My position makes sense to me. I think it would be wrong to forbid speaking in tongues. I just have never encountered anyone actually doing that, as I understand the biblical gift: miraculously speaking in an actual language (a system of meaning-conveying sounds used to communicate ideas) that one has not naturally acquired. And so, I’m not in a position of encountering a biblical spiritual gift but forbidding its practice (as I see it). If I am in error, it is an error of being underly perceptive rather than overly restrictive. Whether the gift be exercised in public or in private really makes no difference—I’m encouraging people not to engage in a counterfeit practice while falsely attributing it to God.
The Pentecostal position makes sense to me. They think it would be wrong to forbid speaking in tongues, and they think that people are indeed speaking in tongues—practicing the New Testament gift as they understand it. They encourage the utilization of that gift in private. They encourage the utilization of that gift in public. Whether the gift be exercised in public or in private really makes no difference.
Some variants of the open-but-cautious position make sense to me. Particularly, I understand what’s going on where there are people who believe that some Pentecostal/Charismatic practice is unbiblical not because they won’t accept any old random assortment of gurglings as a miraculous word from God—they’re glad to do that—but because they see the setting and manner by which some of those ululations are delivered as being contrary to the rules of 1 Corinthians. Such people say that they are open to the practice of tongues, whether in private or in public, but they’re on guard against the practice of public tongues without interpretation or with numerous people at one time, or in any other way that violates the terms given to the Corinthian church. Whether the gift be exercised in public or in private really makes no difference. Just follow the rules of 1 Corinthians (which may be different for public versus private use, depending upon how you read the chapter), and you can exercise the gift in public just as well as in private. I even understand the point of view that would say, “Hey, you can ALWAYS exercise your gift in private prayer, and whenever we have in place someone with the gift of translation, you’re free to exercise your gift in public worship, but that’s often not going to be the case, so you’re usually not going to be able to exercise the gift in public.”
What I don’t understand is how you can have a position that says, (a) Yes, the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice is indeed the biblical gift, and (b) we’re perfectly OK with your practicing that gift in private, but (c) you’re absolutely forbidden from speaking publicly in tongues, no matter how you do it and no matter how many interpreters may be present. In this case, whether the exercise of the gift takes place in public or in private makes ALL of the difference. How can this be justified from scripture? How can this not be the creation of a new set of restrictions that go beyond the restrictions of the Bible (a consideration more important even than the fact that they also go beyond the Baptist Faith & Message)? Can anybody help me with that? It sounds more like modern American Democrat sensibilities (“What consenting adults do in the privacy of their own prayer closets is none of our business”) than the instructions of 1 Corinthians.
Furthermore, how is it that my position can be classified by anyone as a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:39 (people holding my position do not believe that they are forbidding anyone from speaking in tongues; we just think we’re forbidding people from doing another something that erroneously purports to be speaking in tongues), while the latter option that I’ve outlined is not classified as a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:39? That last position is, by definition, a position that acknowledges as valid the modern Pentecostal practice but adds unbiblical restrictions (no public speaking in tongues!) that are in violation of 1 Corinthians. After all, doesn’t pretty much every scholar regard 1 Corinthians 14:39 to be addressing (at least in part) the public use of the gift of tongues? Does anyone seriously assert that it says, “Do not forbid the PRIVATE speaking in tongues, but by all means, forbid all PUBLIC speaking in tongues”?
For me, with the imperfect knowledge that I possess (for we know in part, right?), it seems to me that if you acknowledge the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice as biblical, then you have to permit its use in all the ways that scripture prescribes, right? Or else, aren’t you something of an extra-biblical legalist?
Unless our real, de facto position as a convention is this one: We believe in option one. The modern practice is a bunch of gibberish. We don’t think it’s the actual, biblical gift of tongues. The people who practice it are mistaken, deceived. BUT, so long as they keep it to themselves, this is not so great of an error as to get in the way of a missionary appointment. Let’s go all Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell on the question and get on about the business of the Great Commission.
That approach, perhaps, makes some sense. I don’t hear that rhetoric from anyone in public, though. I’m curious whether there’s anyone in this forum who has advocated for change in this area who would own this point of view as his or her own.
My position has lost the day. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Of course, we all have to live with the regnant philosophy of the day. It’s not that I’m trying to wage war against the point of view that has won (these decisions aren’t made on blogs, and shouldn’t be), it’s just that it would be nice to understand the philosophy under which we are cooperating. Mine is a position of submission (to the structures by which we make decisions) seeking understanding. Can someone give me a word of knowledge and enlighten me?