For follow-up discussion and general commentary on the topic. Comments are sorted chronologically.
I believe that the gift of tongues is given to those who ask the Holy Spirit for it.
The "gift of tongues" is easy to imitate, impossible to substantiate. The Acts 2 tongues were foreign languages that the disciples had not learned. It is true that the miracles of the NT age was a sign of judgment against unbelieving Israel. The Church now holds the place as God's spiritual kingdom on earth, and earthly Israel's doom was accomplished in 70 AD. The current physical Israel is in unbelief. There are no more new messages/prophecies to Israel besides what is written in the 66 books of the Bible. Thus, no more tongues and sign gifts with the possible exception of a few here and there.
It is not impossible to substantiate, but it is very easy to imitate.
Inside of about a year, I encountered a number of people of varying types:
- One believer legitimately speaking in tongues. I translated what he said to my sister.
- One believer faking tongues to fit in with a group that over-emphasized tongues and 'prayer languages'
- One believer praying to himself, quietly, in tongues, legitimately.
- One believer babbling repetitions, loudly, during a time of prayer, in English (lots of lord, lord) She was oppressed by an actual spirit of babbling/babel. I prayed and God sent the demon out, and her prayers quieted into more meaningful and heartfelt sentiments between her and God.
- One unbeliever, possessed by a demon, crazy and shouting/babbling in both English and strange tongues in a park.
Over my life I have also encountered tongues in other instances, such as tongues given and interpreted (legitimate) in a church service for the edification of everyone, or tongues faked (more like yodeling/babbling) in a pretend church service that was really a cult.
Tongues is mostly a sign for the conviction of unbelievers, though it can also be for personal edification or for the edification of the church. As such, it usually has the greatest affect in areas where the gospel is still spreading, vs. established church groups.
It's misuse makes it unpopular for some, but the Holy Spirit still gifts it as He wills, not as man thinks He should will.
Jennifer: How do you know there was any legitimate tongues except by subjective evaluation? If the judgment is subjective, it could easily be gibberish and no one would know. But if it is a valid foreign language, it could be evaluated. Even though Acts 2 was foreign languages, I know of no modern "tongues" example where that has been documented.
Larry, one of my primary spiritual gifts is discernment between spirits. As such, it is not my evaluation, but the revelation of the spirit. I used to think it was an odd gift to have, but it actually is very useful in a support role, as it gives a starting point on how to address an issue [leave it alone, provide information, pray for release from demonic oppression, etc]. I will say that demons, while they can influence Christians, are usually not the culprit. Human pride is pretty common, though.
However, even outside of spiritual gifts, such things can be discerned/evaluated based on biblical principles:
#1 Are they using tongues in a proper manner? Is there an interpretation? If not, there are only a few options: Misusing a spiritual gift, faking without a gift, or demonic influence.
#2 Are they praying by themselves to God, or are they interrupting the church service to call attention to themselves? If their action is loud and boisterous, then it is likely due to pride, and in some cases demonic influence.
#3 Can those around confirm it? That is, does this person have a history in the church of speaking in tongues, coupled with someone providing an interpretation? Or, is there an unbeliever present that can understand the language who can confirm it?
#4 Does the speaking edify those around in a concrete way? In general, if the speaking is for sensationalism vs. edification of the listeners, it again is either misuse, pride, or (more rarely) demonic influence.
Jennifer, Twice now you have failed to address my primary point that the best example of tongues in the Bible (Acts 2) was Galileans speaking human languages they did not learn. So no matter what "discernment" you believe you have is not a convincing argument. How am I supposed to believe what appears to be gibberish is not exactly what it appears to be? Because you say so? Just once or twice it would be more convincing to demonstrate with documentation something like that-which would actually be a miracle.
Larry, I agree with you that the best example of tongues in the Bible is in Acts 2, where it is real languages used to convict unbelievers of sin. Rather, I do not believe that misuse (even frequent misuse) of a gift means that the spirit does not give that gift where needed.
The Bible does mention other uses of tongues inside the church, but tongues was being misused early on. Paul does not condemn tongues outright, or demand that the church -only- use tongues for unbelievers, nor say 'this will only be around for a few more years, anyway', but that he gives many sensible rules of order that if followed minimize misuse. He also adds, "Forbid not to speak in tongues", I Cor 14:39, which seems a very clear point that just because something is misused does NOT mean it should be banned, rather it should be based in unity/love.
As to your larger dilemma - a large portion of the gospel message is based on the testimony of those who lived at the time of Jesus, and their accounts of healing/miracles based on eyewitnesses. Faith is based on this sort of secondary evidence: you are persuaded because someone's testimony is credible, or because you see evidence of God in nature, etc; not because you personally knew Christ on earth.
So missionaries bringing back cases of healing, the huguenot martyrs speaking in tongues - these testify to Christ to unbelievers and encourage believers, but it's not necessary that God "prove" each case to us. God wants hearts that seek Him, not signs.
Jennifer, Assuming there are two types of tongues (which I do not agree), how is it that no one speaks in unlearned human foreign languages. "Forbidding no tongues" still begs the question of their validity. After all, if we grant that there are fakers and phonies, should we allow them because you and others believe there are real ones? So we should allow it all for fear of forbidding valid ones? That does not make sense.
I don't believe there are two types of tongues either. Tongues is a language, whether known or unknown. What some call prayer languages is not the same as the gift of tongues. This gift is sometimes seen in a church with interpretation, but most often seen on the mission field, where a missionary might start speaking in Swahili or Portuguese, sometimes unaware that they have even switched.
Discernment should be used by any church group in regards to tongues. We should seek to correct "fakers and phonies", as you put it, wherever we find them. This includes for the other gifts as well that can be misused or outright faked: false teachers (have the appearance of validity, but are presenting their own gospel) false preachers (are really trying to make a flock after their own name, not for Christ), false prophecy (does not prove true, is for self vs. edification of believers), false administration (those who, like Judas, appear to be helping in finance or administration but are really pilfering), false mercy (often presents as advocating extreme social justice in replacement of the gospel), false wisdom (appears wise, but is really a philosophy of man), etc.
All gifts can and are misused, even faked, but misuse of tongues is easily noticeable. Scripture does not recommend that we ignore or forbid gifts of the spirit (teaching, tongues, etc) because some misuse them. Rather, we are to remain in community; testing, orderly, and watchful; but not forbidding the use of gifts.
"Tongues" is the most prevalent gift allegedly present in Charismatic gift present. But this discussion began with the issue of cessionism. If it has ceased (the issue at hand), we are not forbidding the abuse of legitimate tongues, we are forbidding the abuse of something that has ceased. Since you say it is present elsewhere (i.e. mission fields), it's alleged presence in a largely monolinguistic society is superfluous. Charismatic churches are literally saturated with it. Where is the proof of its use as unlearned human foreign tongues? Someone claiming "discernment" doesn't
resolve the problem of its widespread abuse. Interpreters aren't even looking for it. They're interpreting gibberish, and speak gibberish themselves. However, if they could document actual the speaking of languages of unlearned foreign languages, that would offer legitimacy to the claim that it has not ceased. So far, in spite of proof to the contrary, it's not happening even in foreign countries, much less in the United States.
Yet scripture does not say tongues have ceased, not does the history of the early church (that is, the first few centuries A.D.) show cessation of tongues. Indeed, tongues will not cease until the Perfect comes (the second coming of Christ, when we see Him face to face) (I Cor 1:7, I Cor 13:8-11). As such, we should not discuss this from the assumption that they have, nor read in a distinction between spiritual gifts that scripture never makes.
As to cases where someone spoke foreign tongues and it was witnessed/confirmed via an unbeliever or interpretation; if you do not believe my own testimony, why would you believe it if I told of others? You can research these for yourselves, and are free to believe them or not. Second and third hand information will hardly convince you.
However, this line of questioning is much like those who demand, "If God is real, why does He not prove Himself?", or "Why is faith required, if God could simply show Himself to each person?", and thus little is gained by pursuing it.
The fact something must be taken on faith, such as a healing or miracle that we do not personally witness, does not negate the fact it occurred. For example, my mom has been healed of tumors, and I've had people pray and my own seizures stop, etc. But this is for the encouragement and faith of my mother, myself, and those who witnessed it. But if you, being far removed from the cases, do not believe such things happen - does that mean they did not occur?
Jennifer, I have never argued that scripture says tongues have ceased. I'm arguing that in spite of the claims of Charismatics, no alleged manifestation of tongues has happened. When I observe the gibberish that passes for tongues and compare it with the description in Acts 2, it fails. It's all subjective experience that has all the appearance of gibberish. One can dress it up and make gibberish conform to the rules of the Bible, but it does not establish it as coming from God.
If you are talking about the charismatic practice of glossolalia (speech-like sounds with no actual grammar or syntax, easily self-produced), I would agree that this is not the same as the spiritual gift of tongues. However, the practice of glossolalia has very little relevance to whether or not the gift of tongues has ceased or that the spirit no longer gives the gift of tongues today (the theory of cessationism), other than that it is often mistaken as speaking in tongues.
That might be a better discussion for threads like: https://ebible.com/questions/641-what-is-the-gift-of-speaking-in-tongues
Yes, it is. But that is all I ever see. Alleged tongues is pervasive in Charismatic churches. No one ever admits that they aren't speaking in biblical tongues. It's always the other guy. One would think that it would show up as real if it actually is.
And because it universally manifests as gibberish, I see no reason to believe that it has continued.