When I was in Portland, I was scouting out churches and found a fairly nice church. The pastor approached me after the service and started asking me questions, one of which dealt with my church background. I mentioned I had attended an Assemblies of God church in college. I quickly followed noting it was not a “speaking in tongues” Assemblies of God church to clarify. He paused for a second and countered that sometimes his church spoke in tongues.
I engaged him for a bit as to Paul’s actual meaning of “speaking in tongues”, but when I noticed I was not gaining any progress I fell back to asking him about interpretation. I asked him if he followed Paul’s mandate to interpret. He said his church does interpret tongues when used.
To my amusement, the very next week one parishioner decided to start speaking in tongues. He stood up and started speaking in what seemed like an oddly Russian language. This lasted a good five minutes before he said Amen. The congregation echoed this “Amen” and the man then sat down.
The preacher, most likely inspired by the last week’s conversation, quickly said “Brother Dave, would you like to interpret that for the congregation?”
The parishioner was taken aback. He had not expected to actually have to formulate a meaning for his babbling. It never entered his mind that he would be asked to explain. He seemed to have slightly panicked. He stood up and stated that his five minute long speech was interpreted as “God be with us.” Then he quickly sat down.
This anecdote was fun to read because I currently attend a Pentecostal Church (I know but the alternative in my area is Catholicism or Assemblies of God) and I have a sneaking suspicion that the same thing would happen.
This is the church that planted the seed of faith in me, I was invited in my late teens. At the beginning, I “spoke in tongues,” but in the back of my mind, I never actually believed. I wanted to believe, and more importantly, I wanted to fit in, because I love my church. I love the people. I listened to a few studies about tongues that confirmed my suspicions. so for the last couple of years, I just pray. I don’t waste my time trying to speak in tongues (whatever my pastor may preach about its importance). And indeed from the most obvious, literal interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians concerning tongues, without interpretation it is a waste of time. Even if you are praying to yourself. 1 Corinthians 14:
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
When I “spoke in other tongues” I had no clue what I was saying. usually it was something just to fill the void when I couldn’t think of anything else to pray. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this applies to 90% of the people. the other 10% are either demon possessed, or have worked themselves, psychologically, into that state. Which is entirely possible. These are the same people you see in stereotypical videos (like Benny Hinn “Slaying people in the spirit”)
I chose a long time ago that I don’t care what other people think, I am going to pray in the spirit and with my understanding.
Now in our church the rule tends to be followed. My pastor never speaks in tongues behind the pulpit, and I can’t think of a time when someone spoke in tongues to the congregation (or at least loud enough to interrupt the service, or for everyone to hear during altar call) when someone else didn’t stand up and “interpret”. Now is it real? I don’t know. But at least on the surface it is not a violation. It is consistent. But sometimes, an evangelist will speak in tongues a bit and there is no interpretation and I get a bit disgusted. But I think it is just me because I alone doubt the validity.
So while you probably couldn’t do this same thing at my church, I have the sneaking suspicion that it would work on the individual level. If someone is praying privately at the altar and pastor walked up to them and asked them what they had just said, I doubt they would they have the slightest clue. I am convinced that the tongues spoken of by paul was real languages either known or unknown to the speaker.
Yeah, thank you for your story. I do tend to think that the tongues were too real languages that could be known by native speakers.
Glossolalia is accepted by the Orthodox church :-)
I believe it is dangerous to speak out against such things :-)