My ongoing dialogue with Dwight McKissic regarding the nature of the gift of tongues has now occupied a number of posts across a six-month timespan:
- I wrote The Nature of the Biblical Gift of Tongues: Consideration of Relevant Non-Narrative New Testament Passages on July 5.
- Dwight wrote A Biblical Basis for Speaking in Tongues in Private on July 9. This post did not explicitly respond to my post, but it coming just four days after my initial post and containing significant overlap in content, it belongs in this list, I think.
- I then authored The Nature of the Biblical Gift of Tongues: Consideration of Relevant Narrative New Testament Passages on September 3.
- Dwight republished THE BAPTISM AND FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT on September 6 in specific response to my post of September 3.
- Because Dwight’s previous post had not put all of my questions to rest, he graciously wrote de novo his most recent installment in the dialogue, A RESPONSE TO BART BARBER’S QUESTIONS REGARDING THE RELATIONSHIP OF TONGUES IN ACTS AND I CORINTHIANS 12-14 on October 11.
I believe that our interaction in this series has been helpful for the two of us—and I dare hope that this has been the case for others as well. This dialogue will continue, as God gives me opportunity, with forthcoming posts searching for any light that our knowledge of the Greco-Roman culture or Christian History might bring to us.
For now my desire is simply to reply to Dwight’s most recent post rather than to add anything new to the conversation. And this I will do.
But first, in light of intervening events, perhaps it might be helpful for me to state plainly that I regard Dwight as a fellow Christian, a fellow Southern Baptist, and my brother. Now, on to business.
I was quite thankful for the list of agreement items that Dwight delineated. I affirm with him that we agree about all of those items. The current post might be more winsome if I were to spend more time dwelling upon those points of agreement, but it would be less efficient. I tell you that, regardless of word counts, my heart dwells more upon our points of agreement than upon our points of disagreement.
Clarification of Possible Misunderstandings
Dwight may have misunderstood the nature of the 12-point list that he quoted in his response. The preface to that list (just to help you identify the one of which I speak) read “Considering the relevant narrative passages in the New Testament, we conclude the following.” I did not intend this list to serve as a summary of my overall view of the gift of tongues. Rather, this list serves as a summary of what I think the narrative passages—and the narrative passages alone—of the New Testament teach with regard to the gift of tongues.
It is true: what I read about the nature of the gift of tongues in Acts has influence over my understanding of what I read about the nature of the gift of tongues in I Corinthians. Although this is a confession that Acts is dominant in my thinking on this particular question, that does not mean that I Corinthians has no influence whatsoever upon my thinking. As a point of good scholarship, at the end of a post that dealt only with the narrative passages I gave a summary solely of those things that we could observe about those passages. A summary of my conclusions will come at the end of this series, presently scheduled for year 326 of the millennial reign of Christ.
And therefore, that list does not serve as my “final answers regarding the tongues in Acts and Corinthians.”
I do not differ with Dwight as to whether the gift of tongues comes in a singular kind of tongues or plural kinds of tongues…singular manifestations of the gift or plural manifestations of the gift. Rather, we differ, as I understand it, on the question of what a “kind” of tongue or “manifestation” of the gift is.
If the biblical gift of tongues has enabled people to speak in Semitic tongues, Germanic tongues, Romance tongues, Balto-Slavic tongues, then I count those as different kinds of tongues and different manifestations of the gift. I do not see why—nor have I ever read any argument that endeavored to support rather than just presume why—these “kinds” and “manifestations” must necessarily amount to categories of “humanly known” and “other” rather than simply “Semitic,” “Italic,” and “Slavic,” for example.
Dwight has stated that I “certainly [do] not believe that one of the ways that the Holy Spirit [manifests] Himself is by gifting some believers to pray, praise and give thanks in tongues at the Spirit’s prompting.” I dispute this, and I think that this misunderstanding arises out of the first misunderstanding that I offered above. I did observe that the idea of praying in tongues does not appear in the narrative passages. However, when I dealt with the non-narrative passages (in the first post), I wrote this:
But the other interesting part of this sentence is how quickly Paul moved from prayer to singing. Again, this strengthens the idea that there is no particular association between speaking in tongues and prayer that does not equally apply to singing and other forms of discourse. An emphasis upon “praying in tongues” or tongues as “private prayer language” as the essential nature of the gift is not a biblical emphasis. The Bible tells us about SPEAKING in tongues, which may express itself in prayer, singing, discourse, public praise, etc. It INCLUDES prayer, but nowhere does the Bible restrict the purpose of this gift to prayer alone.
I think that a fair reading of this paragraph (and, indeed, of that post in its entirety) demonstrates that I do recognize the gift of speaking in tongues to be a gift related to speaking and applicable to everything that one can do by speaking—”prayer, singing, discourse, public praise, etc.” It is therefore not an accurate understanding of my view to suggest that I “certainly [do] not believe that one of the ways that the Holy Spirit [manifests] Himself is by gifting some believers to pray, praise, and give thanks in tongues at the Spirit’s prompting.”
It is likely because of my weaknesses as a writer that my post was so easily misconstrued at this point. I would humbly ask of Dwight that he read my second post a little more carefully so as to discern in it that which I have not expressed clearly enough.
If ecstasy is interpreted merely as enthusiasm (as with oil discoveries and football games), then I am not to be construed as in opposition to it. My upbringing, as was Dwight’s, was in country Arkansas churches. I was well acquainted with “let’s sing out of the red book tonight” and the revivalistic indulgence in what a music minister once referred to as “that Stamps-Baxter Hop-Along-Jesus Music.” Enthusiasm, per my spiritual roots, was the defining characteristic of the true and genuine faith.
I no longer believe that—no longer think that enthusiasm is the indisputable sign of the faith—but I do believe that we are either emotional and passionate about our relationships with God or we are spiritually sick. The person who is not enthusiastic about the gospel is either lost or a monstrous spiritual deformity.
The question is to whether all forms of enthusiasm are special spiritual gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit. I think that we would both agree that they are not. The so-called Toronto Blessing of holy laughter, for example, I would guess to be something that both Dwight and I would define as enthusiastic (whether it is enthusiastic about truth or not) and yet something that both Dwight and I would diagnose as something other than a spiritual gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit. That we make this distinction is not what divides us; rather, we differ over how to apply this distinction in some cases—particularly over the question of the nature of the gift of tongues in the Bible.
Although I could write more (and HAVE!) arguing my points against Dwight’s points on this question, that is not the purpose of this reply and I will refrain from doing so. All I have sought to do is to address those points where I believe that Dwight has misunderstood me without delving into those other points where he has understood me full well but continues to disagree with me. Those additional matters will have to await my next installment, coming sometime before the United States of America pays off the national debt.