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Why Pentecostals Speak in Tongues and Baptists Don’t


Graphic from A Beer for the Shower

There is no such thing as “Christianity” — as in a singular group encompassing all Christians. The Bible says that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism, yet Christians have spent the last two thousand years trying to prove that their peculiar beliefs are the one, the only one, the one TRUE CHRISTIANITY®. Every Evangelical sect, every Evangelical pastor, every Evangelical church member thinks their beliefs are right. This kind of thinking is fueled by the belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible book, written through human instrumentality by God himself. It should come as no surprise that many Evangelicals, believing that they hold in their hands the very words of God, are cock-sure that what they believe is exactly what God meant when he had holy men of old write the this or that passage of Scripture. Armed with certainty, Evangelicals have no place for doubt. Doubt is of the devil! preachers say. I’m standing on the promises of God, praise Jesus! Just remember, it was SATAN who said to Adam and Eve, yea hath God said (yes, he spoke in King James English). God has spoken, end of story.

If, as Evangelicals says, God has inerrantly and infallibly spoken, why is it, then, that Evangelicals have such varied and contradictory beliefs? If, two thousand years after the purported resurrection of Jesus from the dead, all Christians had the same theological beliefs, I might at least pause to consider whether the claims of Christianity are true. Instead, there are countless Christianities, each with its own beliefs. Worse yet, there are countless Jesuses, with every Christian molding and shaping a Jesus in his or her own image. (Please read Does the Bible Contain Multiple Plans of Salvation? and Is There Only One Plan of Salvation?) Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion. If Christians can’t come to a consensus about what constitutes the one truth faith, why should anyone pay attention to them?

Let me illustrate this by answering the quandary Why Pentecostals speak in tongues, and Baptists don’t.

First, the Baptists.I grew up in the Baptist church so I am quite familiar with how Baptists view tongues-speaking. TONGUES-SPEAKING IS SATANIC, STRAIGHT FROM THE PIT OF HELL! There, end of discussion. I was taught, and later taught others, that speaking in tongues was a temporary sign gift given to Jesus’ disciples so they could spread the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Once the canon of Scripture was completed, the need for tongues went away. Evidently, once Christians of the fourth century had for their reading pleasure all sixty-six books of the King James Bible, God no longer used tongues to speak to people.

The Pentecostals, on the other hand, believe that speaking in tongues is very much for today; that it is normative for spirit-filled Christians to speak in unknown languages. Several sects go even so far as to say that one of the evidences of salvation is speaking in tongues. Don’t speak in tongues? You aren’t saved! One Pentecostal man told me, upon hearing I was a Baptist preacher, Baptists wouldn’t know the Holy Spirit if he met them in the middle of the road. In other words, Baptists were blind to work and power of the H-o-l-y Ghost.

Years ago, I got into a heated discussion with a Pentecostal preacher over speaking in tongues. I gave him all the standard Baptist arguments and he gave me all the classic Pentecostal arguments. Back and forth we went, neither of us winning the day. I am sure we parted company each believing that he had been victorious. Ha! I showed him!

Such conflicts as the one mentioned above are quite common. Why do Pentecostals believe in speaking in tongues, but Baptists don’t? Both sides use the Bible as proof for their beliefs. GOD HATH SPOKEN, both sides say. If God has indeed spoken, why the contradictory beliefs? God seems quite schizophrenic, telling the Baptists one thing and the Pentecostals something different. Surely, if God and the Bible are as Evangelicals claim they are, there would only be one truth, not many.

The only way to adequately answer this question is to carefully examine the matter from an environmental and sociological perspective. (Please read Why Most Americans are Christian.) Look at the religious environments people grow up in and you will have a good idea why they believe as they do. Look at their tribal and social influences, and it becomes clear that Pentecostals speak in tongues and Baptists don’t because these were the beliefs they were exposed to. They believe what they do because they couldn’t believe otherwise.  While not a hard and fast rule, most often Baptists beget Baptists and Pentecostals beget Pentecostals. While Evangelical adults certainly can and do change churches, most often then look for churches of “like” faith. When people change churches, they most often seek that which is familiar to them. Not always, of course. Sometimes, Baptists do become Pentecostal tongues-speakers and Pentecostals become starched, English-only Baptists. These, however, are exceptions to the rule.

Perhaps Christians will one day figure out exactly what is the one true faith. I doubt it, but as someone who believes in probabilities, it is possible, say .0001 percent, that God’s chosen ones will finally figure out exactly what it takes to be a member of their club. Until then, buy some popcorn, pull up a seat, and enjoy the show.


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    I had only minimal contact with pentecostals when a baptist, but, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t tongues only supposed to be used when an interpretation can be given? The interpretations I heard were all distinctly underwhelming – like, ‘I will heal all your diseases’ or ‘I have a great plan for you’. My lounge overlooks a beautiful stretch of N Wales coast but local penties say Leviathan is just under the waves cos churches here are not, you’ve guessed it, preaching The Truth. I think the local Tourist Board would quite like the appearance to hopefully rake in much revenue! Obviously, I’m not holding my breath for this event…….!

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      tongues is a spiritual gift, that comes from being baptised in the spirit (not water), which John the baptist even spoke about, saying one will come that will baptize in fire!

      the purpose of tongues is to be a submissive vessel allowing us to pray/speak what the Holy Spirit unctions, and in doing so, communing directly with the Holy Spirit and building up are relationship/sensitivity to the voice of the Lord. In fact, our english spoken prayers (or whatever your native tongue is) should ALSO be by the leading of the spirit. This is how we pray IN THE SPIRIT and according to HIS will, or in His name/by His authority.

      the bible says that interpretation should be given, IF tongues are spoken in a group etc, so that the group may be ALSO edified by the interpretation. Otherwise, tongues ONLY benefit the person speaking them. Some, boisterous and self righteous, prideful christians may loudly pray in tongues in public to put on a show to other christians, but those christians in the group, IF led by the holy spirit will discern what is really happening.

      to suggest that tongues was only for biblical times is absurd. they were gifts of the spirit along with prophecy, discernment, healing etc.

      hope this sheds some light for ya. god bless.

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        Bruce Gerencser

        Yes, we were ignorant of what the Bible supposedly says about tongues, or how Charismatics and Pentecostals interpret said verses. sigh

        What’s absurd is speaking in tongues at all.

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        Alan, “speaking in tongues” is a complete crapshoot. One person is free to babble random syllables that sound vaguely like a foreign language (bonus points for gutteral Semitic-sounding consonants!) and some other person is free to make up an “interpretation.” It is unfalsifiable nonsense, evidence only of human gullibility.

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    I don’t know that there was ever one church whose members shared the same theological beliefs. Just look at some of those Paul founded; if his letters are to be believed, they were rife with disagreement, conflict and division.

    You’d have thought he’d have realized the whole damn enterprise wasn’t working (these are Spirit filled people?) and given up on such a lost cause. Instead he soldiered wilfully on, creating even more cult communities to fall out with amongst themselves.

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    As a child in the seventies, I was given a good-luck horn symbol necklace by my godmother.

    This drove my Charismatic Catholic babysitter family crazy. They had seven children, plus two first nations kids they had stolen, Jack Chick tracts and Spire comics all over the house, would only watch Billy Graham movies on video, and insisted on taking me to see a faith healer to drive out the demons installed by my necklace.

    I was 8. They were late to the meeting, and when I saw grown adults falling backwards and risking cracking their skulls open on a concrete basement floor, while babbling like infants, I was so appalled I fought back for years.

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    John Arthur

    This is a debate between cessationists and continuationists over whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today or not. In the NT, ‘speaking in tongues’, was speaking in foreign languages that were unknown to the speaker. Linguists have examined the modern ‘tongues movement’ and cannot identify any languages alleged to have been spoken where such ‘tongues’ have been examined. It seems to be speaking in gibberish.

    The cessationists claim that foreign languages were spoken by early Christians and that this speaking was miraculous but, when the NT was completed ‘tongues’ were no longer needed and ceased. Of course, this presupposes the existence of a Holy Spirit and the reliability of the bible. If these presuppositions are baseless, then it is highly unlikely that ‘tongues’ were ever spoken whether in NT times or today.

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    God can speak however the heck he wants haha. It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. This issue should not be breaking Christians apart as it currently does. At the end of the day both Baptists and Pentecostals share a belief in Christ as savior and ultimately should be living a life to fulfill Acts 1:8.

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    If tongues ceased after scripture was complete, then why did God allow the teaching of tongues in scripture – what is it’s purpose?
    Read 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 and 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31.
    There is simply no evidence that spiritual gifts have ceased. People still speak in tongues, people still prophesy and there’s no doubt about it, God still works miracles, through people.
    Sure there’s some people that fake it/ think they’re doing it, but really they’re not, but they don’t speak on behalf of all continuationists.
    My other question is, Why would God get rid of a beautiful gift, when it can and has done so much good?
    My belief is that when it says that ‘tongues will cease’ – that is when all is perfect, when Jesus comes again… when we are all in heaven and no longer need gifts like this.

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      John Arthur

      Linguists have examined the modern tongues movement and have not found any evidence of genuine language. It appears to be a human phenomenon induced by the highly charged emotional services that occur in many Pentecostal and Charismatic meetings.

      As for so-called prophecies, there are so many bogus ones that it is very difficult to know if any are genuine.

      As for miracles occurring today or yesterday, what evidence is there for that?

      Your whole argument seems to be based on the bible: a book written largely by barbaric, violent, bloodthirsty and very ignorant savages who created god in their own likeness.

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      Chuck Howling

      Close Finn, yes there is evidence that they have ceased. There is no one being raised from the dead after several days, no one walks on the water, no one takes 2 fish and bread and feeds 5,000 men, etc. tongues were originally other languages where other people could hear the apostles preach in their language. When the “perfect thing has come was referring to the Holy Spirit coming to be a comfort to all, as Jesus was here in human form and not able to be all, everywhere at the same time as Satan is, not omnipresent. Tongues require an interpreter, but you also must know what you are saying so as to verify that it is truly a gift, only 1 at a time and never more than 2 at a time. The tongues mentioned as groanings that the Holy Spirit understands can be a tongue that is spoken in your private prayer life. God is not author of confusion and as Paul said, ” I would rather speak 10 words that someone will understand than 10,000 words in a tongue that no one understands. He had the gift. Yes there are miracles being done every day, through doctors, strangers, teachers, policemen, firefighters, etc. God uses people and often we entertain angels without knowing. But all this being said: Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, forgiver of sins, and faith in God through Jesus is our ticket into Heaven. All the other things such as Baptism, Tongues, healing, women serving, women preaching, serving as deacons or elders, long dresses, not cutting hair, no musical instruments, and on and on server only as discussion points. thanks for the peaceful discussion!

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        Chuck, you say “Yes there are miracles being done every day, through doctors, strangers, teachers, policemen, firefighters, etc. God uses people and often we entertain angels without knowing.”

        As someone who works in medicine, I find this line of reasoning offensive and utterly unforgivable. Stop giving your god the credit for individuals’ hard work, and tell the blighter to get off its butt and do its own miracles — things that can’t currently be done by humans.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    I love it when Jimmy the Swagger gets into tongues… and I can tell you just what provokes it: Jimmy flares his nostrils and smells cash! It is then he starts to hoopla! Gunna hatcha malaalaa, begonedaja digga deepa! Digga Deepa gimme gotcha goobye!

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