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Glossolalia: The Controversy More Clearly Defined

If you are interested, I invite you to go down a journey of exploration that will be challenging for many. I wish to explore some of the controversial dimensions of the practice in some Christian circles of "speaking in tongues", that is, gaining the ability to speak in a language one has not learned. After having been a Christian since 1972, I then heard a couple of messages in 2006 (at a church I had joined that year) that attempted to cover this and related topics. It spurred me to write a couple of polite, albeit lengthy letters to the pastors who spoke. I am include those letters here, as well as links to the audio messages themselves, in case you want to hear what I was responding to. I have thought of editing the letters, but... for now I'll let you see them intact.

1. The audio message on May 28, 2006 on 1 Corinthians 13
2. My letter to Pastor Danny J. in response
3. The audio message on June 4, 2006 on 1 Corinthians 14
4. My letter to Pastor Benny P. in response
5. An article I found on the web analysing the subject in great detail

My response to Pastor Danny's message:

----- Original Message -----
From: T Cook
To: Benny Phillips ; Chip Chew ; Jeremy Jones ; Mike Nash ; Todd Twining ; Danny Jones
Sent: Friday, June 09, 2006 3:47 PM
Subject: I Cor 13 message feedback


I'd like to offer some constructive feedback on your message. Overall very edifying, but have a few items I'd like to run by you. (And sorry I didn't get this to you much quicker.)

- You said in connection w/the idea that there's a lot of controversy today of whether tongues is for today, "Paul does not question the legitimacy of speaking in tongues...". (I'm not sure whether that was you speaking or Gordon Fee.) Noone would dispute that, Danny. Noone has ever denied that the gift of speaking in an unlearned language was a valid item in Paul's day. Many cessationists (of which I'm no longer one) and others have challenged that the gift ceased its operation at some time *subsequent* to I Cor. (for this or that reason), but noone questions that it was valid *as of* the time of Paul's writing I Corinthians. So the passage does not in any way refute or deal with any of the arguments that cessationists allege. I think you (or G.F.) were a bit overreacting to those that oppose your view.

- You referred to tongues, prophesy, healings, etc. as "spectacular gifts" or more "public". I see what you mean, and I agree with your point, that is, all the gifts are important, not just the "miraculous" ones. Another good term besides spectacular would be "sign". Many call them "sign gifts" as their spectacular nature gives a sign to those around that something special is happening. Also there's the verse, "the Jews require a sign". But the term "public" is a bit misleading. Many of the *non-sign* gifts are very public. Your ministry gift of teaching is a perfect example; it's not a "sign gift", but it's *very* public. If someone gives an exhortation to the entire congregation, that's not a sign gift, but it's a very public exercise of a gift. So "spectacular" doesn't really equate to "public", although spectacular *is* always public.

- You started "knocking" Christian media. Yes, you probably stepped on some toes, but coming from you (someone w/AOG roots), I'm extremely glad you did that! For me it's been mixed bag. I totally disconnected from anything "christian TV" long long ago. I can't even say when I stopped, especially as I never really started. I just know that sometime after Christian TV stations seemed to sprout up, the junk on it was mostly arminian, so I wasn't interested even though I knew that a lot of it was good stuff. I guess I figured I should be getting most of my "foods" from mainly my own study and from the teaching at my own church. (Even after Sproul appeared, I still didn't have time/interest, for some of the reasons aforementioned.)

However, there've been 2 phases of my recent life where I've fallen "in love" with Christian radio all over again, the 2nd of which I'm in right now. In 2001, I had a very stressful (and low pay) job cleaning up residential construction sites. But it did have the advantage I could have a walkman-type radio on my belt. WTLN became an incredible blessing to me. In the years since the 70s & 80s, the overall quality of teaching has become better. While in that job those 4 long months, I was greatly edified and comforted by most of the teachers (Dobson, Kennedy, even MacArthur). And I'd usually listen to low-interest ones too, as sometimes there'd be a juicy nugget worth meditating on. I got to where I knew what time it was based on which program was on the air.

In the last two years, I've also "rediscovered" WTLN radio in the context of my weeding business that slowly sprouted up. The shows are even better than 5 years ago, and I've gotten *much* meaningful teaching through it. For my 1st year of this business, WTLN ministers kept me *sane* in what would be a very boringly stressful business. About 12 months ago, I largely and temporarily stopped WTLN because I had saved up for an MP3 player with which I'm now catching up on a series of hundreds of hours of archived lectures I've downloaded off the web. After I finish them, I hope to tackle your Romans series and others of Metro's messages from the past. I've been a member only a week now, but after I hear your old preaching, maybe I'll feel like I've been at Metro for years.

But back to the point; I *do* endeavor to sift whatever I hear through what I know of the scriptures. And when something is questionable, I seek to review the scriptures to be a Berean and see whether it's so. But further (as you say), they need to have a motive of love. I do think that most of the radio preachers these days (at least on WTLN) *do* have a love for God and others. I can't speak for TV as I just don't have time/interest these days.

There *is* one dimension I'd expand on. Sad to say, I've barely read any of John Owen. I was (and am) excited about Packer's intro. essay to Owen's Death of Death. But when I tried to read Death of Death itself (years ago), it was way too much for me. I read only the "To the Reader" and struggled through chapter 1. But I do remember this: He said it's very important that the preacher have put into practice what he's preaching. This is so that we can know that the teaching is valid. If he's preaching what he hasn't put into practice, then for all we know he could be preaching error. But of course putting truth into practice also includes doing all with love.

I don't know folks at Metro enough, but if there are those pentecostal-types who still gravitate toward Christian TV (Hinn, etc.) then your admonition is certainly warranted, and I appreciate your vehemency in that! And I guess technically, we can't directly know if Sproul, Swindoll, Stanley, MacArthur, etc., have love practiced in their lives. But hopefully over time, (as you said) we can see love seeping out from various parts of their teachings and lives. I think it's hard to preach for years and years and be so edifying *AND* get indirect confirmation from their own congregations, without there being a motivation of love. (I speak of Sproul, Swindoll, etc., not Hinn, etc.) But in any case, *thank you* for that great admonition!

- Vs 8-11. You said something about "no commentaries I read gave a clue that these gifts had ceased". On first listening, I got the impression that you were saying you read only charismatic commentaries and *they* never expressed the belief of cessation. If I heard you right, then *of course* they're not going to exposite any evidence of cessation because *they* don't *believe* in cessation! They're biased! Now if you can show from *non-charismatic* commentaries a lack of cessation evidence, *then* you might have a logical argument.

On 2nd listening, I'm less clear of what you were saying about commentaries. Maybe you *did* read non-charismatic commentaries and made your affirmation, in which case I retract my point. I do think there are a number of plausible (notice I didn't say conclusive) arguments given by many that the "sign gifts" (and sign gifts only) ceased or greatly reduced at some point after Corinthians, and these arguments shouldn't be lightly written off. 20 years ago, I think you would have written them off because "I've experienced it so I *know* it hasn't ceased." But think that now you are in a better position to objectively realize that there may be arguments that can be made that don't destroy the scriptures. I'm not saying they are correct; I'm merely saying they are plausible, come from godly sources, and shouldn't be so easily written off.

There are different (even radically different) flavors of a cessation position, but I think they all have some common elements that I suggest you consider, even if not becoming cessationist. They all feel that Paul is not referring to gifts in general but specificly to the sign gifts. Yes, Knowledge was a sign gift. It wasn't the mere act of a man knowing something, nor was it the knowledge of past sins that will be wiped out of our minds in heaven. See Peter's exercise of it in Acts 5:3 where he had supernatural Knowledge of Ananias' secret deception. That wasn't mere wisdom or general knowledge, but a supernatural sign gift. Paul is (or may be) identifying tongues, prophecy, knowledge, etc. specificly as sign gifts which were to cease at some point.

The real question is what does "when that which is perfect has come" refer to? And that is the subject of debate among scholars. I think all of the various models, though mutually exclusive, have weighty evidence that while *may* ultimately be proven wrong, are worthy of respect and consideration. (But I don't intend to engage in a discussion of them here.) I have to say that since I (technically) ceased to be a cessationist in '77, I've tended to have a pragmatic approach that realizes, "Even if they haven't ceased, if we simply followed Paul's regulations in I Cor., we'd see 99.9 percent of the crap out there disappear!" And I'm very happy to say that seeing where you all at Metro have come over the years, this has happened! And (as I've told you) it greatly melts my heart to see such openness to learning and unlearning, such that I'm greatly pleased to be a member here now, even though 30 years ago, I would have puked at such a thought. I truly love you all, and tearfully rejoice in what God is/has been doing here, and am humbly *honored* that you have let me join your congregation!!! Thank you!!!    :)    :)    :)

- Your discussion of "rejecting people" was definitely convicting. I've been guilty of that. What's more, I've been consciously on the receiving end of it at Metro (with pain), so I know what it's like. Yet, though I ought to know better, I've still been guilty myself, at least inwardly (and maybe outwardly)! Shame on me! I know the pain, so I ought even more than others to be sensitive. Thank you for touching that sore spot!

- You said, "I know that not all of you do prophesy, but I agree with Paul, I would that you *all* prophesy ... Some of you are saying, it's not my gift. ... Why did Paul say I would that you *all* prophesy?" I contend that he didn't mean exactly that. (I'm not simply trying to get around something I might not like. I believe what I'm about to tell you.) Actually, what he said was (14:5) that he wished they all spoke with tongues. But he continued to say "but even more, that you all prophesied" as that is better. Paul is speaking to a group of people who *all* want to use the least of the gifts. He wants them to focus on the giver and on the better (more useful) of the gifts. So sometimes a helpful teaching tool is to identify with them so as to build a bridge ("I wish you *all* spoke with tongues".) There is good in their zealous desire for tongues, and he highlights that by saying "I want you all to do it". Once he builds that bridge by identifying with them, he then attempts to redirect their zeal ("but rather") toward a better gift (prophesy). But it would be a mistake to think that he wants them to all do prophesy. He's just told them in 12:4-11, 28-31 that there is *no* gift that everyone will have; each has been gifted by God individually and sovereignly.

You'll probably object that Paul says in 12:31 to "desire the best gifts" from which you will imply that we ought to each individually desire and seek after particular gifts for ourselves. I would submit to you that it's likely he was telling the whole church to *as a congregation* seek for God to bring people into the church that have the gifts needed. I do believe there are different catagories of gifts, and Paul draws from multiple catagories in 12:28-30 to guide them in praying for and seeking believers to come into their midst with whatever gifts God knows they need. I'm just now reminded of Acts 16:9 where someone prayed for God to bring into their midst someone with the gift of evangelism. God heard that prayer and directly passed it on to Paul to give Paul the direction to go to Macedonia and use his gift of evangelism.

I'm not going to say it's wrong to pray "God please give me this or that gift." But I don't think the preponderance of scripture supports that. The passages that you and others use to support that, I feel, are inadequate to demonstrate that.

I do believe that there are catagories of gifts, and there is one catagory of which every believer was given one gift when he was saved. I've probably taken more of your time than I should have, so I don't want to get into much of all that. But I'll simply say that while it's helpful to discover what that gift is, the lack of knowledge doesn't hinder the usage of the gift. (Using myself as an example, I was saved in '72, but I didn't truly discover what my main gift was until fall 2000.) But there are some gifts that will be given as life goes on. I believe my gift at conversion has been used many times, but after I learned what it was 6 years ago, I was better equipped to use it more effectively. God may give me additional gifts over time, and I think he has. Metro may be a place for me to exercise them more. But I don't believe I have to agonize in prayer, "Oh God, Please, please... give me this or that gift!!! Boo, hoo hoo, I want that gift, I want it badly!..pu-leeeze!!...." Gifts are for serving one another, and as we seek to do *that*, then our giftings will become more apparent. It troubles me to see genuine believers troubled over these things, like they're hurting or lacking. What I pray is, "God please help me to see the hurt and damage in people's lives, and give me insight into how to help them be healed and glorify you in how they respond to the trials you bring their way." Will it take God's gifts in my life to accomplish that? Yes. Will I be aware of which gift I'm using at the moment? Maybe, maybe not. Will it be exercised publicly? Sometimes, but more often it will be one on one. The public ministries of pastors etc. is not to build us up, but rather to equip *all of us* to build up one another, therefore a lot of gift usage will be one on one.

If I'm going to cry and agonize over something (as I slightly caricatured above), it would be over something other than spiritual gifts, like the salvation of an unsaved loved one, or to stop the evil of murder for hire (abortion), or how about protracted singleness? At numerous times, that's been a big one for me, especially as the years wear on, everyone else gets married, and I still find no special grace to be a permanent celibate (like a few do).

- You asked how we felt when we read those occasional announcements about a spirtual gifts workshop. First thing I have to say is that I've never seen one. I started visiting on Dec. 18th, and (not that I'm boasting) I haven't missed one single sunday morning yet. (I can't imagine going somewhere else.) Yet I never saw something like that in the bulletin these entire 6 months. And I think I *would* have noticed it; it would have caught my eye.

But you asked how we felt. I'm not sure how I would have reacted if I saw it, but I suspect I *might* be interested, initially to find out more of how Metro understands spiritual gifts. I would, of course, be open to learning (or unlearning) things related. And in either case, I'd want to be open to being better equipped to serve the needs of others. But I'm not sure I'd come, craving to learn how to receive this or that gift. But I'll try to be open to learning and unlearning, as always.

I sure hope and trust that you're a faster reader than I'm a writer. I don't want to take too much of your time, but I felt these things should be said. I do appreciate all the preaching here, and look forward to much more.

(I'm electing to cc this to all the pastors as your message was public, and as one of you told me that initial cc'ing was acceptable. The delete button is always there.)

Tom Cook
(407) 671-1224
tcmullet @

My response to Pastor Benny's message:

----- Original Message -----
From: T Cook
To: Benny Phillips ; Chip Chew ; Jeremy Jones ; Mike Nash ; Todd Twining ; Danny Jones
Sent: Saturday, June 10, 2006 2:37 AM
Subject: I Cor 14 message feedback (6-4)


Have to say my overall initial reaction to your message was this. Of all the teaching I've ever heard on I Cor. 14 from those with the "c" label (that's "char" not "calv"), yours was the most balanced, most mature, most instructive and most helpful I think I've ever heard! Bless you, and thank you for blessing us!

I suppose the numerous home group leaders may have been giving you feedback on reactions from home groups. I've heard from two, my own and one other. In my own (Mendez), we were largely consumed with hearing about their amazing PR trip to bury his mother. Must have been 8:45 when Eric said, "guess we'll have to wrap up the evening". That didn't stop Jacque from blurting out the big question on *his* mind, (paraphrased) "What did everyone think about what happened on Sunday?" (Referring to the message and aftermath.) Yes, that did surprisingly stir up some discussion! It surprised me because I thought I was the only one who wasn't a "full-blooded charismatic". Turns out there are greatly varying degrees and natures of questions, understandings, and experiences in the group. Must have been lively for about an hour! At one point, someone unburdened herself with a question about Mike's head-covering message. That was a touchy spot for me too, as I haven't felt settled about the issue from Mike's handling of it (not that Mike's message wasn't overall great--it was). But the vast majority of discussion was about your message and related matters. (Like Ron's question why don't we see healings and resurrections as in gospels and now allegedly in the 3rd world.) We didn't necessarily solve all mysteries, but I think everyone felt better after having expressed a lot of thoughts. I think enough insights were shared by some such that at least some of folks' questions were resolved at least for now.

Another group's experience was very different. From the report to me, folks shared a rather calm endorsement of everything with no apparent disagreements or questions. One of the members of that group is a growingly good buddy of mine (been at Metro over 10 years). He told me something that startled me. I thought that you might get some (hopefully constructive) criticisms from folks like me, but he said there are a lot of folks in two catagories. There are those *on the rolls* that are vehemently against the sign gifts, so they are apt to *leave Metro* because you preached on sign gifts and urged folks to pray for the gifts and receive them. And (this is even more surprising to me) there are folks that are very pentecostal that will get mad and leave because you were wishy-washy and didn't implore *everyone* to speak in tongues!!! Wow!! If that's the case, then you are indeed walking a very tough tightrope, and I give you extra kudos for executing such balance and maturity!!!

I want to now listen to your message again, and express some concerns I have.

- Early on you said that a contrast between tongues and prophecy was not their inherent value, but the direction of their edification, because tongues is directed toward God; prophesy is directed toward the gathered church. So in the church when gathered, it's preferable for prophecy for edification value. Not saying that to edify yourself through tongues is a bad thing, simply not the point of the gathered church.

I have to disagree with that contrast. You're making out that all the gifts but one are for edification of one another, and that one of them (speaking an unlearned language) is not. I believe that it *is* for edification, because all the gifts are for the the same purpose, the edification (building up) of others. While there's certainly several categories of gifts and each category (and each gift itself) has specific purposes, I think the scripture teaches a *unified* purpose for all of them, namely they are for the purpose of edifying others. There's no directional variation that you claim; only edification of others *when assembled*. And that's the only usage of spiritual gifts that the scriptures know. (I know, I know, you want to say that edifying oneself is a purpose; I will sincerely address that further on.)

- You said that if one has the gift of a tongue, be sure you can interpret, *or* that someone else has the gift of interpretation. You spoke it as though if the tongue-speaker interprets, it's not the "gift of interpretation". But it is. Any time one understands a language without speaking it, it is indeed a gift, whether possessed by the tongue-speaker or another believer. I think that fregardless of who exercises it, a spiritual gift of interpretation is necessary so that the intended edification of the body can occur. Perhaps you meant that and I misunderstood your emphasis. So in the case where the speaker interprets, then he has 2 spiritual gifts in operation.

However, I believe there is one exception to the necessity of the gift of interpretation. What if there's a frenchman visiting, you find in yourself an urge to speak something in a language you haven't learned, namely french (whether you know it's french or not), and you speak it out. The frenchman has no relevant gift and may not even be a believer, but he hears, understands, and is struck by the message heard. Then when he learns that you don't know french, he's even more spiritually "gasped" (to coin a term), and gives glory to God. So in that case, just one person was edified. Hopefully the frenchman can translate (bilingually) and edify the whole church. The point is there would be no gift of interpretation; the hearer (targetted by God) merely knew the language spoken.

- You quote Gordon Fee saying that "it is sheer prejudice to view Paul here as demoting tongues as such. Uninterpreted tongues in the assembly, yes. But for the edification of the believer in private, no. Anyone that would argue that what is spoken to God by the Spirit is of little value, is hardly reading the apostle from Paul's own point of view." I'm not perfectly clear on how this ties to what you were saying immediately before the quote, but I can say a couple things.

I think he's setting up a false dichotomy here. There's noone (I don't think) using this passage to say that tongues is inferior. And I don't think there's a contrast between private and public usages of gifts. And I think the reason is that Paul doesn't even envision using any gift privately. He merely acknowledges that when you fail to use a gift for it's intended purpose (edification of others), you end up keeping it to yourself between you and God. Which is undesirable. Gifts are to help others, that's the only viewpoint of scripture. I realize I am directly disagreeing with you and many on this; I hope you will patiently hear me out as I continue responding.

As far as Mr. Fee's remarks, I'm making an educated guess that he feels that tongues is speaking to God by the Holy Spirit, and that speaking to God in english is not and never is. That's another false dichotomy. Regardless of language, if the content said and the heart attitude with it is scriptural and good, then we can safely believe that the Spirit of God is enabling us to talk to our father. And that is of value. (I would hope that an understanding of calvinism would make that clear.) But to say that because someone prays in a language they didn't learn is *more* of the Spirit than other godly prayers, that's false. Yes, the tongue is a gift, but that doesn't make the prayer more holy. Fee may be overstating his case when he sees those who believe that keeping the gift to yourself is of *lesser* value. And they are right; tongues is of less value when not being used for it's scriptural purpose, that of edifying others. But that doesn't mean of *no* value, just lesser value.

- Grudem's definition: "It is prayer or praise spoken in syllables not understood by the speaker." I have to take strong exception to that. A couple times I've re-listened to minutes of what follows after your quoting, and I don't find anything to contradict (successfully) what I'm going to say. I don't dispute that what Grudem said contains true thoughts, but it is incomplete and misleading. Tongues are not merely syllables, but words that are part of a vocabulary and syntax of some language. *Please wait...* I'm not saying at this point that it's necessarily a language *known* on earth! But it is language, not random syllables. Further, it is not limited to prayer or praise. It is *any* expressed thoughts spoke in a language not known by the speaker, not just prayer or praise. (And praise is one form of prayer.)

You went on to quickly go thru various Acts passages to support your belief that Grudem's definition is adequate. You further state that these passages demonstrate that there are 3 purposes to the gift of tongues. I don't buy that. There's one purpose as laid out primarily in I Cor. 12 (but also in Rom. 12, Eph. 4), all spiritual gifts are for edifying others. It *may* have some other ancillary effect, especially in the transitional period of Acts, but *purpose* of gifts is for building up others, solely. You can have something intended for one purpose, then find that it accomplishes something else. But that doesn't mean that the something else is a purpose. It's merely an additional effect.

Let me use the frenchman story to illustrate a couple of things. He visits the church. You find yourself with an urge to speak in this strange language you don't know. You say publicly in fluent french, "I'm here today as one who knows english only, speaking in french by God's power, to say to anyone understanding me, that God is righteous and angry against all who rebel against him and his commandments. But He also showed his great love in that Christ died for such sinners and offers himself as a perfect Savior from sin. Repent of your lifetime of rebellion, and you will *instantly* be forgiven by God and given eternal life!" The frenchman hears, trembles, and falls to his knees crying out (outloud) to God for eternal life. Perhaps noone else understands, but he gets up and says (in perhaps broken english), "I am from France, and I heard that man speak the gospel to me in my language that he didn't know, and I have now received eternal life through Jesus! I'm so happy to be here! I'm so happy to have eternal life!!! Praise God who is now my Savior!!"

One thing we see is that the gift of the unknown tongue was not limited to prayer or praise. In fact it was not even prayer at all. It was an exhortation to the frenchman; it was a command given manward to repent. It resulted in praise, but not by the tongue speaker. Now it's true that if an entire sermon was given in french (or whatever the supernaturally enabled language was), it *might* include a prayer here and there, just like your english sermons do. In Acts 2:11, the tongues speakers were mainly testifying of the wonderous works of God, not praying primarily.

Another thing we see is that it's purpose was to edify the frenchman, not the tongue-speaker. And once the frenchman was edified (saved in this case), the whole church was edified (indirectly) because the frenchman testified openly afterward.

- You said, "As far as I can tell it's the *only* gift that's given for personal edification. It seems like all of the other gifts are designed to be used in corporate gatherings for edification" and tongues also if interpretation present. Shouldn't that be a red flag to you? If *all* the other gifts (as you say) are for edification of others *only*, shouldn't that make you ask yourself the question, "Is the basis for self-edification of tongues really there? If self-edification *is* a purpose, it really sticks out like a sore thumb."

And I would agree; it *does* stick out like a sore thumb. And I want to show you why it's not given for that. I know, I know, you're probably saying to me (probably loudly) that it plainly *says* it in the text. Yes, I know it seems to; please hear me out...

Vs 2 says "For he that speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God". Sounds like prayer doesn't it? Yes it does, but no it's not. The next phrase clears it up, "for no one understands him". All he's saying is that if you *do* speak in a tongue (without interpretation), then God is the only one that understands (you're speaking to God only), and you're failing to carry out the purpose of the gift (to edify others); your words remain a mystery to others. And the confirmation of this is the 1st word of vs 3, "But". In stark contrast to the failure to edify others, prophecy (a better gift, one not needing interpretation) edifies, exhorts, and comforts men, which is the purpose of all the spiritual gifts.

The next verse, 4, restates the whole thing; "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." He's not implying in the 1st half, "Tongues is edifying to oneself, therefore do it". That would be lifting it right out of context. No, he's saying "Because tongues (without interpretation) *only* edifies yourself and *fails* to edify the church, don't do it (without interpretation), OR do prophesy because that *does* edify the church. The clearly stated purposes of all gifts are to edify others, and we *have* to keep that in mind when reading any statement about how a gift operates.

I think I've already talked about verse 5 in my letter to Danny (which you should have received a copy). (Dealt with what Paul was trying to accomplish by expressing a seeming wish for all to speak in tongues.)

This idea of edifying oneself with a spiritual gift is not limited to speaking in unlearned languages. *Any* gift can edify yourself, not just tongues. Paul was merely talking about the mistake of using *tongues* to edify yourself, because that was the particular mistake that the Corinthians were making. Here's another example. Let's say I have the gift of teaching. Teaching is a special ability to transfer spiritual knowledge of God and his principles to others. A teacher takes great pleasure in seeing others come to understand spiritual truth. Teaching is obviously something that you do toward others. However, you *could* lock yourself up in a room alone, set up your bible on a podium, and preach to the wall. (Perhaps some seminaries urge preachers to do this for practice, maybe with a mirror.) You could preach mightily, and perhaps you would find yourself greatly edified by how the delivery flowed and how the content re-encouraged you in your own walk, by hearing it all out loud.

You could do this for exhortation, if that is your gift. You could get in that room and pretend that a friend is present who needs to be exhorted in some area that the Spirit has shown you. You talk out loud several minutes lovingly explaining what the area is and how your brother is hurting others and/or himself by continuing in his mistake (sin, or whatever), and you give him the biblical steps he needs to take to resolve this conflict in his life. But of course, you're only pretending he's there. Your delivery comes out well and you yourself are edified by your role-playing. So yes, the gift of exhortation *can* edify yourself.

But we know that teaching or exhorting is not meant to edify oneself in this way! Yes, we *can* be edified if alone, but it was *meant for others*. And the same thing is meant for all the gifts, including tongues. Always.

In reviewing the text some more, I think that verse 12 is a key verse. "Even so, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel." It clearly emphasizes that spiritual gifts are for edification of others, period. Let your zeal be edification of others. Others, others. Everywhere in the epistles, you see "one another", "one another"; it's other-centered. Things we do, including gift usage, are for "others".

Vs 14 says, "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful." You take this to mean, "Go ahead and pray in a tongue, and don't let your lack of understanding keep you from doing it." But Paul goes on to say, "What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit *AND* I will also pray *WITH* the understanding." That is, whatever unknown language you pray in, be sure you either exercise interpretation, or pray in english too, so that you *have* understanding.

I must digress here just a bit to recall that on and off over the last 30 years, I have wondered and tried to reckon with how the charismatics can consistantly fail to see these things. It's been a long long time since I thought about these things, so your message has greatly stirred up these thoughts. Not at first as a Christian, but some years later, I learned a couple principles that have helped guide me along the way. I know that some seminaries teach these.

1. Didactic vs. narrative. The idea is derive your doctrines from didactic portions of scripture, not the narrative portions, then use narrative to confirm it. What is didactic? The epistles are the prime example. We go to Paul's letters to build doctrine. After I learned this (from an IVCF staff member back in the days when they were more reformed) which was before I myself was reformed, I could then look back and see how the occasional times I had heard charismatic teaching (whether at AOG or on the radio) and it was conspicuous how so much of the doctrines relied on prooftexts from Acts. With narratives, we have to be very careful to not read into it purposes that are not there. We may see things, but the meaning of the author will have a bearing on what spin we should put on it. The purpose of Acts wasn't to detail all the meaning and methods of spiritual gifts. It was to give a general history report of what Jesus continued to do after his resurrection for the next decades. It doesn't thoroughly exposite the concept of gifts; it merely reports what happened, and what happened from the writer's limited perspective and scope. Now I'm not saying we shouldn't treat narrative as the Word of God and apply it to our lives, and the principle isn't completely hard and fast down to the jot and tittle always, but it is a real principle that we should heed. Most of the cults are built on prooftexts from the gospels, sad to say. Charismatics and pentecostals have consisently failed to heed this hermeneutic. As I went thru Foundations classes (chap. 6), I saw the same thing again; prooftexting from Acts (narrative) to build doctrines.

2. Subjectivism. (I really hate to talk about this, because it could lead one to think that I don't respect you and your experiences, and I *do* greatly respect you, and your beliefs and experiences. I really didn't wish to talk about this entire subject of gifts/tongues until after I had been an intimate member for a couple years and we had bonded over time, broken bread together, and shared many meaningful times of mutual edification with each other. Then I'd have more of a standing to give you my disagreements and interpretations. But you happen to be preaching on I Cor 14 the very day I joined. And you and the others have said that you are open to receiving criticism, and I hope you really mean that. I have therefore felt "led" to share these things with you, the whole letter in general, and this touchy item in particular.) Subjectivism; letting one's beliefs be determined by one's experiences. It's so hard to talk about without being offensive, and it's so hard for oneself to be freed from it if ensnared for a lengthy time. (God allows it for mysterious reasons.) I give you a theoretical example: "I didn't use to believe that tongues were for today, but then I received the baptism, spoke in a heavenly language, and *now I believe*!" Another would be, years ago I would visit AOG in Winter Park, they'd play "There's a sweet sweet spirit in this place...", a song that is totally subjective and virtually empty of truly meaningful content. It would be such warm music and everyone would feel so right about the mood that was present that no matter what would happen, everyone believed it all must be of God, because it feels so good emotionally. This is not to say that good things never happened, but I think you know what I mean.

I know you have come a long long way from those crazy days (at least Danny told me he has). But after the last half of your message, I can't help but feel that all of you in leadership at Metro (and in SGM) are still driven in part, at a very low level of your consciousness, by your subjective experiences as young charismatics. And I would admit it's *very hard* not to be influenced by experience; very hard not to have all our interpretations be colored by what "we know is so" from our experiences.

I know that you (and I too) have unlearned a lot of things learned incorrectly in our earliest Christian days. My experience of becoming partially reformed, then calvinistic, didn't involve much change in my outlook on spiritual gifts. That's because I was not a charismatic even as an arminian. But there were many things to unlearn nevertheless. Even after grasping the 5-points (calvinistic soteriology) in my mind, then later in my soul, there were a number of other reformed truths I had to learn in the next decade. Of course these new things usually implied unlearning previous beliefs. And I remain open (or try to be) to more continuous reformation of my beliefs.

But there *have* been those who were charismatic, then were jolted by reformation theology, then slowly learned that their early subjective experiences and interpretations were faulty. They would restudy everything from scratch and come to different conclusions about a lot of things including charismata. Perhaps you will allege that *their* changes were a pendulum-swing reaction. That could be. But I think that most charismatics that embrace calvinism, sooner or later depart from most charismata. Now I realize that very statement is a subjective one, and doesn't prove anything. They could be totally wrong.

But through most of your message, especially the last half, I think I see your subjective personal history in this matter coloring your interpretations greatly. I commend you and greatly admire you for ways you've demonstrated your hunger for true doctrine and distrust of our deceptive hearts. I do have a lot I must learn from you in many areas. But I hope you will consider the possibility that your charismatic views on this *might* be somewhat colored inappropriately by your personal experiences.

Vs 18 says, "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all..." So Paul spoke with tongues more than anyone else, heh??? Yes, I admit and believe that he did. But I think we should ask why he would be so gifted.

I'm reminded of a verse, I Chronicles 12:32, that I try to integrate into my overall outlook on life. "... the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do..." I try to see what God is doing at any point in time (especially now in this decade and century), so as to better understand any isolated facts.

I Cor. was written in the 1st century, years before the kingdom of Israel was finally destroyed in 70 AD. It was a time when "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." (End of the old order; end of the kingdom of unrepentant Israel; 70 AD.) So as Paul was the apostle to the gentiles, he had a lot of ground the cover to evangelize the world. He *needed* to speak in a lot of languages, but probably didn't have time to learn them all in the few decades remaining, hence God graciously giving him *many* tongues, the languages of many of the places he had to spread the gospel to.

I Chron. could also speak to our day, but in a different way. Could it be that tongues has been a gift greatly in practice at times when it was needed for spurts of evangelism in cultures blocked by language barriers? If so, then we might expect great outpourings of the gift. But if everyone knows the language of the land being reached, what would the necessity be? Not as much, I would think.

I realize that my thoughts here are not taking into account your theories about tongues being for self-edification; I'm believing that it's strictly to edify others, whether in the church for believers or for evangelism of non-believers ("we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God" Acts 2:11).

I have a friend who's a missionary in Kenya, and I'm going to talk to him sometime, asking him if he sees tongues filling a place in the multilingual nations and tribes he finds himself visiting. He's a trainer of church planters, so surely this subject must have come up.

I have not dealt with the possibilities of false tongues nor linguistic issues, nor do I intend to now. Nor have I talked about the issue of heavenly vs. earthly languages. I felt they were not relevant to the issues you raised in your message. But I do have definite thoughts that we could talk about some time if you wished. And of course, I will always try to be open to correction of my own errors.

- Most of the rest of your message talks about things I've already covered. Most of it builds on a foundation of the things I've expressed that I think are faulty. So there's no point in discussing those latter things. (Faulty foundation results in faulty structures erected.) I do give you great credit for proceeding in a way that's consistent with your beliefs. I think God honors our hearts when we seek that.

But there are a couple thoughts as relates to things during and near the end of your invitation.

You referred to the promise that if we ask our father for a fish he won't give us a snake. That's true, but there's another verse that scares the bejeebers out of me! (And I think we all ought to take it seriously to heart.) It's Psalm 106:15, which speaks of when God's people were repeatedly and zealously begging God for something they wanted but were not supposed to have. It says, "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul." I've heard this leanness described as a lesser capacity to know and enjoy God. When we earnestly beg God for something he has said no to, if we do it enough times (nag him), he'll grant the request (or seem to), but damage (sear) our soul's capacity to relate to him. (I gasp when I think about this!) We're not talking about asking God 3 times for Paul's thorn to be removed. He wised up, stopped, and learned to recognize God's purposes for his thorn. And I'm not saying there's a magic formula of three, either. I'm saying that it's possible that if one constantly asks for something we're not supposed to, we may run the risk of our loving but wise and mysterious heavenly father granting our wish (or seeming to), but giving our minds over to embrace error. You might say, Nawww, he wouldn't do that, would he? He *loves* us! Yes, he does, but he does still allow our regenerate hearts to deceive themselves, so it's possible he would allow us to sear our conscience or mind to go down a road of belief that fits with our granted request (or the appearance thereof) but is in error.

Now all that (about leanness) sounds pessimistic, but let me attempt to encourage by referring again to that verse about my friends from Issachar. ("they had understanding of the times...")

I was initially greatly puzzled and troubled by that sentence of yours in Foundations class 6, "We have found it *desirable and possible* to include those who don't hold exactly to our view of these things." (Did I quote it pretty well from memory?) Actually, it was the ambiguous set of conditions given afterward that troubled me. I even asked Danny "Why oh why would you *want* to include those of us who differ??" I don't remember the exact answer, but I was encouraged. And when I came to your class 6, expecting to feel like I would very sadly not be allowed to join, I was joyfully surprised by your whole talk, and once again felt joy that I might be allowed to join. (I even acquired the CD so I could rejoice again later, as well as share this with outsiders.)

Then the questionnaire drew me back to nervous apprehension, fearing that certainly I will be shut out against my desires to join. But, when Mike interviewed me, he assured me of no fear! So here I am, a member in good standing! (As least I hope I still am after this letter!) This is different than what would happen in an AOG church 30 years ago.

Then there's your historical progression toward calvinism.

Then there's the fact that you aren't focusing on gifts reception during every invitation like 30 years ago.

I get the impression that a large percentage of the folks who prayed for tongues last Sunday did not receive it. (Unlike what would seem to happen at AOG churches years ago.)

This willingness to embrace me, plus your calvistic progression, plus the lesser focus on "tongues" invitations throughout the year, plus God's lessening of the granting... All this together makes me wonder if God is bringing some charismatic churches to a crossroads; to a gradual shift toward a new form of orthodoxy, one with needed enthusiasm, but with less misunderstood trappings of the past.

I don't know where this is going, and I don't know what part God may have me play in it, but I will seek to be as open to new things as you all say that you are.

Perhaps you think that these 2 long letters correspond to the fact that I've just joined the church. "Drat! Now Tom's gonna bore us with a darn 'book' every week now!" No, none of us has time for that. It's just that you happen to hit on I Cor. 14 at this very time. And I didn't realize how much you were going to push folks to seek the tongues gift. I will certainly pray for peace and wisdom as you tackle the rest of chapter 14 this month, as well as the same for me and the rest of Metro. And I will try to keep emails much shorter! Thank you for your patience with me!

Love ya!

Tom Cook
(407) 671-1224
tcmullet @

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