Hi Dave,

I guess your referring to the answer to Barbara? There are two other answers about tongues, but this one refers to mystical experiences.

I think the reasoning behind that answer is firm, the gift of tongues is a means of talking about some phenomenon that was commonly understood by the authors (Luke and Paul) and their readers. The trouble is, there is no description of the phenomenon. Further, Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 seem to speak of different types of gifts.

In Acts 2, the tongues seem to have aided communication to a multi-lingual group. Acts 2:4-6 “Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech. There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, the multitude came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.”

In contrast, Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 14 is that the tongues are ineffectual because they hinder understanding 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 “If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.”

It is this second matter of ‘speaking in tongues’ that I think you are referring to as a mystical gift, rather than Acts 2. But the description of what the phenomenon is is scant, probably because no one saw it worth keeping a record of, precisely for the reasons that Paul wants the speaking in tongues matter addressed. Let’s have a look at what he does say.

1 Corinthians 14:2 “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.”

At the very least, what Paul is saying here is that tongues are not intelligible to anyone around, but only to God, unless what he says is interpreted (v4). It is conceivable that the tongue here is a human language unknown by the members of the church, who would have had Greek as a common language, but may well have had other languages represented amongst them as well. The idea of ‘uttering mysteries’ sounds pretty mystical, but the Greek words ‘lalei musteria’ can just mean ‘speak or say mysteries’ and mystery is a word that Paul uses elsewhere for concepts that are hidden and yet to be revealed (like the gospel). In this instance, the mystery is what is actually being said, the mystery will be revealed when what is spoken is interpreted or translated. Paul could have intended to mean that tongues is saying sage things in mysterious speech, but the context seems to suggest to me ‘saying gobbledy-gook’. This could refer to some sort of mystical language spoken only to God, or it could be a language unknown to those present, but able to be interpreted by someone somewhere. Let’s move on.

1 Corinthians 14:7-9 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.

The unintelligible words of the tongues is compared to the lack of distinction when musical instruments aren’t played according to a tune (think free jazz). I don’t think this comparison should be taken too literally, that there is just a stream of words or sound without pauses, I think the key word is ‘intelligible’. If you’re ever in a situation where a conversation is happening around you in a foreign language, it’s unintelligible and just sounds like a whole bunch of sounds, you don’t know which words are verbs or nouns, where do you begin to understand what’s going on? Again this could describe a human language or some sort of mystical language that only God understands. Let’s see if reading on helps.

1 Corinthians 14:10-14 “10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 13 ¶ For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

Here foreign languages are used to explain the situation of tongues. Speaking in tongues makes me a foreigner to those who can’t understand me, those who I’m supposed to be in fellowship with, I can’t build my brothers and sisters up if they can’t understand me. The question is, is Paul introducing foreign languages here to make an analogy or are the tongues being described a part of the ‘all sorts of languages’? The evidence is not firm enough on either side to say.

1 Corinthians 14:14-19 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Praying in a tongue means that Paul’s spirit prays, but his mind doesn’t benefit. Paul would rather pray with his spirit AND his mind (which I presume is what happens when we pray in intelligible words). Again, it could be a foreign language that God has given Paul the ability to speak or some sort of mystical language. We just don’t have the information. I reckon if you were to go back through the passage and substitute ‘Swiss’, or ‘Danish’, or ‘Mandarin’ into the places where ‘tongue’ is it might read just as well. In fact the new Holman Christian Standard Bible does translate it as foreign languages all the way through. At the very least you have to agree that either reading is likely from the evidence.

The next thing you need to decide on is why is there a need to conceive of a mystical language that was never recorded, when it may have been a simpler matter of speaking in languages not understood by most (if not all) of the people present at the church? Ockham’s Razor says that the simplest explanation is often the best. A foreign language given by God may be a simpler explanation than some kind of new language of tongues. What this conclusion means is it elevates some rather otherwise ordinary skills to being precious gifts of God. Let me explain. I know of some people for whom languages come easily. They pick up a working knowledge of a language say over a year and then pick up another one the next year. Now I would call this a gift of tongues. They can speak in foreign languages that would not edify if they did so at church. If we say that only the mystic ‘form’ of tongues is the gift, what of these others?

By the way, when you look at the history of the Pentecostal church, tongues was originally assumed to be speaking in other languages, often Chinese or other obscure (at the time) languages were claimed. So to answer the question about AoG, I think they’re wrong if they say that mystic experience alone is the gift of tongues. Weight of evidence is not enough, it is the quality of that evidence that matters, just because something amazing happens doesn’t mean it’s of God (think of the amazing things that the lawless one does by the work of Satan in 2 Thes 2:9).

As to what Anglicans believe, there is no group mind when it comes to Anglicans. By and large evangelical Christians believe in miracles, they believe in the God of wonders. They pray for healing and thank God when he does heals. We seem to only think God acts in the spectacular miracles, but we need to remember the miracle of God’s good order in creation, each sunrise, each baby that is born, when my broken arm heals over a number of weeks. Is God no less acting in these miracles? We also need to recognise the extraordinary time of Jesus’ life amongst us. In his miracles, Jesus demonstrates his true divinity and his true humanity, we shouldn’t expect the same level of miraculous activity as then. However we can fall into the materialistic pattern of never expecting God to work miracles in spectacular ways.

As to your hypothetical question, our beliefs often affect the way that we act, I doubt very much that there is nothing different between these two churches. That said, the question assumes that you choose the church which is identical to the other, only better. So I’m not going to take the bait and answer that if I’m at the level of choosing churches and comparing healing ministries, I’m probably being too selective, should just pick one and be happy with it.

I hope this clears things up a bit.