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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, and only 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 believing 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 say, 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. However, 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 reach a consensus about what constitutes the one true 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 speaking in tongues. SPEAKING IN TONGUES 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 read all sixty-six books of the King James Bible for their reading pleasure, God no longer used tongues to speak to people.

On the other hand, the Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is very much for today; that it is normal 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! Upon hearing I was a Baptist preacher,one Pentecostal man told me that 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 after we parted company, each of us believed that we 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 a tribal 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, they often 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 can 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 .000001 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    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.

      • Avatar
        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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        Well, that’s given me a larf, hadn’t seen your reply till today, edumacating poor, ignorant lil old me about the holy ghost. ‘Edify?’ what a lovely x-tianese meaningless, jargon word… though ‘absurd’ is an accurate word which comes into my mind. And the word ‘healing’ that I too believed in for decades is baloney. Hospitals should empty, this horrible pandemic never have begun if prayers to a sky fairy, prayed in incomprehensible, childish babble are so powerful. And you’ve used such a tired old trope that if any criticism or questioning is made about a religious practice or an interpretation of the bible….that those erroneous folk are doing it all wrong….all wrong….they need to do it MY WAY, according to my group’s own particular interpretation of scripture which is the right one.

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        no, it’s not a “spiritual gift”, it is people trying to pretend that God loves them best and showing off for the congregation of gullible people.

        and Alan does a wonderful job of underlining Bruce’s point that Christians don’t agree on much at all.

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        Haha I remember this stuff 😀

        I am tempted to say… Should I 😀 So when Paul spoke about tongues he was speaking of earthly foreign languages. A person speaking Greek would need an interpreter if everyone spoke Aramic. This is why Paul said that he spoke more tongues than most (he was fluent in several earthly foreign languages).

        Speaking in tongues in the spirit as in pentecost is something different. The apostles all spoke their native language but people heard them in their own native language. So an American speaking English would be heard in Swedish by someone from Sweden, which was the supernatural part.

        Ah those days of who’s right me me or you haha 🙂

        But you know, like a lot of the stuff in the bible… Did it really happen or was it embellished fables… Probably does not help.

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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.

  4. Avatar
    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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      joe’s just one more Christian who tries to lie to anyone else. Christians certainly don’t share a belief. Alas, not one damn Christian can do what JC promised his followers would be able to do in the bible. Christians are frauds. ” 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.””

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        John 14:12 is my favorite:

        “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

        Jesus raised the dead, healed the sick, walked on water, walked through walls, teleported, fed 5,000 people a few loaves and fishes, cured blindness . . . Shall I go on? 😂

        Where are these “greater” works Jesus speaks of?

  6. Avatar

    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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        thanks, Chuck and Finn for showing you both too be liars, who create a god in your image.

        always good to see Christians lie and try to take credit for things that humans have done. Funny how your god must have hated everyone who was born before it “gave” humans modern medicine. Your god is quite the asshole to keep antibiotics from dying kids.

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      yep, there is quite a lot of evidence that “spiritual gifts” have ceased. People babble to show off, people lie and claim prophecy, and not one of you nitwits can heal like JC promised, JOhn 15, Mark 16 and James 5.

      YOu are all evidently frauds.

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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!

  8. Avatar

    I have a friend who was a member of an offshoot of The Way Ministry. I know she speaks in tongues when she prays…and doesn’t have a clue what she’s saying. Of course she’s just babbling.

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    ‘He’s having a seizure, call an ambulance.’ Ancedote: Our dearest friends Mike and Mary were thrilled 20+ yrs ago when their pastor was one of the first to go from a UK church to Pensacola to learn about this new blessing thingy being experienced there. They attended the first service on his return and the ‘blessing’ went wild among them. Mike collapsed and Mary had a helluva job saying he’d had a stroke, call an ambulance. ‘No,’ said the screaming, baying, whirling dervishes around them, ‘he’s slain in the spirit.’ Eventually an ambulnce was called and Mike spent months in rehab and is now a wheelchair user, paralysed on his left side and needing care 24/7 from Mary. As soon as he was able to speak again, he said this was punishment for the affair he was having with another x-tian. So Mary had all that to deal with too. We moved house around then and had a concrete ramp installed up to our rear door so that Mike could visit us…but he only came once as he’s not well enough. I think about the horrible absurdity of his church life almost daily when I go down that ramp into my garden.

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    Benny S

    In my old Assembly of God church, some 35 years ago, my favorite part about speaking in tongues was when someone / anybody else in the congregation was needed to offer up an interpretation / translation into English. It never failed that the translation was always spoken in King James English: “Thus, I, the Lord thy God, speaketh to thee and commandeth thee….”

    Or, when we had to reverently wait… and wait… and wait for someone to FINALLY provide an interpretation (sometimes waiting for a couple of minutes while the organ music kept wafting through the sanctuary), and someone would eventually relent and offer up an interpretation which was prefaced with: “I believe / I think / I speculate the Lord is saying….” Then everyone would silently breathe a sigh of relief and punctuate the ‘end of the waiting’ with a “Praise the Lord! Alleluia! Thank you Jesus!”

  11. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    There are tens of thousands of variants of Christianity, united in one thing only . . . that all of the others are wrong and they are right. So, for any one of those, there are far more Christians claiming they are wrong than are claiming they are right . . . and I tend to believe them all.

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    I know I’ve told this story here. Half a moment while I peruse the archives and I’ll tell you again. 😀

    This was back in the very early 80s in the small town of Butthump, Oregon. (Not a real town name!!)|

    “My mom was on the board of the local chapter of Women’s Aglow.
    When she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was doing something to help Aglow.

    For a few weeks, my poor mom was in a bit of a quandary.It seems that her good friend Stephanie Saintly, who’d been her friend for fifteen years, had applied to be on the board of Aglow.

    And the other board members, my mom included, were not comfortable allowing it.

    Why, because Stephanie had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit!
    She ::putting on sad face and doleful tone:: could not speak in tongues.

    In case you didn’t get that, Stephanie Saintly, a good Christian woman who had been faithful to God her whole life, baptized in her local church, and a very nice person all around was going to Heaven when she died.

    God had pre-approved her heavenly application because she’d done everything he asks of his followers.

    She was good enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven… but not good enough to serve on the board of a small chapter of a women’s organization in Butthump, Oregon.

    When I laughed incredulously and made the comparison out loud, “Seriously, Mom? God will let her into heaven but you won’t let her be on the board? Do you not see anything wrong with that?!?”

    Mom asked me how our weather was.It wasn’t the first time I decided that Christianity and logic were going to remain strangers forever.In case you were wondering, Stephanie was not allowed to join the board of the Butthump chapter of Aglow. She chose to resign from the group because of it.”

    When my daughter was growing up, she visited her grandparents every now and then. My mom took her to Sunday services at the local pentecostal show. It never occurred to me to prep my then-teenage daughter for the whole scam and sham Jesus dance…. turns out she was quite cynical enough to handle it.

    We’ve laughed more than once over the show she witnessed.

    And we marvel at the fact that ANYONE believes that shit.

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    C.W. Good

    About speaking in tongues: My understanding about this is that tongues are languages that are understood, like French, German,
    Spanish, Russian, etc. It’s only common sense to share the Gospel in a language that the hearer knows. Baby gibberish that no
    one understands is not speaking in tongues. I hope this helps the readers here. Take care. C.W. Good

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      We understand perfectly. You’re interpreting your theology on tongues speaking, which is different than many other Christians believe. And most people who follow this blog have a fine understanding of theology, we just don’t believe it.

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Bruce Gerencser