Ten hard questions about speaking in tongues (glossolalia and xenoglossy)

Having been a Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian for most of my life, I know firsthand the difficulty in addressing this issue without inflaming controversy and anger, yet I will try to do my best. When I began, unwillingly and unknowingly, to make my transformation from an emotional Pentecostal preacher to a calmer seeker of truth, many around me were either angered or hurt. This was seen as a betrayal on my part, though I certainly did not intend to do so. Some wanted to know why; what caused me to leave the Pentecostal fold that offered me an identity, a place of belonging, and a respectable leadership position? Why did I commit social suicide? Why did I become a pariah with a name that perhaps still leaves a bitter distaste in the mouths of many who once held em in good esteem? The simplest answer is that my greatest desire became to know truth, whatever it was, rather than to simply inherit it unquestioned. I began to study the Bible with renewed vigor and my biblical study showed me something different than that which I learned through many years in the Pentecostal faith. You can read my thoughts on the Bible and Tongues here. I posted that nearly two years ago, and have not written on this issue again. Now, I’d like to cautiously discuss it, with the hope of instigating thinking, rather than proving everyone wrong or fighting.

First of, here are some definitions: the act of “speaking in tongues” is differentiated into two separate entities by scholars. The first is called glossolalia, which refers to speech in “an unknown tongue,” while the second is known as xenoglossy (or xenoglossia), speaking in real human languages that are previously unknown to the speaker. So if I find myself in a church, and see others around me “speaking in tongues” by repeating sounds like “ra-ba-sha-ba” this is glossolalia, whereas if there is a native English speaker who has never been to France, and he is praying “louange à Dieu” this is xenoglossy.

It is obvious that this phenomenon called glossolalia does exist (this I know firsthand, having experienced it, and being able to manifest it at will). It is also obvious that it’s neither evil nor psychotic, as there are many Christians who are mentally stable and morally upright, yet speak or pray in tongues. It is also noteworthy that glossolalia is a very profound and powerful experience, one that many practitioners report as beneficial and meaningful. These issues are not up for debate, however, there are multiple biblical, theological, historic, linguistic, experimental, and rational reasons why I (along with most academics) am not convinced it’s a supernatural language that is miraculously given by God. Thorough research and investigation of this phenomenon leads to a theory that glossolalia is a natural phenomenon of “free vocalization.” It is true that those who practice glossolalia experience a meaningful and emotional experience, however, this is not evidence of a supernatural language, because other forms of non-language vocalizations, such as crying or laughing, also produce powerful emotional and meaningful experiences, yet are still very natural..

Pentecostals and Charismatics, however, fervently argue that it is a supernatural impartation of a language from God, often as evidence that the speaker has been “baptized with the Spirit.” While I am open to this view, if evidenced by Scripture and reason, there are many hard questions that such a belief cannot effectively answer. This paper will attempt to parse some of these reasons. Though I certainly don’t expect or intend to “disprove speaking in tongues,” (for how can arguments of Scripture, science, or reason ever compare against the power of a meaningful experience?) but these questions certainly deserve to be dealt with in a cohesive way, which may require a reevaluation of current Pentecostal doctrine. Simple responses like “just because there are fake versions does not prove there is no real one” or “it’s a spiritual thing, you can’t study it with logic” are not consistent with an intellectually rigorous theology, something many Pentecostals claim to have. And so here are the challenging questions that I have not found compelling answers for (that may serve as clues to my humble skepticism towards this issue.)

The Ten Questions

1. Why do different charismatic groups have different vowels and accents of glossolalia?

Glossolalia does not sound like any of the well known languages many of us are familiar with. It doesn’t sound like French, Greek, German, or Japanese. In attempting to explain this some Pentecostals argue that glossolalia is likely a combination of real languages we are not personally aware of. However the worlds leading linguists have examined these claims and concluded that glossolalia is:

  • “a meaningless but phonologically structured human utterance believed by the speaker to be a real language but bearing no systematic resemblance to any natural language, living or dead.” (1)

In response to studies like these it is commonly argued by most Pentecostals that the reason most modern tongues do not seem to be like any known human language is because they are angelic languages, in reference to Paul brief mention of the phrase in 1 Cor 13:1. The Assembly of God official position paper states that “Spirit-inspired languages may not always be human, but may be spiritual, heavenly, or angelic.” (2) My question is then, why does every single nationality have a unique form of glossolalia? Growing up Ukrainian, my “angelic language” has always been strongly composed of many harsh Slavic phonemes. Yet when I began to interact with English speaking Pentecostals, some of their “angelic languages” didn’t have these sounds because they aren’t frequently used in the English language. A simple Youtube search can show many examples (a, b, c, d, e, f , g, h) of glossolalia coming from speakers of different ethnicities or groups, and each of these linguistic groups carries with it a somewhat unique version of glossolalia. Dr. Goodman, who conducted some of the most comprehensive studies of glossolalia ever undertaken, listened to innumerable samples, and eventually concluded that

  • “the [speakers] utterance mirrors that of the person who guided the glossolalist into the behavior. There is little variation of sound patterns within the group arising around a particular guide.” (3)

Another academic book that summarizes much research on the topic also verifies this:

  • “The importance of the leader was well illustrated by the fact that the style of glossolalia adapted by the group bore a close resemblance to the way in which the leader spoke. . . . It is not uncommon for linguists to be able to tell which prominent [traveling] glossolalist has introduced a congregation to tongue-speaking” (19)

According to this research, not only are the different variations of glossolalic speech dependent somewhat on the original language of the speaker, but they also differ based on the guide who “taught” glossolalia to his followers. This explains why each particular movement has their own brand or variety of glossolalia. This explains why there is such strong glossolalic uniformity withing the Slavic Pentecostal movement I grew up in (it all comes from the same “guide”), and why their form of glossolalia is distinct from the glossolalia of the Third Wave charismatic movement I later joined (because this comes from different “guides”). How do these local variations fit into the understanding that glossolalia is an angelic language? The Greek word glossa(is), interpreted in our English Bibles as tongue(s) is defined by Strongs Lexicon as “language/dialect as used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations.

If there is a real “language of angels,” why does every group have their own version? Do angels speak many different dialects? Why are these angelic languages so profoundly linked to the human speakers primary language or distinct historic stream? Why can linguists trace the glossolalic “accents” of the speakers to human guides if the only guide is the Holy Spirit? If all glossolalists spoke in a unique language, that was unknown and unrelated to any earthly language, and that language was inexplicably uniform in accent, intonation, etc, in every part of the world, that might have been indicative of some sort of angelic language. However, does not the fact that in each case glossolalia is composed of mixed sounds taken from the speakers native language better suit a natural explanation?

2. Why did glossolalia exist before the birth of Christianity?

The story of glossolalia I learned as a Pentecostal begins at Pentecost, where the Apostles reportedly first began speaking in glossolalia. In fact, it should be obvious that the Pentecostal movement is named after the day of Pentecost (which was originally the Jewish holiday Shavuoth). The only issue is that this particular day does not even have one example of glossolalia, and if we don’t impose our ideas into the Bible, we can observe that there is no specific mention of glossolalia anywhere in the Acts of the Apostles. Rather, all of the tongues/languages that were spoken were plainly understood (Acts 2:4-11), meaning this was xenoglossy in the form of public preaching, not glossolalia as prayer. Yet, the act of glossolalia, speaking in unknown (or ecstatic) speech has many pre-Christian roots. In a lengthy journal article for the American Scientific Affiliation (an association of Christian scientists), Dr. Pattison summarizes the publications of numerous historians on this topic by saying

  • Glossolalia had been practiced for many years along with other ecstatic phenomena by the prophets of the ancient religions of the Near East. Prophets and mystics of Assyria, Egypt, and Greece reportedly spoke in foreign tongues during states of ecstasy and uttered unintelligible phrases said to be revelations from the gods…The practice was known in ancient India and China, and ethnographies describe glossolalia in almost every area of the world.(4)”

Patterson cites many references to back up these historic facts, then highlights an interesting fact from the work of anthropologist Erika Bourguignon, by saying that

  • “Interestingly, in both Christian ‘and non-Western religions there is often an “interpreter” who volunteers from the audience to either translate the message into human language or verify that the strange tongue is actually some foreign language known to the interpreter.” (4)

In all, Pattison lists more than ten academic sources for these historical conclusions. Another great overview that has many more historic references of per-Christian glossolalia and is readily available online is A Survey of Glossolalia and Related Phenomena in Non-Christian Religions (5).

Now here is the hard question, why are there many examples of glossolalia before the Christian church? If glossolalia is strictly an angelic language, given by God at the birth of the church, why are there so many clearly documented cases of glossolalia in other religions, before Christianity? Does it not seem odd that God would give Christians a spiritual language that existed beforehand in pagan worship? However, if glossolalia is a natural phenomenon we would expect to see it throughout the ancient world, and indeed we do. Of course most charismatics, upon realizing they cannot dispute the historic data, simply say that these earlier forms of glossolalia were demonic counterfeits. Yet, if this is the case, they must answer two even harder questions, how can a counterfeit exist for thousands of years before the real thing appears, and why would God give Christianity a gift that was already incorporated in pagan practices?

3. Why did Jesus forbid prayer with babbling/long repetitions if he was going to give it as a special gift?

When I was much younger it always bothered me that the teachings of Jesus about prayer did not appear to be consistent with the teachings of the Pentecostal church. We tried to pray as as publicly as we could, loudly in church or any restaurant we entered, yet Jesus tells his followers not to pray “in the synagogues” where they can “be seen by men” (Mat 6:5) but privately and “in secret” (Mat 6:6). Early on I realized we were not simply taking Jesus literally but allegorizing his teachings on prayer, or making exceptions. What eventually began to bother me even more was the following verse and idea. Jesus is quoted saying:

  • “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition (battalogeó/battalogēsēte) as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”  (Mat 6:7)

The Greek word that was translated into “meaningless repetition” is translated by Strong’s Concordance and HELPS Word Study as “to blubber nonsensical repetitions; to chatter, using empty (vain) words.” and “to repeat the same things over and over, to use many idle words, to babble, prate.” There are two logical understandings of this statement by Jesus, either battalogeo refers to the length of prayer in a known language, or else babbling and repeating glossolalic sounds. If its literally referring to “nonsensical repetitions” this would mean Jesus specifically argued against the glossolalia of the pagans. That appears to be one of the only two possible interpretations, and is the case Dr. MacArthur posits in his book Charismatic Chaos. In my experience, Pentecostals usually argue that battalogeo actually refers to repetitions of knows words (such a praying by repeating the word “please” many times in a row). Firstly, we must note that Bible scholars have a general agreement for the translation of battalogeo as ecstatic speech, rather than known human language.

  • “There is general agreement that the idea of babbling or stammering is meant in Matthew 6:7. We may conclude that Jesus spoke against prayer which consisted of unintelligible speech or babbling, similar to the pagan prayers.” (6)

If this is the case, then Jesus clearly taught against glossolalia. How could it be that Jesus taught against glossolalia, then later gave it as a gift? It makes no sense! Yet, for the sake of arguments, lets give this point of interpretation to the Pentecostals, and say battalogeo doesn’t specifically refer to glossolalia by name. Then we still have a great deal of unresolved tension. The whole point of Mat 6:7 is that prayers should not be long and repetitive, but very clear and intentional (Mat 6:8-13). Are not glossolalic prayers exactly the opposite? They last for prolonged periods of time and they include hundreds of repetitions of the same phrases. They are exactly the opposite of the Lord’s prayer that is explicitly taught in the Bible! Christ teaches a short prayer without any repetitions, Glossolalia is a long-winded prayer with hundreds of repetitions; Christ teaches known and intentional words (Mat 6:9-13), while Glossolalia includes absolutely no known words in the speaker. Why would Jesus teach a standard of prayer that is exactly the opposite of glossolalia and never mention glossolalia? (I will address the Mark 16:17 reference to “new tongues” later.)

4. Why do non Christian religions include glossolalia as part of their worship?

To make matters even worse or more confusing, not only are forms of glossolalia present before the advent of Christianity, but are even now practiced in the more ecstatic fringe elements of other religions. In a large scale survey of American Christianity, the Pew Forum found that not only did 24% of Orthodox and 18% of Catholic responders claim to have spoken in tongues, but also groups like Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses have 11% and 8% of their adherents engaged in the practice of glossolalia. (7) In fact, even the founder of Mormonism spoke in tongues and encouraged others in his new religion, see the following recollection by an eyewitness:

  • Father Smith would call upon some illiterate brother to rise and speak in tongues in the name of Jesus Christ. The order was given… Arise upon your feet, speak or make some sound, continue to make sounds of some kind, and the Lord will make a tongue or language of it”. (8)

Another study of the Religious landscape in America asked the tongues question to groups not limited to Christians and found that while 11% of Protestants spoke in tongues, 2.1% of nonreligious people, as well as 1.1% of those who did not belong to a Christian religion spoke in tongues. (9) Another study published by the prestigious Journal of American Scientific Affiliation included a very thorough anthropological survey of numerous ethnic traditions and made the following conclusions:

  • “Glossolalia is practiced among non-Christian religions: the Peyote cult among the North American Indians, the Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest, Shamans in the Sudan, the Shango cult of the West Coast of Africa, the Shago cult in Trinidad, the Voodoo cult in Haiti, the Aborigines of South America and Australia, the Eskimos of the subarctic regions of North America and Asia, the Shamans in Greenland, the Dyaks of Borneo, the Zor cult of Ethiopia, the Siberian shamans, the Chaco Indians of South America, the Curanderos of the Andes, the Kinka in the African Sudan, the Thonga shamans of Africa, and the Tibetan monks” (10)

To this most Pentecostals will again reply that these are merely counterfeits of the real thing, and while that is a logical possibility, it does not come without strong criticisms. First, recall that it has been reliably documented that these counterfeits existed many years before the real thing (4) and second, there is the issue of localized linguistic uniformity (that the local version of Christian and pagan tongues are similar or identical). Felicitas D. Goodman, a world renowned psychological anthropologist and linguist, studied Pentecostal communities and compared these to non-Christian rituals. Goodman concludes when the different regional accents (“rhythm, accent, and especially overall intonation”) were accounted for, there was otherwise little difference between Christian and non Christian glossolalia.(3) How can we tell between a demonic/natural counterfeit and the real supernatural deal if they are identical in a local community? Furthermore, what is the purpose of God giving his people a sign-gift that is perfectly counterfeited by other sects? Will not unbelievers become confused if they see the exact same give practiced in Hindu Kundalini (11) and Christianity? Can we really use it as “evidence” of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit if many other religions, including some sects of Muslims (12) also produce this evidence?

5. If interpretation is the main purpose, why do we almost never see interpreted glossolalia?

In the Bible we do not have clear teaching about glossolalia. There are few narrative descriptions of xenoglossy in Acts, and the 14th  chapter of 1st Corinthians that is devoted to “speaking in tongues” which could be either xenoglossy or glossolalia (biblical scholars disagree). There are a few other very brief mentions, one that was added later by scribes and isn’t in the original biblical text, and others that merely list the gift of tongues but offer no qualifying information. In the most comprehensive, but yet challenging and sometimes unclear passage on tongues, the Apostle Paul says the following

  • “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret: but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church.” (1 Cor 27:28)

In all of my time within Pentecostalism I have seen a few instances where something similar to the above happened. As was observed by Pattison in both Christian and non-Christian communities (4) one speaker produces ecstatic glossolalic speech, and another interprets in a known language. According to the Apostle Paul, this is the only allowable use of tongues (at least “in the church”), however, the overwhelming majority of glossolalia occurs without interpretation. Instead it is nearly always “free-for-all prayer” with each person shouting out their own glossolalic vocalizations at once. I have personally felt the compelling emotional vividness of glossolalia and I understand the meaningful emotional release that occurs, however, this experiential spiritual ecstasy is no excuse for what seems to be disobedience to the literal words of the Bible. Paul repeats this numerous times, elsewhere saying:

  • “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” (1 Cor 14:8-11)
  • “Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?” (1 Cor 14:23)

Why then is the Pentecostal experience primarily about spending the vast majority of ones time “speaking into the air” and appearing as though they are “mad”? The frenzied revivals in Pentecostal history are characterized by two things, people who are genuinely hungry to existentially connect to God, yet also constantly ignoring the clear teaching of Paul above. Why do most Pentecostals refuse to admit these teachings, neglect reading these passages literally, and continue to seek out ways to reinterpret this in light of personal experience? Why would God (through the hand of Paul) condemn all glossolalia spoken in church that is not followed by an interpretation? Why did he not even make even one exception in all of the Scriptures for uninterpreted community glossolalia? Especially if these types of loud community tongue-speaking revivals were his great desire? Why would God not even once clearly prescribe these loud revivals in the Bible? Why would the only chapter possibly mentioning glossolalia, be filled with mostly prohibitions and rules condemning the normative Pentecostal/Charismatic experience?

6. If modern tongues are the same as those in Acts, why is there no verifiable xenoglossy?

As previously mentioned, Pentecostals and Charismatics will most eagerly identify the writings in Acts 2 as the historic and theological roots of the modern charismatic movement. I have often heard expositions of Acts 2 that were directly linked to the modern practice of glossolalia. Something like “If the apostles spoke in tongues then, why ought we not today?!” These types of sermons are usually followed by prolonged communal glossolalic prayers. However, few, if any, of these preachers have ever mentioned the radical difference between the tongues of Acts 2 and those of the contemporary charismatic movement. There is not even one case of glossolalic prayer in the whole book of Acts! The very incident that Pentecostals point to as the foundation of their movement, Acts Chapter 2, is unmistakably a case of xenoglossy in the form of public speech. The gathering of “devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) around the first tongue speakers clearly stated “we hear them in our own tongues” (Acts 2:11). It is very obvious that the miraculous tongues that were spoken in Acts 2 (and the rest of Acts) were real human languages that native listeners understood. (13)

If that is the case, where are the millions of cases of documented and verifiable xenoglossy? Where are the explosions of speech that are clearly real foreign tongues in Pentecostal or charismatic churches? If modern “speaking in tongues” is exactly the same in Acts 2, why has there never been a case even closely resembling Acts 2? Where are the crowds of people that hear Pentecostals/charismatics pray and reply with “we hear them in our own tongues“? There is not even one clearly documented case of xenoglossy where the speaker was not exposed to the language reportedly spoken. There are certainly fables and hearsay, often coming from remote regions of the world captivated by superstition, via the worlds longest game of telephone, however, those cases that are empirically tested, are shown to be untrue. William Samarin, a linguist who published a classic and foundational book on glossolalia  (14) mentions cases that were reported to be xenoglossy, but proven to be glossolalia in no known language when investigated by expert native speakers (1). He concludes that:

  • “most reports [of xenoglossoly] are made by uncritical people.. [who] have never been witnesses of a case of xenoglossia but have been told about it… In short we are given hearsay evidence, and we will always have as much difficulty in finding a bona fide witness as one does who tries to find a person who saw a sea monster.” (1)

There is very scarce evidence to prove him otherwise, the main source from the charismatic side is a book written in 1973 by an Assembly of God pastor that collects anecdotal stories and retellings of events that were said to be xenoglossy, however, this source is exactly what Samarin complained about, as it presents only “hearsay evidence.” If examining history, we are often forced to rely on anecdotes (though historians do not believe everything verbatum), however, since we are dealing with a continuing phenomenon, should there not be present verifiable cases? If everybody who spoke tongues in the book of Acts was clearly heard by native speakers, why do we not have such cases today? Why must we resort to hearsay about events that can be characterized as urban legends? Why can’t the charismatic movement produce thousands of persons who will turn to foreign investigators and speak in foreign tongues plainly and unavoidably?

  • Why is the only “evidence” given for xenoglossia in the form of unverifiable stories which resemble other urban legends? Why is this “evidence” the exact same type of stories that are used to prove UFO’s, ghosts, vampires, bigfoot, telepathy, witchcraft, reincarnation, and astrology? Even the Roswell story, that aliens from a crash landing were experimented on by the US government, is incomparably better attested by many more eyewitnesses than any case of xenoglossy. Why is there not even one example of a tongue speaker who can repeatedly utter phrases in foreign languages while being videotaped?

It is not due to a lack of interest on the part of researchers by no means. For example, Dr. Ian Stevenson set out to prove that xenoglossy was a real and verifiable phenomenon, and unlike other researchers, he was admittedly biased and hopeful of proving his hypothesis. (15) However, after many decades he found only a few cases, and even those were very problematic and met with much academic skepticism from academic linguists. (16) There is also the intriguing fact that none of his cases were Christians. Many researchers would love nothing more than real verifiable cases to test, however, the linguists are not convinced, (17, 20) because the  reality, according to willing and eager researchers, is that:

  • “The investigations that have been carried on have never verified the claim of speaking in an actual foreign language unknown to the glossolalist.” (18)

7. If glossolalia  is a real language, why are different interpretations given for the same phrase?

As I have shown previously, researchers have observed the act of “interpretation” of glossolalia in many cultures and in “both Christian ‘and non-Western religions” (4). This is often given as proof or evidence of the validity of a supernatural manifestation. However, few charismatics realize that numerous studies have been done on this phenomenon of “interpretation” and they have revealed irreparable discrepancies. One persons glossolalic speech is recorded, and this audio recording is given to numerous Pentecostals who claim to have the power or gift of interpretation. Then each of these interpreters proceeds to give a different interpretation. (1, 4, 21, 22, 23)

  • “One individual’s ecstatic speech was tape recorded and played back separately to many individuals who believed that they had the gift of interpreting tongues. Their interpretations were quite inconsistent. Those particular interpreters were unable to extract significant meaning out of the glossolalia.” The differences were as wide as one being “a prayer for the health of someone’s children,” while another interpreted the speech as “praising God for a recent and successful church, fund-raising effort.” (22)

How could speaking in tongues be a real literal glossa, or language, if the interpretations of that very same language are contradictory? If I wrote a letter to ten literate acquaintances, and each one read something completely different in the text, is it not evidence that my scribbles fail as a language? This same criticism is directly leveled at glossolalia. Samarin and later Pattison say:

  • Interpretations do in fact take place, but they are usually pious exhortations in the language of the group where the glossic utterances are made.  They are often strikingly longer or shorter than the glossic utterance.” (1)
  • “I have heard the same glossolalic phrases repeated by the same glossolalist in different services, but each time the identical glossolalic utterances are given a different translation. (4)

Why do the same words give different interpretations? Why can interpreters not interpret the same phrase in the same way? If glossolalia is a real language, then it must be consistent, the same sounds must produce the same translations, for this is the very basis of human language. Imagine if the English phrase “People are great!” was translated into French as “Bread” and later as “God wants you to know that He loves you very much” This would be a complete breakdown of the human system of language and communication. Yet it is noted time and time again this is exactly what happens in translations of glossolalia. How can we trust that glossolalia is a real language when interpretations of it fail miserably? What is the charismatic response to yet another comparison study?

  • “the interpreters gave different meanings to identical words in the same set of words. When confronted with this inconsistency, the interpreters simply said, ‘God gave different interpretations.'” (14, 23)

These types of responses completely eradicate the need for a language in the first place! A language, by definition has a syntax and contains meaning that is encoded into the words. That is the point of language, to contain meaning in the words! Glossolalia and its interpretation show there is absolutely no meaning in the words at all. So why would God give people this gift of languages (recall that the Greek glossa means ‘language’) if these languages in no way fit into the definition of a language? Why would I write out “tu-re-mi-ne-ka-ra-ba” in a letter and send it to ten friends, if I was going to give each of them a very different telepathic interpretation of that phrase? Why not just give them the telepathic interpretation and skip the meaningless and confusing middle step? What is the purpose of glossolalia as a language if it cannot be accurately interpreted (in “both Christian ‘and non-Western religions”) and the translation is mystically subjective and cannot be verified in any way? What is the point of God randomly giving multiple contradictory interpretations for the same exact phrase, would this not only serve to confuse genuine seekers? If the interpretation is a spiritual thing, that is in no way based on the actual sounds of glossolalia, what is the purpose of the sounds at all?

8. Why can people be trained to speak in tongues, apart from supernatural intervention?

Numerous studies and publications have shown that glossolalia is a learned human behavior that can be fully taught to others without supernatural intervention (24, 25, 26, 27) Take the following study, for example:

  • 18–44 yr old undergraduates listened to a 60-sec sample of glossolalia… and then attempted to produce glossolalia… Afterward, half of the [subjects] received 2 training sessions that included audio- and videotaped samples of glossolalia interspersed with opportunities to practice glossolalia. Also, live modeling of glossolalia, direct instruction, and encouragement were provided by an experimenter. Both the trained [subjects] and untreated controls attempted to produce glossolalia on a 30-sec post test trial. About 20% of [subjects] exhibited fluent glossolalia on the baseline trial, and training significantly enhanced fluency. 70% of trained [subjects] spoke fluent glossolalia on the post test. Findings are more consistent with social learning than with altered state conceptions of glossolalia. (27)

If glossolalia is a supernatural gift why can it be perfectly recreated by careful non-believing observers? Growing up I heard that people only obtained the ability to speak in tongues by a supernatural miracle, and also that some people “lost their gift” and were never able to speak again. While it is perhaps be possible that a few individuals throughout history did indeed believe that they had lost this gift of tongues (probably because they were told they could lost it), the data does not fit with such a view. How can people gain or lose tongues only by a supernatural intervention if nonbelievers, or those of other religions, can be easily taught to speak in tongues?

In fact, some prominent atheists can still produce the full range of the glossolalic experience, see for example Dan Barkers (anti)testimony, in which he states that as a Pentecostal pastor he frequently spoke in tongues, and now as an atheist, still does it from time to time (28) Also see the testimony Marjoe Goertner, a famous charismatic healing evangelist, who later revealed that he was an atheist, even during his later healing crusades. He stated:

  • “Tongues is something you learn. It is a releasing that you teach yourself. You are told by your peers, the church, and the Bible – if you accept it literally – that the Holy Ghost speaks in another tongue; you become convinced that it is the ultimate expression of the spirit flowing through you. The first time maybe you’ll just go dut-dut-dut-dut, and that’s about all that will get out. Then you’ll hear other people and next night you may go dut-dut-dut-UM-dut-DEET-dut-dut, and it gets a little better. The next thing you know, it’s ela-hando-satelay-eek-condele-mosandrey-aseya … and it’s a new language you’ve got down.” (29)

Why is speaking in tongues, the evidence for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, when it can clearly be learned and manifested by most people who attempt it? Why can an angelic supernatural language be copied and imitated by undergraduate students who have a few training sessions? Why do prominent Charismatics or Pentecostals who leave the faith retain the ability to speak in tongues, should they not lose their gift? And if they were merely fake from the beginning (though Barker certainly thought his was real, and Goertner’s audience never suspected a fake version) how can one even tell the difference between the real and the fake? It seems poor evidence of the Holy Spirit, if it’s so easily learned, and impossible to differentiate between real and fake versions.

9. If glossolalia is an essential part of Christian prayer, why didn’t Jesus mention it at all?

Christian Scriptures and theology declare that the hidden and mysterious nature of God and his desires for humanity are best revealed through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who is God’s son and revelation of Himself (Heb 1:1-2). Yet, when it comes to the speaking of glossolalia, Jesus is absolutely and completely silent. He does not, even on one occasion mention speaking in unknown tongues (glossolalia). Even as Jesus devotes time to clear teachings about prayer (Mat 6:5-13; Luke 11:1-4), and mentions the future indwelling of the Holy Spirit with power (John 14:16,26; Luke 24:49), he is completely silent on the topic of glossolalia. And not only silent, but as we have mentioned, the teachings of Jesus on prayer, completely contradict the manifestations of glossolalia (Mat 6:5-13).

There is indeed one place where, reportedly, Jesus speaks of glossolalia, and that would be Mark 16:17-18, where Jesus is quoted saying “they will speak new tongues.” I have heard countless sermons that have used this passage as “direct, clear, evidence of Jesus teaching glossolalia!” This verse is often touted as a silver bullet by Pentecostals and charismatics, however, it is quite the opposite.

A cursory look at any contemporary Bible translation will find the whole section of Mark 16:9-20 in brackets with footnotes, if not altogether missing. Textual criticism and historic research has shown that this part of Mark is almost certainly an addition by scribes who copied the Bible, and it was not in the original text of Mark. Bible editions (ESV, NASB, NIV, HCSB, NRSV, NLT, and others), including those translated by committees of hundreds conservative evangelicals have a disclaimer before the ending of Mark, which says something like this: “Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.” Here are the actual notes from a few Bibles, these are found as footnotes in the Gospel of Mark.

  • Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following [text of the “short ending of Mark”] (ESV)
  • “The most reliable early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at verse 8. Other manuscripts include various endings to the Gospel. A few include both the “shorter ending” and the “longer ending.” (NLT)
  • This section is a later addition; the original ending of Mark appears to have been lost. The best and oldest manuscripts of Mark end with ch. 16:8. Two endings were added very early.” (Westminster Study Bible)

In essence all prominent biblical scholars and textual critics agree, the long ending of Mark we are familiar with, which is one of four endings found in numerous ancient fragments of Mark, was not in the original. (30, 31, 32, 33, 34) These words that are often given as concrete evidence of Jesus teaching glossolalia were not in the Bible. Yet, even if they were, a cursory glance at the context shows that these signs Jesus talks of (new tongues, drink poison, handle snakes) refer to events that are not normative. Paul was bitten by one snake on one occasion, surely this passage does not mean we must seek out snakes to handle? I concede that the snake handling churches in the Appalachian mountains might disagree with my rhetoric.

This brings us back to the original question, why was Jesus silent on glossolalia if it is one of the most important functions (and indeed evidence) of the Holy Spirit? Why did Jesus command a specific type of prayer, if he was planning to replace it with a glossolalia, a radical departure of his command, in two years? Why would he keep this all secret? Surely these are vital questions? It’s true that Jesus does not mention everything there is to know, yet, why would he neglect one of the most vital things? If Jesus is our primary teacher, and Christianity is all about Jesus, why is Jesus completely silent on the issue Pentecostals place at the core of the Christian experience? Even Paul, theologically speaking on Christ’s authority, only mentions tongues in the 1st letter to the Corinthians, in an unclear passage that is primarily a list of prohibitions of glossolalia or xenoglossy gone awry. None of the letters to the other churches contain even one brief mention of “speaking in tongues;” how can this be, if glossolalia is one of the most pivotal doctrines of the Bible? If you simply wanted to obey the words of Jesus, you could become a Christian, but could you ever become a glossolalist? Hardly. If a few chapters from 1st Corinthians were lost, you could still be a Christian but could you be a glossolalist? Why is this the case, if glossolalia is such a core doctrine of the Bible?

10. Why is Christian glossolalia almost unheard of before 1901 Topeka Kansas?

The historical case of glossolalia within the Christian world is one of the most intriguing ideas to tantalize the ears of man. Within the many writings of the early church there are only two first-hand references to “tongues.” These are found in the writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian, while the other patriarchs are nearly silent. (35) There are a couple of second-hand mentions of gifts of the Holy Spirit by writers like Hilary of Poitiers and Novatian. (36, 37) There is no clarification given whether these tongues are glossolali or xenoglossy. There was, however, a ecstatic cult led by Montanus who engaged in glossolalia (it should be noted that Tertullian, mentioned previously, was at one point a follower of Montanus). The early church historian Eusebius, writing probably around 339 CE, states the following about Montanus:

  • He became possessed of a spirit, and suddenly began to rave in a kind of ecstatic trance, and to babble in a jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of the Church which had been handed down by tradition from the earliest times.” (38)

Later church fathers also allude to the absence of speaking in tongues, these include Chrystostom (344–407), who states that any mention of tongues is obscure and they “now no longer take place” (39) Also Augustine (354-430) who also discussed the Acts of the Apostles, and specifically mentions the act of speaking in tongues, saying “it passed away.” (40) Perhaps these events are open to debate and interpretation, the historical consensus is that glossolalia was not in any way a prominent part of the history of the early church.

In the middle ages there are a few brief and obscure references to something that could possibly be glossolalia, most notably in the small sect of Moravians, who were accused of speaking in “disconnected Jargon” which some Pentecostal historians, seeking to trace their roots, claim as their own. However, other historians, evaluating these claims have noted that:

  • There is little evidence of any form of glossolalia during the Middle Ages in either East or West.” (42)
  • All the medieval references are so problematic that it is probably best not to try to evaluate them either pro or con.” (43)

Other reported tongues speakers include the Zwickau Prophets of Martin Luther’s day, who were critics of Luther and taught that one must receive direct revelations and prophecies of the Spirit (44) The Zwickau Prophets also held to imminent apocalypticism, and were eagerly anticipating the end of the world in their lifespan (45) Also:

  • The next time any significant tongues-speaking movement arose within Christianity was in the late seventeenth century. A group of militant Protestants in the Cevennes region of southern France began to prophesy, experience visions, and speak in tongues. The group, sometimes called the Cevennol prophets, are remembered for their political and military activities, not their spiritual legacy. Most of their prophecies went unfulfilled. They were rabidly anti-Catholic, and advocated the use of armed force against the Catholic church. Many of them were consequently persecuted and killed by Rome.“(46)

In addition there are reports that a few of the followers of Edward Irving, a 19th century revivalist and leader of the “Catholic Apostolic Church, spoke in tongues. (47) Also there are few brief references that might be some form of ecstatic behavior, perhaps even glossolalia, that occurred during the frenzied revivals of the Great Awakening. As well as obvious glossolalia in the Mormon church, and the Quaker movement. (8, 48) However, these reports are are so few and so opaque, compared to the post-Asuza era that they are nothing more than a tiny statistical blip. Case in point, not even one of the historic Christian leaders or movements that we are familiar with spoke in tongues. Though it is hard to make a statement as to which of the early church fathers spoke in glossolalic tongues, however, we can reasonably state that it’s likely that Tertullian (because of his association with Montanus) was a glossolalist. Otherwise we can safely assume that all others, for example Athanasius, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Origen and did not because their writings either directly say “speaking in tongues” is ceased, or else they refer to it as a distant and abstract idea.

As far as more recent history, we can readily ascertain which historic Christian leaders spoke in tongues. The answer is close to none.

  • This list of non-speakers includes all of the most important leaders within historic reformation movements (Calvinism and Arminanism), including John Huss, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Jacobus Arminius, Hugo Grotius, Simon Episcopius, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Carey, and Charles Spurgeon. There were reports of unusual occurrences, though not glossolalia, in the frenzied revivalism of Charles Finney, as well as in the ministries of D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, and Billy Sunday, however, there is evidence contra based on intimate knowledge of these men and their writings. (49) Even without this attestation, its highly unlikely that most Holiness movement Christians in the early 20th century would be so shocked by glossolalia if indeed the leaders who started their movement were speaking in tongues for a long time. The facts run quite to the contrary, even R.A Torrey, stated about Pentecostalism that it is “emphatically not of God, and founded by a Sodomite.” (50)

So where do we see the advent of glossolalia? In a small “bible school” in Topeka, Kansas in 1901 which created leaders who initiated the Azusa Street Revival, from which every branch of the modern Charismatic movement hails. (50) Before this revival, the historic accounts of glossolalia were almost nonexistent, and the few that we can find were obscure references to sects outside mainstream Christianity. Before the Protestant Reformation, there is little recorded history, after (largely because of the printing press) we have three hundred well-documented years of “glossolalic silence” in almost every single branch, denomination, offshoot, and sect of Christianity. And this is not a historic argument that Pentecostal historians disagree with, in fact, its one they cherish, below are two official Pentecostal sources:

  • Throughout the latter half of the 19th century in the United States, Protestants from various backgrounds began to ask themselves why their churches did not seem to exhibit the same vibrant, faith-filled life as those in the New Testament [for they did not speak in tongues]. Many of these believers joined evangelical or Holiness churches, engaged in ardent prayer and personal sacrifice, and earnestly sought God. It was in this context that people began experiencing biblical spiritual gifts. One of the focal points of the emerging [but not previously existing] Pentecostal movement was known as the Azusa Street revival (1906-09). After students at his Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, began speaking in tongues at a prayer meeting on January 1, 1901, Parham, through his Apostolic Faith Movement, had some success in promoting the restoration of the gift of tongues.” (51)
  • “One lasting and influential legacy of Azusa Street is the modern Pentecostal movement and its offspring, the charismatic movement. In many ways, the Azusa Street Mission was the prototype for modern Pentecostalism. For centuries, Western churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, had adopted the view that the gifts of the Spirit had ceased at the end of the Apostolic Age. Known as the cessation theory, this view became especially dominant among Fundamentalists and some Holiness groups that rejected Pentecostalism. Pentecostals were the first Christians since the Early Church to associate speaking in tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Before 1901, thousands of people in Holiness and Keswick groups had claimed a baptism in the Holy Spirit with various evidences [but not tongues] to validate their experience. (52)

The early history of Pentecostalism was plagued by controversy, as many new movements are. Part of the reason was the radical departure from religion known as Christianity at the time. Another famous Holiness movement leader, A.B. Simpson, stated

  • There have been many instances where [seeking for] the gift of tongues led the subjects and the audiences in to the wildest excesses and were accompanied with voices and actions more closely resembling wild animals than rational beings, impressing the unprejudiced observers that it was the work of the devil.”
  • The founding leader of Pentecostalism, Charles Parham, himself described, and is reported by other Pentecostals to have seen wild manifestations at Pentecostal revivals, including “barking like a dog, braying like a donkey, and crowing like a rooster, and contortions and fits.” (53, 54)

Perhaps some of this is a form of biased over-reporting by the Holiness movement from which early Pentecostalism broke away, though this is attested in Pentecostal sources. Yet, the main fact agreed upon by all sides of this story is that glossolalia was not a normative Christian experience, and was literally unheard by almost all Christians before the birth of Pentecostalism. This presents further cause for serious skepticism towards glossolalia.

Theologically, are we really to believe that virtually all Christians before the origin of Pentecostalism did not have the Holy Spirit? The great leaders of the reformation and three hundred years after were all without the Holy Spirit as well? In fact, why does the first real case of glossolalia appear after a group of students were first convinced of its existence and set out to prove it right? In the Bible no one was aware of the existence of “tongues” at all, but rather, tongues “came suddenly” and unexpectedly to new believers, who did not have any doctrine to prove (Acts 2:2-4; 10:44-46). Why does modern history show the exact opposite? In general, why would God hide this gift for more almost two thousand years and then reveal through students who later admitted they were partly wrong? (55) Why would these tongues at first mistaken as real languages given for a “for a brief and intense spurt of [missionary] activity they thought would usher Christ’s return”? (56) Why were most historical Christians ungifted? Why is glossolalia missing from the normative practice of historic Christianity?


There are a great many whys, but few compelling answers. Maybe glossolalia is a real spiritual language given by God, yet the evidence from Scripture, history, science, logic, and reason is hardly in favor of this conclusion. It seems more consistent that glossolalia is a very real and (to some) spiritually meaningful phenomenon of emotional release with non linguistic ‘free vocalizations.’


  1. Samarin, William J. “The Linguisticality of Glossolalia.” Philosophy-Religion-Info. philosophy-religion.info/handouts/pdfs/Samarin-Pages_48-75.pdf (accessed September 28, 2013).
  2. General Presbytery of AoG. “Baptism in the Holy Spirit .” Assembly Of God Official Site. http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/pp_downloads/PP_Baptism_In_the_Holy_Spirit.pdf (accessed September 26, 2013).
  3. Goodman, Felicitas D. Speaking in tongues; a cross-cultural study of glossolalia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972. p.123
  4. Pattison, E. “BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE RESEARCH ON THE NATURE OF GLOSSOLALIA..” Science in Christian Perspective. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1968/JASA9-68Pattison.html (accessed September 27, 2013).
  5. May, L. Carlyle. “A Survey of Glossolalia and Related Phenomena in Non-Christian Religions.” American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Feb., 1956), pp. 75-96. American Anthopologic Association. http://www.deepsky.com/~merovech/voynich/voynich_manchu_reference_materials/PDFs/665726.pdf (accessed September 27, 2013.
  6. Edgar, Thomas R.. Satisfied by the promise of the Spirit: affirming the fullness of God’s provision for spiritual living. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996. pp 178
  7. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. “Chapter 1: Religious Beliefs and Practices.” U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report2religious-landscape-study-chapter-1.pdf (accessed September 26, 2013).
  8. George B. Cutten, Speaking with Tongues Historically and Psychologically Considered (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927): pp 71.
  9. “Speaking in tongues .” The Association of Religion Data Archives – U.S. and World Religion Statistics and Data . http://www.thearda.com/quickstats/qs_157_p.asp (accessed September 27, 2013).
  10. Jennings, G. J.: An Ethnological Study of Glossolalia, J. Am. Sci. Affil. (1968)
  11. “Symptoms of kundalini awakening.” Biology of Kundalini – A Science and Protocol of Spiritual Alchemy. http://biologyofkundalini.com/article.php?story=SymptomsList (accessed September 27, 2013).
  12. T Bunn, John. “Glossolalia in Historical Perspective.” Hiebert Global Center. hiebertglobalcenter.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Reading-5-Bunn-Glossolalia-in-Historical-Perspective.pdf (accessed September 27, 2013).
  13. One may posit that the miraculous tongues were actually glossolalia, and the real miracle was the fact that the listeners each understood the glossolalic speech in their own language; in essense a miracle of interpretation. However, such a proposed intepretation inadequately deals with the fact that the emphasis of Acts 2 is indeed on miraculous tongues, not on interpretation. This type of interpretation is not serious because it can be used to reinterpret any other biblical miracle: did Jesus really walk on water, or was it a miracle of divine seeing. Perhaps the disciples only saw him walking because the real miracle was their “seeing” something that wasnt there.
  14. Samarin, William J. (1972). Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. New York: Macmillan. p. 186
  15. Stevenson, Ian. Cases of the reincarnation type, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975
  16. Thomason, Sarah Grey. “Xenoglossy.” Linguistics. www-personal.umich.edu/~thomason/papers/xenogl.pdf (accessed September 29, 2013).
  17. Holton, Larry. “HELPS RELATED to MIRACLES, TONGUES and HEALING.” Has The Tongues Movement Convinced The Language Experts?. http://charlesdailey.net/TonguesHolton.html (accessed September 29, 2013).
  18. Mills, Watson. “Glossolalia as a Sociopsychological Experience.” SEARCH3, no. 2 (1973). http://hiebertglobalcenter.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Reading-7-Mills-Glossalalia-as-Sociopsychological-Experience.pdf (accessed September 29, 2013).
  19. John P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues (New York: Harper & Row, 1972). p. 53
  20. John P. Kildahl, “Psychological Observations,” in Speaking in Tongues: A Guide to Research. Ed. Watson E. Mills. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) 363.
  21. Kildahl Psychological Observations p. 361
  22. Jeff Wehr, “Speaking in Tongues,” Our Firm Foundation, Vol. 11, #11, 1996-NOV-11, Available at http://hopeint.webs.com/OFF%201996/Nov%201996.pdf
  23. Moore, Mark. “What We Can Know About Speaking in Tongues.” MarkMoore.org. http://markmoore.org/resources/essays/tongues.shtml#_ftnref97 (accessed September 29, 2013).
  24. Hine, Virginia H. (1969). “Pentecostal Glossolalia toward a Functional Interpretation”.Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 8: 211–226
  25. Samarin, William J. (1972). Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism. New York: Macmillan. p. 73
  26. Nicholas Spanos, Et. Al. “Glossolalia as Learned Behavior: An Experimental Demonstration,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95 (1986) 21.
  27. Kildahl, John; Paul Qualben (1971). Glossolalia and Mental Health: Final Progress Report.National Institute of Mental Health
  28. Dan Barker “Dan Barker – How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists.” YouTube. http://youtu.be/K-91oN4Km5U?t=11m38s (accessed September 29, 2013).
  29. Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, “Marjoe Gortner”. Reprinted from Conway and Siegelman’s book Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change (Stillpoint, 1995) http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/marjoe.htm (accessed September 29, 2013).
  30. A Commentary on the Holy Bible, edited by J.R. Dummelow (New York: MacMillan, 1927), pages 732-33.
  31. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart, 1971), pages 122-126.
  32. Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), pp. 269-270.
  33. F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, fourth ed. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1894), volume 2, pp. 337-344.
  34. McGrath, James F. . “Mark’s Missing Ending: Clues from the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Peter.” The Bible and Interpretation. http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/mcg.shtml (accessed September 30, 2013).
  35. Warfield, Benjamin B. (1918). Counterfeit Miracles. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. p. 10
  36. Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Vol 8 Chap 33
  37. Novatian, Treatise Concerning the Trinity, Chapter 29.
  38. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, V,17,3
  39. Chrystostom, Homilies on First Corinthians, xxix, 1
  40. Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John 6:10, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers [7:497-98]
  41. Burgess, Stanley M. (1991). “Medieval and Modern Western Churches”. In Gary B. McGee. Initial evidence: historical and biblical perspectives on the Pentecostal doctrine of spirit baptism. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers. p. 32.
  42. Hamilton, Michael Pollock. The charismatic movement. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975, p 69
  43. Glenn Hinson, “The Significance of Glossolalia in the History of Christianity,” in Speaking in Tongues: A Guide to Research. Ed. Watson E. Mills. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) p. 186.
  44. Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day (Peabody, Massachusetts: Prince, 1999), p. 39
  45. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity (Peabody, Massachusetts: Prince, 1975),p. 720.
  46. MacArthur, John. Charismatic chaos. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1992, p. 234
  47. Irving, Edward (January 1832). “Facts Connected With Recent Manifestations of Spiritual Gifts”. Fraser’s Magazine 4 (24): p. 754–761.
  48. Burrough, Edward (1831) [1659]. “Epistle to the Reader” in Fox, George. The great mystery of the great whore unfolded; and Antichrist’s kingdom revealed unto destruction. The Works of George Fox. 3. p. 13
  49. Rice, John R.. Speaking in tongues. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1971.p. 28
  50. Synan, Vinson. The Holiness–Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997 p. 146.
  51. General Council of the Assemblies of God. “History of the Assemblies of God.” Assemblies of God (USA) Official Web Site. http://ag.org/top/about/History/ (accessed September 30, 2013).
  52. Synan, Vinson. “The Lasting Legacies of the Azusa Street Revival.” AoG Enrichment Journal. http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200602/200602_142_Legacies.cfm (accessed September 30, 2013).
  53. King, Paul L.. “Supernatural Physical Manifestations in the Evangelical and Holiness Revival Movements – The Pneuma Foundation.” The Pneuma Foundation. http://www.pneumafoundation.org/article.jsp?article=/article_0026.xml#noteref68 (accessed September 30, 2013).
  54. Charles Parham, The Everlasting Gospel (Baxter Springs, KS: n.p., 1911), 71, 72.
  55. Ozman, Agnes. “Latter Rain Evangel.” First One to Speak in Tongues. pentecostalarchives.org/digitalPublications/USA/Independent/Latter%20Rain%20Evangel/Unregistered/1909/FPHC/1909_01.pdf (accessed September 30, 2013).
  56. Blumhofer, Edith L. Restoring the Faith: The Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism, and American Culture. Champaign and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993. p. 4

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86 responses

  1. Since you are an amateur theologian/philosopher, and having more questions then answers, WHY ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH ARE YOU TRYING TO ANSWER CHRISTIANITY’S HARDEST QUESTIONS?

        • Speaking in Tongue’s !
          Is , your Spirit speaking.
          Now , you can doctrinize this if you wish ?
          But Romans 8:29 tells us , we were saved before we knew it.
          That is ! God was in you prior to the revelation.

        • Romans 8:29 .
          No body saves you , but God.
          I was Water Baptized 20 years ago.
          Four years later I spoke in Tongue’s and interpreted.
          I asked the spirit whether I had the Holy Spirit before my confession of faith ? Or before ?
          The Spirit replied ” if you did not have Holy Spirit in the first place ? You wouldn’t be alive “.
          Speaking in Tongue’s , is your Spirit speaking ! And it is not a prerequisite for you to be a Christian to have it.
          I was excommunicated 10 years ago for divorcing a Jezebel.
          Even Jezebel’s speak in Tongue’s.

        • the speaking in tongjes is an emotion like anger, laughing. ctying etc. Its not associated with God in any form of spiritual manner and holds no power or authority. Its purpose was to show the hard headed jewish people the spirit has come through the messiah and the laws cant help them anymore with sins. Anything outside of that is witchcraft

    • Having more questions than answers, doesn’t mean you don’t have the right answers.

      The more people know, the more they know they don’t know. Thus, this produces more questions.

      And the intelligent ones are the ones who keep asking, seeking and finding.

    • His questions I would suggest are more rhetorical. They merely set the stage for further inquiry. Furthermore, there not really “Christianity’s hardest questions” so much as they are difficult questions Pentecostals must ask. the use of the word “hard” here I don’t think is meant to imply “difficult” or “impossible.” I think you catch my drift:)

    • Look Brother’s and Sister’s it’s not rocket science to answer the question. It’s not from the Christian God or Holy Spirit. It’s simply a religious phenomenon that can happen to anybody who’s aware of the Speaking in Tongues. Religous estacy is real. People take very sorry paths in there lives trusting emotions vs there God Given Gut instinct. Unless you study other religions and understand all Religions have the ability to tap into a divine energy. We’re all worshipping the same God get over yourselves. Reading a certain book and saying a certain name isn’t going to put you in hell or heaven. God loves his people. After all if he did create us he’s not going to punish us. It’s up to you to act rightously towards others in this life. If you don’t want to that’s your risk to take.

      If you do a little history on Religions you’ll find Judism, Islam, and Christianity stole and plagiarized much of there ideas form former Religions and past pagan God’s.

      I myself a Christian born and raised 24 years old. Recently found out family members spoke in tounges, prophecy, and Slain in the Spirit.

      The last 2 months all day everyday I’ve been seeing all sides of the story. Truth is the Christian Religion has adopted a lot of occult practices in the last 50 years. It’s all real just not from our holy Spirit. It’s 100% divine and with the one world Religion being pushed I wouldn’t be surprised if the United States and Vatican Catholic Church release some very heartbreaking news about all Religions. Especially Christianity. Not trying to make anyone mad just speaking the truth that people need to hear. After all you need to respect all other Religious beliefs because it’s not from the devil. It’s divine Engery from within they feel the same spirituality as a Christian and show the same fruits if not act better than most Christians. Many of these other religions are a way of life and material things of this world don’t matter to them. Another point all of the major Religions believe they have a holy Spirit.

      Moral of the Story on Speaking in Tongues to current Christians that do it. Your not the only people who can do it and it’s not from the Holy Spirit. It most definitely is real. If you are a firm believer and feel that your emotions are the only reason you believe I suggest having blind faith or Looking at other religions. They all promote wisdom peace and love.

      After all the whole speaking in tongues goes all the way back 1000bc worshipping a pagan God. The people practiced it for healing and emotion.

      Unless your speaking a fluent foreign language your not speaking in tongues from the Holy Spirit.

      I would know because I have experienced the warm feelings coming over me. Speaking in Tongues is Contagious. Your mind has the ability to manifest anything. A languist went out and study a pagan cult group speaking in tongues and before he knew it a feeling came over him and he was speaking in tongues with them. Scary thought. So if you’ve been exposed to the speaking in tongues just fight off the feeling. Religous estacy is a very serious thing. Most people will never stop speaking in tongues because of the emotional high, or feelings they get but if your a strong willed person and want to be in control of your own body you’ll have no issue fighting off this temptation.

      With the internet research critically think about your questions and the Answers are in plain sight.

      God is Good!
      Grace and Peace Everybody.

  2. “…ten questions than no one has been able to answer” – I’ll take the challenge. You may not agree with the answers, or may find them unpersuasive, but it is an overstatement to say, “no one has been able to answer” your questions. There can be valid answers that reasonable, educated people would find satisfactory, while still allowing room for honest disagreement about which side has the stronger point.

    A preliminary point, before addressing your “…ten questions than no one has been able to answer” is that most of your ten questions – specifically #2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 – are not merely arguments against modern Pentecostal glossolalia, but are equally arguments for rejecting the glossolalia described in Acts 19 and 1 Corinthians 12-14. I will mention this again with each of these questions individually, but you’ve really offered an extended argument for rejecting chunks of the Bible just as much as modern Pentecostal practices. It appears that we disagree about the nature of the Bible, its divine origin, and its trustworthiness, so that might be the real source of our disagreement about the validity of tongues.
    You have posts on your blog rejecting any meaningful doctrine of inerrancy, and I find your points unconvincing, and continue to believe in inerrancy. My belief in the New Testament as God’s Word means that I must embrace the passages that describe a valid manifestation of the gift of tongues. If you do not believe in the Bible, then of course you can dismiss passages that contradict your personal opinions, and most people who doubt the Bible use the passages that contradict their personal opinions as further argument for not believing in the Bible. I will not attempt to change your mind about the validity of the Bible here – I want to focus on your “ten unanswered questions about tongues.” At the same time, if our different conclusions about tongues spring from different beliefs about the Bible, then it is unlikely you will find my answers about tongues convincing – or any
    answers to your questions that come from someone who begins with the assumption that the Bible is completely true and divinely written.

    1. QUESTION: Why do different charismatic groups have different vowels and accents of glossolalia?

    ANSWER: First, most charismatic and Pentecostal groups would not automatically accept the genuineness of all other groups that claim to speak in tongues. As a primary example, Oneness Pentecostals (anti-Trinitarian) generally do not believe that Trinitarians are really saved or have the Holy Spirit, so they would not expect
    the tongues of “false” Trinitarian groups to sound the same as their tongues,
    which they believe to be authentic. And vice-versa – I do not believe that anti-Trinitarians are fellow believers or have salvation, so I would expect their tongues to be phony, either manufactured humanly or a demonic counterfeit. I recognize that in your later question about non-Christians speaking in tongues, you take issue with the easy dismissal of these things as counterfeits, but the very same argumentation you use is used by atheists in response to the Christian dismissal of non-Christian religions as counterfeits. More on this below. The point here is that your ten points overall lead to the conclusion that ALL tongues are counterfeits, so it is illogical to then reject the possibility that SOME or even most could be counterfeits, and some real.

    Second, even if tongues were a valid manifestation of the Holy Spirit today, that does not necessarily mean that most people in Pentecostal churches are really doing it (as opposed to mimicking it), or even that most Pentecostals are believers or are saved. Like most evangelical churches many Pentecostal churches are full of people who live in flagrant sin, who are materialistic and superficial, and who are merely religious and have never surrendered their lives to Christ. Even if tongues were real today, it would be entirely possible that most people claiming to speak in tongues are not actually doing so. But this is true for every aspect of Christianity. Most evangelicals claim to base ALL their religious beliefs on the
    Bible, but very few of them have ever read the whole Bible, and most of them
    have an extrabiblical holiday (Christmas) as a major part of their annual religious
    observance. Genuine miraculous healings occur today, but there are many faked healings and exaggerated reports of healings. Genuine answers to prayer
    occur, but lots of religious people attribute events to their own prayers that
    would have occurred regardless of their prayers. Evangelicals claim that their churches are bastions of family values, yet the incidence of divorce and remarriage in their churches is similar to that in the general culture. The fact that most “tongues” today have phonetic features correlated to the geographic area or denomination could merely be evidence that an unfortunately small number of the speakers are genuine.

    If both of those answers seem to easy, here is a third: throughout your post about tongues, you seem to assume that tongues, if genuine, would be a single, universal heavenly language, and would sound the same everywhere. I reject this
    assumption. None of the biblical passages about glossolalia seems to indicate that it always sounded the same in the New Testament era. Some Pentecostals
    believe that glossolalia is really xenoglossy. There are approximately 8,000 spoken languages in the world right now, and presumably several thousand
    that have gone extinct over the centuries. It is possible, therefore that different believers (or even groups of believers) are speaking different languages unknown to them.

    More likely, I believe, is the possibility that genuine tongues is not a pre-established language of communication (whether earthly or heavenly) but could be a spontaneously-created new language. Most Pentecostals believe that they have a personal prayer language that differs from everyone else’s. The biblical passages about glossolalia would even allow for the possibility that each occurrence of tongues is a new language spontaneously generated by the Holy Spirit. I haven’t observed the degree of uniformity that you describe – in any charismatic or Pentecostal church I’ve attended, the tongues spoken by different individuals sounded very different.

    In addition, speakers of various languages have a very difficult time making certain sounds that are not part of their language. Many non-English speakers struggle, for example, with the “th” sounds in English, or with pronouncing certain
    combinations of consonants like those in “squirrel.” (Try to get a native speaker of Portuguese to say, “Squirrel” properly). I grew up in the United States, and I struggled with gutturals and pharyngeal letters when I studied Arabic. I understand that God COULD miraculously enable Portuguese Pentecostals to articulate beautiful “th” sounds and words like “squirrel” as part of their glossolalia, but it is just as possible that the Holy Spirit would normally manifest variations of
    glossolalia that believers in that geo-linguistic region can easily get out. Similarly, I do not expect Americans to memorize as much of the Bible as believers in non-literate societies would do, and I do not expect believers in societies with no written
    language to read and think about the Scriptures in the same way that Americans
    can and do.

    2. Why did glossolalia exist before the birth of Christianity?

    One could more easily ask why death-and-resurrection stories exist in paganism
    (Mithras and Baal) before Christianity, or the concept of having Sacred
    Scriptures, or healing, or baptism. Is there any aspect of Christianity that did not exist before the birth of Christianity? This argument reminds me of unbelievers who think that the Epic of Gilgamesh somehow disproves the biblical story of Noah’s Flood, or that overlapping concepts between Christianity and Zoroastrianism undermine the legitimacy of the gospel, or that the overlaps of the Christian morality in the Epistles with that of the Stoics somehow negates the divine inspiration of the Epistles. Every type of miracle recorded in the New
    Testament is also present in pre-Christian Judaism or pagan religions. I would expect that to be the case whether Christianity were true or false. Ideals of brotherly love, self-sacrifice, grace, forgiveness, and other favorite doctrines of self-congratulatory modernist Christians are all visible in various pre-Christian religious sources, albeit not all put together in the same overall package as Christianity. If Christianity is true and tongues is valid, then it is unsurprising to find both counterfeits and genuine divine manifestations of the gift before the
    manifestation in the early church.

    3. Why did Jesus forbid prayer with babbling/long repetitions if he was going to give it as a special gift?

    Again, this seems to be an argument for rejecting parts of Acts and 1 Corinthians rather than modern phenomenon that claim to be biblical glossolalia. This is hardly the only instance in which two superficially contradictory passage of Scripture need to be reconciled by believers today. Jesus elsewhere tells us to keep praying and not give up – so one must reconcile the anti-repetition passage with Jesus’ own injunction to reiterate (regularly) our prayers that are yet unanswered.

    The real contradiction seems to be between what Jesus says here and the traditions that have developed in some Pentecostal denominations for speaking in tongues at length. One could take Jesus’ warning as a caution that praying in tongues should be brief rather than prolonged, an idea that most Pentecostals have never considered. In the context, though, Jesus is actually focused not merely on the repetitiousness of the prayer or the babbling aspect, but on the fact that the pagans believe that repetition makes divine response more likely. Perhaps some misguided Pentecostals think that praying in tongues for an hour makes some desired more likely to happen than if they had prayed only thirty minutes, but that would seem to be the type of foolishness Jesus is attacking here. His recommended alternative is not “Always pray in your native language” but rather to pray in faith and simplicity.

    3. Why do non Christian religions include glossolalia as part of their worship?

    Very few non-Christian religions include glossolalia – the examples you give are
    rather obscure, and are just as much hearsay as the examples of xenoglossy that
    you so quickly dismiss later. Why not ask the same question about the Bible?
    Every major non-Christian religion has a Holy Book or Scriptures – does that
    discredit the Christian claims about the validity of the Bible? Most non-Christian religions believer in miraculous answers to prayer – again, does that mean Christians should stop praying for things? Most non-Christians religions include fasting as part of their religious observance for the devout. Most encourage charity and love to one’s neighbor. Most encourage some type of monogamous sexual morality. Why is glossolalia any different in this regard?

    5. If interpretation is the main purpose, why do we almost never see interpreted glossolalia?

    You must have been in the wrong churches. I spent most of my adult life in a
    denomination where tongues ALWAYS had interpretation if it occurred in a
    service. The Assemblies and some other large Pentecostal denominations simply developed a tradition in this regard that contradicts the injunctions in 1 Corinthians.

    Yet that raises the main answer to your question. 1 Corinthians indicates that the church in Corinth had tongues occurring without interpretation most of the time, which occasioned Paul’s words of correction. Your argument against modern tongues is equally an argument against the New Testament incidents of tongues. If
    interpretation was the main purpose, why were so many people in Corinth using
    glossolalia without an accompanying interpretation?

    6. If modern tongues are the same as those in Acts, why is there no verifiable xenoglossy?

    It is not clear what occurred in Acts 2, except that it is obviously not the same thing that happened in Corinth and Ephesus. Acts 2 is not necessarily xenoglossy – the audience mentions that at least 15 language groups were able to hear the preaching in their own tongues. Those who believe that xenoglossy occurred here must believe that each apostle was speaking a different language (one of those mentioned), at the same time to the same crowd, which I think would have been impossible to understand. An easier interpretation of Acts 2 is that the apostles all spoke in various glossolalia, and everyone heard all of them in his own language (that is, a miracle of interpretation occurred at the same time for each person). Acts 2 was a special event that laid the groundwork for the spread of the early church across the civilized world within a generation – pilgrims who had visited
    Jerusalem for the feast days that year would all return to their own lands and
    cities having heard the gospel – they would either start small groups of
    nascent churches, or would be predisposed to embrace the gospel when apostles
    and evangelists eventually reached them on missionary trips. The phenomenon described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 seems to be merely a small part of a regular worship service – a very different event.

    7. If glossolalia is a real language, why are different interpretations given for the same phrase?

    Most of these so-called “interpreters” are not genuine. You cite but one study where someone found various people who claimed to be able to interpret tongues. I have no reason for believing ANY of these people are genuine. I believe there
    would be just one interpretation for a given message in tongues. At the same time, I do not believe that “interpretation” means “translation.” Nor do I think that
    the Bible suggests that glossolalia are “real languages” in the sense of a
    shared dialect by some community of speakers. It is entirely possible that each instance of Glossolallia is a spontaneously-generated new language, and that the “interpretation” is a prophetic word in the hearer’s own language – they are not “understanding” the syllables and words the glossolalia speaker is uttering, but only the message. I anticipate the follow-up question, “Why does God not skip a step and simply give the interpretation as a prophecy?” I do not know, but I also do
    not know for sure why fasting matters to God, or the fact that we pray or
    worship. It is his sovereign choice.

    8. Why can people be trained to speak in tongues, apart from supernatural intervention?

    This is completely bogus. People claiming to be trained in tongues are not experiencing biblical glossolalia, any more than Catholics who pray to relics for healing are experiencing biblical healing. Medieval monks claimed to be trained in holiness, but were merely trained in solitude and a monastic lifestyle, not a Spirit-transformed character. Finding extreme abuses by someone somewhere is an easy task regarding ANY component of Christianity.

    9. If glossolalia is an essential part of Christian prayer, why didn’t Jesus mention it at all?

    Again, we could ask this very same rhetorical question about a long list of things that the Epistles emphasize but that the Gospels never mention. A more troubling question, for example, is why Jesus talks so little about the idea of substitutionary
    atonement or propitiation if it is the core of the gospel, why he never explains church government or the function of elders and deacons (or their ordination), and why he never discusses Christian marriage and childrearing, except to condemn divorce and remarriage. Similarly, most Christians believe that “worship”
    is an essential part of the Christian life, but Jesus hardly mentions it at
    all. Jesus never mentions the importance of Christians reading the Bible, either. I
    have trouble finding any passages in the Gospels that spell out concepts like Total
    Depravity (apart from general references to people being sinful), Unconditional
    Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, or Perseverance of the saints.

    I would have expected Jesus to address these points more, especially given how central they have become to modern evangelicalism. Tongues is one I would not have expected Jesus to cover much at all, because it had so little relevance to the immediate Jewish context – it would only become relevant in the churches. Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 14 seems to suggest that tongues was especially relevant in Gentile contexts. In any case, tongues is far down the list of topics that we wish Jesus discussed.

    10. Why is Christian glossolalia almost unheard of before 1901 Topeka Kansas?

    One could ask the same question about the great doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Salvation by Faith being absent from Christian theology for 1000 years before the Reformers. Why are missionaries almost unheard of for the 1000 years before the Moravians? It was nearly 200 years after the Protestant Reformation before Protestants realized their duty to evangelized unreached peoples. Altar calls (and their equivalent) were unheard of before the 1830s – should we forbid these as well? Indeed, the idea of a “sinner’s prayer” – a single prayer to mark a conversion-salvation experience – is hard to find in church history before the Great Awakenings in the United States. Congregational singing of hymns is also a fairly recent development in church history. For how many centuries was it unheard of for individual Christians to have a copy of the Bible or to read it? For the middle half of church history – 1000 years – most so-called Christians did not read the Bible, did not understand biblical salvation, worshiped and prayed to Mary, and attended churches led by a corrupt, immoral hierarchy. It is not at all surprising that New Testament spiritual gifts faded as the churches filled with baptized pagans – nominal Christians – after the time of Constantine. Once most of the “Christians” were unregenerate unbelievers, one would expect spiritual gifts and miracles to become extraordinarily rare, as they did.

    After the Reformation, each generation went deeper in rediscovering biblical doctrines and practices. As I said, it took centuries before Christians rediscovered concepts like personal relationship with Christ, missions, evangelism, regular
    devotional reading of Scripture by individuals, and so on. It is not that surprising that eventually, someone would fixate on the passages about tongues and prophecy in the New Testament and start praying for God to restore these experiences to the church. Sadly, most cultural Christians in every age are complacent with whatever form of Christianity surrounds them. They not only fail to look in the Bible to see if there might be more, but even get defensive and reactionary when someone claims to have something more or different (or more biblical) than what everybody else is doing. If tongues occurred at any time in the 1500 years of church history before 1901, it would have been stomped out quickly and forgotten, just as many of features of modern Christianity were.

    • D Stevenson,

      Thanks for engaging me with this issue and attempting to provide some answers.

      Before I offer very brief responses by point, you make an a priori assumption that there is glossolalia in Acts 19 and Corinthians. Then you argue out of this presupposition. However, there is no evidence of this whatsoever. I have written a long hermeneutical piece discussing what the Scripture says about glossolalia, and one thing is very clear, the book of Acts undeniably records xenoglossy, not glossolalia. The Corinthians references are completely ambiguous and disputed by scholars, Pentecostals obviously claim these as glossolalia, non-charismatics claim otherwise, the does not at all say. If we follow the precedent of Acts (all the tongues are known languages) it becomes harder to introduce this new concept of glossolalia into Corinithians. In any case, simply put, there is not even one case of modern glossolalia in the Bible. See more here: http://www.yuriyandinna.com/is-speaking-in-tongues-biblical/

      1. The answers you provide here are all “post hoc” responses, they lack any and all predictability. They “could be” possible ways to explain away a real fact that exists, but they are not even close to what we would expect if we start with Pentecostal/charismatic doctrine and begin to write our expectations. They don’t serve to help us create a cohesive doctrine, they don’t fit well into charismatic doctrine, but rather as distant and distracting possibilities, that are really strange to consider, involving the condemnation of almost all other tongues speakers as false, or the concession that these “angelic” (and therefore not geo-linguistic) languages are completely based on the geo-linguistic regions. On the other hand, a hypothesis which states “this is a natural phenomenon” would predict that glossolalia as a learned behavior would contain regional accents and etc. A successful prediction is most often better than multiple post hoc rationalizations after a failed prediction.

      2. By distracting from the point, you are not answering the question. Furthermore, most apologists argue that many of these precursors to Christianity were very different in their mythology, while glossolalia as a phenomenon is very similar. In any case we are comparing the development of mythological and theological ideas with an ecstatic behavior, this is not an apples to apples comparison. And finally, this still does not explain how one can make a counterfeit of something that does not exist. Glossolalia, according to all Pentecostals/Charismatics is a New Testament phenomenon, while the precursors are from an era far before. One could not counterfeit the US dollar in 1545, because it did not yet exists.

      3. You first presuppose glossolalia exists, then essentially argue “this could not be the case because glossolalia is in the NT and therefore Jesus could not be saying what it seems he is saying.” This is a classic case of circular reasoning. In addition it appears that while you keep mentioning inerrancy, when it comes down to the individual words used in the text, you start to lean to a more allegorical interpretation that obscures the strong likelihood that battalgeo refers to “babbling” or glossolalia.

      4. I assume your “counterfeit” argument applies here as well. This presents a huge difficulty because the classical Pentecostal doctrine is that the ‘sign’ of being baptized with the spirit is glossolalia. Yet, since there are so many counterfeits, and two post hoc rationalizations you provided essentially stated that its possible that most cases of glossolalia are counterfeit, this presents real difficulty. How can the sign of being filled with the spirit be so easy to duplicate that many or most are counterfeit? If a sign of being an American citizen, a driver’s license or passport, was so easy to duplicate that there were more noncitizens with that sign than citizens, could we still mandate that it’s a relevant sign?

      5. There are definitely multiple streams of charismatic churches, the few that I frequented or was a member of had very little “interpretation.” I would say a ratio of 10,000 tongue prayers by an individual vs one interpretation. Again you presuppose that Corinthians certainly is glossolalia, but there is a rigorous debate about this. Many argue that it was xenoglossy, and this needs to be interpreted when in a church. Since this is a highly contested idea, you cannot use it as a starting presupposition, but would have prove it first, which is nearly impossible given the many academic texts already published that do come to a consensus. Since we cannot say the Corinthians tongues were glossolalia, and your whole arguments is built on this one premise, it fails.

      6. It’s very backward to think that a miracle of “tongues” or “speech” is actually a miracle of “hearing.” If you believe in verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy, you believe that each and every single word matters. Yet, you appear to argue that the words don’t really matter, and a miracle that is clearly documented as one of “speech” is really an undocumented miracle of “hearing.” This is another post hoc rationalization, pushing an idea that is completely absent from the text, in order to fit ones theology. The text says that the apostles began to speak in glossa (translated as “foreign tongues” or “languages”) and then the text says everyone heard them in their own languages or tongues. To introduce a tertiary, but completely absent, miracle of healing is to impose modern day Pentecostal doctrine into the Biblical text. This would be a very sloppy eisegesis, the exact opposite of what a proper exegesis and hermeneutic should look like.

      7. Samarin who wrote Tongues of Men and Angels conducted numerous surveys and studies, as have others a few whom are referenced. Yet the point still remains, there isn’t even one study that shows otherwise. We can make post hoc rationalizations such as “well those ones were counterfeit,” but you are still missing even one predictive study. Do a study where ten genuine interpreters hear one person praying in tongues, and independently come up with the same interpretation. Just one study where your predictions are proven, that’s all it would take to break this barrier of skepticism.

      8. Simply saying something is not true, does not make it untrue. There was a study where people did learn glossolalia. In addition I have taught people glossolalia and it has worked. The point is, if my hypothesis is that tongues is a learned phenomenon, I predict it would be possible to teach it. If your hypothesis is that tongues is a supernatural phenomenon, you ought to predict the opposite. This is another case where my answer has predictive power, and you rely on post hoc rationalization or complete denial of the data.

      9. Yes, there are some other challenging issues Jesus did not discuss, however, this doesn’t take away this problem, it only adds a longer list of problems to think about. Perhaps some of those other doctrines are not as essential as we think? My prediction is that whatever is truly important, Jesus and the Biblical authors would have made really clear. However, tongues is not one of these things, it is completely skipped by Jesus, and the few references by Paul are so ambiguous that there are tens of denominations still unable to come to an agreement on this issue.

      10. Again, by presenting another problem, you are not answering the first one. You are merely muddling the waters even more. Even so, one could argue that the doctrines “rediscovered” during the reformation were big theological ideas, things that people can be saved without, as long as they genuinely live a simple life through the Spirit. However, for the Spirit to have been absent for that whole time makes it impossible for people to be saved. You compare advanced theological ideas, to experiential indwelling of the Spirit, this is a poor comparison. It’s possible that Christians were confused, lost some books or ideas for generations, but were saved in their ignorance of theological ideas, but is it possible that thousands of generations were saved without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Nope. It’s possible that 17th century people were ignorant of a few more theological ideas, because ideas can be lost, books can be forgotten, but is it possible that these 17th century people did not have the Spirit? He cannot be lost or forgotten, and he certainly does not need the proper doctrine to be present (in Acts these people have no doctrine at all!) The point is, your argument is another post hoc rationalization, one that attempts to explain why your doctrinal predictions fail to account for the real world.

      First, thank you for writing out answers, but I would argue that they fail to adequately answer the questions posed.

      When conducting scientific inquiry we make a hypothesis (a statement or prediction), and then test this to see if it has predictive power. If it does, we continue testing to fine tune our prediction. However, if a real world test does not match our statement, we assent that it was a flawed hypothesis and rethink it, we do not make post hoc rationalizations.

      For example, I can say “this pill cures thyroid cancer!” and then I give this to 1000 people with thyroid cancer. After a month the cancer is not cured, so I make an post hoc rationalization by saying “this pill cures thyroid cancer, but it takes 1 year!” That year passes and the 1000 subjects are still sick. What’s my next move? I can continue to make almost unlimited post hoc rationalizations, or I can agree that my hypothesis lacks predictive power. I can say “this pill cures cancer, but only when” and add an infinite number of conditions [drink with water, take with another pill, do heavy exercise, or be this age, or this gender, or etc] that explain why it failed. These are all post hoc rationalizations, but the lack predictive power.

      On the other hand if I make a statement saying “this drink makes people faint” and give it to 100 people, half of whom faint, my prediction is not 100% right, but it’s certainly somewhat true. I can then revise it to say “this drink makes 50% of people faint” and continue testing.

      The ten questions I posed were basically “why does X not fit with the predictions derived from Pentecostal or charismatic doctrine?” I would argue all of these ten issues, on the other hand, are indeed predicted if we hypothesize that glossolalia is a natural phenomenon of free vocalization. Your responses were all post hoc rationalizations that attempted to explain why these predictions failed. They could all be true, but its far far more likely that they are not.

    • I greatly comment both D. Stevenson and the Yuriy for putting forth strong arguments. This discussion has been very helpful for me to “get my arms around” these difficult questions. Thank you very much ! ~ Steve, Los Angeles, CA

    • Agree with your exposition of the 10 questions completely. I am 75 yrs. young this month and have spoke in my heavenly language for 45 years. The gift came to me one night many weeks after I was baptized in the Spirit in a Four Square Church. When the elders layed hands on me I heard the most beautiful choir singing but after the elders prayed and removed their hands I turned around and no one was there. My language did not come out like many who speak, viz. a translator revealed it was Basque or a similar dialect. The Spirit confirmed that you are right concerning your retort to question 6, viz. especially the first part. He taught me that a couple of years ago. There are times I find myself speaking in my heavenly language even at work or better still off and on all day. Many times, at first, I thought, why am I doing this ! I do; however, wake up tired on some mornings and believe it’s because I have been praying for someone or people during my sleep. Thanks for your contribution as a witness to the Holy Spirit and the Power of God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no shadow of turning. Your answers are completely correct. Thanks

      • This is Truly Beautiful! And very heartwarming. Amen Brother!

        I have been Christian for 5 years and never spoke in tongues until a few weeks ago. I was baptised in the holy spirit. I believed for 5 years that tongues were real, I heard others speak in tongues, I just assumed that gift was not for me. If God wanted to give me that He will- otherwise Im ok just trusting in the Lord. I believe He gave me the gift when He did to build my faith and so that I could use it to edify the church and bring glory to His name.

        The tongue to me sounded like some type of Arabic. I recorded the tongue on google voice and it did a translation to English. Some of the phrases that it caught from arabic translation- “We are Free, Papa; Peace be Upon you; We are full; No god but God, Papa; Flag of the night; Talk about love; Give us door; Word of God; Love science; relationship science; grape vinegar “. So, I can’t say that I know what it all means- or if google voice got it all right per the translation. But I am sitting here on my couch- amazed by the Lord my God and the gift He has given to me. And the fact that I can speak a language and glorify Him in a language that I knew nothing about before.

  3. Hi Yuriy! I really enjoyed
    your “10 Hard Questions About Tongues.”

    Great information, and comprehensive in touching the important aspects on

    I’m not an expert about the historical info of tongues in America…though I’ve
    read little and heard teachings about how it came to be…kind of similar to
    what you wrote.

    It’s a controversial topic among Christians, but I think more among people who
    don’t know their scriptures.

    Just wanted to share a little on what my thoughts are on the issue.

    More importantly, the term glossolalia, which you’ve explained
    refers to speech in “an unknown tongue.”

    About the “unknown tongue” topic. That phrase is taken out of 1
    Corinthians 14:2. People claim that Paul is somehow talking about a tongue
    unknown to mankind, or an angelic tongue of some sort. I just wanted to
    add that there is no such thing as an actual “unknown tongue” in
    which Paul was referring to. The translation is correct, however the way
    it’s written in this context can be misunderstood. Paul is actually
    referring to a tongue(language) in which is unknown because none of the people
    spoke it. In other words, a different human language.

    The word “unknown” is not in the original manuscripts. The only
    word there is “glossa”, which is basically the same word for
    “tongue.” The word “unknown” was ADDED by the KJV
    bible translators so that people would understand that Paul is referring to an
    another language which they did not know, because it would not make sense if it
    just said “language” in English.

    A better translation for this verse is the NASB.” 2 For
    the person who speaks in another language is not speaking to men but to God,
    since no one understands him; however, he speaks mysteries in the
    Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 14:2)

    So for those people who are really hung up on this “unknown”
    language…the bible doesn’t say such a thing.

    In question number 3 of your post, you quoted someone

    “There is general agreement
    that the idea of babbling or stammering is meant in Matthew 6:7. We may
    conclude that Jesus spoke against prayer which consisted of unintelligible
    speech or babbling, similar to the pagan prayers.” (6)

    Now we have to be careful with the word stammering. In the dictionary the word stammering means, to speak in repetitions, or utter involuntary pauses. That
    is why Charismatics like to pull out Isaiah 28:11-12 and state that there was a
    prophecy that people would stammer or babble.

    28:11-12 (KJV)

    11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to
    this people.

    12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the
    weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

    Apparently, the KJV has used the word “stammer” to translate
    the original Greek word which is “la ‘eg”.

    The actual translation is 1.) speaking in a barbarous or foreign a
    language 2.) jester, buffoon, mocker.

    Isaiah is not talking about stammering lips, but lips that
    spoke a barbarous or foreign tongue.
    This only goes to support the truth that tongues is really a foreign

    About verse 6, it is possible that there can be verifiable
    xenoglossy. And I believe those are most likely from those who are demon possessed. Satan can speak different languages; I believe his demons can too. Satan has been here long enough to learn about mankind and their languages. I haven’t seen demon possession personally, but some people at my former church have been in certain situations where they were trying to help those who were demon possessed. And they said that this demon possessed person spoke in other languages that was not his own. I’ve also read other pieces here and there in books and the web about that as well. So what I’m saying is don’t be shocked if someone did speak in another language…because it can happen to the demon possessed, or someone being fed info from elsewhere.

    Nothing new about that since scripture actually warns us that there are
    those who claim to perform miracles, prophesy and do great works in Jesus’ name
    and were not even saved.

    Matthew 7:22-23

    Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not
    prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name
    perform many miracles?’

    Pharaoh’s magicians were able to mimic some of God’s
    work. And false christs and false prophets will perform great signs and wonders to deceive the people (Mathew 24:24). Even the beast in Revelation will
    work great miracles that the people will be deceived (Rev 13:1, Rev 19:20).

    This is what happens when people place experiences higher
    than scripture.

    False tongues is nothing new. Paul wrote to correct and clarify the
    Corinthian church that no one speaking by the Spirit of God can say that Jesus
    is cursed (1 Corinthians 12:3).
    Those who were doing so, wasn’t doing it by God’s Spirit. False tongues were evident in the Corinthian church, which is why Paul had to go through the rules and placed high emphasis in edifying the church and not oneself.

    The gifts of the Spirit that are the most abused is the gift of prophecy, and tongues. The reason why is because both of these are the easiest to mimic and counterfeit. We don’t see manly claiming the healing of amputees or raising
    people from the dead as much as these two, if any at all.

    Last but not least, I wanted to share about the how gifts of the Spirit were ceasing to exist even in Paul’s time. In Paul’s ministry, Paul not only had the gift
    of tongues, but the gift of healing among others. Later on in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh” as he called it, a messenger from Satan to torment him, and he plead with God three different times to take it away, but it didn’t go away. (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s
    grace was sufficient for him, God said.
    Paul had a terrible eye problem. He could not see well and states that the Galatians church would have done anything they could, even if they could pluck out their own eyes for him they would (Galatians 4:15). It’s evident that at this time, Paul could not heal himself, nor anyone in the Galatians church even though they wanted to. Not only that, Paul traveled to visit many churches as well. Paul’s fellow worker and companion Epaphroditus was ill and near death, and caused the Philippians church to be in distress. Paul was not able to heal him,
    but instead it was God who had mercy on him, so that he was near death, but did
    not die. (Philippians 2:27). Therefore, even biblical accounts show that the gifts were starting to die off at the time of Paul’s writings.

  4. Being an amateur means that he didn’t get a theological (professional) degree. Amateurs of any type often make the most meaningful discoveries, simply because they have no agenda involving their reputations, but do what they do because they love it. Give him a break, he is doing great and his answers are mostly right on, and way, way, way above what you will hear in church.

  5. I skimmed some parts of this, although I intend to come back to it. It should be noted, that the Apostles not only received Holy Spirit Baptism, they were able to impart it to others. Those to whom it was imparted were not able to impart it to others. Scriptures make reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but not the continuation of the HS Baptism. Also, Paul alluded to the gifts ceasing. There is much more in scripture concerning the fruits of the Spirit than the gifts. The fruits never cease.

  6. I too am from pentecostal church, for the past few years i have been questioning and researching about things i don’t understand about my religion, i started thinking logically thats probably what made me start to question things. I don’t have time to write a lot about my self so i just want to thank you for the questions and giving answers to them, it’s going to be really hard to leave my religion because that would mean i would lose everything, everything would change in my life. i get really depressed sometimes thinking about it, thinking of what choices i should make in the future, for now, no one in my family knows about my situation i guess its a good thing. A lot of times i wish i was born in a different family as i would more likely have a happier life than my current one, i don’t believe in hell as i believe its a really stupid thing some one came up with.

    • I guess, according to your logic, sin is a really stupid thing that someone just came up with. Think really hard about what you believe. Logically, if you have sinned, or if you have seen someone else sin, and recognized it as sin, then sin exists when it logically, or as you would suppose idealistically cannot exist because it offends your sensibilities. Think about it if you recognize good and bad, you recognize it for a reason. Wishing that hell does not exist is like wishing that sin does not exist, but it does and therefor hell does as well. Otherwise, do whatever you like because there are no consequences. Are you an anarchist?

      • Sometimes the best answer is a question, and the answer is best left unsaid because one wants to be neither right or wrong. Sin cannot exist in this way of thinking because one must consider sin as a opinion rather than the fact.

        • Starting with psychobabble does not make what you are saying truth. I am reminded, when I read your comment about ‘neither right or wrong’, of the place in the bible (Revelations 3: 15-17) where God says he will spit those who are neither hot nor cold (right or wrong) out of his mouth because they disgust Him. Why would anyone want to be neither right nor wrong? It is always desirable to be right. Otherwise you will accept the wrong and that is just wrong. Come on where is your head. Sin is a fact when it is the opinion of a sinless God. I was just trying to make it make sense, but I don’t think you are prone to accept sense, because it might be right or it might be wrong. Where do you stand? It is hard to stand when you are straddling a fence.

  7. Hi Yuriy:
    Thank you for your list. I think #5 is one of the best reasons so many dispute the source of the charismatic movement. In reading published testimonies of ex Satanists, when they were in Satanism, they confessed to infiltrating those churches and screaming curses and blasphemies during the time of “group tongue” speaking. Your scripture quote is spot on, and some of your repliers seem to be blinded to scripture. May God continue Bless you.

  8. Wonderful exposition! The point to understanding oneself as being an amateur theologian is that when we think we have arrived and have all the answers, it’s at that point that God will stop speaking to us. So long as we see a God that is so far beyond our understanding, and see our need for His grace to show us, He will be happy to reveal truth to us. The natural man does not receive things of the Spirit of God. Keep humble and God will continue to teach.

  9. Hello,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and humble posts. You seem to be both honest and thorough in your exploration. It certainly helps to make the conversation easier and more fruitful without the incessant posturing on both sides.

    I would like to ask some similar questions, and hopefully get your perspective.

    My experience with speaking in tongues as a boy was maybe different from yours. I remember seeking this gift as the next step in my growth, around the age of 13. One day after about three months of seeking this gift, was sitting at the dining room table, not praying or even thinking about the Holy Spirit Baptism, when I felt hot waves passing through me, like the hot air coming off a roaring campfire. It felt liquid in nature, though, like something was being poured into me. As it worked its way through me, the warm water got to my mouth. I went into my bedroom to pray and before I even got to my knees a flood of words started coming out and I started crying. It subsided for a moment, and then started up again. It was about 20 minutes of this. When it was over, I felt like everything that I wanted to say to God (but couldn’t find the words) had been said. I felt a huge unspoken burden had been lifted. I felt energized. I noticed that whenever my mind wasn’t focused on anything in particular, my attention would be snapped upwards and focused on Jesus. If I needed to think about something (for example, pouring a glass of milk) then I could do that. But as soon as I was finished with that task and released my mind from it, my attention would be snapped upwards again to focus on Jesus.

    The reason I go into such detail about this is to ask about your experience. Your post recently mentioned that you could still pray in tongues, even after having decided that it was not a divine sign of anything.

    1. Did you have a similar experience as mine, when you first prayed in tongues?

    2. And now that you believe this is a real, but non-divine phenomenon, does any of my experience above fit into your experience?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Hi Red, your experience is really different from what I have generally observed. Can you give me your email id so that I can ask you some more questions?

    • I really believe you had a true experience of speaking in tongues. I believe many people pretend, or are confused on the issue, and that is where this man is coming from, but you have had the real deal. I have had a similar experience where I was net even expecting it but it came. Just remember, and you can search this for yourself in acts 1:8 it says , the reason God imparts His Spirit (tongues) is so you will have power to be his witnesses. Don’t let anyone lie to you like this poor man is doing in his article. You have experienced the real deal. Nurture it, keep it pure, and allow God to work his power in you to be His witness. There are a lot of distractions. Keep you eye on the mark of being real with God, and He will guide you.

    • Hi Red,
      I don’t know if anyone is still replying to this feed, but I had a very similar experience when I “received the gift of tongues” as we tend to say. I had been very hungry to receive this gift for a couple of years before it happened. I felt fire in my belly rising before it happened.

      Since my first experience with it, I hadn’t really used the gift for a while because I didn’t know if I could/should, etc. but in 2014 I went a few months where I prayed daily for a couple hours at a time in tongues and I remember specifically one time praying and in my spirit I heard the word Kadosh. I looked it up and found that it’s the Hebrew word for Holy.
      So, my question after all this is for Yuriy..

      Why would I experience this if this was not of God?
      When I came to experience tongues for the first time, I was not taught it and I don’t pray in tongues around anyone (nor does anyone pray in tongues around me), so I don’t know that I resemble anyone else’s.

      I’m not be argumentive, but genuinely curious, because I want to know if this is something wrong that followers of Christ are wrongly doing. But if so, why woul I have heard the word Holy in my spirit in that season in my life of praying in tongues so much for those months?

      I hope this makes sense. Lol
      Thank you!

  10. Good post. One of the best lve read and lve read a bunch on it. Been writing a manuscript on this subject. Thought I might use a couple of your points ld give you credit. BTW just FYI 1 cor 14 is a verbal trap given to ensnare a very crafty sorcerer. Corinth never had real tongues and Paul knew it. BTW again concerning Acts 19 Paul was the unbeliever there. They were talking to him. He changes abelief. At that moment. Figure it out

  11. Interesting article. Thanks for this. I’m an atheist now, but when I was a Christian, I learned to speak in tongues. I can still do it. Even when I was a Christian, I had some questions about this experience. I noticed, for example, that while I spoke a wide range of different sounds, and my glossolalia could easily have been mistaken for a European language by an observer, I knew people whose prayer language never went beyond repeating the same four or five different syllables. It was weird to me, because if the point of the language was to be able to pray in words you wouldn’t be able to formulate by yourself (as I had been taught it was), why did these people only have a few syllables at their disposal? They could have said a wider range of things in English.

  12. Thank you for the article. It was the most interesting I’ve read on the subject and I, like many others have read many. I received a prayer language about a week an a half ago. I have been seeking it for about two years. I was fully expecting to have an experience such as Reds but that has definitely not been the case. I don’t know exactly how to explain this, but I don’t want to use it. Some thing just doesn’t feel right.

    I have been told that it is the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit and without the evidence of speaking in tongues I am not Spirit filled. This has brought much heartache to me. And now I don’t know what to think about all this.

    I know I am not responding to the article per say but I was hoping maybe someone could give me insight.


    • Don’t be fooled. Tongues cannot be taught. And it is not required, to be blunt. If you feel a power overcome you with inexplicable sensations, you may have been filled. However, tongues are a good sign. There is a way to be fooled into believing you have been filled, even by your own mind. I suggest that if it doesn’t feel right, there is a reason, don’t do it. You may want to change churches too, if they are teaching it. If you truly want it, it will come, and don’t think it has to be anything done in front of others. It is strictly between you, and God. Be careful, be honest with God, and others, but mostly with God. He works in mysterious ways, and our ways are not his ways. His ways are higher.

      • The evidence disagrees with you.

        18–44 yr old undergraduates listened to a 60-sec sample of glossolalia… and then attempted to produce glossolalia… Afterward, half of the [subjects] received 2 training sessions that included audio- and videotaped samples of glossolalia interspersed with opportunities to practice glossolalia. Also, live modeling of glossolalia, direct instruction, and encouragement were provided by an experimenter. Both the trained [subjects] and untreated controls attempted to produce glossolalia on a 30-sec post test trial. About 20% of [subjects] exhibited fluent glossolalia on the baseline trial, and training significantly enhanced fluency. 70% of trained [subjects] spoke fluent glossolalia on the post test. Findings are more consistent with social learning than with altered state conceptions of glossolalia.

        Kildahl, John; Paul Qualben (1971). Glossolalia and Mental Health: Final Progress Report.National Institute of Mental Health

        • Semantics. ‘True’ tongues cannot be taught, because it comes from God. Anyone who claims to be able to teach tongues is a charlatan. Just as only one artist can produce what is recognized as a masterpiece, all others are fakes and counterfeits. You claim to have spoken in tongues, but I do not believe you ever truly have. If you had you would know it as I do. Now since you have proven your tongues to be fake, I seriously have doubts about your claim to be a ‘calmer seeker of truth’. Excuse me, a ‘true’ ‘calmer seeker of truth’. I really feel sorry that you have never been trusted by God to be one of the people he has directly spoken to, spirit to spirit, or even in an audible voice as he has me. Mind you, I make no claims other than God has done this, and I only bring it up as a witness to His truth. Seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, but if you seek wrongly, falsehood will be opened up to you. The truly sad aspect of all this is that you have been deceived by God’s enemies into going against God. What do you suppose the outcome of that will be? I encourage you to repent, and seek God – no other – because He is the way, the ‘truth’ and the light.

          • In reference to you question of how one can ‘seek wrongly’ as I have stated, it is a matter of the heart my friend. Unfortunately there are people who, like the man called Simon in Acts chapter 8, think that you can gain the gifts of the spirit by worldly means. That is why you cannot teach it any more than you can buy it as Simon wanted. The world over there have been people who have used God for their own purposes, even going as far as introducing worldly requirements into Godly matters. If you have been taught speaking in tongues, I recommend you turn from it and seek God in the matter. In time if He desires to impart the gift unto you He will. Be patient in all things for God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His timing is perfect.

    • Hello Shelly,

      It upsets me to hear of a sensitive person whom Christ came to comfort and protect just confused by this issue.

      I knew of one fine Christian lady who had her tongue actually physically manipulated by a Pentecostal preacher in an humiliating attempt to inspire her to “speak in tongues” (as she was “obediently” trying to do).

      For the early Church to have spontaneously erupted in real human languages they had never learned was a true miracle, like healing leprosy and putting a gravely mentally deranged person back into their right mind. It was obviously wonderful.

      Did this “xenoglossy” happen just once? We have very little reason to suppose it has happened perhaps ever again.

      Shelly, I don’t believe the Christ who would not “damage a bruised reed” would want a soul distressed by this matter. He wants your complete love and trust. “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me”. “My yoke is easy, and my burden us light”.

      Let us forget the rest, and find calm and peace in this compassionate Christ.

      May Christ truly bless you my dear.

  13. I am in a church that teaches the Holy Spirit baptism is evidenced by speaking in other tongues and that you are not saved without it. I’ve struggled with this doctrine for years and many of the questions you asked are ones that I have asked myself. I appreciate both your post and the thought provoking answers given by one of your readers above. I must say, I still have not reached a solid conclusion. I am still seeking.

    • Get out of that church ASAP. Seek God and never let people tell you you have to do something, it is a sure sign that they do not really understand the Bible, or God.

  14. Hi
    Thanks for this article. I was a tongue speaker for over 15 years until I was convinced that modern day tongues “glossolalia” is not what the Bible teach. I studied the subject of “speaking in tongues” for over 6 years now and debated many Pentecostal/Charismatic teachers. The more I do, the more I’m convinced how dangerous and deceptive this phenomena is. The lack of biblical knowledge is staggering and the arrogance and aggression towards me is simply astounding. I can only pray that God would open their eyes.

    The suggest the following reading by Fernand Legrand –> http://www.christianissues.biz/pdf-bin/tongues/allaboutspeakingintongues.pdf

    God bless!!!

    P.S. I love my Pentecostal brothers and will keep on praying for them.

  15. Thank you author for allowing God to use you to ask probing questions; then provide answers.

    This article is an answer to my prayer as I know it is to others. A miracle! I fervently asked God to give me the TRUTH yesterday and told Him I want all of Him and even though I had not believed in speaking in tongues that I want to believe IF it it is real and I want all of Him and do not want to miss any blessings and want to receive all the gifts and tools to glorify His name.

    If anyone here is still debating what is truth I exhort you to get on your knees and truly believing ask God to show you the truth.

    Matthew 24:24 NKJV
    [24] For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

    Luke 12:51 NKJV
    [51] Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.

    We must not be afraid to speak truth to our family. Jesus said the world hated Him first. We are commanded to make disciples. We can not make disciples if we do not stand for God’s word and demonstrating bold belief. Seek His face in everything. Meditate on God’s word day and night and pray more…especially about the small things.

    Love your brother

  16. Good blog post! Definitely helped to let me in on the hard questions probably happily left unanswered by man kandra boo boo hoo hoo speakers.

  17. Thank you for your article. I do agree with you on this point, that most Pentacostals do practice speaking in tongues without interpretation which is not Biblical.
    Here is a question to ponder. Was Jesus speaking in tongues in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 7:34? Please also do take the time to read a book by Surprise Sithole called Voice in the Night. He is a man God instantaneously gave a language (both speaking and understanding). Blessings to you, Hope

  18. Fantastic article. I see you received a lot of criticism, however, i would say your “questions” as someone pointed out are more rhetorical in nature. Its clear that the glossolia we see today is not genuinly from the spirit, and the “questions,” or issues, if you will, make it pretty obvious after reading. At least, I was convinced after reading lol!

  19. Sorry if this is TMI…but this has bothered me for TEN years.

    My husband “speaks in tongues” while he is orgasming AND while he is engaged in the very act of an adulterous affair with another woman. He claims to be Christian. See the problem? If he is a Christian, then WHY would the Holy Spirit “express” Himself this way through a man while in the very ACT of sexual adultery?
    This is scary. He must be self deceived?

  20. Anybody there??

    I hope that I did not offend…but if “speaking in tongues” were an indication of being “filled with” or “an expression” of the Holy Spirit, then why would God give “utterance” while a man is in the middle of having sex with someone that he is not married to? This indicates to me that gibberish is…just gibberish, rather than a gift from God…especially while this man is conducting himself in a most lascivious way.

    I think that my husband needs to face his demons…I think that he is self deceived because he believes that he is filled with the Holy Spirit (as evidenced with “tongues”) and that his sins have no effect on his standing with God simply because of the blood of Christ “saving” him regardless.

    So, he is moving out at the end of this month because I can no longer tolerate any of this. He must face himself, and if he ever returns, he will have to be a new and different man than the one that left.

  21. Praise God..

    Very interesting question, answer ,explanation and others experience. The best things of this world open your heart to Jesus. Read the passages Joshua from 1-18. How many tines said God Father to Joshua ( Be strong & good courage ) Never abandon you. That’s way in this world any circumstances coming to your life Good or Bad be strong don’t’ give up!!Because we are surrounded by sin…
    That’s all.

    God Bless you all…..

  22. Yuri,

    I sincerely commend you for doing an AMAZING job with this article. It is the most critical and comprensive analysis of glossolalia that o have read to date. You provide numerous examples of empirical evidence for your points and address the major questions. Thia article is peer-review ready and publishing- worthy. Please don’t be deterred by any of the comments from individuals who clearly have no concept of rigorous academic research and choose to let emotions /indoctrination blindly guide their judgements!

  23. Has Anyone Given thought to the Whole breaking up of the first language. Which is perception. Many go about trying to make sense of what the ears hear or our eyes see but not the root. Perception…

  24. Thank you! I was raised Oneness Pentecostal, but lost my Faith about a year & a half ago. I still love reading philosophical and theological articles, and to finally find an extremely well done one about a foundational aspect of the religion of my formative years has been fantastically captivating. I look forward to pouring through the rest of your writings, and perhaps sharing some with my still-Faithful family in an effort introduce some more critical thinking into their world view. Thanks again.
    -Best wishes and encouragement-

    • The letter kills remember……..so if you think you can grow spiritually from reading it ! you are self deceived. The Spirit gives life ! That’s the Gift’s of the Spirit that’s referring to ! Tongues and true interpretation! too bad the gift will pass away eh…1 Corinthians 13:8 The scriptures are a Nightmare of contradictions….I don’t fit the mold, I Speak in Tongues and interpret fluently..BUT ..the Churches don’t want to know. 8 Years excommunicated ! for doing what had to be done. Divorce a Jezebel….

  25. Why are there different interpretations for the same phrase (see I’ve fixed the spelling) Tongues is a Dyslexic language…..a frustrating language. But if you listen intently u will pick up on what the Heart Beat of the Church is…like Day..Day ..Day…Shakira Shakira ..the Spirit just said Peter Day (he’s in Geraldton ) where I separated from my Jezebel Wife…and Shakira is …they all lie about the interpretation ,(Shakira sing’s the hips don’t lie) Now Cebrano comes through a lot..it means “You’ve all seen and heard” …how do I know this ? I ask ……the Spirit….I don’t consult the Scriptures! why ? because these people aren’t in the Scriptures.It’s the Heat beat of todays Church NOT the one 2000 years ago.

    • There’s simply the argument that “brain activity scans show no activity in language areas during glossolalia, therefore it must be the Holy Spirit doing the talking”, whereas “brain activity scans show no activity in language areas during glossolalia, therefore it must not be a language” would do equally well.

      • Are you arguing for, or against? Let me ask you this, is the brain a part of the body, soul (mind will and emotions), or the spirit? Where does the spirit reside in the human body? I think these scientists are likely looking in the wrong part of the body with the wrong equipment. What do you say, is that a possibility?

  26. I really appreciate your logical approach to Gospel teachings. I commend you for honest truth seeking. A similar commitment to finding the truth led me out of the Mormon (LDS) Church (where I was raised). After overcoming the teachings of my childhood, it’s easy to spot the fallacies in other denominations. This is a hard one for me because my (newly married) husband believes and and practices Glossolalia. I found this blog after searching for the history of Glossolalia via the internet concluding that it could indicate whether there was any truth in it. Your blog addressed every aspect I was interested in researching with documentation.

    I found no evidence of argumenetative fallacies in your blog and appreciate your fair minded approach. That’s something I find rarely in politics and never in religion. I would be interested to know where you’ve taken your spirituality from here. If you wouldn’t mind dropping me a line, I would appreciate it.

    • I debated commenting on your comment, initially dismissing any need to speak out. But, the Holy Spirit has changed my mind. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the importance of reaching every soul who is struggling with understanding the things of God more clearly. So let’s logically address the issue at hand.

      First of all I am glad that God has lead you out of the fallacies of the Mormon Church.

      Now, I assume you are still a Christian, in that you follow the teachings of Christ, and that you follow the teachings and precepts of the Holy Bible as God’s guide to our interaction with others and how we should view Him, etc. Based on this assumption, I would caution you and remind you of the same.

      That being said, there is not a single point that the author of this blog has made that cannot be countered. For instance: Considering the fact that speaking in tongues was present prior to the upper room event, there is a very logical and reasonable explanation for this. Being a spiritual language, it is not unreasonable to expect that those spirits who are attempting to degrade and undermine God would use this very method of spiritual communication to mock him (both prior to and after the outpouring) as they lead people astray from God.

      Yes there are a whole lot of fakes out there, but that, in and of itself, is evidence that the real thing does in fact exist. Satan has been trying to imitate God from the inception of his fall. Please, please, please seek God first in his word, and in prayer, and not in the extremely fallible environment of the internet.

      There are many who would lead you astray, but the Holy Spirit will not. Let him speak to your heart of hearts and he will show you the truth. That is the proper way of being a “calmer seeker of the truth”. Why do you suppose the author of this blog says he ‘unwillingly and unknowingly” made the transformation. It is because he was tricked into thinking there is a better way than the way God has presented it.

      If you believe in God, believe in his word. God has created this wonderful thing for you to become closer to him and Satan is trying to draw you away. Read John 14. It was foretold by Jesus and then it happened. “If it were not so I would have told you.” Why do you believe another? Why do you seek another? Press into God and God will reveal the truth about speaking in tongues. Believe me it is real; I know it for a fact from personal experience and I am about as skeptical as any person can be. But if you don’t believe me, at least believe God. God wouldn’t put something false in the Holy Bible. It is as real as real can be.

    • Eeeeh dont be fooled or deceived speaking in tongues is REAL.
      maybe there are FAKE ones but the REAL ones are there.
      TEACHING SOMEONE TO DO SO isnt really teaching in a sense. Its not teaching you or giving you the words its just giving ADVISE on how to be effective in the act, period.

      Judging the words to say, this and that one speak similar tongues is not scriptural why do i say so?
      the BIBLE (not me) says (and proves it) from 1 cor 14 vs 2: he who speaketh in an unknown tongue SPEAKETH NOT UNTO MEN BUT UNTO GOD, for no man understands him. Howbeit IN THE SPIRIT He speaketh forth MESTRIES.

      So if the bible is true, that person is speaking #1 living words in the realm of the SPIRIT (NOT THE REALM OF THE MIND)

      #2: In that realm he speaks forth MYSTERIES!!! so IF these are really mysteries (and they are) HOW COME YOU & OTHER INTELLIGENT PEOPLE ATTEMPT TO MATCH TO SEE THAT THIS PERSON & THAT PERSON ARE SPEAKING THE SAME MYSTERIES.

      Being mysteries means the meaning and the words are not easily connected as you think they are. So its a waist of time to try to Judge & understand MYSTERIES.

      AGAIN the bible proves that REAL/ TRUE (not fake) tongues are spoken as the HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US THE WORDS- ACTS 2 VS 4!!!

      so as a question I would say: WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME TO SAY “i speak the same tongues as my teacher?” remember I AM NOT SPEAKING AFTER MY OWN BRAIN. I am doing it as the HOLY SPIRIT (GOD’s power-person) is giving me the words.
      It doesnt matter if many people speak seemingly SAME TONGUES because its NOT THEM who choose to do so. ITS THE GOD POWER-PERSON: The HOLYSPIRIT who gives them the right words!!!!

  27. The only thing that I agree and believe that on the day of the Pentecost real languages were spoken as manifestation of the Holy Spirit

  28. The fact that each language uses the sounds common to the known language I don’t see as damning…
    However that everyone observed sound like the initial “teacher”. If that’s true it would be strong evidence against imho.
    However in my experience many folks sound very different.

    The verses where Jesus says don’t babble… Could they be referring to people who use “God” as punctuation in their normal language prayers?

    • To start, what is “imho”? I agree with your first observation. Those I have heard also sound different from one another to me. A few sound similar and I often wonder if they are faking it.

      I have also heard some just roll their tongues and think they are speaking in tongues. I think this is evidence that they have taken on the wrong spirit in their zeal to be baptized in tongues and therefore do not really posses the power that comes along with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

      On the point of babble that Jesus was talking about it is because he was seeing the Jews when they were praying repetitive prayers at the wall. He knew to them that it was meaningless babbling done solely to be seen. It also applies to the repeating of prayers as is done in the Catholic churches as well as other Buddhist religions. If it doesn’t come from the heart it is vain babbling to God.

  29. Your article mentions that some of Jehovah’s Witnesses (8%) practice glossolalia. You cite the Pew Forum study. The results of this study are flawed. Jehovah’s Witnesses have always taught that this spiritual gift is no longer practiced in the true church (1 Cor. 13:8). I have been active as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for over 30 years. I have never seen anyone speak in tongues. If someone did or even claimed to, it would be very alarming. If anyone claimed to do so in the Pew Forum’s survey, they are obviously not Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  30. Glossolalia is physical experience – it means it obeys laws of nature, of which one of the most important is gravity. This is why, glossolalia is unconscious speaking, because it’s more from our centre of gravity than from brain. When we abandon reason, we can contact whole Universe through gravity – so we can contact God.

  31. You are trying to understand glossolalia by reasoning – which doesn’t give same reasoning answers when you try to contact God, through Holy Spirit (gravity).

  32. I believe apostle Paul when he said that the experience of speaking in tongues is the experience of speaking with language of angels.

    Therefore it is not surprising that Christians and non-Christians who connects with angels can speak in tongues. Shamans can also speak in tongues of angels if he or she connects with angels. Since the time of Enoch, rebellious angels have tried to teach humans the art of witchcraft. Therefore, why should it be a surprise that people who practice witchcraft can go into trance and speak language of angels and it would sound more our less like how it would sound when a Christians speak in tongues.

    With the help of Holy Spirit, Christians can also connect with angels, and speak with tongues of angels. There are many good angels who enjoy praising God and there are also some rebellious angels.

    So, we don’t have to praise someone who speak/pray in tongues and we don’t have to condemn someone who speak in tongues. Neither should those who speak in tongues condemn those who do not speak in tongues of angels.

    We just have to keep close to the Holy Spirit and receive what would help us become closer to Jesus and give glory to His Kingdom.

  33. Dear Yuriy,

    Thank you for the thorough investigation and deep reading and questioning inherent in this article. I am not invested in the glossolalia debate, or its efficacy as regards to Christianity. I also largely agree with your conclusions

    But, it struck me that you may make an assumption out of lack of imagination when you reference the scene where Paul and his apostles speak to a crowd of people in “tongues” that they understand.

    You attribute the crux of this scene to Xenoglossy, where one can speak in languages that they are not causally learned in or familiar with. But consider: What if the intention of the scene is that they were inspired to speak sounds which, in of themselves are of no particular earthly language, but when heard are miraculously intelligible by myriad different speakers of language simultaneously?

    There is a novel called “Jerusalem”, by a famous comic-book writer, where there are chapters which use a kind of “higher dimensional”, compressed/poetic form of English. I recommend reading the second half of this article to find an example of this.


    The whole chapter of the book is impressively formed where each word and sentence contain at least 2 different words and meanings simultaneously. Each sentence can phonetically mean one thing, and at the same time have other meanings embedded in the writing. *IF* the holy spirit guides people into miraculous forms of speech, God could surely create such a “language” that is so fine, that it simultaneously addresses the semblance, meaning and grammar of all of the languages in attendance to the apostles.

    I hope this is helpful! Your article was helpful to me.


    but you will need some HIGH LEVEL humbleness to hear the answers because honestly speaking some questions you were asking are in the “SENSE OF” a reasoning FULL GROWN MATURE CHRISTIAN silly questions.

    That doesn’t mean to say asking these questions you are not a fully grown christian or you are silly but you see, fully grown Christians also (in their hearts) ask silly questions but due to God’s wisdom & ABUNDANCE of the LOGOS within, such Christians rarely ask AUDIBLY silly questions.
    They simply get INWARD answers by a “COMBINATION OF” the WORD OF GOD (BIBLE), THE INWARD WITNESS (HOLY SPIRIT + my inner man) & RHEMA (God’s word) for today

  35. I have been Christian for 5 years and never spoke in tongues until a few weeks ago. I was baptised in the holy spirit. I believed for 5 years that tongues were real, I heard others speak in tongues, I just assumed that gift was not for me. If God wanted to give me that He will- otherwise Im ok just trusting in the Lord and leaning on Him always. I believe He gave me the gift when He did to build my faith and so that I could use it to edify the church and bring glory to His name.

    The tongue to me sounded like some type of Arabic. I recorded the tongue on google voice and it did a translation to English from Arabic. Some of the phrases that it caught from arabic translation- “We are Free, Papa; Peace be Upon you; We are full; No god but God, Papa; Flag of the night; Talk about love; Give us door; Word of God; Love science; relationship science; grape vinegar “. So, I can’t say that I know what it all means- or if google voice got it all right per the translation. But I am sitting here on my couch- amazed by the Lord my God and the gift He has given. And the fact that I can speak a language and glorify Him in a language that I knew nothing about a few weeks ago.

    • I’m very excited for you.
      I have spoken in tongues and interpreted 15 year’s.
      I have been converted 20 years in April 2018.
      I have found friction for speaking in tongues and interpretation, personally, I was told by the spirit to go back to the original text.
      Where I found , by the guidance of the spirit , the name of god , cannot be uttered. So ! We worship in tongues, in spirit and in truth.
      I , was excommunicated for this 10 year’s ago.

    • Elijah Like you I received the gift some days after being baptised in the Spirit by the laying on of hands by the Presbytery. It came one night after laying down to sleep. Anyway; to make this story short, that time was 35+ years ago. There were many men, since then ,who through, just plain logic or some sort of theology attempted to discourage this wonderful thing which happened. But, somehow I remained encouraged by the Spirit to persevere. A wise man encouraged me to pray in the Spirit for at least 15 min. a day for a month every day without missing. I set my alarm 15 min. earlier each day before the normal work alarm and did what he suggested. He said it would change my life to the uplifting of my spirit being . ‘It did’ just that. For years now the session has increased to 1 hr. minimum most every day and at times I find myself praying in the Spirit even at work , and I might add, ‘I am totally functional at these times’,. It is not my cognate mind that is praying but some other part. Of course those prayers are not audible but edifying to say the least. Other blessings come from this practice which will be noticeable to you over time. Viz., spiritual manifestations and some which are also physical and practical. In time of need the practice will maintain your spiritual well being and tune that man doing so to the voice of the Spirit of God.

    • Elijah ! Many responsibilities come with the gift of tongues and interpretation.
      I give an example.
      20 year’s ago I read the K.J.V. from cover to cover.
      When I finished , unexpected inner dialog started.
      The accuser took over my mind.
      Using 1 Corinthians 12:3 against me.
      Long story short .
      I began speaking in tongues.
      This stopped the attacks.
      Problem is the spirit told me Christos Lesous has Anti-Jewish connotations.
      Then the spirit gave me Romans 11:26.
      My spiritual journey had began with a blinding revelation.
      We have a twisted , contradicting gospel.
      That’s the pain of interpreting the spirit.
      I shared this with my Pastor and got shut down immediately.

  36. Great Post! Keep it rolling! As Paul said, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than ye all.”
    Also, “forbid not to speak in tongues”. He said, “I would that ye all spake with tongues,
    but rather that ye prophesied,” (so speak in tongues, seek to prophesy, but after receiving the
    gift of prophecy, don’t stop building yourself up with tongues). The author of this blog did not attempt to comment on Acts chapter 10 and chapter 19 where tongues were not interpreted. They weren’t interpreted because it wasn’t required or
    essential in those situations. If they were interpreted, the Lord didn’t deem it necessary to
    record it in the Bible.
    I personally speak in tongues each day.
    I don’t interpret, so I keep the tongues to
    myself. This tongue is real, and it is from the Lord, not Satan. I’m not just emotional or gullible,
    nor a product of my environment. I was Lutheran.
    I was not taught to speak in tongues, but studied it and came to a firm conclusion from the Bible.
    I have a B.S. degree majoring in finance, am over 60 years old but not senile (grin),
    and have read the Bible about forty times and
    the New Testament about a 100 times. Not bragging. Just saying I’m not a total novice or deceived.
    I believe that Jesus
    Christ died for my sins, is
    risen from the dead, and one day again my Redeemer shall step foot upon this earth.
    Sure, there is/are some counterfeit tongues
    because there are some counterfeit miracles. So don’t throw away
    tongues or miracles. Good and bad miracles will increase as the time of Jesus’ return becomes nearer.
    In the last 7 years there’ll be a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit which will give greater wisdom and
    knowledge to solve this and many other church doctrinal questions. Jesus is coming for a Body or
    Bride that is speaking the same thing, of one faith, not just in the lowest denominator that they all can spell Jesus,
    but a Church of united doctrine(s). Because of this flood of the Holy Spirit, tongues will become common-place in
    the true local and individual churches seeking a closer walk with God, though their original ‘statement of faith’ at one time
    omitted or shunned tongues.
    No, tongues is/are NOT a proof of salvation, but it is something which the Lord encourages ALL believers to do.
    All gifts are given until the return of Christ: “…Ye come behind in no gift; waiting
    waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” [1Cor.1:7]. The Bible says to pray without ceasing,
    quench not the Spirit, and we should be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Holy Spirit”.
    ~ Be over-abundantly blessed
    in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of God, Son of David, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor,
    Almighty God. Amen and amen.

    • @75yrs. I still speak in toungues and still find it deeply comforting. I’m not going to a Pentecostal or charismatic assembly b/c I’m fearful of their legalistic doctrines . So , I attend a grace filled assembly where I find peace of sorts. Have also been in the ministry back 30 Or so yrs. ago. Only a few know I am a Talker and didn’t have to tell them b/c they themselves did bear the witness of the Spirit when I first walked into the assembly.
      Praise YEH.

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