Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ecstatic Utterances are Heresy

One has to wonder how exactly it happened that tongues have been defined as speech, often incomprehensible, typically uttered during moments of religious ecstasy. (Merriam-Webster) These are the opposite of what the Bible calls tongues, this definition fits under the definition of an unknown tongue (singular) and is exactly the opposite of biblical tongues.

This pagan practice is outright condemned by the Bible. If your church is speaking in these utterances, otherwise referred to as Glossolalia, there is something wrong. The Apostle Paul caught one of his churches doing this, and he sharply rebuked them for it. Notice in First Corinthians 14, there is a real difference between Paul’s lauding of tongues (languages) and his disgust with an unintelligible tongue (language).

The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. (v.4)

Paul is clearly saying that a person who speaks an incomprehensible language isn’t doing it for the good of the body, but for the look-at-me! factor. Are you out to please men or God? If you are trying to please men, you are not a servant of Christ.

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophecy. (v.5)

Speaking other languages is good for the propagation of the Gospel, especially interpreters who do much to build up the church by translating Greek and Hebrew into various languages. But listen to what Paul says about speaking in a made up language,

If with your tongue you speak words that are unintelligible…you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none are without meaning. (v.9,10)

I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten-thousand words in a tongue. (v.19)


If you absolutely feel the necessity to speak in an unknown language, first find someone to translate, someone else who speaks your made-up language to test your message. If you can’t find someone else who speaks your language, Paul says sit down and shut up. (v.28) Your God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. I do not forbid the speaking of tongues, but I certainly forbid the speaking of gibberish, of an unknown tongue, of unintelligible, unordered, indecent language.

God esteems his word higher than we can possibly understand (John 1:1, 17:17, Hebrews 4:12, 11:3, 2 Peter 3:5), Koine Greek is one of the most precise languages ever created, and to say that this God, who uses such exacting language, would opt for gibberish is antithetical to the nature of the Bible. Daniel Webster felt called to compile his dictionary based on the idea that if God chooses to reveal himself to us through language, we should make every effort to rightly understand it. Since no useful ecstatic utterance has been recorded in history, this false doctrine of speaking in an unknown tongue shows its heinous origins.

A basic and foolproof test for biblical tongues is that if I can tell you're doing it, then you're not. Our brothers at Pentecost spoke in tongues, no doubt about that; notice though that they were perfectly understood and no one was needed to translate for them,

The multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:6)

If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? Beloved, we are in a battle for souls, if you’re running around going lalalalalabladaddaboopy, you are not building up, but tearing down, and confusing your troops.

Don’t do it.

1 comments:

Wretched said...

I absolutely agree. Before I really understood it I tried it. I was fumbling through the babble and just felt wrong about it so I stopped and have never tried again.
Then I read Dr. MacArthur's footnotes on it in his study bible and it made perfect sense. I'm not sure I'm willing to call it heresy, but then again I'm not 100% solid on what heresy is.

Good post!