Mystic Tongues Are Speaking

Mystic Tongues Are Speaking (Part II)

In Part I the author made the first of four observations concerning neo-Pentecostalism: The charismatic movement owes its growth to churches that have failed and are failing their people. . .

Since 1967 the charismatic movement, with its speaking in tongues and ministry of miracles, has been penetrating Roman Catholicism. It is today crossing denominational and social barriers. Is this neo-Pentecostalism, which has sprung so quickly to prominence, the medium by which the Holy Spirit is preparing the world for Christ's return? Or could it be the false revival of signs and wonders that will precede Christ's coming? Whether the harbinger of the latter rain or the "strong delusion" sent to those who "received not the love of the truth," the movement poses serious questions for the Adventist ministry.

In Part I the author made the first of four observations concerning neo-Pentecostalism: The charismatic movement owes its growth to churches that have failed and are failing their people.

 


My second observation centers not in people but in a truth of Scripture:

2. Miracles, healings, unknown tongues, psychic phenomena—these are no sure signs of God's working.

John the revelator speaks of "sorceries" by which all nations shall be deceived. Paul declared that Antichrist would work in the last days with "all power and signs and ly ing wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:9, 10). In preparation for Armageddon "spirits of devils, working miracles" will "go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world" (Rev. 16:14). These spirits, significantly, play a decisive part in forwarding the prestige of that false ecumenical movement that has "one mind" and gives its "power and its strength" to the beast (Rev. 17).

Friends, if you are still preaching about the Fox sisters and the experiments of Dr. Rhyne at Duke University, the world of spiritism has passed you by! Devils working miracles are speaking to Christendom today with new and compelling power. The most sophisticated, the most subtle, the most convincing witness for spiritism I have encountered, I heard preached from the pulpit of historic Foundry Methodist church in Washington, D.C., just a few months ago. It was presented by a minister—Arthur Ford, the spiritist who put Bishop Pike in touch with his dead son.

In general, sophisticated man does not believe in miracles. Physical science has no place in it for the supernatural. But miracles there are, and Satan can either counterfeit them or work them. The Bible reveals that when the time is right, he will employ his supernatural power in a special way to deceive. "No mere impostures are here foretold."" Men, unable to explain Satan's miracles will attribute them to the power of God. And the whole world will be led captive.

Two Dangers to Deception

Especially vulnerable to deception are two classes of Christians. First are those who no longer believe in evil angels and who therefore must attribute all supernatural happenings to God. Much of liberal Protestantism and Catholicism are in this category. Second are those who live for miracles, whose religion sees a miracle behind every bush, burning or not. This class is dependent upon feeling; they feel saved, they feel peace, they feel God's hand on them.

The enthusiast who has experienced a profound emotional-spiritual experience finds it virtually impossible to doubt the truth of it. To question it seems blasphemous.

But mark this down in your hermeneutics: The New Testament correlates doctrine and experience, and the mainstream flow is ever from truth to experience, not from experience to truth. It is never truth for truth's sake, nor experience for experience's sake, but truth for experience's sake. Theology is given for our experience. The great error of the enthusiast, the neo-Pentecost, is that he moves from experience to truth.

His argument, theologian Bernard Ramm has pointed out, is almost invariably the same: (1) I have had this tremendous experience; (2) I find experiences like this re ported in the New Testament; therefore (3) My experience is true.

But the enthusiast errs at two points, Ramm continues.

First, he does not realize a major contradiction. If the process is from experience to truth, then I must accept as valid all experiences that people claim to have had. Yet these experiences are contradictory. I can't experience all experiences. A Babel of experience exists; and if we move from experience to truth, we must go through the whole gamut. So the argument "from experience to truth" doesn't free me but paralyzes me, for I don't know whether to follow Mary Baker Eddy or Sister Macpherson.

Second, although emotional experiences are emotionally powerful and compelling, they are dangerously deceptive. There is no certainty of truth in the profundity of experience. Many people who have had a remarkable, profound experience have later found themselves terribly deceived.

As soon as the question of deception is raised, the argument from "experience to truth" collapses. We are therefore forced to turn to the New Testament pattern: from truth to experience.10

Study it through and you will discern new depths of meaning in Christ's "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). And in Paul's warning to the Thessalonians:

The Lawless Man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he [the lawless man] will come with evil's undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil's delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play fellow (2 Thess. 2:9-12, Phillips).*

Not a Sure Sign

Feelings, physical phenomena, charismatic manifestations—these are no sure sign of God's working. To illustrate, note the similarity of the experience of Roger Alexander, the student from Michigan State who went to Notre Dame to participate in a charismatic session, and that which comes in spirit possession, as described in a spiritist textbook.

Roger Alexander—

As they began to pray over me, a strange physical sensation started in my hands and feet and gradually spread over my whole body. It was like an electrical current or as though the inside of my body were shaking against my skin.

Genuine Mediumship

In entering the trance condition, your hands and body may twitch and jerk as if you were being subjected to a series of galvanic shocks. When the spirit-power comes, there is manifested a peculiar jerking, twitching or vibrating of the hands and arms, sometimes extending to the whole body. . . . When the spirit enters, in the arms are felt peculiar tingling, prickling sensations like needles and pins, sometimes akin to a current of electricity passing through from head to foot.11

Here is the way a leading faith healer (Oral Roberts) describes his sensations:

I felt physical contact with God's presence in my right hand. It was a tingling sensation like an electrical current. . . 12 I felt a strange and glorious sensation like an electrical current flowing through my hand.13 It seemed as if ten thousand volts of electricity surged through my body.14

Now recall these sobering words by Ellen G. White:

His [Satan's] agents still claim to cure disease. They attribute their power to electricity, magnetism, or the so-called "sympathetic remedies." In truth, they are but channels for Satan's electric cur rents. By this means he casts his spell over the bodies and souls of men.15

I emphasize again: miracles, physical phenomena, healings, tongues—these are no sure sign of Christ's working. They may be instead "evil's delusion," an "utter fraud." It is love of the truth that is our safety. The signs and wonders of the charismatic movement must be brought "to the law and to the testimony."

My third observation is:

3. Speaking in tongues does not necessarily accompany baptism of the Holy Spirit, nor does its absence indicate that the believer is not possessed by the Holy Spirit.

Scripture records only "three instances [out of 19] where baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of speaking in foreign languages were manifested together.16

Briefly, what is speaking in tongues? It is the least of the gifts of God. At Pentecost it enabled the apostles to communicate in languages they had not learned to men of an undetermined number of nations. A manifestation in the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. 12-14) does not seem to have involved intelligible speech but rather a "language of ecstasy," as the New English Bible translates it. We might call it "utterances of sounds" as the result of intense emotional excitement. The gift of Pentecost required no translator; the apostles' language was understood without an intermediary. The Corinthians, to the contrary, required an interpreter, which was another, separate, spiritual gift. For these and other reasons, I consider the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians to differ from that in Acts.

Tongues in Adventist History

Another reason for my not seeking to confine it only to utterance of intelligible foreign languages is the several forms in which it has appeared in Adventist history.

One experience, better documented than some others, and certainly not paralleling that of Acts 2, occurred in 1849 in Centerport, New York. S. H. Rhodes, who had preached the Advent message prior to 1844, had become depressed and left human society, living as a hermit for three years, 30 miles from any settlement. Some of his friends, including Hiram Edson and Richard Ralph felt a burden for him. Edson had started to visit Rhodes, traveled 14 miles, and under deep impression that his journey was premature, returned home.

Then, ten days later, Richard Ralph arrived in Centerport, where a weekend conference of Sabbath-keeping Adventists was to be held at the home of William Harris. He told Edson that he felt they must visit Rhodes. Should they go? Would God work through them to recover his soul and talents? At a Sunday night prayer session Ralph prayed that God would confirm their journey by pouring out His spirit on the meeting. As Edson was quietly asking God whether Brother Ralph had been sent "so far" (from Connecticut) to go with him to "hunt up Brother Rhodes/' Ralph "broke out," says Edson, "in a new tongue, unknown to us all. Then came the interpretation—'Yes, to go with thee.' " 17

Incidentally, Mrs. White, who was in Centerport, had been skeptical of the value of the mission to Rhodes, who had resisted previous visits. She had advised Ralph to be sure that the call was from the Lord before going on a mission she feared would be as fruitless as the former had been.

Ralph and Edson went and told Rhodes they had come in the name of the Lord to get him to return and go with his brethren to the kingdom. Again the spirit rested upon them. Wrote Edson:

"God displayed His convincing power, and Brother Ralph spoke in a new tongue, and gave the interpretation in power, and in the demonstration of the Holy Ghost." 18

As a consequence, Rhodes reconsecrated himself to teaching the Sabbath truth and worked loyally, until his death in 1897. Later manifestations in the Seventh-day Adventist Church involved Mrs. White, who preached in English but was heard by a German lady in her native language; one of our ministers who usually spoke Portuguese through a translator but was enabled to speak fluently, and an Italian Catholic who read The Great Controversy in English, though he did not know the language.19

Warnings by Mrs. White

We have had also our spurious tongues. Fourteen years after the Centerport experience, a fanatical movement developed among Adventists in Portland, Maine.

Wrote Mrs. White:

Some of these persons have exercises which they call gifts and say that the Lord has placed them in the church. They have an unmeaning gibberish which they call the unknown tongue, which is unknown not only by man but by the Lord and all heaven. Such gifts are manufactured by men and women, aided by the great deceiver.

She added:

A certain class seem to be charmed with these strange manifestations. . . . God's Spirit is not in the work and does not attend such workmen. They have another spirit. . . . God deliver His people from such gifts.20

Yet she also wrote:

It is with an earnest longing that I look forward to the time when the events of the day of Pentecost shall be repeated with even greater power than on that occasion. . . . Then, as at the Pentecostal season, the people will hear the truth spoken to them, every man in his own tongue.21

She makes no such comment concerning the gift of 1 Corinthians 12-14, and one wonders whether the counterfeit of this gift has made reappearance of the genuine doubtful.

Whatever we see in the revival of glossolalia about the world, we would do well not to forget that for every gift of God there is a counterfeit; there are false prophecies, false wisdom, false healing. From my own study and observations, I believe that much of what passes for tongues can be explained either as self- or group-induced hypnosis.

Some of the means used to induce tongues can be described only in incredulous tones. I have a "Praise Sheet" sent me by a healing group. In each of sixteen squares are words—"Jesus," "Hallelujah," "Praise Jesus," et cetera. These, say the instructions, are to be repeated at three to four times normal speaking speed for two or three minutes at a time, or until the voice begins to slur, which, says the sheet, is an indication that the Spirit is coming.

Of this, I repeat, we can be sure: The gift of tongues does not necessarily accompany baptism of the Holy Spirit, nor does its absence indicate that the believer is not possessed by the Holy Spirit.

(To be continued)

 


REFERENCES

 

 

9. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 553.

10. Bernard Ramm, "Let God Be Your Compass," His, June, 1969, p. 8.

11. Vishita, Bhakta, Swami, Genuine Mediumship, Chas. T. Powner, Pub., Chicago, 1941, p. 37.

12. Oral Roberts, Life Story, Tulsa, Oklahoma, p. HO.

13. ————, The Fourth Man, Tulsa, Oklahoma, p. 113.

14. ————, Life Story,-p. 90.

15. Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 193.

16. Carl G. Turland, "Speaking With Tongues" (unpublished manuscript, a philological and text-analytical study), Appendix B.

17. D. E. Robinson, "The Gift of Tongues in Early Advent History," Unpublished manuscript, Ellen G. \Vhite Estate, Washington, D.C., 1938, pp. 2-4.

18. ————, ibid., p. 4.

19. W. E. Read, "The Gift of Tongues," MINISTRY, August, 1964, pp. 18-23.

20. Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 412-419.

21. The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Acts 2:1-4, p. 1055.


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