There was a time when I was heavily influenced by the “tongues” movement. There were many things about the Bible I did not understand and that made me to be easily influenced by the claims of people around me. My mind was very much impressed with the apparent zeal and enthusiasm of some of my friends who were involved in the tongues movement. This phenomenon is also commonly known as the Charismatic Movement.
My friends were claiming experiences with God that were very “real” to them. Imagination is sometimes a very powerful thing. With a little careful thought and study of the scriptures I began to see some very serious problems with the modern Charismatic Movement. Before I came to realize these things I almost joined the movement. I was becoming disillusioned with the church I was attending and wondered why we did not have the experiences my friends were describing.
I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and spent many hours in study of the Bible itself and in prayer. Here are some things that began to change my mind about this movement.
- The history of how it developed.
- The huge disconnect between the miracles of the Bible and those common to this movement.
- The similarity between “tongues” in this movement and “tongues” in pagan groups.
- The disconnect between what the Holy Spirit said about order in the church and the disorder so often associated with emotion-driven churches today.
- What the Bible actually teaches about the gift of tongues.
- What the Bible actually teaches about how the miraculous gifts were obtained and for what reason.
The History of How it developed
The modern American version of the “tongues” phenomenon has interesting connections to emotional pagan ceremonies that merged with some Calvinistic ideas. There were some false views of scripture that prepared the stage for the charismatic movement in America. Calvinism taught some concepts that laid the groundwork. For example the TULIP acrostic spells out the basic tenets of Calvinism which are the ideas of man being “totally depraved” with a sinful nature that he cannot change, and then this leads to the idea that if anyone can be saved God will have to do it all and will have to do something TO the individual to change his depraved nature. But, only some people change and that is because God “unconditionally elects” some to be so favored as to experience this divine change of nature.
Calvinism teaches that the atonement of Jesus is LIMITED to only a certain number of people. These people that God chooses ahead of time are the ones who will receive an “irresistible grace”, and this is thought to be a direct contact with the Holy Spirit which changes the totally depraved nature. This is the part that causes people to expect and desire that God do something TO them, and by taking a few scriptures out of context they are led to believe that there is some parallel between this need for an”irresistible grace” and what happened to the apostles of Jesus in Acts 2. Because they see the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles in an irresistible way and this happened on a day called “Pentecost”, they make an association between the Calvinistic idea of irresistible grace and the tongues of Pentecost. Thus, they have come to describe their experience as “Pentecostal” in similarity. Thus, people involved in the modern American version of pagan mezmerization have come to term their experiences as “Pentecostalism”.
The foundational idea was wrong. There is no scripture that says that we are so totally depraved that we have to have a total miraculous change brought on by God in an irresistible way, and certainly no scripture that would have us believe that God has been so totally arbitrary as to who He elects and sends an irresistible grace to. Also, this is not why the Spirit came upon the Apostles in Acts 2. They were not totally depraved and needing an irresistible grace to change them, and this action of the Spirit upon them was not to save them in that action but to empower them to testify of Jesus with a divine demonstration of power to attest to their veracity and approval as God’s spokesmen.
Calvinism laid the groundwork for the Quakers and the Shakers. George Fox (July 1624 – January 13, 1691) was the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers, because they trembled in fear of God. In one of Fox’s many trials, a judge mocked Fox’s exhortation to “tremble at the word of the Lord”, in derision calling him and his followers “Quakers” — now the common name of the Religious Society of Friends. The early Quakers preached that salvation was to be seen, felt, and experienced. But, the visible part was that people were first admonished to begin “trembling” before God. Quakers, or Friends, put continuing divine revelation ahead of church or scriptural doctrine, and individual conscience ahead of state authority. Not surprisingly, they were considered heretical by both church and state in England.
“Quakers worship together in silence; there was (and is) no minister who leads a service. When a Friend feels the spirit, or the light, within, he or she may rise to speak to other Friends assembled for worship. The name Quaker refers to the apparent trembling or quaking of early Friends when they experienced the spirit and rose to speak during worship.”(Joyce Hinnefeld Blog).
The Shakers were more emotionally driven than the Quakers. The Shakers, at their height (and at their most mystical), apparently danced with great gusto at their worship services. The Quakers would wait and when one “trembled” and felt moved to stand and speak all would listen silently. The Shakers were more out of control. The Shakers came to be known as The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Quakers were known for meetings in which silence was a predominant feature. As people sat together for a long time some would begin to tremble or quake. The Shakers as the name implies, were more demonstrative. They were known for dancing together with religious fervor, hence shaking. Ann Lee was the founder of the Shakers in about 1770 in England, and she came from the Quakers, only her “revelation” told her that God wanted his people to avoid sexual relations, that truly spiritual people should live celibate lives. This was her sincere belief, but it is called a “deceiving spirit” in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.
These and other elements of thought that further communication with God can be gained outside of the Bible, the written word of God have merged with pagan emotionalism into all kinds of wild imagination-driven and emotional-driven activities among diverse sects that claim to be “Christians”. Yet, none of this emotionalism and imagination is seen to characterize the early Christian experience as we read about in the Bible. The very same work up into emotional frenzy is noted among various pagan religions which profess no faith in Jesus at all. The “tongues” are identical, and how the person works himself up into the babble is exactly the same. When comparing the tongues of the early church with the modern version there is a huge difference that poses a problem for the rational investigator. I saw the difference and therefore God’s word helped me to see that if ANY of the gifts of miraculous power were available today, then ALL the gifts would be available, and the difference between God’s real miracles and the phony modern versions would settle all doubt. The history of how the modern “tongues” movement passed from pagan circles into “Christian” circles explains a lot about what is going on and why. Therefore, when I saw this connection I could no longer look at the modern tongues movement as credible at all.