Most people don’t forge their opinions in the fires of close exegesis. Often we pick up our view the same way many of us learn karate—we see it dexterously performed by Chuck Norris and figure, “Hey, that’s cool, I bet I can do that.”
If someone told you that what you do is not karate, you’d say “It’s what Chuck does.” If they told you what Chuck does is also not karate, you’d say “Sure it is. He says it’s karate. It looks like karate to me. And when I do those same moves, many people say, ‘Wow, you know karate!’”
The same can be said of how most people learn their view of tongues.
When a white guy says, “I’m no racist, some of my best friends are Black,” I gag. But some of my closest, warmest, relationships really are with Charismatic Christians who believe that the miraculous gift of tongues is still operating today exactly as it did in the New Testament (Continuationists; a fancy term, mostly useless except in this intramural debate and when playing Scrabble).
These friends and I have tongue-in-cheek jabs at each other’s position, but we never get nasty.
On occasion, I’ve been asked to explain why I don’t believe that the gift is still operating today (Cessationism, another Scrabble word).
To a seminoid this stimulates a Pavlovian salivation to make a meal of the question. I am tempted to
brandish a Greek Glock .45 and empty a clip of pre-loaded exegetical ammunition at semi-automatic speed into the Continuationist argument (though never at the Continuationist himself, mind you).
But is this really necessary? In my experience many who assume tongues are for today simply imbibed that from seeing a type of tongues in action at their church (a la Chuck Norris karate classes). There is no real need for a condescending Greek lesson on the tense of “will cease” in 1 Cor 13:8. There is little call for a word study on “glossa” versus “glossolalia,” nor cross-referencing Acts 2’s proof that tongues was a known human language, nor the contextual significance of “when the perfect comes.”
If it is your intention to pop the tongues balloon, you don’t need a Glock .45 when a well-aimed dart will do the job nicely.
Here’s a simple, gracious response to the challenge, “Why don’t you believe tongues are for today?”
In 1 Cor 14 Paul explains that the gift of tongues must operate under these strict conditions…
- No more than two or three people may speak in tongues per service (vs 27).
- Only one speaker at a time (vs 27).
- Not without an interpreter present, so everyone can know what is being said (vs 16, 28).
- No women (vs. 34).
- Not in private, as all gifts are done for the good of the church (vs 2-5, 26).
- Never if the tongues speaker doesn’t understand what he is saying himself (14-15).
- No one should be confused as to what is happening (vs 23, 33).
- Must bring new revelation (vs 6).
- No unintellible babbling (vs 9).
- Must benefit unbelievers who are present (vs 21-22).
Then I simply ask, “Is this how your church practices tongues?”
Your goal in the discussion is always to get the person to go read the biblical passages, in context. I usually challenge my Charismatic friends to read 1 Cor 12-14 in one sitting, from start to finish.
This is often enough to show that their favorite proof texts for tongues, are actually rebukes from Paul against the very species of tongues-speaking we encounter today.
Again, this is not the full-fledged exegetical argument (Glock). But this array of darts will bust 9 out of 10 tongues balloons. Remember, don’t throw darts at brothers and sisters, just their inflated assumptions.