The phenomenon of speaking in tongues is common among Charismatic-Pentecostal type churches. It is also controversial, even though increasingly accepted in Christianity. Some Christians see the so-called charismatic spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongue speaking as ceased, i.e. the Holy Spirit no longer bestows such gifts to us anymore in this day and age. They argue that these gifts were necessary for the establishment of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts in the Bible but no longer necessary now that the church is well established. These gifts have ceased as they have fulfilled their purpose.
But Charismatic-Pentecostal Christians beg to differ, arguing that we cannot restrict the Holy Spirit and that through their own experiences of prophecy and tongue-speaking, it is evident that God still give these spiritual gifts to his people for his glory. In these churches, it is common to have Christians break out into ecstatic utterances that are believed to be praying in a heavenly or angelic language (or tongue). Those who believe in a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” often see tongue-speaking as evidence of the Spirit’s outpouring on an individual Christian.
In this blog post, I am going to share my thoughts on this supported by my research into Scripture. I will be drawing material from my previously published article, “Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural View” (The Banner, Sept. 2003, pp. 46-48).
(This was originally published in The Banner, February 11, 2001, pp. 24-26. This version is my original version prior to editorial revisions.)
While preparing to write this article, I started to read a book on the literature of the Bible. As I read, I came across handwritten notes on a piece of paper left behind in the book by a previous reader. Now, I am not usually one to read such notes and scribbles. But the note begins with a question, “Does the fact that the Biblical authors consciously used literary forms in their books mitigate against the claim of Biblical inerrancy?” I was intrigued. This reader is concerned that claiming the Bible as literature would undermine its truth claims. As I read on, it became clear to me that the reader is worried about protecting the Bible’s factual accuracy. For example, the reader wrote: “The [Biblical] author took the facts and unfolded them in such a skillful way as to make the reading of them exciting. The facts are unaltered.”
I used to have the same fear myself. But now I think that fear is unfounded. This fear is rooted in a narrow view of truth and a mistaken view of literature. We do not need to worry about taking seriously the Bible’s literary nature. Seeing the Bible as literature does not mean we have to worry about defending its truth claims. In fact, recognizing its literary forms would help us interpret the Bible better. Continue reading “Reading The Bible As Literature”→