A debate about Tongues.
NOTE: This is a concise version of the full debate. I will summarize the points of the debater which are numbered and put my responses below those points.
1. The debater refers to the orginal Greek for tongues in SOME of the excerpts as being "Glossa" which is language that is naturally acquired according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. Further, he uses 1 Corinthians 13:1 "tongues of men" to support his claim.
"Glossa is by far used the majority of the time...." the debater writes. Note the word MAJORITY. There is still room for other words for tongue, and Glossa is not necessarily mutually exclusive from the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues beyond those of man. He refers to 1 Corinthians 13:1, a verse referring to the tongues of men (which he argues means other languages), but what about the rest of the verse:"tongues of men AND OF ANGELS" ? Do angels speak Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, or English? They can probably speak any of these, but are those languages the native tongue of angels? Is there a native tongue for the hosts of Heaven? Sure, but I am not going to assume that tongues of ANGELS refers to the man-made languages that the nations speak on earth. It would be presumptuous to assume that angels speak tongues of mankind. I am sure they can, but this is by no means their restriction just as the physical tongue and world are not their restriction. Sure, tongues may translate to languages, but language of angels gives a compelling argument supporting the gift of speaking in tongues being something more than just being bilingual. Tongues seem to include multilingualism, but it would also include the language of the hosts of Heaven -- the prayer and praise language that goes indiscernible lest there is one who has the gift of interpretation (which the Bible outlines there should be one with the gift of interpretation where there is a gift of tongues -- See 1 Corinthians 14:27). He argues that the translation means natural language to which I ask, What is the natural language of the angels mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:1?
2. The debater says that apostles understood, but did not do the signs and further implied that signs are no more.
Signs would come as Jesus promised the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:5-8). These verses say that "They will..." (then the root verb). Like in Mark 17, it says that they WILL drive out demons. What's the point if they only understand driving out demons, but cannot perform the deliverance in Jesus' name? It would be like, "Oh, you're demon-possessed? I understand, but despite being a child of God, I cannot help you." Yet, Christ gives authority to God's children over evil (as seen in Luke 10:18-20 and in the applications of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20 as well as many other verses). I say this to show that there is more than just understanding. There is a gifting by the Spirit to do these acts -- including tongues -- in Jesus' name. If tongues translates into languages, that does not eliminate that there is a spiritual manifestation and a spiritual gift of speaking in tongues beyond the tongues of mankind. Languages of angels (1 Cor 13:1) as well as other verses support this (Such as Romans 8:26. There are others supporting tongues, but that these verses use "tongues" would mean that the debater would automatically ascribe this ONLY to man-made languages -- which is ONLY PART of what tongues is about).
3. The debater states that the purpose of tongues is to confirm the Word of God. He suggests this in a way, however, to say that speaking in tongues beyond man-made languages does not confirm the Word.
And what is the point here lest someone abuses speaking in tongues? Speaking in tongues would indeed confirm the Word by its very manifestation and by a Biblical interpretation.
4. The debater states that Acts is simply an inspired history and should not be taken as a book to outline practices, that things have changed. He says that one should refer to the Epistles for instructions on practice.
CHANGE for CHRISTIAN PRACTICE???? God does not change (Malachi 3:6 among many verses supports this). Sure, there may be contemporary music and internet sites and services in English as opposed to ancient Greek, but God's people are still baptized, still sealed with the Holy Spirit, and some have the gift of speaking in tongues. Are the Epistles historical, too, so that one could say that they do not apply to all Christians? I think not and I think that such an argument is dangerous. Based on the debater's last statement, he does not believe this about the Epistles, but to state that Acts is strictly inspired history and not applicable to practice is not beneficial. Acts is certainly applicable to belief. If it is applicable to belief, then it is at least indirectly applicable to behavior, namely practice, since behavior and practice come partly out of belief. What about the Gospels, namely Luke who wrote Luke-Acts? Are they simply history? What about the call to witness in Matthew 28 and ACTS 1:8 (where Jesus says that "Ye shall be witnesses" KJV :)? What about Romans 8:26 -- an EPISTLE -- which outlines practice, yet supports the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues beyond a man-made language?
5. The debater shows that at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was like a wind, not literally a wind, and that the tongues were like fire, but not literally fire.
All these similes don't show anything. The Holy Spirit not being a wind, but being like a mighty wind does not suggest anything about the gift of speaking in tongues. Those who believe in speaking in tongues as a spiritual gift do not literally believe tongues are fire.
6. The debater distinguishes between the apostles and the rest of Christendom implying that the apostles could do things that other Christians cannot, namely those of us today. Further, he stereotypes those who speak in tongues beyond man-made language as being uncontrolled.
And proper use of speaking in tongues should not be uncontrolled, either. But my problem here is "They" referring to the apostles and not being applicable to believers in general. Are we supposed to distinguish ourselves from the apostles or vice versa? This thinking is not healthy for Christians. That would mean we should distinguish ourselves from those who atteneded the churches at Corinth, Colosse, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Galatia. Paul wrote letters to those churches, but the message applies to us today. If one separates apostles and 1st century saints from ourselves, then he or she is in a line of thinking which would ignore the teaching of much of the Bible. God's Word is relevant to us today! We are all saints whether the Apostle Paul or a 20th century computer programmer who is a Christian. And there is no favoritism with God regarding His people (including the apostles) -- See Romans 2:11.
7. The debater says that Jews were present whenever tongues were spoken.
Are not modern-day Christians the Church, His Bride, the New Jerusalem, JEWS by adoption?
8. The debater says that tongues ONLY refer to man-made languages. He further asserts the superiority of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible above other versions.
And this did occur where tongues were not necessarily referring only to the speaking in tongues spiritual gift but rather a man-made native language as seen in SOME of the New Testament, BUT that is not all of the gift of tongues as I have argued. Again, what are the tongues of angels? MORE COMPELLING, Romans 8:26 states "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with GROANS that WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS" (NIV). I know that the debater in this article prefers KJV which uses "GROANINGS which cannot be uttered" in that verse. This does not sound like man-made languages, but the aspect of the gift of tongues which includes what some refer to as speaking in tongues. On a picky side note: Why does the debater prefer the KJV when it refers to the Holy Spirit as "itself" such as in Romans 8:26. The Holy Spirit is a Person of the Trinity -- One who can be grieved (unlike an energy as some would want to reduce the Third Person of the Trinity). "Himself" is a more appropriate pronoun for the Holy Spirit. I know this is a digression from the discussion at hand, but it is just a picky side note to say that there is value in other versions besides the KJV.
9. The debater says that it is shown that speaking in tongues is not a "real" language. He further uses the Greek "Glossa," one word for tongues which means naturally acquired language according to Strong's Concordance.
Perhaps not "real" languages in the man-made arena of languages, but something that surpasses man-made language such as with tongues of angels. The Bible cannot fully be pinned down by the debater's understanding nor mine nor any human being's. God's ways are not our ways. Was there even a GREEK WORD to describe tongues beyond those of mankind? Perhaps Glossa was closest. Perhaps the Greek could not fully capture it, though in the full context of the Word and with description, one can see it fully captured. The Bible is perfect even though the finite words of mankind are in its pages. Regarding denominations that speak in tongues, certainly SOME (not ALL by any means!) may abuse spiritual gifts, or abuse the name of Christ as in the medieval Crusades, but this does not eliminate what the Word teaches. I am in agreement that other man-made languages are one aspect of tongues, but I also understand from the Bible (even KJV) that another aspect of tongues is speaking in tongues beyond the man-made language. Even though proper use of speaking in tongues beyond man-made language is to be controlled and interpreted, some will not understand (except for the interpretation) the tongues. It may sound like noise, but if it is to the Glory of God, then so be it! I do not consider proper use of tongues noise, but the Psalms state to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
10. The debater argues that 1 Corinthians (which mentions gifts) was written in the perspective from AD 56 and that tongues have ceased.
AD 56 -- Is God limited by time? No.
11. The debater argues that prophecy has ceased.
Fulfillment of prophecy has not ceased. In Isaiah, the Word states that the government shall be upon His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus did not fulfill this in the Gospel, but it is foretold to be fulfilled in Revelation 20:1-6 as Jesus reigns over the earth.
12. The debater implies that speaking in tongues beyond man-made language adds to the Bible, which needs no addition.
I see the point that nothing needs to be added to the perfect Word of God, and I agree. Yet, this does not mean that authors like Max Lucado or the late C.S. Lewis, etc., cannot write or speak about theological things. Further, I think tongues in the context of speaking in tongues involves an expression beyond human words. The human languages cannot fully express the eternal. The Bible is written in human languages so that we can understand it in our finite minds, but yet, we do not fully understand the Bible even then!
SUMMARY: There are abuses in the body of Christ. God is just and God is full of grace. Abuses come when one takes either justice alone or grace alone. With justice alone, one is legalistic and focuses on doctrine as a means of salvation. With grace alone, one uses it as a license for sin or lack of order. This can occur in this debate, too. Don't abuse tongues (grace alone), but don't make the concordance your Bible. Tongues refers to both man-made langues and the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. There are places in the Bible where the man-made languages are specified as well as at least the couple I have said, where speaking in tongues is specified. I put this here so that debaters can be cautious as to not commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as in Mark 3:29 (fully done when one denies who the Holy Spirit is as in dying and not knowing Christ as Savior and Lord -- denying Him -- for God is the Father, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT). Finally, what saves a man? Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection, and the sealing of a man's heart by the Holy Spirit. I believe the debater is likely saved (and definitely does great research and argues well), and I know I am saved. Neither he nor I fully know and understand scripture. What he or I believe about tongues is not a salvation issue. I believe he is mistaken. He likely believes I am (at least where I deviate from the ONLY MAN-MADE LANGUAGES to the speaking in TONGUES argument). We need to seek God and not cast judgment. Whoever is mistaken, may God direct to fullness and truth. I lack the gift of tongues, so that is not my motivation. As the debater and I disagree, I am confident that we will both see one another in Heaven and both be aghast by that which we did not fully understand in our finiteness. May we not be foolish in our argument. --BeaknDeakn