Speaking in tongues: genuine charism or silly gibberish?


#1

I have read about many people claiming to be able to speak in tongues. I’ve even talked to some who claim to be able to do this. When I pressed them about it, they said that are actually speaking a language, but that it is unintelligible. One person demonstrated it for me and it sounded like porcine squeels.

If anyone can “suddenly” speak an actual human language that they weren’t able to before, then I’ll believe that they have the gift of tongues since that would by definition be a miracle. Until then, I have no reason to think that claims of “speaking n tongues” is self-deceptive and make-believe gibberish. It may be well-intentioned, but it’s still wishful thinking. Unbiblical, too.

From the Acts of the Apostles, the gift of tongues was manifested in actual human, recognizable languages:

1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.
2
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, 2 and it filled the entire house in which they were.
3
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, 3 which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
4
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
5
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
6
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
8
Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?
9
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome,
11
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”


#2

I think that it usually falls under the realm of gibberish that is intended to be a gift of the Spirit. I’m sure that there are real examples out there, though, but they are much rarer than what many people claim that they are.


#3

This is strictly my personal opinion, but I think that some of it is authentic and some is not. Although I don’t consider myself a charismatic, I have a great deal of respect for the authentic Catholic charismatic movement, and I believe that the Holy Spirit does indeed bestow His gifts upon those whom He chooses.

Therein lies my point: God bestows His gifts on those whom He chooses. Using the gift of tongues as an example, some people believe that if they practice by chanting a syllable over and over, the gift will develop. This is not Biblical. A gift is something freely given by God, not an innate skill or something to be learned like a language. The tongues given in Scripture were meant for someone to hear and then interpret. Interestingly, among those whom I have listened to while speaking in tongues, they all sound like they are speaking the same language, which has a somewhat Polynesian sound to it. It seemed to be a real language and not, as they called in in jazz, scat. Ultimately, only God knows the hearts of these people, but I believe that they were authentic.

I once attended a Vineyard Church prayer meeting (Evangelical Protestant) where a roomful of people went into fits of laughter, barking, convulsions, and one girl doing something resembling masturbation, and my first thought was that those people were demonically possessed. What was strange was that at the end of the meeting, instead of being full of joy at their “divine” experiences, they walked out as if it had been nothing special.


#4

There are 6,800 known languages spoken in the 200 countries of the world.


#5

I was raised in a pentecostal tradition before becoming Catholic.

The Catholic Church recognizes speaking in tounges in as much as it supports the Charistmatic Renewal. Benedict just sent his greetings to the Charismatic Renewal about three weeks ago praising them for their fidelity to the Spirit and exhibiting a continual sense of renewal in the church.

Speaking in tounges, known as ‘Glossolalia’ (from Greek γλωσσολαλιά)’ is usually considered the uninteligable vocal rythmatic praise of God. Only some denominations claim that it is a language as it appears to be in the book of acts. Many pentecostal churched acknowledge a difference between what happened to the Apostles and the experience of speaking in tounges. More often it is presented as what Paul describes as the inexpressable “growning” of the Holy Spirit within a person. To be sure charismatic experience is well attested to by Paul and in the writings of the Church Fathers.

Other acts, reported by other posters, such as animal sounds etc. are generally described at the “Toronto Blessing” and began some years ago in a revival in Toronto Canada. They appear indeed strange, but have a particular correspondance to the event in Toronto if one knows the history of the revival. It might indeed be suspect if such occurance are repreated elswhere.

Yet the manifestations of the Spirit as described by Paul are to be considered mainstream, including “speaking in tounges” I believe as long as they build up the Body of Christ as Paul states.


#6

I’ve often wondered how it is that those who hold to speaking in tongues, citing Biblical sources as proof of its Divine origin, don’t follow the other Biblical instructions regarding it. Such as there needs to be a translator present with the one speaking in tongues, there needs to be a limit to how many do so at a time, etc. etc.

The “typical” example of speaking in tongues (such as one can find in spades on YouTube should you not know what I’m talking about) doesn’t seem to follow any Biblical guidelines.
:shrug:


#7

I think that you are taking a very narrow view of this gift. To be honest the there are two different types of tongues spoken of in the Scriptures. 1) Gift of “Other” Tongues and 2) Gift of Tongues or Tongues of Angels.

Gift of “Other” Tongues is the one expressed in the Book of Acts. It is primarily a missionary gift and from what I have heard it can at times be seen in action on the missionary fronts.

The Gift of Tongues or Tongues of Angels, which is the one that you are questioning, is discussed primarily in 1Cor Ch 12-14. This gift can be broken down into two subcategories: One is Prophetic Tongues which requires interpretation which for the edification of the Church as is the gift of prophecy. This one is not very prevalent today (I have only heard it once and it lead to my conversion to Catholocism) and the other is Praying in the Spirit which is for the edification of the individual. This is the most common type. This is where the Holy Spirit prays for you in groanings that you cannot understand. In other words, He prays for what you do not know what to pray for.

I myself do have the ability to Pray in the Spirit and it has edified my spiritual life over the years as it has with others. I can tell you that it is not gibberish as you call it. I can speak in gibberish and in the Gift of Tongues and the experiences are completely different. There are times when at mass that I will be praying to Christ within me after receiving the Blessed Sacrament and I realize that I have been praying in tongues.

Are there people out there that pretend? Probably. Are there people out there that Speak in the tongue of Devils. Most definitely. The best way in my opinion to determine if something is of God versus the Devil is the fruit that it bears.

God’s Peace.


#8

I’m of the same opinion as you, I had to suffer listening to this one time at a prayer meeting.

I thought the purpose of speaking in tongues was so everyone there could understand, and since everyone in the room could understand English, then why would we need to speak in tongues in the first-place ?

And if they were speaking in tongues then it wasn’t very successful, because I didn’t have a clue what was coming out of their mouths.


#9

Could you please direct me to a place where I can find this differentiation? Thanks.

Gift of “Other” Tongues is the one expressed in the Book of Acts. It is primarily a missionary gift and from what I have heard it can at times be seen in action on the missionary fronts.

Again, documentation? I know that in the story of Acts, the Apostles used the gift of speaking in tongues to evangelize those who were in Jerusalem for the holiday, but I’m unaware of it being labeled as a missionary gift by the Bible. Of course, as Catholics, we know that our teaching authority isn’t limited to Sacred Scripture, so if you could point me in the direction of some documentation, I’d be thankful.

The Gift of Tongues or Tongues of Angels, which is the one that you are questioning, is discussed primarily in 1Cor Ch 12-14. This gift can be broken down into two subcategories: One is Prophetic Tongues which requires interpretation which for the edification of the Church as is the gift of prophecy. This one is not very prevalent today (I have only heard it once and it lead to my conversion to Catholocism) and the other is Praying in the Spirit which is for the edification of the individual. This is the most common type. This is where the Holy Spirit prays for you in groanings that you cannot understand. In other words, He prays for what you do not know what to pray for.

Please show me where Praying in the Spirit is discussed, for what I see in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 14 27-35, there are very clear rules of engagement for speaking in tongues.

  1. an interpreter must be present
  2. if there is no interpreter, the speaker must keep silent
  3. no more than 2-3 speakers during one meeting
  4. those speaking in tongues must take turns doing so
  5. women are to be quiet during all this
    What I’ve seen of Praying in Tongues/Praying in the Spirit in no ways follows these rules and would lead one, like the OP to question if it is a genuine charism or not. If you could point out where Praying in the Spirit is mentioned I’d love to ease my ignorance of the subject.

#10

Different Kinds of Tongues: A Biblical and Linguistic Defense

an essay by Dave Armstrong, Catholic apologist

socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/01/different-kinds-of-tongues-biblical-and.html


#11

Some interesting food for thought. But the essay sidesteps some of Paul’s rules for engagement. Specifically, women keeping silent, no more than two or three people speaking in tongues during one service, and the keeping silent if there is no interpreter (he addresses this last point, but only to back up the fact that “tongues” can be non-human languages, and using this verse as “proof” that it can be is faulty.)

The essay does not attempt to reconcile the fact that St. Paul, though clearly a supporter of speaking in tongues (whatever interpretation of that you pick) also laid out clear guidelines for the practice. Guidelines that are not followed in every case of speaking in tongues in a worship service.


#12

Hi, Cari!

I concur–there’s also a definite passage where Paul tells the Church that he speaks in tounges more than all of them but that he rather say a few words that would edify all who hears him (specially the uninitiated)–that and the clarification that he offers: the sign for the unbelievers not for the believers (1 Corinthians 14).

The greatest problem for “tongue” ministries is that they not only claim that all who are making sounds are indeed speaking directly to God, in the Holy Spirit, but they argue that lack of the ability simply means that that person/s does not have enough Faith or spiritual maturity–talk about loading the odds; no wonder the house always wins!

Maran atha!

Angel


#13

This is always an interesting topic.

My first and only experience and most likely my last occurred during a large CCR event with over 10,000 attendees. The first time I heard the speaking in tongues was during one of the featured talks, and I at first thought everyone was doing a Gregorian chant. The Priest with whom I attended this CCR event thought the same thing.

During Mass that night, in all their glory, all 10,000 (give or take a few hundred) on cue would start and stop at the same time. Like a well oiled machine. Yes, the room buzzed with energy, but why wouldn’t it with that many people making all kinds of sounds and noise. I surely didn’t know what to do :confused: except maybe start singing twinkle twinkle little star or recite my a b c’s. My point being, my impression of speaking in tongues was a spontaneous reaction in prayer not a synchronized starting and stopping of that many people.

And when someone spoke in tongues, as stated in a couple of earlier posts to lend authenticity, someone would be able to interpret what was being said.

I am not trying to offend anyone, but I will say I was highly offended when I was told I was not “Baptized in the Spirit” because I DIDN’T speak in tongues at this event!


#14

You are correct that there is are very clear rules given by St. Paul to insure that the church of Corinth did not abuse the charismatic gifts. The rules are for either prayer service’s or early masses not for private use. The gift of tongues is primarily for the edification of the individual as discussed in 1 Cor 14:2-4: For whoever speaks in tongues, speaks not to men, but to God. For no one understands. Yet by the Spirit, he speaks mysteries. But whoever prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. Whoever speaks in tongues edifies himself. But whoever prophesies edifies the Church.


#15

in my opinion it is probably gibberish


#16

I hate that kind of stuff. I prefer more dignified forms of worship…if that is the only kind of worship there was I would stay home

I went to a Charismatic mass and everyone was waving their arms in the air including the priest…The person behind me wa praying out lout in a most annoyine manner

There wasn’t any of that talking in tongues stuff, I would have left it they started that gibberish

I find it all embarassing


#17

Like have mentioned, there’re probably authentic cases where people do have the ‘gift’ and are praising God by using their ‘gift’ and speaking in tongues as an outward expression.

however, to be criticised as not being baptized in the spirit just because one does not have the ‘gift’ is truly offending and not what a real christian would do.

my only encounters was at a non-catholic christian church where during praise and worship, there was a song that never seemed to end and the chorus was just lots and lots of alleluias and people started chanting something non-recognizable (which i was later told were tongues)… people started to kneel and cry as well during this time… i was pretty spooked the first time and since then, i’ve been very uncomfortable with situations where people speak in tongues although i’m respectful of the Catholic Chrasmatic groups out there and do personally know many in the movement who are great people… and they know of my uncomfortable-ness with the situation and have never made me seem any less of a Catholic because of that, though they do ask me to give it another try if i want… :slight_smile:


#18

I speak in the tongues of angels and saints. That’s more than I ever expected in my life time. I speak in the tongue of God at mass. I don’t know if it has to be gibberish.


#19

ERose, you write:

In 1 Cor it is clearly a language that was not understandable by the congregation unless someone received the gift of interpretation. Paul indirectly refers to it as the tongue of angels in 1 Cor 13:1 “If I were to speak in the language of men, or of Angels, yet not have charity, I would be like a clanging bell or a crashing cymbal.”

Thus there is a difference between the two gifts.

Yet this is stretching it, IMO. If someone were to start spontaneously speaking in Albanian, Farsi, or Urdu in my parish, someone would need the gift of interpretation. I don’t understand how people (and Dave Armstrong makes this same faulty reasoning in the above mentioned article) assume that because an interpreter is needed, the language must be of other-wordly origin.

You then write:

You are correct that there is are very clear rules given by St. Paul to insure that the church of Corinth did not abuse the charismatic gifts. The rules are for either prayer service’s or early masses not for private use. The gift of tongues is primarily for the edification of the individual as discussed in 1 Cor 14:2-4: For whoever speaks in tongues, speaks not to men, but to God. For no one understands. Yet by the Spirit, he speaks mysteries. But whoever prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. Whoever speaks in tongues edifies himself. But whoever prophesies edifies the Church.

Yet every single case of speaking in tongues I’ve ever witnessed either in person or on film takes place in a very public worship service. This is not to say that people DON’T speak in tongues in private, but it is to say that what is seen in public services fails miserably to follow St. Paul’s guidelines. That, I think, is the root of many people’s distrust of the phenomenon. It so clearly flies in the face of St. Paul’s teachings, while claiming St. Paul as proof of the Biblical nature of it.

Thanks for responding. I think this might be the longest speaking in tongues thread I’ve seen that hasn’t disinegrated into namecalling!


#20

God allowed the speaking of tongues in the old days because there was no internet yet.

Nowadays it’s probably a much rarer gift and only to be bestowed and used upon the most dire of needs.


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