Clarification on speaking in tongues

Hello :wave:

I was browsing the forums and came across some conflicting responses. Thanks for your time in reading my post; I would appreciate any help!

I was reading How do Pentecostals and Catholics differ? and JonathonofOhio responded with the following:

[quote=JonathanofOhio]A Pentecostal believer in a spiritual experience may vocalize fluent, unintelligible utterances (glossolalia) or articulate an alleged natural language previously unknown to them. Catholics do not do this, and we believe what is clearly explained in the bible about speaking in tongues. We understand it to be the process by which someone speaks and everyone listening can understand them regardless of what language they speak. This is clearly demonstrated in the Acts of the Apostles and there is no such thing as anyone speaking unintelligible utterances. Speaking in tongues also relates to wisdom.

The classification as “unintelligible utterances” didn’t seem right at first, which is why I posted this. Romans 8:26 says that “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” In this case, the words used are cannot be uttered, which has two definitions:
*]the verb-form means “cannot be given forth with the voice”
*]the adjective-form (unutterable/unspeakable) means “too inexplicable for words”
Personally, I tend to lean toward the second form. If someone stubs their toe, usually what comes out are groanings as “gosh, that smarts” doesn’t always express the pain properly.

I wouldn’t say they were unintelligible as God understands what our hearts speak via the Spirit. Technically, they are unintelligible utterances by dictionary definition, but not to God. To me, it makes sense that the Spirit would posses our tongue to express in the heart what a worded prayer could not; hence, the word “groanings.” Therefore, how could others understand the groanings of the heart? I thought only God was privy to that information.

Also, the above poster said that this gift of God through the Spirit invokes a universal understanding, which was clearly demonstrated in Acts. I found the scripture he was referring to, but what about in 1 Cor 14:2, where it says, “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him (as in unintelligible utterances); howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries.” It’s all a mystery to others, but not to God or the Tongue that speaks to Him through the Spirit. So, perhaps the event of the Spirit tongues at the Pentecost was a special case?

Also, JohnatonofOhio’s post conflicts with the response to a similar thread I found on another site: What are the official Church teachings on Charismatic issues and the charismatic gifts?

[quote=John DiMascio][Montanism] basically did all it could to squash the phenomenal gifts, which often times accompanied the Sacrament of Confirmation. When the confirmed would start speaking in tongues, the bishop would let him go on for a few seconds and then slap him. Centuries later, this slap was attributed to the willingness of the confirmed to suffer for Christ.

For centuries the Church down played these gifts but they’ve always been with us. Throughout the ages, we hear stories of various saints praying ecstatically.

. . .

Tongues and prophecy are very common gifts. Tongues is simply a form of prayer; it is not a known language. That is not the proper translation of the Greek word Glosolia.
It means utterance. The Greek word for languages is Dialectos where we get the word dialect.

As a Catholic I would disagree completely with JonathonofOhio’s response. There are different forms of tongues and those displayed after Pentecost were only one. I speak in tongues myself and have for about ten years now. No one has ever been able to understand me. :slight_smile: You should check out the Charismatic Renewal within the Catholic Church.

It seems to me that your questions are not really directed at the Catholic Church but rather to this individual only.



Honestly, I’m not Catholic. I’m investigating the faith (if you will) for personal reasons. I wasn’t necessarily directing it toward that individual, though I apparently lean one way on the matter. I just wanted to get some more insight as several others that responded to that thread after him had nothing to say about it. I figured maybe what he was saying was what the Catholic Church taught. In fact, I expected the second quote to have just as much of a chance of being disagreeable.

Thanks for your response, though; I’ve never heard of the Catholic Charismatic movement. I will definitely have to check that out! :slight_smile:

I do not believe the Catholic Church has any specific teaching or belief regarding ecstatic tongues where there is no interpreter and the speech is unintelligible.

Ecstatic tongues is a very large part of the Charismatic movement though the phenomena has existed in many different religions and is often part of the supposed awakening of the kundalini serpent of Hinduism.Shamanism and a few others also have incidences of people bursting into strange utterances while in a trancelike state.

Before about the mid 1800s most religious scholars believed that tongues was always a know language as when the Holy Spirit bestowed the gift at pentecost. It appears now there is mixed belief with some claiming that modern tongues is a private prayer language for worship, and others claiming it is just jibberish brought on by a heightened emotional state.

I think there is a youtube video where subjects were tested during the utterances and it appeared that the areas of the brain dealing with voluntary speech were not activated during the phenomena.

I am glad you are looking into the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Renewal is the operative word.

As for Catholics in general, there is a history of different reactions, good and bad, to this Renewal which is relatively young compared to Pentecostalism. Your post 1 has some excellent insights. I read the link to It is fine in the beginning, but later it seemed as if the writer did not understand the difference between St. Paul’s classical list of nine Holy Spirit Gifts and the common gift of praying in Tongues.

This link is to a basic handbook on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal follows the teachings of St. Paul. If you have individual questions about Tongues, I will do my best to answer them.

The gifts of understanding and speaking in other languages without study when the Lord thinks it’s needed is fairly common among missionaries (and others with the need). I was just reading today about a lady whose priest had explained that he’d once been given the gift of understanding a foreign language when it was really needed for him to hear and understand a person’s Confession.

St. Francis Xavier occasionally shared this gift and was able to be heard preaching as if in their own tongue by different groups of Asian people in very different languages. That didn’t mean he didn’t try to study the languages too; but the Lord gave him that temporary foot in the door several times.

The gift of becoming so excited in prayer that your speech production center gets temporarily scrambled is a fairly common gift in the United States, just as it’s fairly common to have one’s muscle and balance centers scrambled into being “slain in the Spirit.” I suspect this is the good Lord telling us something about American culture and concern for appearances. It seems to be primarily a gift for extroverts, for example.

How would you really know something like that without scientific investigation? I speak in tongues and have been slain in the Spirit (authentically) countless times in my life (and have even ecstatically rolled in the saw dust during a tent-revival once). I am not an “extrovert.” In fact, I’m hugely self-conscious in front of large groups and suffer from social anxiety.

Thank you for the material! :slight_smile:

I agree with that. I’ve also been overwhelmed by the Spirit and I’m the same exact way; I’m much more comfortable in this kind of environment—Internet forums, that is. I’m obsessed with reading people, so when I’m participating in a forum discussion I can focus more on what’s being said instead of focusing more on people’s body language. Though, I definitely would not say that the Spirit is a discriminator of the socially inept.

When the Spirit possesses you like that, it’s as if everything else is drowned out and all the previous inhibitions of the mind are put on hold to make way for the articulation of the heart. It’s as if your heart is struggling to get something out and the brain is searching its language sector for what to say, but the words just aren’t there.

I remember the first time it happened to me; I was confused and felt like I was in pain. Then the Spirit provided a way when I was willing to submit to God. When it happened, I can honestly say that I couldn’t help it! It’s a very awkward feeling the first time it happens, but the pure elation from the release of such a burden is inexplicable (unutterable, if you will ;)).

I would definitely encourage anyone during those times, when you can’t find the words to say, to tell your brain to calm down for a minute. Invite the Spirit to come and help, because He definitely will!

I think it best not to try and make sense of something you can’t put into words. That’s the whole reason the Spirit possesses our tongue in the first place—to provide a way to explain something that can’t be explained with words. It makes perfect sense that He would do so in an inexplicable way. However, the Spirit can’t force a gift on you that you are apprehensive about receiving; He can’t possess your tongue against your will. Demons do that.

And, of course the language center shuts down and motor skills are thrown out of whack, that’s the purpose of it! Your heart cannot speak if your body is fighting to keep a grip on reality. I do hope you are afforded the opportunity to experience this (if only once) and pray that you will have the courage to submit to such a rewarding gift, because it’s liberating and God has made it available to everyone! :extrahappy:

In the meantime, instead of attributing something to American culture, I’d suggest postponing your judgement on the matter for now.

With the exception of blaspheming the Spirit, God will never eternally condemn us for experimenting without providing a way back to Him. So, next time you can’t find the words to say when you pray, I’d like to invite you to invite the influence of the Spirit. If you find that it’s not for you or you feel that it’s wrong, then ask the Lord to forgive you and He will, but I can tell you now, there is no reason to ask forgiveness for chasing after the Spirit of God, that’s the definitive opposite of blasphemy!

Just know that if you’re the least bit apprehensive about receiving the gift, it will not be given to you. The price you pay is complete surrender and risking yourself looking like a fool in front of people who have never experienced it (such as yourself). If that bothers you, then you are essentially rejecting the gift by telling the Spirit, “what if I look like a fool?” He doesn’t want to make you look like a fool, but honestly, who cares? Again, that’s the point of the gift! It helps you realize that it doesn’t matter what others think. What matters at that time is your relationship with the Lord and the burden that your heart is begging to release.

May I offer a small clarification from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. The use of Tongues occurs when a person *yields to the Holy Spirit. In my humble opinion, *the concept of freely “yielding” is a tad beyond an invitation to the Holy Spirit. It implies that the gift of Tongues has already been asked for and accepted.

Semantics, I suppose, but you’re right. Yielding is a more fitting word, but as for an invitation, again, the Spirit will not force Himself upon you. It seems to me that you must first accept the gift of the Spirit, and that can be through your own understanding or by verbal or silent invitation to the Spirit or anything. As long as there is no reserve in your heart and you are open to the influence of the Spirit, then He will bestow upon you the gift of tongues.

In the post before the one you referenced, I termed it as submission, which essentially means the same as yielding. Honestly, I call it many things to illustrate that it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Even the word yielding doesn’t quite fit; that’s probably the closest you can get to explaining what’s required of the receiver, but it’s still more than that. In fact, the whole process is too inexplicable for words, but I suppose the general idea in my response is the loosing of mental or physical inhibitions to procure the coming delivery.

Another value of the ability to speak in tongues (which I also find quite rewarding) is that Satan can understand your prayers when you speak them, but when you cry out in the Spirit, he can’t understand any of it. I’m sure it drives him completely bonkers! :rotfl: Hallelujah!

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