Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thoughts from a Christmas Play

Last night was my home church's annual Christmas play. I couldn't help but sit and be amazed at how well done it was... especially because of the writing. It was a clear Gospel presentation from start to finish, including the OT sacrifice system, why Christ needed to come to earth, and a boatload of memorized Scripture. The concept was that schoolboys were learning from Luke about Christ at the same time that he was wreting his letter to Theopholus. So much memorized Scripture...

... and then I saw the faces on so many of the mothers and fathers who were there from the community, and others that I know that don't attend church. Some of them surely are saved, but I know some that aren't. To see their eyes blind to the Gospel that was right in front of their faces, enamered with how cute their kids are...

... all while the truth of eternity was right in front of them. Pastor came in afterward and gave a great Gospel message, reinforcing everything they just saw. I just couldn't help but think about how trivial so many churches will make their Christmas plays. Just an effort to get parents to come in see their kids so that they can come to church, rather than being a tool for evangelism in of itself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tongues Paper

In the last hundred years, the tongues issue has been thrust to the forefront of Christian discussion. A non-issue before 1900, it has now spawned a full-blown theological debate. Proponents of the use of tongues within Christianity now outweigh its detractors, as the Pentecostal and charismatic movements continue to mushroom in size. David Barrett estimated in 2001 that the Pentecostal and charismatic church is growing by 19 million adherents per year, far more than any other division of Christianity.[1] The numbers are staggering; the whole face of Christianity has changed in only a century. In four centuries, the Protestant Reformation hasn’t been able to do what the charismatic movement has done in one.

Along with this rapid growth comes the widespread teaching that tongues are a legitimate form of communion with God. The voices trumpeting tongues are many and varied, even among them that do not practice the use of tongues. An article in Christian Century from June 2007 showed that fully half of Southern Baptist pastors believe that tongues are still used today.[2] With such a prevalent influence, the use of tongues needs analysis to determine whether it is a valid practice from both Biblical and historical perspectives.

This paper will address the two primary issues concerning tongues. First, whether the charismatic and Pentecostal movements practice tongues. Second, this paper will address if tongues as seen in the New Testament could still be in use today.

The word for tongues in the New Testament, glossa, and is commonly at the core of this debate. The debate today centers on whether or not the use of tongues was in purely ecstatic speech (glossolalia), or was an actual language (xenoglossia). There is a diversity of opinions over the matter. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, argues that while tongues may have been an actual language at the time of Pentecost, it had become something else entirely by the time of Paul’s second missionary journey, when he writes First Corinthians. Grudem argues, “Acts 2 simply describes one unique event at a significant turning point in the history of redemption. Therefore it would seem appropriate to take 1 Corinthians 14 as the passage that most closely describes the ordinary experiences of New Testament churches.”[3] The first point of this paper will be to argue against his interpretation.

1 Corinthians 14:21-22 states: In the Law it is written, ‘By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.’ Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.” This quote from the Old Testament is Isaiah 28:11-12. God is stating that the time is coming when Israel will receive God’s judgment. They will realize this when a foreign tongue will carry God’s judgment upon the nation. In context, this Scripture is a warning to Israel that God will use the surrounding nations to judge them. Paul uses the passage to prove that God has turned his face away from Israel. John Macarthur backs this up, “The gift of tongues was part of God’s judicial act of telling Israel that He was turning aside from them to the church. He had offered them the Kingdom, but they refused it. […] as a judicial sign of Israel’s covenant violation, God spoke to His people with other tongues and other lips.”[4] The primary implication behind this information is that the use of tongues, as understood from Acts 2 all the way through the New Testament period, constitutes the use of a foreign language. But what about after the New Testament period? What was the teaching of the church fathers on tongues?

Both sides of the tongues issue turn to the church fathers to support their view of tongues. Usually, this appeal to the fathers is made in order to show when tongues ceased, instead of what the use of tongues looked like. Nathan Busenitz, in a Master’s Seminary Journal article, summarizes the patristic view of tongues: “The gift of tongues was a solitary and supernaturally endowed ability, given by the Holy Spirit to select Christians, enabling those believes to speak in previously unlearned, rational foreign languages.” He cites Iranaeus, Chrysostom, Augustine, and a half-dozen others for direct support.[5] Yet, this is not what the modern tongues movement looks like today. In the Pentecostal and charismatic church movements, it is neither practiced by “select” persons, nor is it a “rational foreign language.”

Within the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, there are multiple definitions of what it means to speak in tongues. Tom Brown, the pastor of Word of Life Church in El Paso, Texas, describes tongues this way: “Many people inaccurately define speaking in tongues as ‘speaking gibberish’ or ‘talking nonsense.’ The truth is, speaking in tongues is the most intelligent, perfect language in the universe. It is God's language.”[6] Likewise, Gordon Fee, one of the most respected charismatic commentators concludes that the use of tongues does not constitute a foreign language, either in its biblical or contemporary uses.[7] However, as has been demonstrated, the Biblical interpretation that the use of tongues was a foreign language is sound. Additionally, it is clear that the use of tongues was viewed by the church fathers as referring to a foreign language. Thus, in conclusion of the first point, the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements do not accurately reflect either the Biblical usage of tongues or the historical understanding of tongues.

Having demonstrated that the modern use of tongues is errant in its understanding of what glossolalia consisted of, this writer will now consider whether there is Biblical evidence for the cessation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 is typically the primary disputed passage in this debate. This writer will outline the argument for the cessation of tongues from first a Biblical and then a historical standpoint, and then offer a counterpoint.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul responds to a previous letter sent by the Corinthians, addressing many of their questions concerning various matters. One such matter is introduced in 12:1, where Paul is apparently responding to the Corinthian’s questions on spiritual gifts. He sums up his whole point in the last verse of this chapter, which is to show the Corinthians a more excellent way to follow: the way of love. He details this more excellent way in the following chapter, and concludes by showing the preeminence of love above any functional gift, and the practice of it as the key to the spiritual walk in verse 8: “Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” What is Paul’s basis for saying that love is the most important of the gifts? His reasoning is that the other gifts will cease to be used, but love will never cease. The theological debate under discussion in this paper centers on the question of when these other gifts will cease.

Much of the argument centers on a particular word in verse 10, the “perfect”. In verse 9, the cessation of prophecy is directly tied in with the arrival of the perfect, and it is thus assumed that the other two (knowledge and tongues) will disappear at the arrival of the perfect. The perfect is generally argued to be one of three things: the end of the apostolic age, the maturation of the church, or the coming of the eternal state.

Many have argued, especially since the outset of the Pentecostal movement, that the perfect can only refer to the completion of the canon or the end of the apostolic age. M.R. DeHaan writes: “With the completion of the apostolic testimony and the completion of the Scriptures of truth, ‘that which is perfect’ had come, and the temporary gifts were done away. For the Scriptures provided by God were ‘perfect.’”[8] But to be consistent, this would also require that ‘knowledge’ would have ceased with the completion of the canon, and this seems unlikely.

The second view is that the perfect will come at the maturation of the church. This view is considered in conjunction with verse 11: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” This view purports that when the church is at its full maturity in number, then the gifts will pass away. This is certainly a possibility, but seems to be overshadowed by the third view.

The final view is that the perfect will be the eternal state. This writer is including many of the other views that are similar and not dealt with at length here, including the rapture of the church and Christ’s return. Neither of these have enough of a chronological difference from the eternal state to warrant their detailed consideration in this topic. Godet sums up the eternal state well, “… the apostle’s answer […] certainly makes the abolition of prophecy, as well as that of tongues and of knowledge, coincident with the advent of the perfect state.”[9] This seems to be the most popular point of view, and one that carries a significant amount of weight especially in light of the rest of the chapter. In verse 12, Paul writes: “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been known fully.” It appears here that Paul is still referencing the perfect. The time when this knowledge will come cannot be anything less than the eternal state. John Macarthur puts it well: “In other words, what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 13 is, ‘You’re going to need these spiritual gifts while you are existing in time, but love is all you will need for eternity.’ It is a contrast between time and eternity.”[10] This could possibly also reference the full maturity of the church, but both the full maturity of the church and the eternal state seem to be in such close proximity chronologically that the distinction has little weight in determining when the usage of tongues will cease.

There is one additional consideration before moving on to historical implications. The voice for “will cease” is different from “pass away.” The passive voice is used for both prophecy and knowledge, implying that an action will be done to these two by the coming of the perfect. However, the middle voice is used for tongues and their cessation. This could possibly signify that tongues will cease without interference from the perfect. This is a debatable meaning. Daniel Wallace, one of the premier authorities on Greek, comments on the ambiguity of the passage in reference to tongues:

The implication may be that tongues were to have “died out” of their own before the perfect comes. The middle voice in this text, then, must be wrestled with if one is to come to any conclusions about when tongues would cease. […] Paul seems to be making a point that is more than stylistic in his shift in verbs. But this is not to say that the middle voice in 1 Cor [sic] 13:8 proves that tongues already ceased! This verse does not specifically address when tongues would cease, although it is giving a terminus as quem: when the perfect comes.[11]

Thus, the argument that the cessation of tongues will occur before the arrival of the perfect cannot be solidly proven. The Scriptures are ambiguous as to whether tongues will have died out before the arrival of the eternal state or at the arrival of the eternal state. Thus the Scriptural support for or against cessation of tongues is inconclusive from this writer’s point of view.

However, the historical support for the cessation of tongues seems to carry much more weight. Again, both sides of the issue portray it alternatively. However, there is solid evidence that in the early church period, tongues were non-existent. Robert Gromacki notes the specifics behind this:

In the three centuries that followed the apostolic era, there are only two references to tongue-speaking (Montanus and Tertullian who was a Montanist). The fact that Montanism reflected a false, egotistical view of pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) can hardly argue for the genuineness of Biblical glossolalia in that period. Therefore, there are no genuine cases of glossolalia in the post-apostolic era. Speaking in tongues had definitely ceased. The testimonies of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine confirm this conclusion.[12]

It is apparent then that Biblical tongues were decidedly absent after the apostolic age. Specifically, it may have ceased after 70 AD, in conjunction with the destruction of Jerusalem. This would signify the fulfillment of God’s judgment upon Israel, as has been examined briefly above in 1 Corinthians 14 and Isaiah 28. This is the opinion of many commentators, including John Macarthur.[13] Thus there is strong historic evidence against the common usage of tongues after the first century.

The use of tongues today varies greatly. It can be safely stated that the modern charismatic and Pentecostal movements do not represent the Biblical use of tongues, despite their protestations to the contrary. The historical data proves that tongues were normative for the church in the apostolic age, but were altogether missing, or at least very limited, after the apostolic age. However, lack of Scriptural evidence causes this writer to be cautious in his examination of tongues. Is it possible that tongues still exist today? To state anything absolutely may be too hasty. What can be safely inferred is that the modern tongues movement is a farce, and shouldn’t be accepted as the standard for Christian practice.

[1] David A. Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 4.

[2] "SBC poll: Half of pastors say ‘tongues’ valid" Christian Century, 6 June 2007, 13.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 1072.

[4] John Macarthur, The Truth About Tongues (Panorama City, CA: Word of Grace, 1984),12-13.

[5] Nathan Busenitz, "The gift of tongues: comparing the Church Fathers with contemporary Pentecostalism," Master’s Seminary Journal 17, no. 1 (2007), in ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCO; 10 November, 2007.

[6] Tom Brown, “Speaking in Tongues”;; 10 November 2007.

[7] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 665.

[8] M.R. DeHaan, First Corinthians, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965), 184.

[9] Frederic L. Godet, Commentary on First Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Kregel. 1977), 678.

[10] Ibid,. 52.

[11] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1996), 422-423.

[12] Robert G. Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967), 17.

[13] Ibid., 102.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Purity in the Mind of Christ

How did Jesus Christ respond to lust and temptations against His purity? Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He was tempted like we are, yet without sin. Did this include lust? Probably in some way, yet He never entered into sin. Think about it this way: He endured lust so that our lust could be crucified with Him on the Cross.

Is this too bold a statement? I think not. The thing that must be remembered is that His abject, sheer, unbridled object, love, and joy was His Father's glory. The glory that was also His before the world began (John 17:5). We behold this glory in Christ's face, and are changed into the same image (2 Corinthians 3). How does this connect? Jesus Christ's mind, affection, and will was set on His Father's glory. This is how He was pure: His mind was focused on God. He didn't choose to just resist temptation, He resisted temptation because He though more of His Father. Our mind, affection, and will must be likewise. But why list it in that order?

Dr. Lamansky has been giving lectures on Hamartiology (study of sin) in Systematic Theology 3 for the last several weeks. This last lecture on Monday was really great: our mind is the guardian of our affections. If you're like me, you've heard it for years at the mostly erroneous Basic Seminar. Where the mind goes, the affections will follow. And what your affections are pointed at, that is what you will choose. Thus, the secret to fighting lust, or any other sin, is not to simply "do it." It requires your mind being set on Christ, knowing that your affections will follow (Colossians 3:1-4). Now, this imperative that Paul gives demands a question: what are you thinking about? And then... why aren't you thinking about Christ?

Every man struggles, at varying levels, with lust. It's why Paul said that every man was to have his own wife in 1 Corinthians 7... so that lust wouldn't break out into sin. This may be shocking to women, but it's true. But even more troubling is what Kuiper pointed out: instead of empathizing with others who lust and trying to understand how the deceitfulness of sin works, we self-righteously judge. Years ago I had an epiphany about my relationships with others: every action that a person makes is a reaction to their experiences in life, which often include areas they have been or are deceived in. If someone is consistently angry, it is likely because someone has been angry at them. If someone struggles with lust, it's likely because no one took the time to talk to them or be accountable with them. If someone seems unable to make decisions, it's likely that they've been burned before, or have never been trusted to make decisions. Realizations like these bring compassion.

So what's to be done? First, We must look at ourselves! Allow God to show us who we really are. The hidden sin that is there, under the surface, waiting for the opportunity to strike. After discerning this in ourselves, and realizing that we too are capable of sinning, then we can compassionately help others. An objection might be raised: can we not help others until we have mastered that area in ourselves? No, that's not the point. In recognizing that we have sin, we not only help ourselves by allowing the Spirit to begin His purging work, but we also help others in showing them that 1) we too are imperfect, and 2) we are being changed into His same image, so that 3) they can have an example to change into His image too. This can't be just about telling others how to do right. We must show others how to do right.

It's nothing short of a call to open our hearts, as men, to each other.


Sunday, October 21, 2007


For the first time in my life I am realizing why this was the theme of so many of the summer camps I went to. Why I heard so many messages preached from Proverbs 7. Why Dr. Jaspers preached his heart out to us at Leadership Camp on this passage. Why Joshua Harris wrote so many dating books. Why my Pastor Mcqueen screamed at us in Victory Baptist School's chapel "WAIT!"
Never really listened to him, but it was still nice of him to scream at us. It all fits together. I think the older generation misunderstood us though. I seriously think if they would have got down with us and gotten their hands dirty in the explanation instead of dealing with purity in a high philosophical manner so many of us wouldn't have fallen.
I think it would have helped me. Maybe my affections would have been in a better place earlier on in my life. Don't get me wrong I was never a womanizer I am still pure in a physical sense but when I see what sewer my mind has crawled out of its a wonder. We escape out of our little sin taverns and we fall on our faces and ask why didn't you tell us it would hurt so bad?
Our own sin and our own lusts flagellate our spiritual bodies with malice and discontent. Telling us that we should have been more impure or more pure leaving us never satisfied. It wrecks our mind, it ruins our testimony, and leaves us unsatisfied for the pure life. A life of lusts has no taste for a life of resilience and self control. When we are so used to giving in to every temptation that comes upon us it is hard to get used to saying no once let alone for the rest of our lives. A longing for impurity. A mouth thirsty for the unsavory. An unsatisfied boyfriend. A dirty mind. A severe ungratefulness for standards and guidelines that are so good for us. Even when the standards are self imposed we loathe them.
Now we go into another world. The world of someone else's lust problem. Its almost like we have never expected anyone else to go through the same issues we have went through. Like screaming "Wait!" only to realize that we ourselves have done the very action we condone. We sneer and criticize those who are in our own minds corrupt and unfaithful when our minds have trailed there so often. Only by His grace have we not slid further into Sheol. We slander and abuse those who are already hurt being our own imagination. Instead of lifting up we cut string by string at their emotions declaring them wicked.

FAITH: So soon as the man overtook me, he was but a word and a blow, for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again, I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said, because ofmy secret inclining to Adam the First; and with that he struck me
another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backward; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. So, when I came to myself again, I cried him mercy; but he said, I know not how to show mercy; and with that he knocked me down again. He had doubtless madean end of me, but that one came by, and bid him forbear.

CHR. Who was that that bid him forbear?

FAITH. I did not know him at first, but as he went by, I perceived the holes in his hands and in his side; then I concluded that he was our Lord. So I went up the hill. {178}

CHR. That man that overtook you was Moses. He spareth none, neither knoweth he how to show mercy to those that transgress his law.

We have these same same tendencies. To crucify others on our own morality. To punish them
under our own moral law. Not even properly based moral law but upon our own ideals of right and wrong.
We have come upon them as Moses to the unsaved and pummeled them with our words and downcast
glances.As we pummel them they look up in sorrow and ask why and we tell them because they are dirty
sinners and our mouths drop open as the words exit our mouths: "Just like I am."

Pondering More Cessation

Sitting in Kuip's room, he's cramming Greek and I'm sitting easy. More exegesis to finish up for tomorrow. Looking into finishing more of my paper today and tonight. As promised, here's some of the rationale behind the purpose of tongues ceasing after 70 AD. Most of this will be very basic for some, and brand new for others (for all six of you that are reading this at the moment).

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11, indicating that one of the many purposes of tongues was to show unbelieving Israel that they were being judges by God. How is this the case? They rejected the Messiah, choosing instead to look for a political leader who would overthrow the Romans. This culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Thus Paul uses the quote from Isaiah to prove that the gift of tongues is for the unbeliever, to show them God's judgment. In context from Isaiah, this is clearly talking about Israel. And while God has not totally cast off His chosen people (Romans 11:1-2), there is a definite replacement going on in the early Church age.

So what were the other purposes for tongues? Two are immediately discerned: 1) to proclaim the new message of the Gospel, and 2) also to verify the new Way that Christ had established. It could be argued either way that those purposes have passed as well, and I won't take time here to dig. It can be safely inferred that the most obvious purpose for tongues is no longer needed.

I probably won't be posting again on tongues until after my paper is done. At that point likely all I'll be doing is summarizing the conclusions from my paper. Kuiper and I will eventually be tag-teaming a series of blogs on Soulforce and a contrast of their interactions with Bob Jones and Cedarville. But first he's got some thoughts on purity that he's going to publish later on today.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pondering Cessation

I've been working incessantly on a cessationist paper (ha) for a class on 1 Corinthians. Today it's been Grudem's non-cessationist thoughts against Robert Thomas' pro-cessationist thoughts.

Let me briefly outline the argument. Those who believe that tongues have ceased (called cessationists) point to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 as a prooftext for tongues no longer being in effect. Some state that tongues pass away when "the perfect" comes, and then define "the perfect" as the whole canon of Scripture. Others state that the Greek verb for "cease" is such that tongues were shortly going to "burn out" of use. They back this up with Paul's allusion in 1 Corinthians 14:22 to Isaiah 28:11 (more on this below and later).

A few observations:

1) My historic understanding of the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 has been that it is inconclusive when it comes to determining what "the perfect" is. As I study it out more, it seems that "the perfect" cannot mean anything less then the return of Christ or our assumption into heaven. Looking at the context, "being known as also I am known" cannot be misconstrued to mean anything less then being in His presence. A big part of Paul's point is setting up a "now" versus "then" dynamic. Included in this is when prophecy will pass away... if tongues is connected with prophecy as being contemporaneous (at the same time), then neither prophecy nor tongues will pass away until Christ returns.

However, the argument goes that the verb usage of "cease" is different from "fail" for prophecy, and indeed the verbs are different. There may be something in παυσονται ("shall cease") being offset from the other two (καταργηθησονται is the word translated both "fail" and "vanish"). However, as is noted by many, the use of the middle voice for "cease" here is inconclusive. The idea that many cessationists propound (that this verb cannot be connected with "the perfect" coming) really plays against the natural reading of the passage, and seems to delve into such technical realms as to make their argument dependent upon guesswork.

To speak in layman's terms, cessationists say that tongues "ceasing" is not tied into the perfect coming, as prophecy is in verse 10 and 11. As such, they believe that tongues will "burn out" on their own, due to their interpretation of "cease".

2) The historic basis against tongues still being in effect is very strong. Multiple authorities throughout history, including Augustine, Calvin, and Spurgeon, indicate that tongues have ceased. It is only in the previous hundred years that this has been challenged. For instance, John Chrysostom speaks about tongues and "their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place." In other words, since there was no evidence for them continuing, it's only natural to assume that they stopped.

3) It should be noted that the modern charismatic movement is so far from the Biblical model of tongues that there should be no doubt as to its invalidity. Tongues were a literal language, not just gibberish or ecstatic speech.

4) Finally, it should be noted that at least one of the purposes for tongues has ceased. Tongues were, at least in part, a sign to unbelieving Israel that God's covenant was no longer exclusively with them (I will follow up on this in another post). As per Paul's loose quote of Isaiah 28, the miraculous gift of tongues was designed to show Israel that God was speaking through another people now. The need for tongues ceased in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed and God's hand of blessing was explicitly removed from the system of religion known as Judaism.

A final question for pondering: is the Scriptural argument from 1 Corinthians 13 against the tongues movement valid? Can we not simply state that the modern charismatic movement is in error, and appeal to the both the usage of tongues in its day and the subsequent historic record? Must we parse verbs into line with our theological system? I'm inclined to leave the 1 Corinthians 13 passage alone and leave open the possibility that God might still use tongues, while clearly arguing that modern charismatics are in error.