands the language, why does anyone need to interpret? Well, let’s look back at what the therefore is there for. Ah, I think it’s because of verse 9: “if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.” Paul seems to be drawing out the point that this ecstatic practice that the Corinthians were doing is not useful for edification, and he seems to be very pastorally exhorting them to do what they’re doing for the upbuilding of the church — which isn’t possible when many different people are having their own exclusive religious experiences, and everyone is lusting after this gift of tongues. But it seems that Paul doesn’t want to throw out the true gift with the false gift, so he says “don’t forbid to speak in tongues”, and rather encourages them to use their spiritual gifts to build up. Now, Paul used his gift of tongues a LOT because it helped to verify his apostolic authority. It also seems to have been a great evangelistic tool, and a way to show that God truly was present. So that’s why I think he is very careful not to throw out the gift of tongues altogether, even while it seems to be sadly misused in the Corinthian church.

      It is a hard passage, and there is a possible case for tongues as a prayer language buried deep within it. But it’s a very, very vague possibility, and the concept of praying in tongues goes against everything else I’ve read in Scripture. The trouble with building doctrines off of this passage is that while it’s certainly 100% inspired and true, Paul is approaching the Corinthian church with grievances he’s got against their practices, and he’s trying to correct their errors. Not in a single instance in Scripture, however, do we see an encouragement to participate in ecstatic, unintelligible prayer language as an alternative to speaking to God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, even as we love Him with all of those aspects.

      Feel free to draw this out more, I’m just too tired to continue for the moment.


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